Nashville Tennesse

Completely landlocked and sharing borders with no less than eight other American states, Tennessee is one of the jewels of the US south-east. With a distinct and vibrant culture of its own that is made up of great music, delicious food and some spectacular ‘big outdoors’ sights to take in, Tennessee holidays are an unforgettable and fun-packed experience.

With roughly 100 million people coming to visit the state of Tennessee every year, the local tourism industry is absolutely booming, and it’s pretty easy to see why. While the great cities of Memphis and Nashville attract the majority of visitors between them, there’s still plenty to see and do elsewhere. Between Elvis’ home Graceland, the historic district of Beale Street, Lower Broadway, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Dollywood theme park and the Tennessee Aquarium, there is something for everyone spread across this eclectic state.

Tennessee is shaped like a sliding letterbox. It’s completely landlocked. It borders eight other states, and ties with Missouri for being the state that borders the most others. It is nicknamed the ‘Volunteer State’ as 30,000 men volunteered to fight in the Mexican war, largely in response to the death of folk hero and ‘King of the Wild Frontier,’ Davy Crockett. Memphis and Nashville are highlights of course. But there’s lots else to see and do.

Tennessee has 54 state parks, which cover 130,000 acres. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the nation’s most visited national park. A section of the Appalachian Trail roughly follows the border between Tennessee and North Carolina. Two of Tennessee’s major attractions are the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga, which has 12,000 animals, and Dollywood, the amusement park partly owned by Dolly Parton, in Pigeon Forge. The state is a great destination for a family holiday with big outdoors and its barbecue voted number 1 by TripAdvisor in 2015. It’s also the home of Jack Daniels, the best known of Tennessee whiskies, but there are others to sample, to get you in the mood for ‘The Soundtrack of America’ – made in Tennessee. It sure is.

While Tennessee has more than 50 state parks and wildlife refuges which cover many thousands of acres’ worth of land, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is by far the most sought after by holidaymakers, attracting upward of ten million visitors per year, making it the most visited national park in the United States of America. Shared between Tennessee and North Carolina, the Great Smoky Mountains span 187,000 acres of old growth forest and are considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

An area rich in biodiversity, no one really knows just how many individual species of plants and animals live in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, as many areas are so remote that they haven’t been properly explored or documented by humans. Estimates range between 10,000 and 90,000 species in total, while park rangers have counted over 200 species of bird, 50 varieties of fish, 80 types of reptiles and amphibians as well as numerous large mammal species including white-tailed deer, black bears and elk (which were reintroduced into the park in 2001 after a localised extinction). With so much wildlife out there, the Smoky Mountains National Park is a naturalist’s paradise!

Tennessee’s influence on the early development and popularizing of many different musical genres cannot be underestimated. Memphis’ Beale Street is considered by many to be the birthplace of the blues, with the earliest recordings stretching all the way back to the early 1900s, while Nashville is widely regarded as the city which brought country music as we know it to the masses, with the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum residing there today.

Rock and Roll also owes a lot to the state of Tennessee, with Elvis Presley himself cutting his teeth in Memphis and recording much of his work at the fabled Sun Records recording studio during the 1950s, before making Graceland his permanent home. Other rock ‘n’ roll legends to have recorded albums here include Roy Orbison and Jerry Lee Lewis. The legacy of these legends of rock lives on today in the many great music venues which can be found in every nook and cranny in the state of Tennessee.

The distinctive flavour of Tennessee can be summed up in its world famous barbecued meats that come topped with hickory smoked sauces and glazed country hams and bacon, which traditionally come served with a side of corn on the cob, red beans and cornbread. That’s where the local term ‘one and three’ comes from; Tennessee eateries tend to be based around the buffet-like concept of picking your own meal – one meat and three sides is generally seen as the best way to go. If you’re still hungry after all of that, a tasty serving of homemade flaky biscuits is never far away. Whether you eat out of one of the state’s many simple, but fulfilling, food trucks or take the fancy route with an evening of white linen dining, the taste of Tennessee is unmistakable, and unbeatable!

Every bit as renowned as the food of Tennessee are its drinks. Undoubtedly, the most famous and widespread of all of the state’s liquors is Jack Daniel’s Tennessee whiskey. While it is often mistaken for a type of bourbon, it is never referred to as such by the locals. Even though Tennessee whiskey and bourbon are quite similar in most respects, only the former is created through a very specific charcoal chip-based means of filtering known as the ‘Lincoln County Process’. This is what gives the likes of Jack Daniel’s and George Dickel their unmistakably smoky flavour. How good is it? Well, as of 2013, the US market for bourbon and Tennessee whiskey amounted to $2.4 billion, over one billion of which went to export (clearly, the flavour was too good not to share!).