Tennessee – a state that sings, sizzles, and surprises. Home to legends like Elvis Presley, Aretha Franklin, and Dolly Parton, this vibrant state offers so much more than just music. Whether you’re a history buff, a foodie, or an adventure seeker, Locals know that Tennessee is a treasure trove of unforgettable experiences. From the lively streets of Nashville, the country music capital of the world, to the stunning vistas of the Great Smoky Mountains, this state has it all. Below we share our top insider tips for experiencing the real Tennessee. Get ready to immerse yourself in the rich culture, indulge in mouthwatering cuisine, and uncover hidden gems that will leave you enchanted.
Uncover the roots of your favourite music legends
Tennessee is considered by many to be the Music Capital of the world! To start your Tennessee adventure on a high note, immerse yourself in the rich musical history of this state. Here are three must-visit destinations that will take you on a journey through the lives of some iconic music legends.
Visit the birthplace of Aretha Franklin in Memphis
Memphis, Tennessee is the birthplace of the Queen of Soul herself – Aretha Franklin. Head to South Memphis and visit the humble home where she was born in 1942. This small, unassuming house is a testament to the incredible talent that emerged from its walls.
Walk in the footsteps of Tina Turner in Nutbush
Tina Turner’s career spanned over five decades and her music continues to inspire and energise audiences around the world. To experience the essence of her roots, take a trip to Nutbush – a small town in rural West Tennessee where she spent her early childhood. Here, you can visit the Tina Turner Museum, which is dedicated to preserving her legacy and celebrating her contributions to the music industry.
Experience the life of Johnny Cash at his museum in Nashville
No trip to Tennessee would be complete without a visit to the Johnny Cash Museum in Nashville. This immersive museum takes you on a journey through the life and music of the “Man in Black.” From his early days as a struggling musician to his rise to fame, you’ll discover the remarkable story of this icon of American music.
Tune into the rhythm of Tennessee’s current music scene
If you’re a music lover, don’t limit yourself to music legends of the past, Tennessee’s current music scene is just as vibrant as ever. From blues and rock ‘n’ roll to country music – old and new – this state is a mecca for all music enthusiasts. Here’s our must visit spots on the Tennessee music scene:
The iconic Bluebird Cafe in Nashville
This cosy and intimate venue has played host to some of the biggest names in music, including Taylor Swift, Garth Brooks, and Dolly Parton. Catch a live performance by up-and-coming artists and established songwriters alike, and experience the magic of this renowned music institution.
Listening Rooms Cafe in Nashville
If you can’t snag a coveted reservation at the infamous Blue Bird Cafe, don’t worry – the Listening Room Cafe offers an amazing alternative that’s just as memorable. Located just a hop, skip, and a jump away from Broadway, this venue is a must-visit for any true music aficionado. With talented singer/songwriters taking the stage during lunch and dinner, you’re sure to have a toe-tapping good time.
Beale Street, Memphis
If blues and rock ‘n’ roll are more your style, this is your spot. This historic district is a hub for live music, with an impressive lineup of venues and bars that offer everything from soulful blues to hard-hitting rock. The street itself is filled with delicious food and an electric atmosphere that’s sure to get your heart racing.
The Grand Ole Opry, Nashville
For a taste of classic country music, the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville is a must-visit. This legendary venue has been hosting live performances since 1925 and has become an iconic symbol of the genre. Catch a show and listen to the sounds of legends such as Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, and Johnny Cash, or discover new artists who are carrying on the tradition. The Opry is not a daily occurance so we would recommend coordinating your visit and booking in advance.
Hit the open road for a break from the busy city
Fancy escaping the hustle and bustle of the city to immerse yourself in the natural beauty of Tennessee? Then taking a fly-drive or road trip through the state might be just what you need. With its rolling hills, lush forests, and scenic byways, the state is a haven for those seeking adventure and relaxation. We’ve shortlisted 3 of our favourite drives to add to your itinerary.
Natchez Trace Parkway
One of the most scenic drives in Tennessee is the Natchez Trace Parkway, a 444-mile stretch that winds through Tennessee, Mississippi, and Alabama. This historic roadway is perfect for a leisurely drive, with plenty of opportunities to stop and take in the stunning views of the countryside.
The Natchez Trace Parkway is rich in history, with numerous historic sites to visit along the way. Consider stopping at the Meriwether Lewis Monument, the Tupelo National Battlefield, or the Mount Locust Inn and Plantation for a glimpse into the past.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Another must-see destination for road trippers is the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Take a scenic drive through the park and marvel at the natural beauty that surrounds you, from towering peaks to cascading waterfalls. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife sightings, including black bears, elk, and white-tailed deer.
Cherokee National Forest
If you’re looking for a more off-the-beaten-path adventure, consider taking a drive through the Cherokee National Forest. This sprawling wilderness area is home to miles of scenic byways, offering breathtaking views of the Appalachian Mountains and winding rivers. Stop at one of the many picnic areas along the way for a relaxing break and soak in the serenity of the forest.
Discover more about Tennessee’s fascinating history and culture
This state is brimming with fascinating landmarks, museums, and historical sites that are perfect for an immersive experience to explore the deep roots of Tennessee history and culture, such as these 3 spots we’ve shortlisted especially for you history buffs!
Visit the Tennessee State Museum
One must-visit spot is the Tennessee State Museum. This museum offers a comprehensive overview of Tennessee’s rich history, from prehistoric times to the present day. You can expect to see exhibits that highlight the state’s role in the Civil War, the influence of music on the state’s culture, and the importance of the state’s natural resources to its development.
Explore the Oak Ridge National Laboratory to learn about the Manhattan Project.
For a deeper dive into Tennessee’s role in the Manhattan Project, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory is an excellent stop. This laboratory played a critical role in the development of the atomic bomb during World War II, and you can explore its history and legacy through interactive exhibits and tours.
Experience Civil War history at the Stones River National Battlefield in Murfreesboro.
If you’re interested in the Civil War, Stones River National Battlefield is a must-visit destination. This historic site preserves the memory of one of the Civil War’s bloodiest battles and provides a glimpse into the lives of soldiers and civilians during this tumultuous period in American history.
Relish the tastes of Tennessee with BBQ, dives, and distilleries galore
Foodies are in for a tasty treat because Tennessee is renowned for its mouth-watering BBQ, delicious whiskey, and unique dive bars. Here are 3 food and drink staples you have to try while visiting the state!
Visit the Iconic Jack Daniel’s Distillery in Lynchburg
The Jack Daniel’s Distillery offers guided tours that provide a peek into the art of whiskey-making, which dates back to the 1800s. You’ll learn about the history of the distillery, the production process, and even get to sample some of their award-winning whiskey. Don’t forget to pick up a bottle of the signature Tennessee whiskey as a souvenir.
Savour the delicious BBQ at Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint in Nashville.
This is an absolute must-visit for BBQ lovers. Known for its famous pitmaster, Pat Martin, this joint has received numerous accolades for its mouth-watering meats. From brisket to ribs, pulled pork, and even BBQ tofu, Martin’s is the place to go to treat your tastebuds to some serious Tennessee BBQ.
Explore the Knoxville dive bars
Finally, if you’re looking for a unique dive bar experience, Knoxville has got you covered. The city is home to several dive bars that offer an authentic taste of Tennessee’s nightlife. From the casual and laid-back atmosphere of The Pilot Light to the lively crowds at The Public House, Knoxville’s dive bars offer a range of experiences for visitors. Make sure to try some local beers and strike up a conversation with the friendly locals while you’re there.
Take a hike and be blown away by Tennessee’s natural beauty
From the Cumberland Plateau to the Great Smoky Mountains, Tennessee is filled with walkways and views of natural beauty that feel like you’ve just stepped into a vintage postcard. Here’s a 3 favourite spots to take in the breathtaking scenery the state has to offer
Cumberland Plateau on the Sequatchie Valley Scenic Byway
The Sequatchie Valley Scenic Byway will take you on a winding journey through the stunning Cumberland Plateau. This 29-mile stretch of road is filled with dramatic views of the valley, towering cliffs, and cascading waterfalls. The drive is perfect for those who enjoy a leisurely trip, as there are plenty of places to stop to have a picnic and take in the stunning scenery.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, a true gem of Tennessee. Although this park was noted earlier on our list as a beautiful area to drive through, it is also a hiker’s paradise. With over 800 miles of trails to explore, there is a trail for everyone, whether you’re a seasoned pro or a beginner. One of the most popular trails in the park is the Alum Cave Trail, which leads to the stunning Alum Cave Bluffs. The trail is a moderate 4.4-mile round trip hike that takes you through a lush forest filled with rhododendrons, wildflowers, and towering trees.
Visit the Ruby Falls in Chattanooga, a stunning underground waterfall.
You won’t want to miss out on the stunning Ruby Falls in Chattanooga. This underground waterfall is a sight to behold, with its vibrant colours and rushing waters. The guided tour takes you through the cave system, where you’ll learn about the geological formations that make this natural wonder possible. It’s an unforgettable experience that will leave you in awe of the power and beauty of nature. Lookout Mountain offers some of the most stunning views of Chattanooga and the surrounding area. Be sure to stop at the various overlooks during your visit to take in the scenery and snap some photos.
Venture into Tennessee’s mysterious depths beneath the surface
Tennessee is home to a huge array of the most incredible caverns and caves, whether you’re a budding geologist or simply are impressed by the awes of nature, there is so much to discover. Here are 3 specific locations in Tennessee that the most impressive caves and caverns can be found.
Take a tour of the Lost Sea, the largest underground lake in America
The Lost Sea, located in Sweetwater, is the largest underground lake in America, and taking a tour of the cave system is a truly unforgettable experience. The tour takes you through winding passages and stunning rock formations before leading you to the underground lake. You’ll take a boat ride on the crystal clear waters and learn about the history and geology of the area.
Explore the Forbidden Caverns in Sevierville, filled with unique rock formations
These caverns are filled with unique rock formations, underground streams, and towering waterfalls. The tour takes you through the caverns, highlighting some of the most impressive features of the underground world. The guides are knowledgeable and offer insights into the geology and history of the area.
Visit the Cumberland Caverns in McMinnville, which has underground waterfalls and pools
This cave system is home to underground waterfalls, pools, and incredible rock formations. The tours offer a range of experiences, from easy walking tours to more challenging adventure tours that require crawling through tight spaces. If you’re lucky with the timing of your visit, the cave system also sometimes hosts some underground concerts and events, offering one of the coolest and most unique performances you may ever experience.
We think it’s safe to say that Tennessee truly has it all. With so much to see and do in this vibrant state, there’s never been a better time to start planning your Tennessee adventure.
So why wait? Contact one of our travel agents today to start planning your trip and experience the real Tennessee for yourself.