There is one word that represents the essence of Tennessee, that has shaped its history and culture and drives tourism throughout the state and that word is music. Tennessee is America’s music Mecca, where many of the nation’s original music genres were born. Music is so enmeshed in the Tennessee way of life that the political regions of the state even reflect their own unique musical heritages: Bluegrass, Country-Western, and Blues.
The most popular attractions in Tennessee can be found in the dueling music capitals Memphis and Nashville where famous avenues lined with legendary music businesses and clubs attract hundreds of thousands of visitors. Many other interesting attractions in the state, including the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the home of Elvis Presley, and the Lost Sea two hidden natural gems.
The Memphis Zoo located in Midtown, Memphis, Tennessee is home to more than 3,500 animals representing over 500 different species. Visit giant pandas in China a breathtaking Asian-inspired exhibit. Take in the sights and sounds of Yellowstone National Park at the Teton Trek exhibit, featuring grizzly bears, elk, timber wolves and trumpeter swans. Zambezi River Hippo Camp, home to hippos, flamingos, Nile crocodiles and other animals along the 1,600 miles of Africa’s Zambezi River.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
This national park, located in Tennessee and North Carolina, is the country’s most visited park. The park covers more than 500,000 acres of land including mountains, rivers, and lakes.
The park is most famous for its long-distance hiking trails with many backcountry camping sites and hike-in shelters throughout the park. In addition to hiking, other popular activities include sightseeing, horseback riding, and bicycling. The park is also well-known as an excellent fly fishing spot.
Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum
The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum is in Nashville, Tennessee.The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum’s permanent exhibit tells the story of country music from its pre-commercial roots in the nineteenth century through its vibrant life today. This exciting, multi-layered experience includes artifacts, original recordings, archival video, newly produced films, touchscreen interactive media, and more. The visitor learns the history and sounds of country music.
Tennessee has long been regarded as America’s music capital and no music lover should visit the state without paying tribute to one of music’s legends, Elvis Presley. Graceland is the massive white-columned mansion that was once the home of Elvis in Memphis. Today the mansion is a museum and a National Historic Place dedicated to preserving the memory and chronicling the life of Elvis Presley. Visitors to the estate can tour the mansion and grounds to view the building, artifacts, and the cemetery where Elvis and several Presley family members are buried.
In the city of Pigeon Forge visitors can combine their love of music with their sense of adventure at Dollywood, an amusement park with a musical flair. The park is owned by the famous country music star Dolly Parton and features traditional crafts and music from the surrounding Smoky Mountains area. At the amusement park visitors can enjoy thrill rides or visit nearby Dollywood’s Splash Country or the Dixie themed dinner theaters. The park is also a popular location for concerts and events.
Top Things to Do in Tennessee
Lookout Mountain & Ruby Falls
On the southern edge of Tennessee you’ll find this 2,389 foot mountain that shares borders with Georgia and Alabama.The mountain is aptly named Lookout for the clear views that can be had from its slopes.
One of the mountain’s best views is hidden inside it at Ruby Falls, a 145 foot high underground waterfall that is located within the mountain itself. Visitors can tour this beautiful and unique geologic formation as well as the larger Lookout Mountain Caverns complex.
Beale Street Historic District
Memphis is known to many as the home of Blues music and Beale Street is the famous place where it all happened. The 1.8 mile long street has a long history, but was known as a music hotspot from the early 1900s onward with clubs, restaurants, and shops that gave rise to new musical forms. For the next several decades America’s greatest jazz and blues musicians frequented the street. Today the street is lined with music clubs, bars, and music-themed shops and it is one of Memphis favorite destinations.
Craighead Caverns – The Lost Sea
In Sweetwater, Tennessee you’ll find Craighead Caverns an extensive cave system that is well known for its underground lake, appropriately called the Lost Sea. The caves contain gorgeous crystal clusters, stalactites, stalagmites, and a waterfall, but the feature that draws the most attention is the Lost Sea. The lake measures about 800 feet by 220 feet and can be toured by boat. During times of drought the water level drops significantly offering visitors the unusual and fascinating view of a lower cavern that is normally below the lake’s surface.
The Tennessee Aquarium is an aquarium located in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The Aquarium is home to more than 12,000 animals and almost 800 species. It is consistently recognized as one of the country’s top public aquariums.
Visitors discover the story of water through exhibits in both Aquarium buildings River Journey and Ocean Journey. The River Journey facility is a 130,000 square foot structure equivalent in height to a twelve-story building. It contains a total of 400,000 US gallons. Ocean Journey, a 60,000 square foot structure equivalent in height to a ten-story building contains a total of 700,000 US gallons.
You’re not mistaken, there really is a building called The Parthenon in Tennessee. In fact, the building doesn’t just share a name with the famous ancient Greek monument; it is actually a full-scale replica of the original Parthenon in Athens, Greece.
Throughout the years the building has hosted various events and today it is a museum with full-scale replicas of all of the statues and monuments in their original form, not as they are seen aged in the Athens Parthenon. Other than the buildings stunning exterior, a highlight of touring the Parthenon is seeing the reproduction of the Athena Parthenos statue, a 42 foot tall golden masterpiece that replicates the original.
Things to Do in Tennessee
If you’re planning a trip to Tennessee, do as your old kindergarten teacher might have said and “put your listening ears on,” because you’re about to hear 100% American music. Whether you’re headed to Memphis the birthplace of Rock n’Roll, or to the Country music capital of the world Nashville, no trip to Tennessee is complete without enjoying the music.