Tennessee has the museums, outdoor recreation, events and more to keep the whole family entertained
By Sara Sybert
The history of Tennessee lies deep, whether in its caves, as the site of several historic Civil War battles or in its significance as the center of country music. No matter which part of the state you visit—or which city—there’s a lot to see and do in the Volunteer State.
As the state’s self-proclaimed “Scenic City,” Chattanooga prides itself on its outdoor recreation as well as its commitment to culture with many museums, theaters and attractions.
“Chattanoogans have a great sense of pride,” says Barry White, president and CEO of the Chattanooga Tourism Co. “We love our city. We love to share our favorite hikes to mountain vistas or show the way to a speakeasy serving locally hand-crafted Chattanooga whiskey. We’re a welcoming and spirited community that celebrates our musicians, artists and chefs. Our guests get to experience our way of life and immediately become one of us.”
Chattanooga is home to the Chattanooga Zoo, Olgiati Bridge, Hunter Museum of American Art, the Tennessee Aquarium and several caverns that give visitors a chance to literally go into the earth and explore the hidden wonders we live above every day.
In addition to the many attractions that are in Chattanooga, the city also plays host to the Riverbend Festival, a four-day event held in the city’s downtown area during the summer. Other festivals include Oktoberfest, Chattacon and the Chattanooga Film Festival.
If you’re looking for a quiet escape from the hustle and bustle of the city, Gatlinburg is the place to go. The city is situated near the Great Smoky Mountains and offers visitors a chance to really connect with nature.
From its main strip on U.S. Highway 441 that’s full of attractions, restaurants and shops to its cabins nestled in the mountains, there’s a lot to see and do with the whole family or for a weekend getaway with your significant other. Ober Gatlinburg is a ski resort offering mountain top attractions while Anakeesta sends you to the top of a mountain with a treetop skywalk, an observation deck with a 360-degree view of your surroundings, shops, food and a mountain coaster. If you’re really a daredevil, you’ll want to try the Gatlinburg SkyBridge, which spans the distance between two mountaintops 1,800 feet above sea level with a glass floor.
Music lovers of any genre will enjoy a visit to Nashville. Nashville is home to the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum, the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum and the famous Grand Ole Opry. The city also hosts the CMA Music Festival annually.
Nashville is more than just music, however. Nashville is full of art, history, food, culture and fashion. Whether it’s hitting the restaurants and bars on Broadway Street or checking out the culture in East Nashville, it’s hard to not be entertained by the state’s capital city. North Nashville, the city’s arts district, offers a thriving scene and Lower Broadway is home to some of the city’s best shops and is a popular destination for those visiting.
“Nashville is easily accessible, friendly and authentic,” says Heather Middleton, senior vice president of Marketing at the Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp. “Whether you’re interested in music, art, history, food, culture or fashion, Music City has something for everyone to create a memorable experience. As you explore our diverse neighborhoods you will feel the creative culture that pervades the city.”
The cultural history of Memphis is rich, as its Beale Street calls itself the home of the blues and it played a major role in the cotton economy of the 19th century. The likes of not only Elvis but Johnny Cash were once fellow residents as they recorded music for Sam Phillips’ Sun Records.
Memphis is dedicated to honoring its history with a number of museums and landmarks throughout the city, including the Cotton Museum, which was once the trading floor of the Memphis Cotton Exchange. Also in Memphis is the National Civil Rights Museum, located in the former Lorraine Motel where Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. A visit to the museum gives visitors a look at the national Civil Rights movement as well as the city’s role in securing equal rights for African Americans. Some of the interactive exhibits at the museum include the garbage truck from the 1968 sanitation strike, James Earl Ray’s Ford Mustang and a bus representing the Montgomery Bus Boycott.
Graceland mansion was home to Elvis Presley and is now the second most-visited house in the country—only behind the White House. Guests who visit the museum not only get to see the place Elvis called home, but they can pay tribute to his memory at the property’s Meditation Garden, where he and family members are laid to rest.
If you need something to eat after all this sightseeing, try some barbecue. The city is famous for its barbecue and its dry rub ribs. You can find pulled pork and fried chicken in a number of barbecue restaurants throughout the city.