The Volunteer State, Tennessee, is a fascinating blend of Southern sentiment and Midwest friendliness, a place where music rings out every night in nearly every town. Stars are born in the cities of Nashville and Memphis, hoping to fill the shoes of Elvis, Dolly, and a host of other music legends that have come from the state.
Nearly everyone comes to Tennessee for the music. In Nashville, it’s all about country western and bluegrass. Bar hop down the District to see what’s fresh, or hit the Grand Ole Opry for some of the classics. Memphis takes care of the blues and rock scene, serving up Elvis anthems and the contemporary talents of hopeful players along buzzing Beale Street in Graceland. As a bonus, towns like Chattanooga, Knoxville, and Pigeon Forge also bring outdoor recreation and urban fun to the table.
Most visitors are quite taken with the friendliness of the folks in Tennessee. In the east, there’s a strong sense of southern hospitality and Appalachian mountain comfort. You certainly won’t go hungry in this state, where southern cooking dominates the menu and prices seem to have been frozen since the 70s. Accommodation in largely modest motel fare, although you can always find a posh bed and breakfast or boutique riverside hotel in the big cities.
Amidst the music and munching it’s easy to forget that there’s a gigantic natural facet to Tennessee as well. The entire eastern flank of the state is covered by the foothills of the Appalachians and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Water seems to flow everywhere, so you never have to venture far to find a river, lake, or trail to discover. Tourism is a major component of the local economy, so travelers can expect easy access to lodging, meals, and entertainment at very affordable prices.
Even in the big cities of Memphis and Nashville, it’s a good idea to rent a car. Like most American states, Tennessee is a land of drivers. Beautiful interstates and rural roads cover the land, ensuring that getting there is half the thrill. Nearly all of the big attractions here are located outside of city centers, so if you want to visit Graceland or spend a day hiking in the Smokies, a car is often the only viable way to go.
- Get your fill of old-time music, bluegrass and country western stars at Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry music hall
- Hang out with the bears or take a meandering hike in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, America’s most visited park
- Hit Beale Street for a night of bar hopping and live bands that could only be possible in Memphis
- Experience the world as Elvis saw it by touring Graceland, a veritable pilgrimage site for millions of fans of The King
- Have some mountain fun in Pigeon Forge, more amusement park than town right on the doorstep of the Smokies
- See the motel in Memphis where Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated, now an inspiring Civil Rights Museum
- Kayak, rock climb or bike along the Chattanooga River, one of the hottest small cities in America, which is redefining itself as a mecca for outdoor recreation with a cultural edge