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Home > People & Places > Things to do in Tennessee?

What are the best things to do in Tennessee? There are loads of famous attractions and places worth your time to visit in the Volunteer State. Tennessee is the home to the Great Smoky Mountains, Elvis Presley, Blues music, country music, Beale Street, theme parks, music festivals, civil war historical sites, the Mississippi river, and some really great tasting food. Its largest cities are Nashville, Memphis, and Chattanooga, which all provide an eclectic mix of music and entertainment for tourists and travellers. Whether you are passing through or going for a road trip across the state, what are your favourite things to do in Tennessee?


Comments (4)

The Lorraine Motel is amazing.

By topquack (4999) - Prophet | 08.12.09

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Ahhh it is overated.

By topquack (4999) - Prophet | 20.11.09

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I wanna try Lollapollooza soon.

By muddbandit (2426) - Prophet | 20.11.09

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By c3po (1) - Rookie | 20.11.09

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1) Jack Daniel’s Distillery

No trip to Tennessee is complete without paying homage to “Mr, Jack” himself, or more specifically the statue of him near the visitor entrance. Believe it or not, every bottle of Jack Daniel’s whiskey sold in the world comes from this one quaint operation in the peaceful village of Lynchburg. The local Moore county in which the distillery resides is known as a “dry county”, which ironically means that it is illegal to taste or sell alcohol in the entire area. The Jack Daniels Distillery is pretty close to Bonnaroo, so if you are in the area that weekend its well worth the quick diversion. On the bonus side, the tour that is provided to the public around the distillery is actually free, and you get a fresh glass of lemonade at the end. Whose complaining?

Jack Daniels Distillery things to do tennessee

2) The Great Smoky Mountains

The Great Smoky Mountains offers stunning scenery and outstanding natural beauty that can rival virtually any other National Park in the United States. It has also been designated a world heritage site by UNESCO. The name “smoky” originates from the fog that collects between the hills, which is a result of warm air coming up from the Gulf coast and mixing with cooler air in the Appalachian mountains. There are many things to do in the park, including hiking, fishing, water rafting, climbing, and sight seeing. The highest elevation in the park is Clingmans Dome which reaches a height of 6,643ft above sea level. The nearby town of Gatlinburg, which resides just at the entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, offers a great place for visitors to get some lively entertainment in the evening. Take the Sky Lift in Gatlinburg for $12 to get a really great view of the local mountain ranges. This is not for those with a fear of heights however!

Smoky Mountain things to do tennessee

3) The General Jackson

The General Jackson is a boat that was built in 1985 to resemble one of the late 19th Century steam powered riverboats that were once a common site in the Deep South. The General Jackson provides its service on the Cumberland river in Nashville, and runs from the Gaylord Opryland Hotel up to downtown Nashville on most evenings, providing a meal and evening’s entertainment for those onboard. Drinks at the bar can be a little pricey, but on the pints of beer and cocktails you get to keep the glass as a souvenir which makes it worth it. Remember to take you camera along as you get the opportunity to take some pretty good shots of the downtown area when it is quite spectacularly lit up at night.

general jackson 2 things to do tennessee

4) Graceland

As of March 2006, Graceland has been a National Historic Landmark, and the end of a long pilgrimage by Elvis Presley fans all over the world for the last thirty odd years since his death. Elvis purchased this property in 1957 for the tidy sum of $100,000.00 at the tender age of 22. The public are invited to look around many of the rooms of the Elvis Presley estate, including the famous “Jungle room”. Across the other side of Elvis Presley boulevard resides The King’s plane collection, of which one is the “Lisa Marie” Convair 880 Jet, which was named after his daughter, and is the only remaining aircraft of that model in the world. One day when Lisa Marie was young, Elvis discovered she had never seen snow before, so he jumped aboard his plane with her and flew directly to Colorado for the real article. Not bad eh? There is a lot to see and do around the Graceland area, and it can get pretty busy during the peak seasons, so its best to turn up relatively early.

Graceland things to do tennessee

5) Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival

Bonnaroo was named one of the best festivals in the world by Rolling Stone magazine in 2008, and it is not hard to see why. Recent headliners have included the Beastie Boys, Bruce Springsteen, Snoop Dogg, Metallica, Pearl Jam, The Police, and B.B. King. Bonnaroo is more than just a music festival, it also hosts a lot of comedy with stand ups such as Chris Rock, and provides an environment for artists and philanthropists to gather and confront world issues such as poverty and climate change. One of the quirky things to do at the festival is the “silent disco” where everyone is wearing earphones that the DJ is wirelessly broadcasting his mixes to in real-time. So you end up with a bunch of people raving at like 3am in the morning with virtually no noise coming from the tent! If you are thinking of going, driving is the only viable method to get there, so be prepared for a long wait in the queue on the interstate.

Bonnaroo things to do tennessee

6) Dollywood

Dollywood is located in Pigeon Forge, which is pretty close to Gatlinburg and the Great Smokey Mountains National Park, and as you guessed it, the official theme park of famous Tennessean Dolly Parton. This theme park offers a great selection of rides, all themed around the state of Tennessee. One of the best things to do is ride the wooden roller coaster called “Thunderhead”, (video below), which proved to be a more fun experience than a lot of newer and faster steel roller coasters in other theme parks. The designers and owners of this park have taken the greatest effort to ensure quality and effort has gone into making every part of the park fun and exciting. They even have a restored steam engine from the 1930s which you can ride around the park as part of the cost of your admission ticket. Take that Disney with your plastic electric trains! This definitely deserves a place on your list of things to do in Tennessee.

dollywood things to do tennessee

7) Country Music Hall of Fame

If you have heard of the “Rock and Roll Hall of Fame”, for a quick explanation this is its country music counterpart. If you are already a big country music fan then this attraction will no doubt already be on your list of things to do in Tennessee, but if you are not then it is well worth a visit as it provides a great insight into what Nashville is all about. The actual building itself is a pretty cool design, and the history of country music is covered extensively in a more or less chronological order, starting with Hank Williams. The Country Music Hall of Fame is located in downtown Nashville, so once you are done with your visit you should head up to the nearby B.B. Kings Blues Club for some great live music and some southern fried catfish.

Country Music Hall of Fame things to do tennessee

8) Sun Studio

Sun Studio was the centre of the rockabilly and country music industry way back in the 1950s and 1960s, with legendary artists such as Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison, and Jerry Lee Lewis all having recorded here at some stage. In 1956, through a sheer coincidence, all of the above named artists, minus Roy Orbison, were present in the studio at the same time. They gathered around a piano, with Elvis on keys and Carl Perkins on Guitar and began to jam. A cameraman in the studio captured this historic moment on film. Sun Studio is featured in the Joaquin Phoenix movie “Walk the Line”, which is a biography of Johnny Cash’s life, and provides an interesting view of the musical history of the area. Tours of Sun Studio are $12 for adults, and last for roughly an hour, with the last one starting at 5:30pm.There is free parking here too, or alternatively there is a free shuttle bus that departs from Graceland if you are conscious of your carbon footprint.

Sun Studio things to do tennessee

9) Memphis Zoo

I think the Memphis Zoo could possibly be one of the most under-rated zoos I have ever been to in my life. I had already previously heard of, and visited the famous San Diego Zoo, Animal Kingdom, and London Zoo etc, but this one took me the most by surprise by how good it was! It has been operating for over one hundred years, but don’t let that fool you, as it is a very modern zoo with over 3,500 animals of which 500 represent different species. A great perk to this place is they have designed all of the various areas to correspond with the geographical location in the world the animals are native to, like the Chinese themed area for Pandas. They even have komodo dragons at this place, which are the largest lizards in the world! You definitely need to spend at least a full day at the Memphis zoo to take in all the attractions properly.

Memphis Zoo  things to do tennessee

10) Lorraine Motel - (National Civil Rights Museum)

Located in Memphis, the Lorraine Motel was the tragic location in April 1968 where the human rights icon Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated by James Earl Ray, a fugitive from Missouri prison. The motel actually remained open after his death up until 1982 when it was closed down, and later bought by The Martin Luther King Memorial Foundation who began construction of the present day museum a few years afterwards. The National Civil Rights Museum, as it is known today, provides a sublime look at the history of the African-American people starting right back in the early seventeenth century with the introduction of African people to North America, and culminating with the death of Reverend King. They have even re-created room 306 that Martin Luther King and his associates were staying in at the time of the murder which further emphasises the controversial era the civil rights movement occurred in.

Lorainne Motel things to do tennessee
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