Tennessee is known as one of the most beautiful states in the entire US, and for good reason; there are hundreds of miles of unspoiled country trails dotted with camping sites and fishing spots. There’s a rich history to explore, deep within the state’s pastures and farms. You can find an assortment of historical landmarks to visit, from Civil War military cemeteries to old plantation homes.
Tennessee also offers a variety of entertainment options throughout the year including everything from nationally recognized music festivals to championship-caliber sports games.
1. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a Unesco World Heritage Site and is home to numerous attractions. You can get off the beaten path and hike or camp in one of the many surrounding wilderness areas, or you can simply admire nature from a quiet picnic spot. The park has abundant wildlife, including bears and mountain lions that reside in the mountains.
2. Tennessee State Capitol
The Tennessee State Capitol is located in downtown Nashville, just a short walk from some of the most exciting attractions in the city. Visitors can explore its history through many exhibits including an exhibit featuring portraits of Tennessee’s most influential leaders.
3. Ryman Auditorium
Situated in downtown Nashville, this Gothic-style building was built in 1911. It was here that country music stars performed many times throughout its history before it was sold to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. The building is now home to the Grand Ole Opry, Tennessee’s oldest continuously-running live music venue.
4. Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum
A former church turned into a museum, the Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum features exhibits highlighting the rich stories behind country music history. Many famous musicians have been inducted into the museum including Hank Williams and Merle Haggard. The museum can be found in the square where it used to be located.
5. The Parthenon
The building of the Tennessee state capitol (number 2 on this list) was designed by the architect of the Parthenon in Greece. This museum is home to a number of culturally significant items including statues of Abraham Lincoln and some famous works by sculptor Mary Cassatt, as well as other historical artifacts. The museum is located in downtown Nashville, just a short walk from several attractions.
6. National Civil Rights Museum
The National Civil Rights Museum is located downtown in Memphis and is the only museum in the country dedicated to African-American history. The museum pays tribute to the pivotal events that defined African-American history, including the march on Selma and the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
7. Grand Ole Opry
The Grand Ole Opry is a music venue that was founded in 1925 and has been an American institution since its inception. Concerts are held every Friday night at 8pm during the summer months as well as Monday nights throughout the year, and many famous musicians have performed here in previous years including Carrie Underwood.
8. Jack Daniels Distillery
The Jack Daniels Distillery in Lynchburg, Tennessee is a popular tourist attraction that can be found on Highway 70 North. Visitors can tour the entire facility and sample various types of whiskey including the famous Jack Daniels, as well as other types of spirits.
9. Tennessee Aquarium
The Tennessee Aquarium is an impressive public aquarium located in Chattanooga and is the first and only aquarium within the state of Tennessee. Visitors can explore exhibits featuring more than 1,000 different species of animals from across the globe. The museum also features a number of underwater touch pools to explore, as well as plenty of other interactive exhibits for adults and children to play with.
10. Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum
The Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum is a family-friendly museum located in downtown Chattanooga and features more than 45 different train cars and other works of transportation history. Visitors can take guided tours on an antique passenger train car through a recreated wild west town, or simply admire the vast collection of train memorabilia.
11. Schlitterbahn Waterpark
Schlitterbahn is one of the largest waterparks in the entire US located just outside of Nashville. The park features numerous slides, jumping towers, and quiet places to relax for all ages. The park also hosts a variety of live entertainment throughout the year including musicians and comedians.
If you’re into unusual activities check out the ones below:
The Body Farm
The Body Farm is a decomposing body laboratory located in Tennessee and Oklahoma and was the location of the filming of the movie The Body (also called “The Mosquito’s Sting”). According to its website, it “is an interactive experience that invites visitors to view, participate in or imagine the study of decomposition processes.”
Lost Sea is an underwater cave system that is part of the Cumberland River. It was discovered in 2001 and the main cave is a 400 ft cavern, named The Cathedral Cave.
Forbidden Caverns is a series of underground caves that were discovered in 1916 and since then have been developed into an organized cave system
Tennessee is a culture-rich state and home to many famous and iconic landmarks. Make sure you plan ahead for the best places to visit during your Tennessee vacation.