Tennessee offers it all: a thriving music industry in the vibrant towns of Memphis and Nashville, world-class tourist destinations such as Graceland, and breathtaking natural wonders that provide something for everyone. Spend a few days exploring the stunning caves and Smoky Mountain Range, and take a vacation from your hectic life.
Tennessee’s Top 10 Things to do in Tennessee
- Graceland, Elvis Presley’s Playground
- Trails of the Tennessee Civil War
- Museums of the Tennessee Valley Railroad
- Knoxville, TN
- Mount Lookout
- The Museum of the Titanic
- At Craighead Caverns, there is a Lost Sea Cave.
Let’s have a look at the most Things to do in Tennessee.
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1. Graceland, Elvis Presley’s Playground
Photo by Lindsey Turner
Graceland is one of the best things to do in Tennessee. Fans from all over the world go to Graceland to pay homage to the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll’s home. The thriving Memphis entertainment complex features 120 acres of museums and artifacts dedicated to the iconic musician. To access everything, you’ll need tickets, and consider upgrading to the Ultimate VIP Tour. This package contains an intimate tour of Graceland Mansion, a self-guided tour of Elvis’ jets, full access to Elvis Presley’s Memphis Entertainment District, a meal voucher for one restaurant, and connect directly to a VIP-only exhibit, among other perks. Make a reservation at The Guest House at Graceland to experience all the highlights, artifacts, Elvis-themed activities, and live concerts. One of the largest in Memphis, this hotel has guestrooms inspired by Las Vegas’ glamor, Graceland’s design, and Elvis’ Palm Springs house.
Photo by Adrian Gray
Dolly Parton was the main force behind the reimagining of this amusement park in the Knoxville-Smoky Mountains metroplex of Pigeon Forge, influenced by her own experience as a famous country singer. It was initially titled “Silver Dollar City” by the Robins Brothers. Dolly Parton grew raised in the neighborhood and later owned shares in the amusement park and renamed it “Dollywood” in her honor.
Since its inception, the park has doubled in size and now features ten themed areas, including Show Street, Country Fair, and Jukebox Junction. Apart from traditional amusement park rides, it also offers South Appalachian culture and music and a full-size steam train! Visit every day between Presidents Day and the Christmas Holidays or during one of Dollywood’s five festivals.
3. Trails of the Tennessee Civil War
Tennessee played a significant role in the Civil War, providing both Confederate and Union soldiers and enduring numerous pivotal battles between the two sides. The Civil War Trail markers denote important historic locations around the state and conserved battleground areas.
Sign markers begin at Franklin and Blountville and continue into Columbia, tracing a vital section of General Hood’s 1864 campaign to reclaim Tennessee. Visit Chattanooga’s pivotal battleground and immerse yourself in Civil War history! Along the route, stop at the National Civil Rights Museum and the Andrew Johnson National Historic Site.
4. Things to do in Tennessee; Parthenon
Photo by Craig G
You don’t even need to travel to Athens to witness this magnificent sculpture, which is a full-scale reproduction of the Parthenon. It was constructed in 1897 for the Tennessee Centennial Exposition and now serves as an art museum. The Parthenon is situated in Centennial Park and is embellished with plaster copies of the Athenian Parthenon’s original sculptures, including a statue of Athena Parthenos.
While in Nashville, take a break from music and visit the “Athens of the South.” It was previously scheduled for demolition until its popularity grew, which means you are still fortunate enough to see this American architectural marvel! It now holds a permanent collection of 63 works by American painters from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and changing exhibitions and exhibits. Art culture only enriches music, so why not combine the two while in Nashville?
5. Museums of the Tennessee Valley Railroad
Ride the trains, much as people did many years ago. The Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum is a branch of the National Railway Historical Society. It was created by Paul H Merriman and Robert M Soule in collaboration with a group of railway preservationists interested in saving steam locomotives and railroad equipment for future historical use. With the establishment of this fantastic historical museum, we have all benefited from this vision!
The museum first housed Western Union equipment until additional cars were added following the demise of passenger service on the Southern Railway. Their permanent facility in East Chattanooga was built in 1970, and it now operates trains so that guests can experience railroading on old-fashioned steam engines. Take a one-hour steam locomotive trip or a half-day Hiwassee Loop excursion. Settle in and take a seat on the train to discover more about this intriguing way of transit and how it shaped the country.
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6. Things to do in Tennessee; Knoxville
Knoxville, located in Knox County, was founded in 1786 and served as Tennessee’s first capital. After flourishing upon the railroad’s introduction, Knoxville was divided by the Civil War and suffered greatly during the Great Depression, continuing to decline into the twentieth century. In current years, the community has resurrected itself as a fountain of Appalachian culture.
Visit this vibrant city brimming with culture and art! Make a point to visit the Beck Culture Exchange Center or take a tour of the Knoxville Museum of Art. Additionally, you should attend one of the city’s numerous festivals, like the Bacon Fest or Biscuit Fest – who can oppose a reason to eat more in such charming surroundings?! Additionally, there is the enticing BrewFest and other activities in Downtown Knoxville regardless of year. Relish some authentic Southern charm and merriment!
7. Things to do in Tennessee; Mount Lookout
Lookout Mountain is a mountain range in Chattanooga that straddles the northwest corner of Georgia, the northeast corner of Alabama, and the Tennessee state line. Lookout Mountain was the site of the “final battle of the Cherokees” during the Nickajack Expedition and the Battle of Lookout Mountain during the American Civil War.
It has transformed into a natural wonderland that awaits your arrival! Visit the famed Ruby Falls Cavern, a stunning cascade, or Rock City. Throughout the year, Rock City hosts various events, including the strangely called Lover’s Leap and Fat Man’s Squeeze. Finally, pay a visit to the Incline Railway or the Chattanooga Battlefield Museum. You will be delighted by the mountains’ quirkiness and history!
8. The Museum of the Titanic
Photo by Joel Kramer
Pigeon Forge’s Titanic Museum is the world’s largest permanent Titanic museum. It opened in 2010 and is constructed on a scale of one-half that of the actual ship. The museum houses 400 pre-discovery objects displayed in twenty galleries, all of which were built at the cost of $25 million! While one might not imagine a maritime museum in a landlocked state, this fantastic Tennessee experience will not be missed!
When you initially enter, you’ll be given a passenger boarding ticket with the name and class of an actual Titanic passenger. Please take a tour of the ship and put yourself in the shoes of a passenger. The boat even looks to be at sea due to its construction in a pool! Explore a two-hour self-guided tour that concludes in the Titanic Memorial Room, where you can learn whether the passenger listed on your ticket survived. You’ll feel as if you have a better grasp of the tragic story of this beautiful, fateful ship and its people.
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9. At Craighead Caverns, there is a Lost Sea Cave.
Craighead Caverns, located between Sweetwater and Madisonville, Tennessee, is named after a Cherokee chief, Chief Craighead, and features the United States’ largest non-subglacial lake, The Lost Sea. Please make your way to the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains to view these caves and their beautiful crystal clusters that dot the tunnels and waterfall.
You’re strolling inside a time capsule here – Confederate soldiers mined the caverns during the war for saltpeter, which was utilized to simulate gunpowder. Explore the caves and take a boat tour of the Lost Sea, which reaches farther than the eye can see and completely covers several areas with water. The boat excursion is widely regarded as the trip’s highlight, providing sufficient possibilities to view the cavers’ crystal cluster stalactites and arches, which cast lovely shadows in this underground mystery realm.
10. Things to do in Tennessee; Nashville
Photo by Tom Bastin
Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry, Country Music Hall of Fame, Ryman Auditorium, and Johnny Cash Museum are popular with country music fans. Additionally, you may listen to emerging artists at must-see honky-tonk clubs such as Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge on Broadway. However, Music City is about more than its songs. Make a reservation at The Union Station Nashville Yards – a popular destination for guests due to its historic architecture and convenient proximity to downtown – and then bring your appetite to Assembly Food Hall. The building houses restaurants with foreign and regional influences, beverages, stunning rooftop views, and live music. Make time to see the city’s museums, including The Parthenon, the Frist Art Museum, and the Tennessee State Museum. Then, to round off your Nashville excursion, embark on a supper showboat cruise aboard General Jackson.
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