If you’re planning a trip to or through Tennessee via road travel, you definitely have to make several stops and explore the wonderful state. No matter how long you’ll be visiting Tennessee, here are 14 stops that you should definitely work into your itinerary.
As the second most visited home in the United States behind the White House, Graceland is a must see. Enjoy an interactive iPad tour hosted by actor John Stamos that features commentary by both Elvis and his daughter, Lisa Marie. Explore the mansion in full, from the living room to the famous Jungle Room, the kitchen and the Meditation Garden where Elvis was laid to rest. The only room off limits is the upstairs bathroom where Elvis was discovered on the day of his death.
Graceland, Elvis Presley Blvd, Memphis, TN, USA, +1 901 332 3322
Back in the 1920s, Beale Street took on a carnival atmosphere, with nightclubs, theaters, pawnshops, and even prostitution making up its constituents. It was so shady, in fact, that there was a club called The Monarch, which was also known as The Castle of Missing Men. Gunshot victims and dead gamblers were often disposed of in the back alley of the club. Today, many clubs and restaurants still call Beale Street home, but it’s much more about blues music and barbecue food. Also on Beale Street is the former home of W.C. Handy, “Father of the Blues,” and one of America’s most influential songwriters.
With acres of forest and an abundance of plant and animal life, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited park in America. It straddles the border between North Carolina and Tennessee and is a great place to enjoy outdoor activities. Whether you spend a day hiking or camp out overnight, you can’t beat the views or the opportunities for adventure.
In an effort to increase Knoxville’s outdoor amenities and create better access to recreational areas, Legacy Parks Foundation runs Outdoor Knoxville. The adventure center offers visitors plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy, like renting paddleboards, bikes, or kayaks and fly fishing on the Tennessee River. The Billy Lush Board Shop, Neyland Greenway, and the Visit Knoxville Visitor Outpost are also located at the center.
Built in 1981, the Knoxville Sunsphere was designed as the theme structure for the 1982 World’s Fair and is one of only two remaining structures from the event. It stands 266 feet high and has a 24-karat gold, glass paneled ball that is 75 feet in diameter. On the fourth floor is an observation deck that features a gallery of Knoxville images and a 360-degree view of the city. It is free and open to the public daily.
The first licensed winery in Tennessee, Stonehaus Winery opened in 1991. It is the only winery in Tennessee with statewide distribution and offers complimentary wine tastings. When the winery first started, it offered five wines that were all sold on site. All of the wines were bottled by hand. After substantial growth, Stonehaus Winery wines can now be found in liquor stores and grocery stores across Tennessee as well as on site. After purchasing a new bottling line in 2006, the winery now bottles up to 3,000 bottles of wine per hour.
With four waterfalls that cascade down from over 250 feet, Burgess Fall State Park is known for its natural beauty and family-friendly activities. Visitors can take a 1.5-mile round-trip trail that leads to the edge of the waterfalls and into the gorge. Fishing is allowed below the dam and along the bank of the main waterfall. The Native Butterfly Garden offers native wildflower displays and is where the annual Butterfly Garden Celebration takes place, offering programs, hikes and creek studies. There is also a week-long Junior Ranger Camp available to youth during the summer.
Established in 1866, Jack Daniel’s Distillery was the first registered distillery in the United States. Known for its signature Old. No. 7 whiskey, the brand has expanded its production and flavors over the years while still maintaining the not-so-secret to its success: the use of limestone spring water, which was Jack Daniel’s ingredient discovery. The distillery offers a variety of tours, some that include tastings and one that includes a meal at local Miss Mary Bobo’s Boarding House & Restaurant.
Featuring information that spans five centuries, the National Civil Rights Museum offers artifacts, films, interactive media, and listening posts that cover the history of civil rights in the United States. Located at the Lorraine Motel where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, the museum also explores the 1968 event in the Legacy Building, which begins with the American Civil Rights Movement Timeline. Exhibits feature information on the investigation of the assassination, as well as the American Civil Rights Movement’s impact on human rights across the globe.
Each year, the 66,000 square foot Wildhorse Saloon welcomes more than 1.5 million visitors. The event space has three floors for guests to enjoy, acting as a restaurant, bar, dance floor, and concert venue. Bands large and small grace the stage to play live music, and the venue offers free line dancing lessons that are given by its trained staff. Enjoy hot chicken and fried pickles while dancing in your boots and listening to the sounds of rock and country music classics.
What started as the Union Gospel Tabernacle under the direction of Nashville businessman Thomas G. Ryman is now the Ryman Auditorium, a live music venue that was named to honor its founder. In 1943, the Grand Ole Opry found a home at the Ryman Auditorium, where it took residence for nearly thirty-one years. The live radio and television show featured guests and performers like Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline, Hank Williams, and Elvis Presley. Now a National Historic Landmark, the Ryman is known as the “Mother Church” of country music and continues to host legendary musical performances by artists across several genres.
Visitors to the Tennessee Aquarium have two different buildings to explore — River Journey and Ocean Journey. Both buildings feature exhibits that provide information about many types of aquatic and terrestrial wildlife as well as exotic plants. One exhibit, Stingray Bay, allows guest to touch different shark and stingray species. Alligator Bayou is where 13 American Alligators can be found. The aquarium is also home to the nation’s largest salamander, the hellbender, which breathes through its skin as tree frogs chirp around it.
One of Chattanooga’s most popular attractions is Ruby Falls, the largest and deepest waterfall open to the public in the United States. It’s located over 1,120 feet beneath the surface, inside Ruby Falls Cave, where hundreds of gallons of water rush over by the minute. Ruby Falls was formed sometime after Ruby Falls Cave, when a sinkhole developed and allowed large amounts of water to enter. This water hollowed out the dome area, and, by way of erosion, the waterfall was carved out.
Designated a National Scenic Byway, Cherohala Skyway was dedicated and opened in 1996. It crosses through Cherokee National Forest in Tennessee and Nantahala National Forest in North Carolina. At more than 40 miles long, the two-lane road has 15 scenic overlooks with elevations that range from 900 feet above sea level to over 5,400 feet above sea level. A trip across the entire skyway takes about two hours, and along the way you’ll find picnic sites and trail heads for enjoying short travel breaks.