With its world-renowned country music scene and highly rated BBQ food, it should come as no surprise that Tennessee is a state full of great things to do and see. From Nashville to Memphis and places in between, here are the must-visit attractions in the Volunteer State.
In the city of Hermitage is the former home of President Andrew Jackson. The home, built between 1819 and 1821 by local carpenters, was originally a brick, Federal-style house. It had eight rooms, nine fireplaces and a basement summer kitchen, and it was decorated with French wallpaper. After the death of his wife, Rachel, Jackson decided to bury her in the garden on the property since it was her favorite place. Today, both the former President and his wife are laid to rest on the grounds.
In 1807, John Harding founded the Belle Meade Plantation, which started as a single log cabin on 250 acres (101ha) and grew to a 5,400-acre (2,185ha) thoroughbred horse farm. It featured a Greek Revival mansion, a deer park, a train station and housing for enslaved workers. Today, there are 34 acres (14ha) of the original property and homestead still in place.
Opened by Sam Phillips in 1950, Sun Studio was originally called Memphis Recording Service and shared a building with Sun Records. After Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats recorded “Rocket 88” at Sun Studio in 1951, it earned the status as the birthplace of rock ‘n’ roll. Music legends such as Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison and Johnny Cash recorded at the studio throughout the middle and late 1950s. In 1987, Gary Hardy reopened the original building that housed Sun Records and Memphis Recording Service and called it Sun Studio.
At 4,500 acres (1,821ha), Shelby Farms Park is one of the largest urban parks in the country, covering more than five times the area of Central Park in New York City. Located in Memphis, the park has more than 40 miles (64km) of walking, biking and hiking trails and more than 20 bodies of water. Shelby Farms Greenline, a 10.7-mile (17km) paved trail connects Memphis to the city of Cordova through Shelby Farms Park.
Get closer to the history of the world’s most famous ship at Pigeon Forge, a city in-between Knoxville and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Dedicated to the ill-fated Titanic, the museum features an exact replica of the Grand Staircase. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. The museum is crammed with geographical and historical guides, and for entertainment, seek out the 26ft-long (8m) Titanic model built from 56,000 Lego bricks – it took 11 months to construct. How’s that for a science project completed by a 10-year-old boy from Iceland?
Night owls head to Memphis’s premier entertainment thoroughfare for an evening’s dancing to a heady mix of frothy beer and blues-inspired live music. Enticing neon lights mark Beale Street out as a beacon of hedonism, although there’s a friendly vibe and an easy-going ambience that appeals to all. Grab a bite to eat at one of many authentic restaurants, with the rhythm of the Deep South blues always within earshot. Beale Street was a favorite amongst distinguished names as B.B. King, Muddy Waters and Louis Armstrong, so streets don’t come more distinguished for blues aficionados. Capture the sights and sounds for a treasured memory at the very core of Memphis’s musical history.
Call yourself intrepid? Forget the Blair Witch and instead venture to the tiny city of Adams in the north of the state for an utterly spooky encounter. The Bell Witch is claimed to be the ghost of Kate Batts, a cantankerous neighbor of John Bell, who believed she cheated him out of a piece of land in the early 1800s. The witch tormented Mr. Bell and his daughter, Betsy, and over a century later, many locals believed the eerie apparition never left the area. As the cave was owned by Mr. Bell, it’s well worth making the trip to test your nerves and partake in a spot of ghost-hunting. Oh, and the legend is still taught in schools – sweet dreams, kids!
Established in 1949 in an old cafeteria (it’s amazing where some prominent museums originate), the AMSE provides educational programs that focus on the country’s Department of Energy’s nuclear usage. War enthusiasts will be intrigued to note the AMSE played a large part in the Manhattan Project, which researched and developed the first nuclear weapons in World War II. Fascinating exhibits include Big Science, National Security and Environmental Restoration. The AMSE is essential viewing for budding scientists and is crucial to the country’s future.
Additional reporting by Jo Varley