Tennessee, known for its rich history, breathtaking landscapes, and vibrant music scene, offers an array of experiences for every type of traveler. From the stunning Great Smoky Mountains National Park to the bustling music city of Nashville, the state is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, history buffs, and music lovers. Join us on a journey through the Volunteer State as we explore 25 must-see places that capture the essence of Tennessee’s beauty and culture.
1. Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts and history buffs. This UNESCO World Heritage site, straddling the border between Tennessee and North Carolina, boasts diverse wildlife, pristine forests, and numerous historical sites.
Visitors can explore over 800 miles of hiking trails, go horseback riding, or discover the rich history of the Cherokee people. With its breathtaking landscapes and abundant recreational opportunities, the park is a must-visit for anyone seeking to immerse themselves in the beauty of the great outdoors.
A charming town nestled in the Smoky Mountains, Gatlinburg offers a mix of outdoor adventures and family-friendly attractions. From the Ober Gatlinburg amusement park to the stunning views from the SkyBridge, there’s something for everyone.
Visitors can explore the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, visit unique museums, and enjoy lively entertainment. With its scenic beauty and bustling atmosphere, Gatlinburg is a must-visit destination in Tennessee.
Nashville, the capital of Tennessee, is renowned for its vibrant music scene, including country and bluegrass. The city is home to the Country Music Hall of Fame and the historic Ryman Auditorium. Visitors can enjoy live music venues and explore the city’s rich history, making it a must-visit for music enthusiasts and history buffs alike. Additionally, Nashville offers a diverse culinary scene, with numerous dining options ranging from Southern comfort food to innovative fine dining experiences.
4. Pigeon Forge
Known for its family-friendly attractions, Pigeon Forge entertains all ages. From the famous Dollywood theme park to the historic Old Mill, there’s something for everyone. Visitors can explore the thrilling outdoor activities, including zip-lining and whitewater rafting.
The Island in Pigeon Forge features shopping, dining, and the Great Smoky Mountain Wheel with stunning views. Additionally, the Titanic Museum and entertaining dinner theaters add to the charm of this vibrant city.
5. Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area
The Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, located in northeastern Tennessee, offers a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. With its picturesque gorges, sandstone bluffs, and diverse flora and fauna, it’s a paradise for hikers and nature lovers.
The area is renowned for its breathtaking views, extensive trail system, and exhilarating whitewater rafting opportunities. Visitors can explore the scenic beauty on foot, horseback, or bike, making it an ideal destination for those seeking adventure in the heart of nature.
Chattanooga, a city in Tennessee, is known for its outdoor activities and rich history. Visitors can explore the Tennessee River by taking a cruise on a riverboat or enjoy the scenic views from Lookout Mountain. History buffs can visit the Civil War sites, while outdoor enthusiasts can indulge in rock climbing and horseback riding. The city also offers attractions like the Tennessee Aquarium and the Chattanooga Zoo. With its blend of history and outdoor adventures, Chattanooga is a must-visit destination in Tennessee.
Knoxville, the third-largest city in Tennessee, is nestled in the Great Appalachian Valley, offering a perfect blend of outdoor activities and a vibrant urban life. Home to the University of Tennessee, this college town boasts a rich history, diverse culture, and a thriving arts scene.
Visitors can explore Market Square, visit the Knoxville Museum of Art, or enjoy the serene beauty of the Ijams Nature Center. With its scenic beauty and endless recreational opportunities, Knoxville is a must-visit destination in Tennessee.
Cookeville, located in the Upper Cumberland region, offers a perfect blend of outdoor beauty and modern amenities. This vibrant city is home to Tennessee Technological University, attracting a youthful energy.
Outdoor enthusiasts can explore the nearby Burgess Falls State Park or go boating in Center Hill Lake. History buffs can visit the Cookeville Depot Museum or enjoy the city’s historic downtown. With a range of local eateries and shops, Cookeville provides a charming experience for visitors.
Memphis, widely known for its influential music scene, is a must-visit in Tennessee. Home to Graceland, Elvis Presley’s famed estate, and the legendary Beale Street, where blues and rock ‘n’ roll thrive, Memphis offers an enriching cultural experience.
Explore the vibrant arts district, indulge in delectable barbecue, and visit the Memphis Zoo. Don’t miss the famous National Civil Rights Museum, which provides powerful insights into the American civil rights movement. With its rich history and diverse attractions, Memphis is an essential stop for any Tennessee traveler.
Bristol, a city straddling the border between Tennessee and Virginia, is renowned for its vibrant music scene and historic landmarks. Home to the Bristol Motor Speedway, it’s a haven for NASCAR enthusiasts.
The Birthplace of Country Music Museum and the Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion Festival celebrate the city’s rich musical heritage.
Art galleries, antique shops, and local breweries add to its cultural appeal. With its charming downtown and outdoor activities along the Holston River, Bristol offers a perfect blend of history and entertainment.
Franklin, a charming city in Tennessee, offers a blend of history and modern amenities. Explore the Civil War sites, visit the Carnton house, and enjoy the local antique shops. The downtown area features a variety of restaurants and shops, perfect for a stroll. With its rich history and vibrant community, Franklin is a must-visit destination in Tennessee. If you’re a history buff or simply enjoy exploring unique towns, Franklin should be on your itinerary.
12. Johnson City
Nestled in the Appalachian region, Johnson City offers a blend of outdoor adventure and cultural experiences. From the Tipton-Haynes State Historic Site to the Hands-On! Discovery Center, the city caters to history buffs and families alike.
Outdoor enthusiasts can explore Buffalo Mountain Park’s extensive trails and scenic overlooks. With its vibrant downtown and lively music scene, Johnson City provides a charming atmosphere for visitors to immerse themselves in the rich history and natural beauty of East Tennessee.
Lynchburg, Tennessee, is not just a small town; it’s the home of the world-famous Jack Daniel’s Distillery. Visitors can take a guided tour of the distillery to learn about the whiskey-making process and its rich history.
The town square boasts charming shops, and history buffs will enjoy the many historic sites. Lynchburg embodies the essence of southern hospitality and is a must-visit for whiskey enthusiasts and anyone interested in Tennessee’s rich cultural heritage.
Dayton, a charming town in Tennessee, offers a unique blend of history and natural beauty. While visiting Dayton, don’t miss the opportunity to explore the historic downtown area and discover its quaint antique shops.
History buffs will appreciate sites like the legendary Chuck Norris video and the Bell Witch, both of which add to the town’s rich history. For outdoor enthusiasts, Dayton provides plenty of opportunities for activities such as horseback riding and boat tours, making it a must-visit destination in Tennessee.
15. Lookout Mountain
Perched on the Tennessee-Georgia border, Lookout Mountain offers breathtaking views of the Chattanooga Valley. This iconic mountain is home to Ruby Falls, an underground waterfall, and the Rock City Gardens with ancient rock formations.
The Incline Railway, the world’s steepest passenger railway, provides a thrilling ride to the mountain’s top. Lookout Mountain is steeped in Civil War history, making it a haven for history buffs. Outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy rock climbing and breathtaking trails amidst stunning natural beauty.
16. Ruby Falls
Discover the breathtaking Ruby Falls, an underground waterfall located within Lookout Mountain. This natural wonder is a must-see, offering an unforgettable experience for nature enthusiasts and adventure seekers.
Explore the stunning rock formations and underground caves as you make your way to the spectacular 145-foot waterfall. With its fascinating history and extraordinary formations, Ruby Falls is a captivating destination for visitors of all ages. Don’t miss the chance to witness this awe-inspiring geological marvel.
Nestled in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains, Dollywood is a renowned theme park offering an unforgettable mix of thrilling rides, live entertainment, and traditional crafts. As the brainchild of legendary country singer Dolly Parton, the park showcases the essence of Tennessee’s rich culture and history. Visitors can enjoy world-class shows, exceptional dining experiences, and even a water park. Dollywood perfectly encapsulates the spirit of the Volunteer State, making it a must-visit destination for all.
18. Cumberland Gap National Historical Park
Nestled where Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia meet, Cumberland Gap National Historical Park offers unparalleled natural beauty and historical significance. The park’s varied terrain and trails cater to both casual strollers and avid hikers. With its rich history, including Native American heritage, early pioneer exploration, and Civil War involvement, this park is a haven for history buffs. Cumberland Gap is a must-visit for those with an appreciation for the great outdoors and an interest in America’s past.
19. The Hermitage
Experience history at The Hermitage, the former home of President Andrew Jackson. Explore the mansion, garden, and museum while learning about the life of America’s 7th president. Immerse yourself in the 19th-century atmosphere and gain insight into the events that shaped the nation.
The Hermitage offers a unique opportunity to delve into the rich history of the United States. This iconic site is a must-visit for history enthusiasts and anyone seeking a deeper understanding of American heritage.
20. Andrew Johnson National Historic Site
Explore the historical Andrew Johnson National Historic Site, dedicated to the 17th President of the United States. Located in Greeneville, Tennessee, the site includes his tailor shop, family cemetery, and early home.
Immerse yourself in the rich history and learn about Andrew Johnson’s life and political legacy. The accompanying museum showcases exhibits on Reconstruction, the Constitution, and citizenship. It’s a must-visit for history buffs and those with an interest in the Civil War era.
21. Tennessee Aquarium
The Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga is a must-visit for nature enthusiasts. As one of the top-rated aquariums in America, it offers a remarkable experience, featuring both freshwater and saltwater habitats. Visitors can explore a diverse range of marine life, including river otters, penguins, and seahorses.
The aquarium also focuses on environmental conservation and education, making it an enriching and enjoyable visit for people of all ages. With its immersive exhibits and informative presentations, the Tennessee Aquarium provides an unforgettable aquatic adventure.
22. Beale Street
Beale Street is synonymous with the heart and soul of Memphis. This iconic street is world-renowned for its rich history, vibrant nightlife, and legendary live music venues. As the “Home of the Blues,” Beale Street offers an authentic experience for music enthusiasts.
Visitors can explore the vibrant atmosphere, enjoy live performances, and indulge in delicious Southern cuisine. From historic landmarks to contemporary entertainment, Beale Street captures the essence of Memphis, making it a must-see destination for anyone seeking an unforgettable cultural experience.
23. Shiloh National Military Park
The Shiloh National Military Park is a historic site that commemorates the Battle of Shiloh during the American Civil War. Located in southwestern Tennessee, the park offers visitors a chance to explore the battlegrounds and learn about this significant event in American history.
The park features monuments, walking trails, and a visitor center with informative exhibits. History enthusiasts and anyone interested in the Civil War will find the Shiloh National Military Park to be a compelling and educational destination to visit.
24. Stones River National Battlefield
Located in Murfreesboro, the Stones River National Battlefield commemorates a significant battle of the Civil War. The site offers engaging historical narratives for history buffs, with well-preserved landmarks and walking trails for outdoor enthusiasts.
The national cemetery serves as a solemn reminder of the lives lost during the conflict. Visitors can explore the visitor center to gain insights into the battle’s strategic and human aspects. The park provides a peaceful atmosphere for reflection and offers opportunities for guided tours and educational programs.
25. Opryland USA
Located in Nashville, Opryland USA is famous for its wide array of attractions, including a renowned theme park, luxurious hotels, and live music venues. Visitors can immerse themselves in the electrifying ambiance of the country music capital of the world and indulge in thrilling rides, exquisite performances, and delectable dining experiences. With its vibrant entertainment options and enchanting atmosphere, Opryland USA offers an unforgettable retreat for enthusiasts of all ages, making it a must-visit destination in Tennessee.
Places in Tennessee, Tennessee is undeniably a treasure trove of natural beauty, historical sites, and vibrant cities. Whether you’re drawn to the majestic Great Smoky Mountains, the rich musical heritage in Nashville, or the adrenaline-pumping activities in Pigeon Forge, this state has something for everyone.
From the stunning landscapes to the bustling urban hubs, Tennessee offers an unforgettable experience. So, pack your bags, explore these 25 must-see places, and create lasting memories in this mesmerizing southern state. Make Tennessee your next travel destination and immerse yourself in its unparalleled charm.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best time to visit Tennessee?
Places in Tennessee, The best time to visit Tennessee is during the spring and fall seasons when the weather is mild, and nature is at its most beautiful. Spring offers blooming flowers and outdoor activities, while fall showcases stunning foliage. Avoid visiting during the hot and humid summer months for a more comfortable experience.
Is Tennessee a good place for outdoor activities?
Places in Tennessee, Tennessee is a great place for outdoor activities with its diverse landscape offering opportunities for hiking, camping, and water sports. From the Great Smoky Mountains to the Big South Fork National River, outdoor enthusiasts will find plenty to explore in Tennessee.
What are some hidden gems in Tennessee?
Places in Tennessee, Experience the hidden gems of Tennessee, from the natural beauty of Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area to the historical significance of Lynchburg. Explore the quaint charm of Johnson City and the breathtaking views at Lookout Mountain. Discover these lesser-known treasures in the heart of Tennessee.
What are the must-try foods in Tennessee?
Places in Tennessee, Discover the must-try foods in Tennessee, from mouthwatering Memphis-style BBQ and hot chicken to delectable southern classics like biscuits and gravy, fried green tomatoes, and pecan pie. Indulge in the flavors of Tennessee’s rich culinary heritage.
Ferona Jose is a passionate travel writer and blogger at Travelistia. She has traveled throughout Europe, Asia and the Americas. Her writing focuses on cheap travel destinations, travel experiences, cultural insights, and travel hacks.