Tennessee exudes a richly distinctive character, with its harmonious blend of music, mountains and Mississippi Delta. Tourism is among Tennessee’s top industries, and it is easy to see why: this southeastern state has lined up countless ways to celebrate and appreciate the multi-layered musical and historical heritages of the region.
A visit to Memphis takes travelers to sites made famous by the King of Rock and Roll, blues legends and Martin Luther King Jr.
Graceland, the gravesite and quirky mansion of Elvis Presley, draws hundreds of thousands of visitors annually. Among other noteworthy stops in the home of the Delta Blues is legendary Beale Street, which boasts a lively assortment of musical venues. Favorites with fans are Sun Studio, where Elvis, Johnny Cash, B.B. King and other music greats recorded hits, and Stax Museum of American Soul Music. Also in Memphis, the National Civil Rights Museum is located on the site of Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1968 assassination.
Nashville, the state’s capital and largest city, is also country music’s hottest scene. The Country Music Hall of Fame welcomes visitors, and live music abounds, from the iconic Grand Ole Opry to the nearest street corner.
Chattanooga lies at the base of picturesque Lookout Mountain. The fabled “Chattanooga Choo Choo,” immortalized by Glenn Miller and his Orchestra in 1941, referred to the city’s railroad past. Today the Choo Choo Resort invites guests to stay in an original railway sleeping car and eat in a dining car. Exhibits on train history include the steam locomotive that inspired the song. The Tennessee Aquarium and the African American Museum also merit visits.
Entrance is free to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Winters in the area tend to be mild and summers, hot and humid. Mountain resort towns that include Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge draw families with attractions such as Wildlife Encounter, where humans can get up-close and personal with the local black bear. WonderWorks science center and Dolly Parton’s Dollywood theme park are other popular amusements. Vacationers in search of a remote and challenging hike can join the majestic Appalachian Trail.