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Although country music might be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Tennessee, there’s lots of other things to do and see in the “Volunteer State.” Tennessee vacations are attractive to visitors for a multitude of reasons, from the beauty and majesty of the Great Smoky Mountains to the ornate decadence of Elvis Presley’s Graceland. There’s something to be seen in every corner of the state. In fact, you might love these Tennessee vacation spots so much, they may just become an annual tradition for you and your family.
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The city of Nashville is probably best known as the home of country music and fans of this nostalgic genre will definitely not be disappointed during their visit. Besides the Country Music Hall of Fame, it’s also home to the Tennessee Performing Arts Center and the infamous Grand Ole Opry. But, it’s not just about music in Nashville. There are also walking and trolley tours of the city to explore, historic homes to tour and of course, several distilleries to visit for tastings including Jack Daniels. You’ll also find lots of dining options here from the local mom and pop spots, to fine dining and everything in between.
Music lovers may also want to plan a vacation to Memphis so they can see the famous home of Elvis Presley – Graceland, as well as the Memphis Rock n’ Soul Museum. While, history lovers may enjoy the National Civil Rights Museum, the Cotton Museum at the Memphis Cotton Exchange and the Mississippi River Museum at Mud Island. Plus, there are plenty of restaurants and shops to explore in downtown Memphis and, if you’re vacationing with kids, the Memphis Zoo and the Children’s Museum of Memphis for some family-friendly fun.
For the ultimate family vacation, check out Pigeon Forge. This town in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains has everything you could possibly imagine all on one long strip. It’s like a family-friendly Vegas! In addition to tons of hotels and restaurants, you’ll find miniature golf, laser tag, all types of live shows like music and comedy, go-karting, shopping, museums and unique attractions like the massive Titanic attraction that will have you feeling like you are aboard the famous ship. Just a short drive from Pigeon Forge, you’ll find the entrance to Cade’s Cove – a beautiful 6,800-acre valley in the Smoky Mountains National Park that you can explore via an 11-mile one-way road that loops through the valleys and pastures and takes you past wildlife and historic buildings.
Just down the road from Pigeon Forge is another popular Tennessee vacation destination – Gatlinburg. Although it’s right next door to Pigeon Forge, the feel in this beautiful mountain is much different. The pace is slower, there aren’t any bright lights or flashing signs and the focus here is on the natural beauty of the area. Many of the buildings along the main street of downtown Gatlinburg have the look of a Swiss ski town and within them, you’ll find lots of unique shops, restaurants and attractions like the Guinness World Records Museum and the Ripley’s Aquarium. You’ll also want to be sure to check out the views from the top of the Gatlinburg Space Needle and take a trip up the mountain at Ober Gatlinburg where you can ski, ice skate and go tubing.
Sports enthusiasts, especially racing fans, know Bristol as the home to one of the fastest short tracks on the NASCAR circuit. But, there are also several other family-friendly attractions to visit here including the Birthplace of Country Music Museum, Bristol Caverns and historic downtown State Street, where you can meander through a variety of shops and eateries, take in a show at the Paramount Theatre and even stand in two states at one time since the VA/TN state line runs right down the middle of State Street. While you’re there, make sure to also stop in at Blackbird Bakery (although it’s technically on the “Virginia side of town”) and try one of their amazing sweet treats like a pink almond cupcake or a coffee and crème brownie.
The city of Chattanooga in Southern Tennessee is a great place to visit if you’re into history. First, you can explore the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum and then stay the night in a guest room or a former train car at the historic former train station turned hotel, the Chattanooga Choo Choo. Other historic places to explore include the historic Civil War battle site at the Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park and the Chickamauga Battlefield Visitor Center. During your Chattanooga vacation, you can also visit the Chattanooga Zoo, The Tennessee Aquarium and take a ride on the Lookout Mountain Incline Railway, a vertical railway that takes you up the mountain for some amazing views!
Located in the eastern part of the state, Knoxville is a quaint city located right on the Tennessee River. Which is why the riverfront is one of the most popular spots in the city. You can take a relaxing walk or jog along the boardwalk here or sit down for a waterfront meal. While you’re down there, make sure you also check out Market Square – the heart of downtown – where you’ll find a variety of shops and restaurants, as well as live music and a farmers market on the weekends. If you’re vacationing with little ones, there are also some great family-friendly attractions here like the Knoxville Zoo and The Muse, a children’s science museum and planetarium.