Appreciate Tennessee for its diversity: lowlands and highlands, fun-filled theme parks and sedate antebellum plantations, country music and one of the nation’s most popular rock festivals.
Nashville is home to the Grand Ole Opry. Attend performances to see and hear popular country and western stars, rising talent and unknowns looking for big breaks. The city also has an excellent symphony hall and Performing Arts Center. Visit music-focused museums: the Johnny Cash Museum and the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Come to Bonnaroo near Manchester for a “really good time” at the four-day music and arts festival.
Make a pilgrimage to Elvis Presley’s home, Graceland, when you visit Memphis. Other popular music spots include Sun Studio, Stax Museum of American Soul Music, Belz Museum and Orpheum Theater. For a more somber, but important stop, see the National Civil Rights Museum – Lorraine Motel, where Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated.
When you meander down the streets of Gatlinburg you’ll have an almost overwhelming number of choices of tourist activities. Visit an aquarium, a wax museum, a Space Needle, a Sky Lift, a 3-D movie theater and numerous ice cream and candy shops, restaurants and bars, including whiskey tasting rooms.
Gatlinburg is also the Tennessee gateway to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. As you hike along some of the park’s 800 miles (1,280 kilometers) of trails, look for tiny salamanders of 31 different species climbing up hemlock trees. More than 10,000 species of plants and animals reside in the park’s diverse environment. Drive to Clingmans Dome, the tallest point in the Smokies, walk up a short trail and then climb an elevated spiral walkway to enjoy 360-degree views from the observation platform.
Visit Tennessee’s Dollywood, the giant Pigeon Forge theme park owned by Dolly Parton. Enjoy water slides, roller coasters, live music shows and crafts. Travel around the central village on the Dollywood Express steam train. Pick a festival to attend featuring barbeque and bluegrass, international culture, summer fireworks, gospel and harvest, and the much-loved Smoky Mountain Christmas event.