Tennessee has something to offer every type of vacationer. The most frequently visited U.S. national park, Great Smoky Mountains, will take your breath away. The cities, Nashville, Memphis, Knoxville, Chattanooga, Franklin and Gatlinburg, are home to a wealth of historical and cultural attractions, great restaurants and music venues. Here are the best things to do in Tennessee.
Graceland is a mansion in Memphis and the former home of musician Elvis Presley – The “King of Rock and Roll.” It is also the final resting place of Elvis and one of the top attractions in Tennessee. Graceland is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places and is one of the most popular mansions to visit in the United States.
The site includes a museum that houses artifacts from Elvis' life such as his clothing, records, cars, and planes. The home itself, and its furnishings are a sight to behold. Visitors can tour the mansion using a multimedia iPad to enhance the experience and explain the various exhibits. Things to Do in Memphis
3765 Elvis Presley Blvd, Memphis, TN 38116, Phone: 800-238-2000
2. Ijams Nature Center
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Ijams Nature Center is a 300-acre natural park and protected wildlife area, and one of the top Tennessee attractions. It is designed for visitors of all ages and has many outdoor activities available such as hiking, biking, paddling, trail walking etc. Jo's Grove is a natural play area for children, and for adult “kids,” Ijams Crag is an adult climbing location.
River Sports Outfitters rents bikes, canoes, and paddleboards for visitors to use as they explore the park. Refreshments and gifts, including locally made crafts, are available for purchase as well. Ijams can be rented for weddings, retreats, or other events and is in a convenient location near the city of Knoxville. Things to Do in Knoxville
2915 Island Home Avenue, Knoxville, TN 37920, Phone: 865-577-4717
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Baele Street, a famous street in Memphis, Tennessee, is just under two miles long, running from the Mississippi River to East Street. The blues clubs and restaurants that line the street make it a famous tourist destination.
Beale Street blues clubs played an important role in the history of blues music in the United States, and it has been named America's most iconic street by USA Today. Large crowds flock to the festivals and outdoor concerts along Beale Street and the surrounding area.
203 Beale Street, Suite 300, Memphis, TN 38103, Phone: 901-526-0117
4.What to Do in Tennessee: The Parthenon Nashville
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The Parthenon in Nashville is a full-scale replica of the original Greek Parthenon in Athens. It is the centerpiece of Centennial Park and was built as a part of the Tennessee Centennial Exposition in 1897. The Parthenon is listed on the U.S. National Registry of Historic Places.
This impressive monument is complete with a full-scale replica model of the Athena statue, which is the focus of the Parthenon. The Parthenon also houses Nashville's art museum. The museum features 19th and 20th century American art on permanent display as well as a variety of temporary art exhibits. Things to do in Nashville TN
2500 West End Avenue, Nashville, TN 37203, Phone: 615-862-8431
5. Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies
© Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies
Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies in downtown Gatlinburg, Tennessee is among the top rated aquariums in the country. The aquarium's tanks hold 1.4 million gallons of water and are home to more than 100 thousand marine animals.
The underwater tunnel at Ripley's is 340 feet long, making it one of the longest in the world. The tunnel allows visitors to get a close-up look at exotic sea creatures such as sharks, stingrays, and giant sea turtles. The Gatlinburg aquarium is a great option for families with children, as there are activities and exhibits throughout to engage visitors of all ages. Things to Do in Gatlinburg
88 River Road, Gatlinburg, TN 37738, Phone: 865-430-8808
6.Tennessee Attractions: Sun Studio
© Sun Studio
Quite possibly the most famous recording studio anywhere in the world and one of the best things to do in TN, Sun Studio is a mainstay attraction in Memphis. Founded in 1950 by rock and roll pioneer Sam Phillips, Sun Studio is said to have been the place where the first rock and roll single “Rocket 88” was recorded. Because of this, the location has been called the birthplace of rock and roll.
Nowadays the studio is still recording, and it also offers tours that include a free shuttle to and from Graceland or the Rock N' Soul Museum, making it easy to combine a visit to Sun Studio with other Memphis attractions. In addition to tours, the studio's Rock Shop has a selection of gifts and apparel available for purchase.
706 Union Ave., Memphis, TN 38103, Phone: 800-441-6249
7.What to Do in Tennessee: Lotz House Museum
© Lotz House Museum
The Lotz House Museum is a building and former home in Franklin, Tennessee. Today it is a museum and listed on the U.S. National Registry of Historic Places. The home played a historic role in the Civil War, surviving the Battle of Franklin and also serving as a military field hospital. The Lotz family consisted of artists who produced both fine art and handmade furniture.
Many of these historic furnishings are on display in the museum, including antiques, family heirlooms, fine art, and more. Individual as well as group and student tours are available, and there is a gift shop on premises. The house is located near the Carter house as well as the Franklin Battlefield, which make it an ideal tourist attraction. Things to Do in Franklin
1111 Columbia Avenue, Franklin, TN 37064, Phone: 615-790-7190
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8.National Civil Rights Museum
© National Civil Rights Museum
The National Civil Rights Museum is made up of several museums and historic buildings in Memphis. The exhibits display artifacts related to the history of the U.S. Civil Rights Movement, which include numerous multi-media and interactive exhibits.
The centerpiece of the museum is the Lorraine Motel, which was the location of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr's assassination. During the tour, visitors will spend approximately two hours traveling through the various exhibits and buildings as they experience the history of civil rights in the United States. The museum is available to rent for corporate functions, holiday parties, and other events.
450 Mulberry Street, Memphis, TN 38103, Phone: 901-521-9699
9.Discovery Park of America
© Discovery Park of America
Discovery Park of America, located in Union, Tennessee, is a museum, park, and garden with a variety of educational exhibits. The 50-acre park features numerous hands-on exhibits and activities that showcase and teach about Tennessee history, nature, the military, science, and art.
The main attraction at Discovery Park is the more than 100,000 square foot Discovery Center that showcases ten different exhibit areas plus a special exhibit area that changes from time to time. Some of the highlights of the exhibits include a theater earthquake simulator, a 20,000-gallon aquarium, and a 60-foot replica of the human body complete with a slide.
830 Everett Blvd, Union City, TN 38261, Phone: 731-885-5455
10.Tennessee Attractions: Titanic
The Titanic Museum is a half-scale replica of the famous ship, the RMS Titanic located in Pigeon Forge. It is a two-story museum that holds approximately 400 artifacts in twenty separate galleries and holds the honor of being the world's largest Titanic museum. The museum is built in a pool of water.
As visitors step inside, they enter a story-line experience where they get to experience some of what it was like to be an original passenger on the Titanic's maiden and only voyage. The museum assigns a real passenger name to each ticket, and as visitors pass through, they will learn the individual story of that passenger including whether they survived the Titanic's demise. Things to Do in Pigeon Forge
2134 Parkway, Pigeon Forge, TN 37863, Phone: 417-334-9500
11. Tennessee Aquarium
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The Tennessee Aquarium is a non-profit aquarium in Chattanooga. The aquarium is made up of two buildings. The first building, River Journey, was the original structure of the aquarium, and its 130,000 square feet made it the largest freshwater aquarium in the world when it opened.
Its exhibits are devoted to river fish and animals. The other, newer building is called Ocean Journey and is devoted to sea creatures. In addition to the two exhibit halls, the Tennessee Aquarium also operates an off-site boat tour of the Tennessee River and an IMAX 3D theater. Things to Do in Chattanooga
1 Broad Street, Chattanooga, TN 37402, Phone: 800-262-0695
12.Parrot Mountain & Gardens
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Parrot Mountain and Gardens is a bird park and garden attraction in Pigeon Forge. It is composed of four acres of gardens and numerous aviaries. The gardens incorporate European elements and the style of artist Thomas Kincade.
There are uniquely designed parrot cottages lining the paths and beautiful tropical birds sitting on open perches and flying overhead. The bird garden gives visitors the opportunity to feed birds from their hands, take photographs with them or just stroll through and enjoy the variety of different species. Parrot Mountain and Gardens also has a baby bird nursery on-site, and you can purchase a bird to take home.
1471 McCarter Hollow Road, Pigeon Forge, TN 37862, Phone: 865-428-7798
13. What to Do in Tennessee: Memphis Zoo
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The Memphis Zoo is home to more than 3,500 animals from more than 500 species. The zoo has beautiful, modern exhibits that are modeled after the natural habitat of the animals. Seeing all of the exhibits on foot involves walking about 2 miles.
One highlight of the Memphis Zoo is the Giant Panda exhibit. A pair of pandas on loan from China, Ya Ya and Le Le, make Memphis one of only four zoos in the country to have Giant Pandas. The Memphis Zoo is also a popular place to host private events ranging from weddings with cocktails to toddler birthday parties and everything in between.
2000 Prentiss Place, Memphis, TN 38112, Phone: 901-333-6500
14.Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum
© Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum
The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville is the world's largest collection of country music artifacts. Conveniently located at the center of Nashville's art and entertainment district, the Hall of Fame and Museum tells the history of country music through various historical artifacts and photos as well as several technologically enhanced exhibits. The museum also houses the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Members of the Hall of Fame are memorialized with plaques in the rotunda. In addition to the exhibit halls, the museum also has a 776-seat theater, an education center and a multi-purpose event space.
222 Fifth Avenue South, Nashville, TN 37203, Phone: 615-416-2001
15. Tennessee Attractions: Lookout Mountain
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Lookout Mountain is a set of three attractions located near Chattanooga. The attractions include the Incline Railway, Ruby Falls, and Rock City. Ruby Falls is home to the world's tallest underground waterfall. Tours of the cave and waterfall are there as well as a playground for kids and a cafe with snacks for sale.
Rock City Gardens is an outdoor attraction featuring rock trails lined with gardens. The park claims that it is possible to see seven states from the point they call Lover's Leap. Lookout Mountains Incline Railway claims to be the world’s steepest passenger railway. Visitors can enjoy the view as they climb to the summit to the observation deck where they can further take in the surrounding scenery.
16. Andrew Jackson's Hermitage
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The Hermitage is the former home of President Andrew Jackson. The grounds include President Jackson's grave-site, museum exhibits dedicated to his life, gardens, historic buildings, and more than 1000 acres of farmland that were once known as the Hermitage Plantation.
Tours take anywhere from two to four hours, and several options are available, ranging from a self-guided audio tour to a VIP tour, which includes an in-character interpreter. The Hermitage allows visitors to pack a lunch to enjoy in the picnic areas, and it also offers an on-site restaurant and several snack carts.
4580 Rachel's Lane, Nashville, TN 37076, Phone: 615-889-2941
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17.Historic RCA Studio B
© Historic RCA Studio B
RCA Studio B is a Nashville recording studio that became famous in the 1960s for developing a specific type of country music known as the “Nashville Sound.” Elvis, Waylon Jennings, Dolly Parton, and many other famous musicians recorded music there. Studio B is viewed as having played an important role establishing Nashville's place as an international music recording headquarters.
Partly because of this, the studio is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. The property is owned and maintained by the Country Music Hall of Fame and is open for tours, educational programs, and other events.
1611 Roy Acuff Place, Nashville, TN 37246, Phone: 615-416-2001
18.What to Do in Tennessee: Dollywood
Dollywood is a theme park in Pigeon Forge that is partly owned by entertainer Dolly Parton, the namesake of the park. With thrilling rides such as Lightening Rod, the world's fastest wooden roller coaster, stage shows, seasonal festivals, and a water park, Dollywood has something for any visitor.
The theme park is just minutes from Dollywood's beautiful DreamMore resort, which is a full-service resort hotel. Dollywood is a fantastic attraction year round, but it really lights up during the Christmas season when businesses in the Pigeon Forge area celebrate the Smoky Mountain Christmas Festival.
2525 DreamMore Way, Pigeon Forge, TN 37863, Phone: 865-365-1900
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19.Stones River National Battlefield
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The Stones River National Battlefield is a Civil War battlefield in Murfreesboro and was the location of one of the bloodiest battles in the war. The 570-acre park memorializes the Battle of Stones and educates visitors about the significance of this specific battle and the Civil War as a whole.
The park includes the Stones River National Cemetery, which has almost 7,000 gravesites, as well as the oldest surviving American Civil War monument to still be standing in its original location – Hazen's Brigade Monument. Park Service rangers and volunteers provide the public with a number of talks, interpreted walks, tours, and history programs. Things to Do in Murfreesboro
3501 Old Nashville Highway, Murfreesboro, TN 37129, Phone: 615-893-9501
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20.Bays Mountain Park & Planetarium
© Bays Mountain Park & Planetarium
Bays Mountain Park and Planetarium is a large city-owned park in Kingsport. It is made up of 3,550 acres of nature preserve and offers a variety of features for visitors to enjoy. There is a 44-acre lake, a Nature Center with a Planetarium, and exhibits that display Animal Habitats.
For the adventurous visitor, Bays Mountain offers an Adventure Ropes Course with a 300-foot long zip line. The park has miles of trails for those who wish to enjoy the outdoors by hiking, trail running, or mountain biking. For part of the year, the planetarium at Bays Mountain offers free seasonal astronomy viewings at night.
853 Bays Mountain Park Road, Kingsport, TN 37660, Phone: 423-229-9447
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21.Smoky Mountain Deer Farm & Exotic Petting Zoo
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The Smoky Mountain Deer Farm & Exotic Petting Zoo is a 140-acre family friendly attraction with multiple animal centered activities. The deer farm provides the opportunity to interact not only with species from the deer family, but also some exciting exotic animals.
The petting zoo has camels, kangaroos, zebra, reindeer, emu, donkeys, zonkeys, and much more. Visitors get the opportunity to pet and feed many of the animals. For equestrian lovers, the Deer Farm Riding Stables provide horse-riding experiences for visitors of all ages and experience levels. The trails are shaded for a comfortable ride and offer fantastic views of the beautiful Smoky Mountains.
478 Happy Hollow Lane, Seveirville, TN 37876, Phone: 865-428-3337
22.What to Do in Tennessee: Carnton Plantation
© Carnton Plantation
Carnton Plantation is a museum and historic plantation in Franklin. The property played a key role in the Battle of Franklin during the American Civil War. The plantation is on the U.S. National Registry of Historic Places, and the foundation that owns it seeks to preserve the history of the home and educate others about the impact of the Civil War on the area and the nation.
The home and the plantation are open daily for guided tours. Visitors should plan to spend about an hour and a half to two hours exploring the house and grounds. There is a gift shop that sells books about the history of the property and area as well as clothing, gifts, and collectibles.
1345 Eastern Flank Circle, Franklin, TN 37064, Phone: 615-786-1864
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23.Creative Discovery Museum
© Creative Discovery Museum
The Creative Discovery Museum is a children's museum in Chattanooga. Eight permanent exhibits are on display with one changing exhibit. The exhibits are designed to make learning fun and are both interactive and educational. The museum has activities for all ages, including young toddlers and adults who are young at heart.
The Dino-Mite cafe serves food and beverages throughout the day, and the museum gift shop has books, gifts, and educational toys for children and their families available for purchase. Children's Discovery Musuem offers significantly reduced ticket rates to low-income families that receive EBT benefits through their “Museums for All” initiative.
321 Chestnut Street, Chattanooga, TN 37402, Phone: 423-756-2738
24. Great Smoky Mountains National Park
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Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited of America's National Parks and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Great Smoky Mountains are part of the Blue Ridge Mountains, which are a part of the Appalachian Mountain Range.
The park is on the border of North Carolina and Tennessee and is well known for its beautiful natural scenery and biodiversity. It is not uncommon to encounter wild black bear in the park, and elk sightings have been increasingly more frequent. Hiking trails abound, and with 850 miles of trails, hikers will never get bored. Appalachian historic buildings are preserved at Cades Cove, which is the most frequently visited location in the park.
107 Park Headquarters Road, Gatlinburg, TN 37738, Phone: 865-436-1200
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25.The Grand Ole Opry
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The Grand Ole Opry is a country music show in Nashville, Tennessee that has the record of being the longest running radio broadcast in the history of the United States. The live show is performed most of the year at the Grand Ole Opry House. The show is devoted to honoring country music and its history and is a mix of classic performers and new acts.
Along with country music, the show includes some gospel music, comedy performances, and skits. The Opry House hosts a variety of other events throughout the year as well. There are backstage tours available as well, and the space can be used to host private events.
2804 Opryland Dr, Nashville, TN 37214, Phone: 800-733-6779
25 Best Things to Do in Tennessee
- Graceland, Photo: Graceland
- Ijams Nature Center, Photo: Courtesy of Melinda Fawver - Fotolia.com
- Beale Street, Photo: Courtesy of f11photo - Fotolia.com
- What to Do in Tennessee: The Parthenon Nashville, Photo: Courtesy of Malo - Fotolia.com
- Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies, Photo: Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies
- Tennessee Attractions: Sun Studio, Photo: Sun Studio
- What to Do in Tennessee: Lotz House Museum, Photo: Lotz House Museum
- National Civil Rights Museum, Photo: National Civil Rights Museum
- Discovery Park of America, Photo: Discovery Park of America
- Tennessee Attractions: Titanic, Photo: Titanic
- Tennessee Aquarium, Photo: Courtesy of SeanPavonePhoto - Fotolia.com
- Parrot Mountain & Gardens, Photo: Courtesy of goro20 - Fotolia.com
- What to Do in Tennessee: Memphis Zoo, Photo: Courtesy of ronrudolph - Fotolia.com
- Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, Photo: Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum
- Tennessee Attractions: Lookout Mountain, Photo: Courtesy of gnagel - Fotolia.com
- Andrew Jackson's Hermitage, Photo: Courtesy of Zack Frank - Fotolia.com
- Historic RCA Studio B, Photo: Historic RCA Studio B
- What to Do in Tennessee: Dollywood, Photo: Dollywood
- Stones River National Battlefield, Photo: Courtesy of Zack Frank - Fotolia.com
- Bays Mountain Park & Planetarium, Photo: Bays Mountain Park & Planetarium
- Smoky Mountain Deer Farm & Exotic Petting Zoo, Photo: Courtesy of galitskaya - Fotolia.com
- What to Do in Tennessee: Carnton Plantation, Photo: Carnton Plantation
- Creative Discovery Museum, Photo: Creative Discovery Museum
- Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Photo: Courtesy of khlongwangchao - Fotolia.com
- The Grand Ole Opry, Photo: Courtesy of GeraKTV - Fotolia.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of tjomka2000 - Fotolia.com