A thoroughly landlocked state located in the southeastern part of the country, Tennessee is the 16th most populous state of America but only the 36th biggest in terms of its physical size. Tennessee has a lot of borders all around it with the states of Kentucky, North Carolina, Virginia, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Missouri, and Arkansas. Some of the key geological features in Tennessee include the Appalachian Mountains and Mississippi River.

Nicknamed 'The Volunteer State' due to the fact that many volunteer soldiers historically signed up to fight in important conflicts like the Mexican-American War and War of 1812, Tennessee covers an area of 42,143 square miles and has an estimated population of 6.7 million people. The capital city of Tennessee is Nashville, which is also its largest and best-known cities. The Greater Nashville area is also the biggest metropolitan zone in all of Tennessee. Here are some brief descriptions and details on some of the largest cities in the state of Tennessee. Hours/availability may have changed.


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Situated in Davidson County on the Cumberland River, Nashville is the state capital of Tennessee and also the state's biggest city. Nashville has the 24th highest population in the United States according to recent estimates, with around 691,000 people calling the city home and 1.9 million living in the Greater Nashville area. The city covers around 525.94 square miles of land and was founded back in 1779, being named after Continental Army Brigadier General Francis Nash, who fought in the American Revolutionary War.

Nashville is nicknamed 'Music City' due to its strong country music culture and heritage, being home to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Grande Ole Opry country music radio show. The cultural and commercial heart of Tennessee, Nashville attracts many visitors from all around the world each year, with the city boasting a long list of notable attractions and landmarks.

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Situated on the banks of the Mississippi River in the southwestern part of Tennessee, Memphis is the state's second biggest city and, like Nashville, is well-known for its musical culture and history. Memphis covers an area of 324 square miles and has an estimated population of 652,000 people, with over 1.3 million in the surrounding metropolitan area. Memphis is located in Shelby County and was named after the ancient Egyptian city of Memphis.

Founded in 1819, Memphis quickly developed into an important industrial and transportation hub for Tennessee and is known for housing the headquarters of FedEx, one of the biggest courier delivery companies on Earth. The city is also known for playing a key role in the Civil Rights Movement, tragically being the location where Martin Luther King was assassinated in 1968.

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Located in Knox County in the eastern section of Tennessee, Knoxville is the state's third largest city. Nicknamed 'Marble City' due to the marble quarries that formed a big part of Knoxville's early economy and development, the city was founded in 1786 and covers an area of 104.2 square miles.

Knoxville has an estimated population of 186,000 people, with over 868,000 living in the surrounding metropolitan area. Knoxville was originally the state capital of Tennessee but lost this status due to economic downturn. The main campus of the University of Tennessee is situated in Knoxville.

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Situated on the Tennessee River in the southeastern part of Tennessee, Chattanooga is the fourth largest city in the state. Along with Knoxville, Chattanooga is one of the main cultural and commercial hubs of East Tennessee.

The city is a key transportation location, offering access to many major cities in surrounding states like Birmingham in Alabama and Atlanta in Georgia. The city covers an area of 144.6 square miles and has an estimated population of 177,000 people. Chattanooga is nicknamed 'River City' and 'Scenic City' due to its many green spaces and strong emphasis on outdoor recreation.

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Located in Montgomery County in the northern central part of Tennessee, Clarksville is the fifth biggest city in the state. Clarksville covers an area of 95.5 square miles and has an estimated population of 153,000 people. The city is part of the Clarksville Metropolitan Statistical Area, which covers Montgomery Count and Stewart County in Tennessee, as well as Trigg County and Christian County in Kentucky and has an estimated population of over 270,000 people.

Clarksville was founded in 1785 and named after General George Rogers Clark, a key figure in the American Revolutionary War. The city is home to Austin Peay State University, as well as being the printing location for the oldest newspaper in the state, The Leaf Chronicle.

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5 of the Largest Cities in Tennessee

  • Nashville, Photo: pabrady63/stock.adobe.com
  • Memphis, Photo: SeanPavonePhoto/stock.adobe.com
  • Knoxville, Photo: Chris/stock.adobe.com
  • Chattanooga, Photo: Chadd/stock.adobe.com
  • Clarksville, Photo: Christopher Boswell/stock.adobe.com
  • Cover Photo: Courtesy of SeanPavonePhoto - Fotolia.com

Attraction Spotlight: Memphis Brooks Museum of Art

Located in Memphis, Tennessee, the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art is the oldest art museum in Tennessee. The origins of the museum date back to 1913, when Mrs. Bessie Vance Brooks donated $100,000 to the City of Memphis in memory of her late husband Mr. Samuel Hamilton Brooks. The museum opened in 1916 and was originally named the Brooks Memorial Art Gallery. After several expansions and renovations over the decades, in 1983 it was renamed the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art. The building itself was designed in a Renaissance Revival architectural style and, due to its historic significance, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Spanning 342 square feet, Brooks is the largest museum in the southern United States. The building holds a research library, a print study room, two art classrooms, an auditorium, the Brushmark Restaurant, the Holly Court garden and 29 galleries in its Overton Park residence.

The museum contains close to 9,000 pieces of artwork with works of particular significance noted as the Levy Collection of American Prints, the Goodman Book Collection, and the Hugo N. Dixon Collection of Impressionist paintings.

The permanent collection includes artwork owned by the museum as well as work that is on loan. It comprises African, Pre-Columbian, and American art. The Pre-Columbian collection features ceramics from both South and Central America. Within this collection, visitors can look at rarer and lesser-known work from the ancient Valdivia culture, which is thought to be one of the oldest cultures in North and South America. The collection sees a range of ceramic pots, bowls, effigies, masks, figurines, and textiles, all of which have a historic story to tell. A notable artifact that draws particular interest is the vibrant Incan feathered tabard of the Chimú culture from Peru. The tabard appears to be in very good condition despite its origins in the 15th or 16th century, which is a testament to those who made it.

The Brooks’ collection of African Art provides a fascinating selection of paintings, books, textiles, beadwork, and metal and wood carvings. A local collector, Henry Easterwood, is credited with helping to curate this collection and consequently helping to bring contemporary and past African culture into the lives of those who visit this exhibition. Amongst the interesting objects is the Malian Chiwara headdress from the late 19th to early 20th century, which was made by the Bamana people in Mali, Africa. The headdress is tall in stature and black in color, having been made from the materials of the time, such as wood, cowrie shells, monkey hair, and hemp.

Amongst the permanent collection is a lavish 154-year-old five-piece silver coffee and tea service by Eoff & Shepard. The service is styled in a chinoiserie design and dates back to 1852. Received as a gift from the Decorative Arts Trust, the service is an interesting example of the changing designs of American silver over the years.

The collection contains not only historic and culturally diverse artworks from America and South America but also some from Europe. Within the permanent collection are 130 English donated satirical prints. These engravings and etchings depict witty social and political commentary on the British royal family and renowned figures of the time such as Charles Dickens.

The museum provides many opportunities to learn for both adults and children. Families looking to find out more information about the exhibits on display can pick up an Interactive Family Guide from the admissions desk. This guide is filled with information on the displays, questions to answer, and opportunities for further research outside the museum's doors. On the third Thursday of every month in spring and fall, home-schooled children and their parents are able to attend the museum for free. Additionally, during June and July the museum runs a Wacky Wednesday program, where children can visit the open artworks studio, browse the galleries with a guide, and also watch children’s international short films.

Brooks has also partnered up with local Memphis schools to deliver a visual arts enrichment program known as Art Builds Creativity (ABC). The program provides fourth graders with four 90-minute lessons (two at Brooks and two in their classrooms) using the art from the exhibitions to inspire creativity. Once the program finishes, the students’ work is displayed in the museum and the children are given free family passes for a future visit. For tours, teachers can book on the museum's website.

1934 Poplar Avenue, Memphis, TN 38104, Phone: 901-544-6200

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Attraction Spotlight: Stax Museum

The Stax Museum of American Soul Music in Memphis is the first museum to tell the history of American Soul Music and is still the only such museum. Maintained by the Soulsville Foundation, The Stax Museum is in cooperation with the Stax Music Academy and Soulsville Charter School.


The Stax Museum of American Soul Music is located where Stax Records studio once stood in Memphis Tennessee. This studio recorded the songs of some of America’s most legendary soul singers with a history that began in 1957 with Satellite Records and Jimmy Stewart, a Tennessee radio technician, and his sister Estelle Axton.

The studio produced their first hit single in 1960 “Cause I love You” by Rufus and Carla Thomas which lead to a contract with Atlantic Distribution for record distribution into stores. By 1962, Stax was recording with Otis Redding and Booker T., and the MG’s.

In 1967, the deal with Atlantic Distribution fell apart with the sale of the company to Warner Bros. and the new company had taken control of Sam and David, Stax most successful acts, as well as taken possession of most of the songs the studio had recorded.

In the early 1970’s Stax became a successful independent label and business and less of a community enterprise. Soon, the company started to unravel though with the IRS getting involved and the new distribution deal with CBS failing in 1972 adding to a mountain of debt. In 1975 Stax declared bankruptcy and the building was seized by federal marshals.

In 1981, the vacant lot was sold to a church for $10 and eventually torn down 8 years later. Leaders from the Soulsville Foundation and former employees of Stax Records banned together in the late 1990’s to revitalize the neighborhood and turn it into a music center once again. The Stax Musuem was founded in 2003. The Stax Music Academy and Soulsville Charter School followed.

The Collection

The Stax Museum offers visitors a firsthand look at the beginnings and history of American Soul music and the impact that this music had on the world. There are 5 permanent exhibits that are available for visitors to tour. Group tours are also available.

Humble Beginnings- The first exhibit at the Stax Museum, this authentic wooden church demonstrates the roots of soul music in Southern gospel music. The 1906 Mississippi Delta church was transplanted and reassembled within the museum.

Express Yourself!- Outfitted with a dance floor, colorful lights, and a large video screen that plays clips of some of the most famous artists to record at Stax Studio, this exhibit gives visitors a chance to cut loose, and immerse themselves in the sounds that made the studio famous. Visitors can feel free to dance, sing, and enjoy vintage episodes of Soul Train.

Hallowed Ground- Studio A is where Stax arists recorded their songs and this exhibit provides an exact replica of this space for visitors to explore. The room is filled with recording equipment from the period and the floor is slanted the same way that Stax’s was, which is what contributed to the special acoustics achieved in this studio.

Wall of Sound- In this hall, the walls are papered with records from top to bottom of every album and single that was ever produced by Stax from 1957-1975. The listening statio contains and album chart with a complete catalogue of every selection.

Super Fly- A Cadillac Eldorado that was custom made for Isaac Hayes in 1972 as part of his renegotiated deal with Stax can be seen in this showroom. The car is worth $143,000 and includes a minibar with refrigeration and 24 carat gold trim, fur carpeting and other luxuries.

Renting The Stax

The Stax Museum is available for private rentals whether it be a dinner party in the Cadillac Showroom or a wedding in the vintage church with a soul reception on the Express Yourself Dance Floor. Special event rentals include museum access, photo booth and theater with video screens. Contact forms are available online.

Educational Opportunities

The Stax Museum is maintained by the Soulsville Foundation. The museum hosts live music events, rotates educational special exhibits, hosts community events, panel discussion and lectures, and many other special events. The Soulsville Foundation also developed the Stax Music Academy and Soulsville Charter School. The Music Academy extends the legacy of Stax Records through enhancing the creativity and leadership of young people through academic and cognitive performance utilize musical ability. The Academy primarily serves at risk youth in the Memphis area.

The Soulsville Charter School is a public charter that is tuition free. Also music centered, this school is also academically rigorous and prepares students for transfer to college. The charter school services 1/3 of the public-school children in Soulsville.

926 E McLemore Ave, Memphis, Tennessee, 38106, Phone: 901-942-7685

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Attraction Spotlight: Pink Palace Family of Museums

The Pink Palace Family of Museum in Memphis, is a collection of historic attractions maintain by the City of Memphis in partnership with Memphis Museums, Inc. The family of museums includes the Pink Palace Museum, CTI 3D Giant Theater, AutoZone Dome at Sharpe Planetarium, Lichterman Nature Center, and two historic homes—Mallory-Neely, and Magevney Houses.

The Pink Palace serves as the headquarters of the Pink Palace Family of Museums and was originally designed as the home for wealthy founder of Piggly Wiggly stores, Clarence Saunders in the 1920’s. The expansive mansion received its nickname from the pink Georgian façade made from marble that it was designed with. Saunders was never able to move into the home, which was left unfished due to bankruptcy and given over to the city of Memphis in the later 1920’s with the intent of being used as a museum. A new addition was added to the mansion that became the permanent museum featuring the Bodine Exhibit Hall where temporary and permanent exhibits are displayed in natural science and cultural history. The Mansion itself was closed to the public for 22 years until 1996 when it was reopened.

CTI 3D Giant Theater draws over 200,000 visitors annually and opened in March of 2014. This underground theater features state of the art equipment including a 4K single projector and RealD XLW 3D system. The theater shows educational films as well as films for entertainment value on a screen that reaches 4 stories high with new movies screening every 4 months.

AutoZone Dome at the Sharpe Planetarium can host 145 guests in the theater in the round style seating that immerses visitors in a planetary experience with a dome 50 feet in diameter, 32.5 feet high and the largest screen in Memphis. The projector places over 4 million pixels at once with software that can generate real time simulations of the universe for viewers to gaze at with space travel simulations.

Lichterman Nature Center- This 65-acre nature center was the very first accredited nature center in the US and is a wildlife sanctuary with a focus on environmental education. Visitors can enjoy 3 miles of hiking trails, a greenhouse, and educational facilities.

Coon Creek Science Center- This property found in McNairy County feature 232 acres of protected land that is one of the most important fossil sites in North America. More than 600 species of animals, some over 70 million years old, have been found fossilized at this site, including a mosasaur. These fossils are not hardened into stone and have perfectly preserved anatomical details. There are also 5 ponds, cabins, a dining hall, and study sites for educational groups and research.

Mallory-Neely House- Located at 652 Adams Avenue, this home is a 25 room Victorian era Italianate villa that was designed in 1852 and was owned by Frances Neely Mallory for 86 years until she died in 1969 when she nearly 100 years old. This home is the only historic house in Memphis that still contains original furnishings from the time and features rotating exhibits and special programing.

Magevney House- This home is located at 198 Adams Avenue where Eugene Magevney, an Irish immigrant lived in 1836. The home is a modest clapboard cottage and is the oldest example of a middle-class residence still open to the public in Memphis. The city’s first Catholic Mass was performed in this home as well as the first wedding and baptism. The home is still furnished as it would have been in the 1850’s pre-Civil War with personal possessions of the Magevney family. Visitors can also enjoy the herb garden, arbor and carriage house.

Educational Programs

Each of the Museums connected to the Pink Palace Family of Museums has its own Educational Programming. The Pink Palace Education Department offers programs related to human culture, natural sciences, technology and the universe for schools and community audiences that are aligned with State and Catholic Diocese objectives and achieved through hands-on learning.

Educational movies on rotation at the CTI Theater include:

· Flight of the Butterfly 3D

· Hidden Universe 3D

· Humpback Whales 3D

· Living in the Age of Airplanes 2D

· Journey to Space 3D

· National Parks Adventure 3D

Programs Available at the Planetarium include:

· Firefall

· One World, One Sky: Big Birds Adventure

There are also lab explorations for students in grades k-8 that can accommodate 15-32 students, Discovery Theater Explorations for up to 100 students, Private overnight visits at the Pink Palace Museum, Discovery Day Events, Homeschool Events, and Discovery Quests with Scavenger hunts that students can participate in when visiting the Pink Palace Museum. More information about educational programming can be found online.

3050 Central Avenue, Memphis Tennessee, 38111, Phone: 901-636-2362

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