As one of America's fastest growing states, Tennessee is the perfect mix of modernization, natural surroundings, and cultural soul that keeps everything grounded. The people here are as charming as the sights and sounds that make up Tennessee.
Want a good place to connect with your inner Zen? Take a trip to the Smoky Mountains and witness some of the most breathtaking views in America. Why not stroll down the Mississippi River and be entranced by both the river bed and the wonderful restaurants that thrive off it.
In Tennessee, if you aren’t dancing, nodding your head, or tapping your foot to the rich and diverse music scene then you might be born without a heartbeat. Listen to the heart and soul of America in Nashville or Memphis, where you’ll fall in love with music all over again.
It’s perfectly natural to want to move to Tennessee once you’ve visited. When you make your itinerary for your trip make sure to include the following top 20 attractions in Tennessee.
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Visit Gatlinburg to reach the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, one of the largest national parks in the Eastern Region of the US. Established in 1940, the park protects sections of the Great Smoky Mountains and parts of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
The beautiful landscape predominantly consists of forested areas with various elevations – it features a very diverse ecosystem with approximately 19,000 species of plants, animals, and other organisms.
This is the country's most visited national park – over 11 million people visit the park every year. The park is a destination for sightseeing and recreation.
There are several points of interest in the park - Clingmans Dome is an observation tower at the highest point. There are also lots of historical landmarks such as log cabins and churches.
Tourists enjoy visiting the park for recreational activities, including hiking, cycling, horseback riding, and fly fishing. A section of the famous Appalachian Trail runs throughout the park for hiking enthusiasts.
Accommodation: Where to stay near Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Address: 107 Park Headquarters Rd, Gatlinburg, TN 37738
Also Read: Things To Do In Great Smoky Mountains National Park and The Best East Coast National Parks
If you find yourself in Memphis, be sure to visit Elvis Presley’s Graceland, the second-most visited home in America (after the White House). The impact of Elvis’s music remains a staple in pop culture, and now, his former mansion is available to the public for fans and tourists to get a glimpse into his extravagant lifestyle.
Elvis Presley’s Graceland opened as a museum in 1982, recognized on the National Register of Historic Places list and a National Historic Landmark.
Over half a million tourists visit the estate every year, enjoying the tour experience through the home. Visitors can take an audio guide tour of the mansion to learn more about the singer’s life, explore memorabilia, and see preserved rooms with original furnishing.
A highlight to visit the mansion is seeing the burial location of Elvis and other family members. There are other features of the museum experience, including an exhibition complex, a graffiti wall, and exploring his personal jets.
Every year, Graceland hosts Elvis Week, a weeklong celebration of the ‘King of Rock and Roll’ with events, speakers, and more.
Accommodation: Where to stay in Memphis
Address: 3734 Elvis Presley Blvd, Memphis, TN 38116
One of the many things that Tennessee is known for is its music and in Nashville, the musical heart of this state, you will find the Grand Ole Opry House and Opry Museum.
The Grand Ole Opry House is a purpose built, spectacular venue that hosts incredible stage entertainment based on an hour long radio barn dance founded in 1925. People from all around the world come here to enjoy the musical extravaganzas and performances.
Just to the right you will also find the Opry Museum, where you will find a huge variety of memorabilia on display and where entry is totally free of charge. Any music and entertainment fans will enjoy their visit to this attraction.
Accommodation: Where to stay in Nashville
Address: 2804 Opryland Dr, Nashville, TN 37214
Also Read: Top Tourist Attractions in Nashville
The Tennessee Aquarium in Downtown Chattanooga is ranked among the best aquariums to visit in the US. It opened in 1992, where it showcased the world’s biggest freshwater aquariums, exhibiting nearly 800 different species of marine life. Today, the aquarium expanded to include another building full of aquarium attractions.
Tennessee Aquarium has two dedicated aquarium buildings – River Journey and Ocean Journey. Some of the themed exhibitions in River Journey include ‘Rivers of the World,’ featuring species from notable rivers with the famous electric eel; ‘Delta Country,’ with species from the Mississippi River; and ‘River Giants,’ featuring the aquarium’s big fish and reptiles.
The largest aquarium tank is the ‘Secret Reef’ attraction in Ocean Journey. It’s home to various species of sharks and sea turtles. The aquarium also exhibits different penguin species in the ‘Penguin Rock’ section.
Tennessee Aquarium is a place for education and research, offering many public conservation activities and programs. It also features off-site activities such as boat tours in the Tennessee River and a 3D IMAX Theater experience.
Accommodation: Where to stay in Chattanooga
Address: 1 Broad St, Chattanooga, TN 37402
Also Read: 25 Best Aquariums in the United States
If you’re looking for a fun family day out in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee one great place to visit is the theme park owned by country singing sensation Dolly Parton.
Dollywood is a fabulous place that is packed with attractions, entertainment and thrills ranging from a variety of exciting rides and a water park through to music, entertainment, events and plenty of facilities including accommodation.
The Southern Gospel Museum and Hall of Fame can also be found here, which is an added bonus for music fans. This is a delightful attraction that has something for all ages, making it the perfect family attraction.
Accommodation: Where to stay in Pigeon Forge
Address: 2700 Dollywood Parks Blvd, Pigeon Forge, TN 37863
Also Read: 10 Best Theme Parks in the US
Now a National Historic Landmark, the Hermitage was once the home of America’s seventh president, Andrew Jackson. The mansion, gardens and historic plantation are now part of a museum complex where you can enjoy exploration, education and history.
You can pay a visit to the mansion where you explore the displays and exhibits as well as learn more about the history of the property.
Take some time to explore the Hermitage plantation and the stunning gardens as well as the slave sites, outbuildings and the Hermitage Church.
You can also visit Jackson’s tomb, which is a fascinating structure that is located at the Hermitage site.
Address: 4580 Rachels Ln, Nashville, TN 37076
The Memphis Zoo and Aquarium are some of the main tourist attractions in Memphis. With the aquarium located inside of the zoo, a general admission ticket permits entry to both areas.
The Memphis Zoo was founded in 1906 as part of the Overton Park. It’s a top-ranking zoo in the United States, attracting over one million visitors annually and home to thousands of animals.
Some of the most popular species in the zoo include a giant panda, lions, giraffes, grizzly bears, sea lions, elephants, gorillas, and eagles.
The zoo features three zones divided into 19 exhibits, each designed as the natural habitat for the animals for an authentic viewing experience.
Visitors can stop by the aquarium to see additional exhibits of freshwater and saltwater marine life—the tanks host over 150 species from all over the world.
There are guided tours available for touring the zoo, as well as tram rides for more accessibility. The zoo and aquarium are open year-round with special events hosted at various times and seasonal decorations for holidays.
Address: 2000 Prentiss Pl, Memphis, TN 38112
Also Read: 30 Best Zoos in the USA
Nashville is country music headquarters. So it makes sense that the Country Music Hall of Fame be located right in the heart of the city. The museum is an impressive ode to the music that put Nashville on the map.
The museum features 350,000 square feet of galleries, instruments, and artifacts that have had an influence on the country music genre. Nicknamed the “Smithsonian of country music”, the Country Music Hall of Fame is the world’s largest music museum.
It includes two large theaters, the Taylor Swift Education Center, and a rotating list of world-class exhibits.
Address: 222 5th Ave S Nashville, TN 37203
Also Read: Top Tourist Attractions in Nashville
The Titanic Museum is truly a sight to behold, as the museum is actually shaped like the ill-fated liner that sank back in 1912. This is a museum with two floors and twenty galleries, which means that it is the biggest permanent Titanic museum on earth.
There are hundreds of artifacts to take in and you will enjoy an experience that will make you feel as though you were actually one of the passengers on the original vessel.
You can learn about some of the actual passengers that were on the original Titanic and the museum is actually located in a pool so that you are surrounded by water when you board, which makes for an even more authentic experience.
Address: 2134 Parkway, Pigeon Forge, TN 37863
Also Read: Top Tourist Attractions in Pigeon Forge
Ruby Falls is one of the hidden gems in Tennessee. Lookout Mountain is located just outside of Chattanooga, where visitors will discover the naturally formed caves. Explore the Ruby Falls cave, and you’ll find the stunning Ruby Falls hidden within it - it’s an underground cascade waterfall with an elevation of 145-feet.
Ruby Falls is one of the first commercially developed caves in the US, opened to the public in the 1930s. It’s designed for tourists and widely promoted as one of the best tourist destinations in the region.
There is a visitor center located in the landmark Cavern Castle where tourists can book reservations for the cave tour.
The guided tour walked groups through the lighted caves before emerging into the open space where the falls flow continuously. The experience features lights illuminating the falls in a variety of colors and music.
The tours provide lots of information about the history of Ruby Falls and a chance to take amazing photos of the landmark.
Address: 1720 South Scenic Highway, Chattanooga, TN 37409
Tennessee played a significant role in the US Civil War, being a prominent conflict state. The history of the war is preserved in various regions of the state to make up the Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area.
Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area was designated in 1996, consisting of eight main regions. River regions include the Tennessee River, the Mississippi River, and more. Railroad regions include the Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad, the Memphis and Charleston Railroad, and others.
Tourists can visit multiple destinations within each region, including historical sites, landmarks, and monuments. The purpose of these sites is for telling the story of the Civil War and retracing history.
There are over 400 markers and signs for the Tennessee War Trails, making it easy to identify each location.
The official Heritage Center opened in 2006 in Murfreesboro. It’s open to the public with free entry to find more information about the Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area or to attend events hosted by the center.
Accommodation: Where to stay in Murfreesboro
Address: 1416 E Main St, Murfreesboro, TN 37130
The Parthenon is an impressive work of architecture located in Nashville. It was built in 1897 as the centerpiece of the Centennial Park for an exposition honoring Tennessee’s 100th anniversary as part of the union. It’s the only remaining structure from the exposition, now converted into an art museum.
The Parthenon is a full-size replica of the original building in Athens, Greece. The amazing architectural wonder renders the original color and interior details. It was chosen because of Nashville’s nickname as the ‘Athens of the South.’
Visitors can enjoy taking photos of the exterior before entering inside to see the permanent and temporary exhibitions hosted at the site. The most famous sculpture in the museum is a replica of the Athena Parthenos statue, another feature from the original building.
The main gallery features American art from the 19th and 20th Centuries.
Address: 2500 West End Ave, Nashville, TN 37203
Oak Ridge was developed as a site for scientists during WWII to construct an atomic bomb. The American Museum of Science and Energy is a local science museum dedicated to energy sources, including nuclear power.
American Museum of Science and Energy opened in 1949, relocating and renamed from its original location. It houses permanent and rotating exhibitions showcasing various aspects of science and energy. Some of the exhibits include atomic discovery, nuclear weapons, a solar energy demonstration, a weather station, and robots.
The museum is a must-visit destination for visitors in Oak Ridge because of the interactive exhibitions and a walk-through attraction. Adults and kids can remain engaged for hours or a full day experience.
Oak Ridge played a significant role in the Manhattan Project, for building the atomic bomb. The museum offers bus tours to see several of the original sites of the project. The experience also includes a film documentary about the history of the atomic bomb and the project.
Accommodation: Where to stay in Oak Ridge
Address: 115 E Main St, Oak Ridge, TN 37830
Also Read: Best Science Museums in the USA
Railroads are an essential part of Tennessee’s history. In essence, the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum was founded in 1960 in Chattanooga to support the efforts of preserving the rich railroad history in the state. The museum includes one of the heritage railroads – a former railroad preserved in its original state.
The overall purpose of the museum is to showcase the rich train culture that existed in the region. It accomplished the goal with several things to do for visitors.
Tourists can see a display of six vintage steam locomotives exhibited in the museum. It includes a large rail yard and railroad equipment used to build the trains and railways. The museum features a locomotive repair shop, used for the restoration of the railcars.
One of the best parts of visiting the museum is riding on the historic trains. Visitors can climb aboard the vintage locomotives for a one-hour loop experience or a half-day journey across the region. The train ride provides excellent views, authentic train service, and even a railcar dedicated to kids’ activities.
Address: 4119 Cromwell Rd, Chattanooga, TN 37421
Also Read: 30 Best Railway Museums in the US
Lookout Mountain serves as the backdrop to Chattanooga, being the cities most visited site. It’s the highest point in the county, with sections extending into Georgia and Alabama. Lookout Mountain is a historical site for notable war battles and now a major tourist destination for incredible views and recreation.
Lookout Mountain has an elevation of nearly 2,400-feet. The mountain includes natural landmark sites such as Ruby Falls, Sunset Rock, “Rock City” formations, and more. It also features several Civil War landmarks, as it was the site of the Battle of Lookout Mountain.
Visitors will have some of the best views atop Lookout Mountain. It provides sweeping views of downtown Chattanooga. One of the unique viewpoints is at “Rock City” – on clear days, viewers can see seven states at once.
One of the favorite recreational activities at the mountain is hiking. The hiking trails are pet-friendly and lead past historical sites of the mountain - you can learn a bit of history along the ascent to the summit.
Address: Chattanooga, TN 37409
Beale Street is an iconic street in Memphis and a must-visit for everybody, whether local or tourist. The road extends for just under 2-miles, starting at the Mississippi River and ending at East Street. The entire strip is filled with history, culture, music, and nightlife.
Beale Street is the location where the Blues music genre was created. The historic district in Downtown Memphis became a hub for upcoming African American musicians and a social site for the public. As it continued to develop, it transitioned into one of the most famous places to visit in Memphis.
Visitors can enjoy a mix of activities on Beale Street during the daytime and night. During the day, it’s a great place for sightseeing and exploring its history – some of the notable landmarks include the Beale Street Baptist Church, the Memphis Rock n Soul Museum, the New Daisy Theatre, and a range of cafes and restaurants.
At night, Beale Street is the premier nightlife destination in Memphis. The street illuminates with neon lights shining from the bars and lounges lining the streets.
Address: Memphis, TN 38103
Not all attractions in Tennessee are above ground – visit the city of Sweetwater to uncover one of the best underground attractions. The Lost Sea Adventure takes visitors on a journey to see the largest underground lake in the US. The cave-dwelling experience is excellent for adults and kids.
The Lost Sea Adventure requires guided tours through the cave system before reaching the lake. Set aside a couple of hours to visit the attraction. It starts with a hike up a steep hill before reaching the caves. After entering the caves, it’s a downward slope leading to the lake.
The tour experience includes a boat ride on the lake – the smaller lake leads into the much larger section, only accessible with cave diving. Along the tour, guides lecture about the history of the caves dating back to the mid-1800s.
Visitors can also choose a Wild Cave Tour experience, which lets you sleep overnight inside the caves.
The Lost Sea Adventure is part of the Civil War Trail Markers for its role in the war.
Accommodation: Where to stay in Sweetwater
Address: 140 Lost Sea Rd, Sweetwater, TN 37874
Adams, Tennessee, isn’t the most popular travel destination in the state, but the legend of the Bell Witch continues to drive tourists to the Bell Witch Cave attraction. The cave is located nearby the Red River, near the former Bell Farm – the farm belonged to the Bell family, rumored to be haunted by the witch.
The Bell Witch Cave takes curious visitors through the eerie cave to see the site rumored to be where the witch retreated and dwelled. There are tales of encounters with the witch.
Visitors can take a guided tour of the cave, with the tour guide providing details about the myth while exploring the 500-ft long cave.
In addition to the cave, the tour experience can be extended to include the Bell Witch Cabin. The cabin is a replica which permits guests to walk through various rooms while hearing audio playback of the Bell Witch tale.
The Bell Witch Cave and Cabin are privately owned and only open for tours during the summer and October.
Address: 430 Keysburg Rd, Adams, TN 37010
With all the impressive architectural wonders in Nashville, one of the highlights is the Ryman Auditorium, a legendary country music venue. Ryman Auditorium is a National Historic Landmark that opened in 1892 to host some of the most iconic music artists in country music throughout history.
Ryman Auditorium first grew to prominence while being the home to the Grand Ole Opry – it’s sometimes referred to as the Grand Ole Opry House. It went on to become one of the major touring venues for country music acts performing in Nashville.
There were considerations for demolition due to extended periods of being inactive. Plans changed, and it was later restored while preserving several of the venue’s original features.
Today, the Ryman Auditorium includes seating for more than 2,300 people with a great design for high visibility from any seat. It’s an active performance venue where you can always find a show playing during your visit. It also hosts tours to learn about the history, admire the architecture, and explore the interior of the venue.
Accommodation: Where to stay in Nashville
Address: 116 5th Ave N, Nashville, Tennessee 37219
Also Read: Top Tourist Attractions in Nashville
The Memorial Park Cemetery in Memphis is a burial location of several notable people. The Crystal Shrine Grotto is the centerpiece of the cemetery, a project initiated in efforts to add decorations and more visual appeal to the site. The grotto was completed in 1955 and now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Crystal Shrine Grotto is a man-made cave, built 60-ft deep in a hillside. It’s named after the quartz crystal used to make the cave. One of the most impressive features of the cave is the hand-built shrines. The shrines hold religious significance, depicting the journey of Christ on Earth.
The cemetery gardens and a pond surround the grotto. It’s open to the public – visitors can cross the pond bridge and get an up-close view at the detailed work of the grotto.
Accommodation: Where to stay in Memphis
Address: 5668 Poplar Ave, Memphis, TN 38119
About half of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park lies in Tennessee. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is packed with history, wildlife, and geological marvels. The park features the famous Appalachian Trail and over 150 other stunning hiking trails.
The state is well-known for its country music scene, as well as whiskey (there are nearly 30 distilleries in Tennessee), hot chicken, and barbecue. It is also the birthplace of Mountain Dew. By the way, Tennessee is one of the states that make the Bible Belt, so it has a large population of churchgoers.
March through May and September through November are the perfect months to enjoy the blooming flowers or the stunning foliage. June and August are considered the busiest months, but if you're planning on attending a few festivals, that's when you'll be able to have the most fun.
Dollywood is the only theme park with southern charm. The park is jointly owned by Dolly Parton and Herschend Family Entertainment, features over 40 rides and attractions, and is surrounded by breathtaking views of the Great Smoky Mountains.