Super useful & totally free travel guides, written by locals who love Tennessee
Why We Love Tennessee: Tennessee has a wide range of features that make it attractive to visitors. For outdoor lovers, Tennessee is home to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Mississippi River, and an abundance of caves and waterfalls. For more urban adventures, Tennessee has major cities like Nashville and Memphis with lively restaurant scenes, live music venues, and cultural sites. Mid-size cities Chattanooga and Knoxville have a lot to offer as well. And there are also plenty of charming small towns to explore all across Tennessee. Come enjoy the beautiful weather and the southern hospitality that the state is known for.
Best of Tennessee
🏙️ Places to Visit
No matter what kind of getaway you’re looking for, Tennessee has somewhere for you to visit. A few of the most popular Tennessee destinations include:
- Nashville – Tennessee’s capital city is best known for its music scene. Nashville also has excellent restaurants, breweries, bars, and shops.
- Smoky Mountains National Park – This popular national park is the best place for hiking and camping. It’s one of America’s most stunning mountain ranges.
- Memphis – Explore Beale Street, visit the Memphis pyramid, and see Elvis’s home in birthplace of the blues and rock n’ roll.
- Knoxville – With an Urban Wilderness area within the city limits, you can explore the outdoors during the day and enjoy the city in the evening.
- Chattanooga – Visit the Chattanooga Zoo and the Tennessee Aquarium or stop by to see Rock City and Ruby Falls.
- Franklin – A charming city with historic neighborhoods and a downtown area with vibrant shops and antique stores.
- Pigeon Forge – A family-friendly vacation destination with attractions like Dollywood as well as shows, miniature golf, and go-karts.
✨ Things to Do
With everything from concerts to museums to outdoor adventure, there’s plenty to do in Tennessee:
- Enjoy live music in Nashville – With so many great music venues, enjoy well-known artists at the historic Ryman or discover new up-and-coming talent.
- Ride the rollercoasters at Dollywood – Enjoy an adventure at a unique theme park based on the culture and history of the Smoky Mountain area.
- Explore the Tennessee Aquarium – See aquatic wildlife from Tennessee and around the world in one of the top-rated aquariums in the US.
- Hike in the Smoky Mountains – For postcard-worthy views, spend some time on one of the many trails in this national park.
- Visit Graceland – See Elvis Presley’s mansion complete with his gold records, bejeweled jumpsuits, and legendary cars.
🗺️ Where to Stay
There are so many good places to stay in Tennessee. Pick the perfect one based on what you’d like to explore while here:
- Nashville – The most popular destination for visitors. It’s located in Middle Tennessee and has all kinds of things to do.
- Pigeon Forge – This family-friendly town in East Tennessee is surrounded by the Smoky Mountains.
- Knoxville – A vibrant city in East Tennessee home of the UT Vols and 35 miles from the Smoky Mountains.
- Memphis – Another popular city for visitors. Memphis is in West Tennessee along the Mississippi River.
- Chattanooga – Nicknamed the Scenic City, this outdoorsy East Tennessee city is located along the Tennessee River.
🛎️ Best Hotels
Tennessee has hotels to accommodate every type of traveler. Some of the most well-known hotels are destinations in their own rights.
- Gaylord Opryland Resort – A luxury resort in Nashville with an indoor atrium, a world-class spa, and a water park
- The Peabody – An iconic Memphis hotel with a rich history, home of the famous Peabody Duck March
- Blackberry Farm – A tranquil resort and estate tucked in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains
- Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort – The best place to stay when visiting the Dollywood theme park or Dollywood’s Splash Country
- The Hermitage Hotel – A 5-star historic hotel with a Beaux-Arts style built in 1910, one of the best places to stay in Nashville
🚗 Best Road Trips
If you really want to see everything Tennessee has to offer, plan a road trip. Here are a few of our favorite Tennessee road trips:
- Natchez Trace Parkway – Take the 444-mile road that follows the original Natchez Trace from Nashville, TN to Natchez, MS.
- Nashville to Memphis – For the ultimate music experience, start off in Music City and make your way to the home of the blues and rock n’ roll.
- Nashville to Chattanooga – With attractions like Lookout Mountain, Rock City, and Ruby Falls, visitors have been trekking to Chattanooga for years.
- The Great Smoky Mountains – Take one of the scenic drives through the mountains. The Newfound Gap Road is the most iconic.
- Tennessee Waterfalls – Go see some of Tennessee’s best waterfalls – Cummins Falls, Burgess Falls, Fall Creek Falls, and Twin Falls.
🥾 Best Hikes
Tennessee is full of beautiful natural scenery and has pleasant weather the majority of the year. Don’t miss the best hikes in the state:
- Appalachian Trail – About 70 miles of this well-known 2000+ mile trail run through the Smoky Mountains National Park.
- Rainbow Falls – On sunny days, you’ll see a rainbow in the mist from the waterfall on this hike in the Smoky Mountains.
- Fiery Gizzard Trail – A full-day hike that was named one of the best 25 hikes in the United States.
- Point Trail at Lily Bluff – This moderate hike ends with stunning panoramic views overlooking the Obed river gorge.
- Fall Creek Falls Trail – Hike to see the tallest free-fall waterfall east of the Mississippi River in the Fall Creek Falls State Park.
🖼️ Best Museums
Thanks to its rich music scene and cultural history, Tennessee has a surprisingly large number of incredible museums.
- Country Music Hall of Fame – Home to over 2 million artifacts, including guitars, rhinestone stage costumes, and handwritten song manuscripts.
- Graceland – Take a peek inside the life of the King of Rock n’ Roll at Elvis’s home in Memphis.
- The Johnny Cash Museum – A well-put-together museum dedicated to Johnny Cash and his role in American culture.
- National Civil Rights Museum – Learn about the history of the Civil Rights Movement at this Memphis museum.
- Knoxville Museum of Art – An excellent, free museum showcasing local artists.
Tennessee Travel Advice
🗓️ Best Time to Visit
Tennessee has four distinct seasons and relatively decent weather. Spring and fall have the best weather and fewer crowds.
- 🍂 Fall – As the weather gets cooler in the fall, it’s a great time to visit the state.
- 🌼 Spring – Tennessee is lovely in spring with cool mornings and warm afternoons. Just prepare for occasional rain storms.
- 🌞 Summer – The summer months in Tennessee are very hot, especially late July and August.
- ❄️ Winter – There are fewer visitors during winter. Also, unpredictable snowy days sometimes shut down towns and cities.
🚌 Getting In & Around
It’s possible to visit Nashville without a car. But, for the best experience, you’ll need a vehicle to explore most of Tennessee.
- ✈️ Airports – Nashville’s international airport BNA is the largest. The state also has 4 other airports near major cities.
- 🚗 Driving – Driving is the easiest way to get around most of the state.
- 🚇 Public Transit – There is basic public transit in most metro areas, but the majority of the state has no public transit.
- 📲 Ride Share – Most cities will have rideshare available. Be aware that rural areas may have limited or no rideshare options.
- 🚴♀️ Biking – Cities in Tennessee are slowly becoming more bike-friendly. Bicycle infrastructure varies.
- 🛴 Scooters – Scooters are useful for traveling within neighborhoods in Nashville, Memphis, Chattanooga, and Knoxville.
- 🚶♀️ Walking – A few areas in major cities are walkable, but don’t plan to be able to explore solely on foot.
👉 Tips & Things to Know
- 🌡️ – Check the weather forecast frequently. – The temperatures can swing wildly within the same week. Also, severe weather can be an issue.
- 🗺️ – Plan out your route in advance. – Cell phone service and wi-fi can be spotty when driving through rural areas. You never know when you’ll hit a dead zone.
- 🌲 – Get outdoors. – The state has beautiful natural features. Spend some time outdoors hiking, biking, or paddling to enjoy the stunning scenery.
- 🍽️ – Try out the local food. – Skip chains in favor of local restaurants. Look for mom-and-pop shops where you can get delicious southern comfort food.
- ⏰ – The time zone changes. – Tennessee falls in both the eastern time zone and the central time zone. Make sure you know which one you’re in.
🧳 What to Pack
- 🌞 – Sunscreen – Pack sunscreen no matter what time of year you visit. The Tennessee sun can do a lot of damage.
- 👟 – Walking shoes – No matter where you go, you’ll have to do some walking. Bring shoes you can actually walk in.
- 🧥 – Jacket – Especially at night, the temperature can drop dramatically. Bring an extra jacket or sweater just in case.
- 💳 – Credit or debit card – Some restaurants and shops only take cards, no cash. Make sure you have one with you, especially in Nashville.
- 💧 – Water bottle – It’s hot during the summer. Bring a water bottle to stay hydrated.
🤓 Tennessee Facts & Info
- Population – 6.772 million
- Capital – Nashville
- Largest Metro Areas – Nashville and Memphis
- Time Zone – Middle and West Tennessee – Central Time (UTC -06:00/ UTC -05:00 during daylight savings), East Tennessee – Eastern Time (UTC -05:00/ UTC -04:00 during daylight savings)
- Airports – Nashville International Airport (BNA), Memphis International Airport (MEM), McGhee Tyson (TYS), Chattanooga (CHA), Tri-Cities (TRI), McKellar-Sipes (MKL)
- Colleges & Universities – University of Tennessee, Tennessee State University, Vanderbilt University, University of Memphis
- Nickname – The Volunteer State
- Demonym – Tennessean
- USPS Abbreviation – TN
- Governor – Bill Lee (Republican)
- Country – United States of America
💵 Costs & Budgeting
- MERIC Cost of Living State Rank – #8
- 3 Star Hotel Room – $100-200/night
- 1 Bedroom Apartment Rental – $150/night
- Rental Car – $60/day
- Public Transit Ticket – ~$4 day passes ($2 to airport from center)
- Take Out Meal for Two – $20-30
- Sit Down Dinner for Two – $50-150
- Draft Beer – $4-10
FAQs About Visiting Tennessee
Is Tennessee safe for tourists?
Tennessee is generally considered safe for tourists. The crime rate is higher than the US average, but crime tends to be concentrated in areas tourists aren’t likely to visit. You should still remain alert and aware just like when visiting any destination.
What is the number 1 attraction in Tennessee?
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the most popular attractions in Tennessee. It draws over 14 million visitors each year and is consistently one of the most visited national parks in the US.
What is the prettiest place in Tennessee?
The most beautiful scenery in Tennessee is generally found in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. More beautiful natural features can be visited in Tenneessee’s excellent state park system.
What food is Tennessee famous for?
Country ham, a heavily salted preserved ham, is Tennesse’s most famous ingredient. Other popular local foods include Nashville hot chicken, Memphis ribs, and Moon Pies (invented in Chattanooga).
What is the best time to visit Tennessee?
Summer is the best time to visit Tennessee to experience the state’s many festivals and outdoor events. You’ll have to deal with heat and humidity though. For the best weather, the best time to visit Tennessee is during the spring or fall.
Meet Our Tennessee Travel Expert
Elizabeth Demolat is a travel and lifestyle writer in Nashville, Tennessee. Elizabeth loves exploring new destinations. Her favorite travel destinations are France, Italy, and the United States. Right now, Elizabeth is focused on finding cool local spots and taking trips through the southeastern United States.
📰 Tennessee Travel Guides
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