Tennessee Historical Sites
Guide to Tourist Attractions in Tennessee
A great place to visit for people of all interests, Tennessee is a surprisingly historically and geographically diverse state. Typical sightseeing highlights include the largest cities and Civil War historical sites, but the state is also home to beautiful waterfalls, impressive 6,000-foot peaks, and a growing food and music scene.
As expected, the most popular destinations in the state tend to be the largest cities, where opportunities to explore history, culture, music, and food shine. With that being said, don’t hesitate to stop at any number of scenic small towns along the way!
The capital of Tennessee, Nashville is a modern city built along the Cumberland River. Known as Music City, visitors flock to Nashville to explore its country music roots, but the city is also famous for hot chicken, a growing sports scene, and much more. Be sure to stop by a Honky Tonk bar on Broadway, visit the beautiful college campuses of Belmont and Vanderbilt University, and explore the many historical sites located throughout the city.
A smaller city situated on the picturesque Tennessee River, Chattanooga makes a great destination for outdoor lovers. With the impressive Lookout Mountain as a backdrop, visitors can explore downtown and check out sites like the Tennessee Aquarium or the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum. Outside the city, spend a day hiking or biking on any number of top-tier trails.
Situated in the northeast corner of the state, Knoxville is another one of Tennessee’s most popular tourist destinations. The home of Tennessee’s flagship university, visitors should be sure to visit the University of Tennessee Knoxville campus. During football season, catch a game at Neyland Stadium. Otherwise, stop by Market Square for a pedestrian-friendly area full of shops, restaurants, and bars.
The largest city in the western part of the state, Memphis is another popular place to visit. Known worldwide for its barbeque, Rock ‘n’ Roll history, and proximity to the mighty Mississippi River, Memphis also has a professional basketball team, lots of parks and green spaces, and plenty of museums to choose from.
The 16th state to join the Union, Tennessee has a rich history as a state dating back to 1796, and a history that goes even further back when considering the Native Americans that called and continue to call this area home. From Civil War battlefields to majestic 19th century mansions, there’s no shortage of historical sites.
Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage
Three former presidents have called Tennessee home, among them Andrew Jackson. The Hermitage, which was his sprawling estate, can be found just a few miles outside of Nashville. Featuring a beautiful 19th century home with incredible historical significance, the Hermitage makes an ideal destination for history buffs.
Also in Nashville, the Parthenon is a full-scale recreation of the famous temple in Athens. Built and located in Centennial Park, this historical site offers visitors the chance to explore a version of the real Parthenon as it existed after its creation. The building also features a decent art gallery with permanent and rotating exhibits, and the rest of Centennial Park is also worth checking out.
National Civil Rights Museum
Located in the historic Lorraine Motel in Memphis, the National Civil Rights Museum tells the important, long-running story behind the Civil Rights Movement. Permanent exhibits are dedicated to slavery in America, student sit-ins in the 1960s, and the famous Montgomery Bus Boycott from the mid 1950s.
Parks and Nature
Tennessee is a beautiful state full of rolling hills. The state is generally split into three sections, each with different types of opportunities for outdoor recreation. In the west, explore lakes and rivers. In Middle Tennessee, head to the Cumberland Plateau for climbing, hiking, and camping. Finally, the eastern part of the state is home to the tallest mountains as well as the state’s only national park.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The most visited national park in the nation, Great Smoky Mountains National Park makes a worthy addition to every itinerary. Straddling the border between Tennessee and North Carolina, this scenic park has some of the state’s most impressive sights. While visiting, make sure to stop by Clingman’s Dome, which at 6,643 feet is the highest point in the state and the third highest point east of the Mississippi River.
Fall Creek Falls State Park
Located on the Cumberland Plateau about two hours from Nashville, Fall Creek Falls State Park features gorges, waterfalls, campgrounds, and cabins. The highlight of the park is Fall Creek Falls, a 256 foot waterfall that is one of the highest in the eastern United States. Visitors can enjoy hiking, biking, boating, rock climbing, and much more.
South Cumberland State Park
An expansive state park spreading across four different counties, South Cumberland is a rugged destination with over 90 miles of hiking trails. A great choice for backpackers, it’s easy to link up trails for overnight and multi-day trips. Additionally, the Foster Falls section of the park is well-known for rock climbing.
Famous Music Sites
With famous cities like Nashville and Memphis, Tennessee is cemented as an important site for the development of music in the United States. Whether it’s catching a show, going to a music museum, or enjoying an Elvis-themed restaurant, visitors can find it all in the Volunteer State.
Known as “The Home of Elvis Presley,” Graceland is a must-see site in Memphis that includes Elvis’s mansion, a number of world-class museum exhibits, a hotel, shopping, and even two delicious restaurants. One highlight of Graceland include the Presley Motors Automobile Museum, which features many of Elvis’s cars including his Ferrari, Mercedes Benz, and Rolls Royce. Also, check out Elvis Presley’s two planes, one of which includes a living room, private bedroom, and gold-plated seatbelts.
Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum
First opened in 1964, the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum is a massive facility in downtown Nashville that is perfect for fans of recent and past country music. Exhibits rotate throughout the year, but some are dedicated to Chris Stapleton, Florida Georgia Line, and Bill Anderson. In addition to the museum and Country Music Hall of Fame, there’s also the CMA Theater, where performances are put on throughout the year.
These have been just some of the most popular things to see and do in Tennessee. Enjoy your visit to the Volunteer State!