If Tennessee were a song, it would need at least three verses: One for West Tennessee, one for Middle Tennessee and one for East Tennessee. Call it the Tennessee three-step, the way distinctly different grand regions join together in vibrant harmony in a state that helped launch country music with the Bristol Sessions and usher in the age of soul at Stax Records in Memphis. For every interest, there’s always something to cheer, in the state of Parton, Pigeon Forge and Peabody ducks; of B.B., the Blue Bird and Knoxville’s Blueplate Special.
Obviously, music is a common refrain, from the clubs of Beale Street to Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry stage to the fields of Bonnaroo, America’s number one music festival. Elvis made his first record at Sun Studios in Memphis, the Carter family made theirs in Bristol, and today, across the state and spectrum of styles, new talent is cropping up everywhere you look and listen.
In Tennessee, there’s always more to savor: tall tales at Jonesborough’s National Storytelling Festival, tall orders at Memphis In May’s World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest, animal magnetism at Chattanooga’s Tennessee Aquarium and small town charms in Hohenwald and Collinwood.
Tennessee is home to Davy Crockett, The National Civil Rights Museum and three U.S. presidents—Andrew Jackson, Andrew Johnson and James K. Polk. Today you can visit their homes, as well as four different Civil War battlefields, strung from Shiloh to Chickamauga. Tennessee is all over the board when it comes to topography and recreation, too: snow board at Ober Gatlinburg, water ski at Pickwick or Paris, raft the white water of the Ocoee and hang glide off Lookout Mountain. Take the Bear Trace trail of Nicklaus-designed golf courses or see real bears in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Hike, camp or take a bike ride in one of Tennessee’s 53 award-winning state parks.
And the best way to get started is with the showstoppers on the Natchez Trace. The dramatic Civil War history at Franklin’s Carnton Plantation and the McGavock Confederate Cemetery inspired a New York Times best seller, The Widow of the South. You’ll be inspired, too. Better hurry and get started!
Learn more about communities along the Trace in Tennessee: