Tennessee is one of the top countries with the friendliest people, where everyone speaks to everyone! Tennessee attracts thrill-seekers, music enthusiasts, history buffs, and nature lovers; everyone is awed by this beautiful place.
As travel nuts, you can bet that we’ve rounded up a list of Tennessee’s best places to visit, including what to do when you get there, a few things to consider, and tips for making the most of your trip.
16 Best Places to Visit in Tennessee in 2023
Are you on a quest to find the best places to visit in Tennessee? Tennessee has lots to offer for local and international thrill-seekers eager to unravel this hidden gem.
Tennessee boasts large cities, attractive sites, historical landmarks, and extraordinary destinations. When planning a trip, what makes the experience memorable are the experiences you carry back home.
Even if you are scheduled to be in Tennessee for a couple of days, you can have plenty of fun.
But how do you avoid missing out? Worry not. If you have an upcoming trip to Tennessee, below is a detailed guide on the best places to visit and answers to common questions.
Formerly owned by the legend of Rock n’ Roll, Elvis Presley, Graceland is now owned and managed by his daughter Lisa Marie Presley.
This is one of the significant landmarks in Tennessee where people can visit and see Elvis’s jeweled jumpsuits, classic cars, gold records, his mansion, and other exciting exhibits. Graceland was first launched and opened to the public in 1982 and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
Here, you have over 13.8 acres of land to explore. Thousands of tourists and Elvis fans visit Graceland annually to get a glimpse of the rich music culture in Tennessee.
Gatlinburg is a small mountain area with a general population of 4,000 people. However, this number balloons up to over 40,000 people during the tourist peak season. What makes Gatlinburg so attractive, though?
Gatlinburg is one of the most accessible places in Tennessee. It is also home to some of the most outstanding parks, including the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and other attractions like the Gatlinburg Space Needle and the Ober Gatlinburg Aerial Tramway.
On your visit here, put on light clothes, bring the right gear, and prepare to be amazed. Gatlinburg boasts miles upon miles of trails ideal for horseback riding, hiking, and cycling.
There also exists historical exhibits and cabins where you can view black bears, elks, and deer in their natural habitat. Other attractions here include Gatlinburg Arts & Crafts Community, Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, and Cades Cove.
Cades Cove is an excellent place to visit during the warmer summer months. It’s one of the hidden treasures inside a valley in the renowned Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Anyone who has been to Tennessee has heard about Cades Cove.
Its popularity is fueled by the vibrant sceneries, thriving nature, and breathtaking aura. There are three primary access points you can use to enter Cades Cove. They include the Parson Branch Road, Rich Mountain Road, and the Laurel Creek road.
Take the Cades cove Loop drive to see panoramic views of the forest and surrounding areas. Avoid planning your trip to Cades cove during winter because this location is closed during the wet and cold seasons.
Read Next: Best Things to Do in Gatlinburg
Nothing can give you better insight into the music culture in Tennessee better than Memphis city. Located in the Southwestern part of Tennessee, it’s only in Memphis where you can experience original Blues, Soul music, Hip hop, and Rock n’ Roll genres.
The City of Memphis is home to Sun Studio, which gave birth to world-recognized musical legends like BB King, Johnny Cash, and Elvis Presley. Graceland, a top tourist destination, is in Memphis.
Thousands of visitors come here to cure their itch for quality music by listening to old-time songs and going to Beale Street, where many budding musicians sing live.
Additionally, Memphis is where the frontier of civil rights, Martin Luther King Jr. fought viciously for the equal rights of black laborers.
The Lorraine Motel where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated is now known as the National Civil Rights Museum. If you are a foodie, Memphis has the most distinct southern cuisine with plenty of fresh barbeque chops and finger-licking food to leave you yearning for more.
Read Next: Is Memphis Safe to Visit in 2023?
4. Ruby Falls
The Ruby Falls is a beautiful natural wonder first discovered in 1928 by Leo Lambert. It is a tall, deep underground waterfall located in Lookout Mountain, Tennessee, in Chattanooga.
There’s a glass elevator ride to take you up and down the mountains where you can see light shows in the caves and see the waterfalls.
There’s so much to learn about Ruby Falls’ history and the surrounding areas. Tennessee is undoubtedly the best place to visit if you are a sucker for learning new things about nature.
5. Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The name great in Great Smoky Mountains National Park could hint at the expansive size of this major attraction. Occupying a whopping 522,427 acres, this place runs through Tennessee and crosses over further into North Carolina.
This location used to be home to Paleo Indians before the European Settlers moved in in the 19th century. If you want to learn about the rich history of human settlers, you must visit the Great Smoky Mountain Park.
It’s free to enter, and over 10 million people visit the park annually. It’s the perfect place to go hiking, fishing, and biking. People also love to go for picnics near Rainbow falls or Abrams.
Some of the top sites you must see on your trip here include the Cades Cove, the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, and Sugarland’s Visitor center to buy gifts and souvenirs to bring back home.
Read Next: The Best National Parks in the United States
6. Cherokee National Forest
When you’ve been hustling and bustling day in and day out throughout the year, a well-deserved break in nature is the perfect reset you should get before you get back on the grind. And what better place to do that than the Cherokee National Forest?
Cherokee National Forest is a protected 655,598-acre piece of land. It sets a perfect background for hiking, cycling, nature walks, birdwatching, and Rafting in the Ocoee River.
Famous for its unique wildlife and plants, Cherokee National Forest is home to over 20,000 species living and growing therein. Bring your camping gear and enjoy the Appalachian Mountain range background for a night or two.
Did you know that Knoxville was the first capital city of Tennessee? This was way before Nashville was declared the main Capital City of Tennessee. Knoxville is the third-largest city.
On your visit here, it will not take long to notice why Knoxville is one of the places that must be on your bucket list. It has a vast record of Tennessee’s history, and it’s close to the Great Smoky Mountains Park. It’s also easily accessible.
An instant attraction in Knoxville is the 266 feet long gold tower built in 1982 during the world fair. It gleams for miles and miles and now serves as an observatory for scenic views of the city. Take a riverboat cruise, kayak, or canoe on the Tennessee River, where many visitors frequent.
Don’t forget to sample finger-licking southern meals served in local restaurants in and outside Market Square. Knoxville is open to tourists throughout the year.
If you want to get away and visit a part of Tennessee that isn’t too overcrowded but yet still get to view the greatness that this place has to offer, Sevierville is the place to be.
Sevierville is another precious gem located close to Great Smoky Mountain National Park on the Eastern side of Tennessee. You’ll find magical waterfalls, expansive hiking trails, and other beautiful attractions here.
The 19th-century courthouse in Sevierville gives visitors a glimpse into the architectural prowess of the settlers who lived here. Another excellent exhibit of their architecture is the City statue dedicated to the world-renowned country singer Dolly Parton.
Some of the attractions you don’t want to miss out on in Sevierville includetitani the Titanic Museum, Hillside Winery, the Hatfield & McCoy Dinner Show, and the upside-down amusement park, WonderWorks Pigeon Forge ideal for kids.
Many do not know that Chattanooga was once named the most polluted city in the US. Today, Chattanooga is the cleanest city, a process that has taken lots of work urbanizing, revitalizing, and bio-diversifying the area.
Chattanooga has the most genuine, welcoming people, numerous green spaces, and delicious southern meals. Chattanooga is easy to navigate too! Chattanooga is a historical and technological hub where most travelers seek adventure and information.
It’s home to the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum, where you’ll get a trip down memory lane and see how civil war troops built the trains over 100 years ago. This small town was also the first American city to offer fast internet speeds of up to 2GBs per second.
Its charm is easily felt when you visit places like the nearby Lookout Mountain and Walnut Street Bridge along Riverwalk, where you can view the most captivating sunsets.
10. The Lost Sea
The Lost Sea is the largest underground lake in East Tennessee. This treasure was discovered in 1905. In a quest to develop the cave into a place where tourists could frequent, construction efforts began in 1915 to build a pathway leading to the lake.
Expect to take a boat ride to tour the vast lake along with numerous other adventure seekers. There are over 150,000 tourists who visit The Lost Sea every year.
11. Lookout Mountain
Lookout Mountain is a major attraction with plenty of exciting places to see. They include the Ruby Falls; a world-famous attraction said to be the tallest underground waterfall.
Other places you can visit here are Rock City, a town over 1,700 feet above sea level, and the Incline Railway, said to be one of the steepest passenger railways in the U.S. Don’t forget to visit the 200-foot-long Swing-A-Long bridge.
Lookout Mountain is located 25 miles from three different states. You can see up to seven states from the highest point at look mountain, including Massachusetts, New York, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Connecticut.
12. Pigeon Forge
Beyond the Lens, WonderWorks, and The Titanic Museum are a few of the many engaging, educational, and family-friendly museums you can see when visiting Pigeon Forge. Pigeon Forge is a small town in eastern Tennessee, bursting with life and fun activities.
Tourists can go camping and hiking and enjoy the panoramic landscape from a bird’s eye view thanks to zip lines and alpine coasters.
Pigeon forge is home to famous parks like the Splash Country water park and the Dolly Wood Theme park. You can schedule visits to the Country Tonite Theatre and the Comedy Barn to view epic performances from musicians, actors, and comedians.
13. Jackson City
What sets Jackson City apart from other major attractions in Tennessee is its proximity to numerous state parks. The Reel Foot Lake, Natchez Trace State Park, Shiloh National Military Park, and Chickasaw State Park are a short drive away from the Jackson city center.
These parks boast rustic trails, gorgeous sceneries, and picnic sites where tourists and locals unwind. Jackson is the largest city in Madison County and the main trade center in West Tennessee. Jackson is also where West Tennessee Supreme Courthouse was entrenched in 1834.
14. Cummins Falls State Park
Cummins Falls State Park is a must-visit location in Jackson County. Historically, natives used to track animals like buffaloes who loved wallowing in the shallow river in the park.
The expansive park is pretty much a forest with numerous indigenous trees like buckeye, hemlock, oaks, sycamore, and beech trees. The park is ideal for hiking, fishing, and picnicking visitors.
How about taking a plunge at the Cummins Falls if you’re daring? Cummins Falls ranked top in the list of best swimming holes in the U.S.
15. Johnson City
If you love being outdoors, you must visit Johnson City. This location is packed with outdoor adventures to fit everyone eager to explore and venture into new places. Roan Mountain, for example, is where tourists frequent when they want to bike ride.
On the other hand, the Nolichucky River is where visitors go to catfish and view enormous waterfalls. Other attractions here include the Appalachian Trail and the Watauga River.
When you’d rather take a pass on the tough outdoors, visit the Tipton-Haynes State Historic Site and learn about the history of East Tennessee.
You’ll find the Sycamore Shoals State Historic site not too far from here in Elizabethton. Here, you’ll see art and learn about how the largest real estate transaction was made, and view chronicles of the first democratic government.
16. Fall Creek Falls State Park
Fall Creek Falls State Park is the most visited state park in Tennessee. It’s an expansive 26,000-acre space that hosts numerous gorges, streams, and waterfalls. The tallest waterfall in this park measures an astounding 256 feet tall.
Inside Fall Creek Falls State park are plenty of trails ideal for hiking, cycling, running, and walking. Some trails are conveniently located by the lake and close to the falls. It’s the perfect place to take pictures.
This tourist attraction is home to the Nature Center, a place with several nature programs aimed at teaching people about the environment. You can also learn and participate in live musical entertainment, arts and crafts, organized sports, movies, and campfire activities.
Things to Consider Before Visiting Tennessee
From being the birthplace of Country Music and sharing places with other top technological hubs, Tennessee is also a world-renowned tourist attraction where people from far and wide come to visit.
Tennessee is a welcome contrast from the buzzing streets filled with people and neon lights that make nights look like days.
It offers crisp, clean air, glistening waters, mist-covered towns, mountainous backgrounds, and green spaces that instantly get you to that serene space mentally and physically.
When looking for the Best Places to Visit in Tennessee, you want to come prepared. So, to get you in on some secrets, here are the top things you must consider before your trip to Tennessee.
The Weather Is Unpredictable
The weather in Tennessee alternates between sunny and rainy. Tennessee residents have mastered the art of layering.
You shed a few layers to stay comfortable when the weather starts cold in the morning and gets hotter by the hour. The area is extremely cold during winter, and most tourist attractions listed above are closed.
Perfect for Music Enthusiasts
Are you a budding musician looking for some inspiration? If yes, Tennessee is an excellent place for music lovers to explore and learn.
The Grand Ole Opry, Sun Studio, and Loretta Lynn’s Ranch are some of the top places where you can sample live music from other bands and see where world legends like Aretha Franklin, BB King, and Elvis Presley created their best works.
Tennessee whiskey is so good it has its own category. Tennessee uses a unique method to make whisky brands like the world-renowned Jack Daniels Whisky.
No Liquor on Sundays
You better stock up on liquor on your trip to Tennessee because the sale of packed alcohol is illegal on Sundays. You can only purchase alcohol in Tennessee between 8:00 a.m. and 11:00 p.m. from Monday to Saturday. You cannot purchase wine or liquor on most holidays.
Traffic Can Be a Mess
In Tennessee, the roads are ever-packed. Avoid scheduling your trips during peak hours, especially if you plan to visit cities like Nashville and Memphis. Leave the airport or your hotel way earlier to avoid inconveniences when you can’t avoid it.
People Carry Guns
It is legal for people to carry guns in Tennessee. Hunting is an activity majority of Tennessee residents enjoy. While those who own licenses aren’t allowed to brandish their weapons publicly, it is not a surprise to see quite a number of people who carry, own, and operate guns.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is known as the most beautiful part of Tennessee?
It’s debatable which part of Tennessee most people find the most attractive. The entire State Is incredibly vivacious. According to online reviews, The Great Smoky Mountain National Park is the most beautiful. It has the most scenic views and receives the highest number of tourists annually.
What is the best time to visit Tennessee?
The best time to visit Tennessee is during summer. The months between June and August have the perfect weather. It can get super humid and hot during the summer. If you want to avoid overheating, you can visit Tennessee in the cooler months from September to November during the Fall season.
How hard is it to drive in Nashville?
Traffic in Tennessee swells during rush hour. Slow traffic often occurs due to road construction and maintenance, accidents, and piles of trash on the road. Instead of driving, use a cab or find an experienced driver to ferry you to and from different places.
When does rush hour start in most Tennessee cities?
On weekdays, traffic jams occur from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. Schedule your trips around rush hour to avoid delays.
Is Tennessee safe?
>Reports showthat Tennessee ranks high for violent crimes and property crimes compared to other states. This State has the third-highest violent crime rate behind Alaska and New Mexico. On your visit to Tennessee, consider doing thorough research and only plan to make reservations in places where your safety and wellbeing are guaranteed.
So, What are the Best Places to Visit in Tennessee?
A well-deserved vacation in Tennessee is what you need to discover new things, places, and people you’ll remember for the rest of your life. Residents here are lucky to call some of the world’s most serene places home.
Beaming with wildlife and natural features, there will always be something new to see in Tennessee every time you visit.
There are many places to visit, people to meet, and food to try, all without going over budget in Tennessee. On your frantic quest to discover Tennessee, above is a comprehensive list of Tennessee’s 17 best places to visit.