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The 19 Best Things to Do in Tennessee (Our Picks for 2023)

The 19 Best Things to Do in Tennessee (Our Picks for 2023)

Tennessee is a popular vacation destination for individual travelers, couples, and families. The state is home to many attractions, from museums and aquariums to natural parks and historic studios.

The whole family will find plenty of things to see and do on a trip to Tennessee! We’ll show you 19 of our favorite activities, why we love each one, and a few things to consider when planning your trip.

The 19 Best Attractions in Tennessee in 2023

If you want to explore the history of music, Tennessee is the place to go. From Graceland to the Memphis Rock n Soul Museum, there is a lot to see and learn here.

Country music fans will want to check out the Country Music Hall of Fame as well as Dollywood! If you are interested in exploring the natural environment of Tennessee, be sure to make a trip to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

‘Other opportunities to discover the great outdoors include Foster Falls and the Forbidden Caverns.

Whatever you are looking for in a vacation, you are sure to find it in Tennessee. Take a look at our list of 19 of the top attractions in the state, and start planning your next trip!

1. Grand Ole Opry

Live bands performing on the stage of Grand Ole Opry, brightly lit with white and yellow, as one of the best things to do in Tennessee


Showcasing new and established country music artists, the Grand Ole Opry offers live performances for you to enjoy. Take a tour of the facility and see what happens behind the scenes.

Visit the theater, hear stories about famous country musicians, and check out the live TV studio. You’ll also get to see the famous wooden circle where many artists have performed.

Good to Know:

  • Located at 600 Opry Mills Drive in Nashville
  • Reserved parking is available for evening performances
  • You cannot bring your own food and drinks to the venue
  • Doors open 30-60 minutes before the performance begins

Read Next: Best Things to Do in Nashville in 2023

2. Graceland

Several people gathered at the entrance of The Graceland Mansion, which was once an abode of the late Elves Presley and one of the best things to do in Tennessee


Fans of Elvis Presley will want to make a trip to Graceland! This 120-acre property includes a mansion and gardens as well as historic cars and aircraft that the King of Rock and Roll used.

You will get to see his famous costumes, personal artifacts, and records. Graceland is open daily for visitors and there are special events throughout the year including concerts and special Christmas tours.

Good to Know:

  • Located at 3717 Elvis Presley Boulevard in Memphis
  • Discounts are available for children, youth, seniors, military members, law enforcement, and firefighters
  • There are two restaurants and one hotel on site
  • Entry to the Meditation Garden to visit Elvis’ gravesite is free between 7:30-8:30 AM daily

3. Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Sun rising over the vast cold Great Smoky Mountains National Park, one of the best things to do in Tennessee

Lamar Sellers/Shutterstock

Nature lovers will enjoy exploring this national park that covers over 500,000 acres. About half of the park lies in Tennessee and the other half in North Carolina.

With over 150 hiking trails, you can spend days here seeing the mountains, waterfalls, and nature. Many different animals live in the park, including black bears, bobcats, elk, foxes, rabbits, turtles, and salamanders.

Read Next: Best National Parks in the United States in 2023

Good to Know:

  • Entrance to the park is free
  • Most secondary roads in the park are closed during winter
  • Dogs are not allowed on most of the park trails
  • Campsites are available in the park as well as Le Conte Lodge

4. Country Music Hall of Fame

Guitars, used by the renowned American Musician Chet Atkins also know as Mr. Guitar and The Country Gentleman, displayed in The Country Music Hall of Fame which is one of the best things to do in Tennessee

Brenda Kean/Shutterstock

Take a trip to downtown Nashville to visit the Country Music Hall of Fame. This facility boasts 350,000 square feet of space including theaters, galleries, an education center, and retail shops.

Learn about the history of country music as you explore videos, photographs, and sound recordings. You will enjoy looking at the costumes, musical instruments, posters, and music books belonging to various artists.

Good to Know:

  • Located at 222 Rep. John Lewis Way S. in Nashville
  • Open daily from 9 AM to 5 PM
  • Food and beverages are available onsite at the Red Onion

5. Tennessee Aquarium

The Tennessee Aquarium is one of the best things to do in Tennessee which houses thousands of animal species, pictured with its signage and facilities during a cloudy day

Rob Hainer/Shutterstock

Make a trip to Chattanooga for the incredible Tennessee Aquarium. You will get to see animals such as penguins, sharks, turtles, crocodiles, and octopuses.

Take in a show at the fantastic IMAX theater, then browse the gift shop for a souvenir to take home with you. For an additional cost, you can plan a behind-the-scenes tour to learn even more about what happens at the aquarium.

Good to Know:

  • Located at 1 Broad Street in Chattanooga
  • Discounted fees for children and youth
  • Food and beverages are available for purchase onsite
  • Open daily

6. Dollywood

A couple posing for a picture and a crowd in Dollywood, a famous attraction and one of the best things to do in Tennessee

Michael Gordon/Shutterstock

People of all ages will enjoy a trip to Dollywood, one of Tennessee’s most popular attractions. This theme park features over 50 rides, including Tennessee Tornado and Daredevil Falls.

Cool off at the Splash Country waterpark or dine at one of the many restaurants in the park. You can even spend the night at the DreamMore Resort and Spa or the Smoky Mountain Cabins.

Good to Know:

  • Located at 2700 Dollywood Parks Blvd. in Pigeon Forge
  • Discounted tickets are available to military families
  • Baby Care Centers offer private nursing areas and changing stations
  • Strollers are available to rent at the park

7. RCA Studio B

A bus, painted with pictures of recording artists, parked in front of the famous RCA Studio B which is one of the best things to do in Tennessee

Michael Gordon/ Shutterstock

Founded in 1957, the famous RCA Studio B helped put Nashville on the map when it comes to music. Musicians such as Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison, Willie Nelson, and Dolly Parton have all recorded hits at this studio.

Tours of the studio take place multiple times a day. Learn about some of your favorite musicians and the songs that made them famous.

Good to Know:

  • Located at 222 Rep. John Lewis Way S. in Nashville
  • Recording sessions are available for additional fees
  • Work with a songwriter from Nashville to produce your own song

8. National Civil Rights Museum

People looking at Rosa Parks exhibit alongside an old bus at the National Civil Rights Museum, one of the best things to do in Tennessee

Gino Santa Maria/Shutterstock

Learn about African-American history and human rights at the National Civil Rights Museum.

Here you can view films and artifacts about the Montgomery bus boycott, Black power, sit-ins, and slavery.

Good to Know:

  • Located at 450 Mulberry Street in Memphis
  • Museum is open 9 AM to 5 PM; closed on Tuesdays
  • Discounted tickets for seniors, children, and youth
  • Military members may enter for free

9. Lookout Mountain

Pictured Point Park Civil War Cannon Monument on Lookout Mountain, with an aerial view of Chattanooga skyline, as a piece on one of the best things to do in Tennessee

Kevin Ruck/Shutterstock

Lookout Mountain features three major attractions. First, visit Ruby Falls, the tallest and deepest underground waterfall in the United States that is open to visitors.

Next, visit Rock City, home to over 400 species of plants, a waterfall, and local art installations. Lastly, take a ride on the Incline Railway, one of the steepest passenger trains in the world.

Good to Know:

  • Reservations are required for Ruby Falls
  • Food is available for purchase at each attraction
  • All attractions are located just southwest of downtown Chattanooga

10. Memphis Rock n Soul Museum

Take a self-guided tour at the Memphis Rock n Soul Museum. Learn about the history of these musical genres while listening to famous songs. You will enjoy viewing instruments and costumes from some of rock and soul’s greatest musicians. 

Good to Know:

  • Museum is open daily from 10 AM to 5 PM
  • Discounts available for youth, military members, and AARP members
  • Located at 191 Beale St. in Memphis

11. Sugarlands Distilling Company

Open glass doors of Sugarlands Distilling Company, one of the best things to do in Tennessee, welcoming people during a bright clear day

Hendrickson Photography/Shutterstock

Visitors over the age of 21 will enjoy a trip to the Sugarlands Distillery. Here you can sample their award-winning moonshine and whiskey.

Take a tour of the stillhouse and learn the secrets of how these beverages are made. After your tour, take in the free entertainment in the barnhouse.

Good to Know:

  • Located at 805 Parkway in Gatlinburg
  • Open daily from 10 AM to 10:30 PM

12. Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum

Operator seen by the window of an old train in Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum, pictured as a piece on one of the best things to do in Tennessee during a partly cloudy day

Bob Pool/Shutterstock

Discover the history of the Tennessee Valley Railroad in Chattanooga. This museum offers the opportunity to not only learn about the railway but to ride on a restored train!

See diesel engines, steam locomotives, and vintage trains at the museum. Train rides of various lengths are offered, including special dinner trains. The conductors provide an interactive, educational experience for all ages.

Good to Know:

  • Located at 4119 Cromwell Road in Chattanooga
  • Rides are available daily from March to October
  • Holiday train rides are available at Christmas and New Year’s

13. Ryman Auditorium

Spacious interior of the well known Ryman Auditorium consisting rows of long wooden chairs and hanging spotlights, photographed from the upper section as a piece on one of the best things to do in Tennessee


This stunning venue was home to the Grand Ole Opry from the 1940s to the 1970s. It is considered the birthplace of bluegrass. Performers including Elvis, Johnny Cash, and Patsy Cline have appeared at the Ryman Auditorium.

Take in some musical entertainment here while sitting in the oak pews from the 1800s and enjoying the incredible acoustics. Learn about country music history on a self-guided or group tour.

Good to Know:

  • Located at 116 Rep. John Lewis Way N. in Nashville
  • Tours are available daily from 9 AM to 4 PM
  • Outside food and beverages are not permitted

14. Market Square

People enjoying lunch during a clear day at a series of restaurants in historic buildings and commercial properties on the Market Square, one of the best things to do in Tennessee

Alizada Studios/Shutterstock

Visitors to Knoxville will want to spend some time at the Market Square downtown. Since the 1800s, this historic square has offered a place to enjoy entertainment, shopping, and restaurants.

The Farmers Market runs from May to November on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Throughout the year, you will find events like art festivals, outdoor movies, Shakespeare plays, jazz performances, and a skating rink.

Good to Know:

  • Parking in adjacent garages is free after 6 PM and on weekends
  • Pets are welcome in Market Square
  • There are benches available to rest and people-watch
  • Kids can enjoy the water play fountains

15. Smoky Mountain Deer Farm and Exotic Petting Zoo

A closeup photo of a young deer in Smoky Mountain Deer Farm and Exotic Petting Zoo, one of the best things to do in Tennessee


This 140-acre property is home to a range of animals, including goats, camels, zebras, reindeer, elk, camels, deer, emu, and donkeys. Enjoy petting these creatures and feeding them as you wander through the space.

Young children can ride on the ponies, while people of all ages can take advantage of the 30 to 60-minute horseback rides. The trails are mostly shady, making this a nice excursion on a summer day.

Good to Know:

  • Open daily from 10 AM to 5:30 PM
  • Discounts available for children and youth
  • Located at 478 Happy Hollow Lane in Sevierville
  • Reservations are required for horseback riding

16. Sun Studio

A photo of Sun Studio, titled as


Called the birthplace of rock and roll, Sun Studio offers educational and entertaining tours. Learn about the culture and history of the Memphis music scene.

This is the place where Elvis made his first recording. Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, and Roy Orbison also recorded at this studio. You will get to hear recording session outtakes from various musicians during your tour.

Good to Know:

  • Open daily with guided tours every hour
  • Located at 706 Union Avenue in Memphis
  • Discounted tickets for children, youth, students, and military
  • Free parking onsite
  • Not wheelchair accessible
  • No children under age 5 are allowed on the tour

17. Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies

one of the best things to do in Tennessee watching a giant turtle and a school of fished in background at Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies


Discover all sorts of sea creatures at Ripley’s Aquarium, including sand tiger sharks, green sea turtles, and penguins. You can even touch stingrays and moon jellies at the hands-on exhibits.

For additional fees, you can get up close and personal with some of these animals. Ride on the glass bottom boat, feed a sea turtle, or visit with a penguin.

Good to Know:

  • Located at 88 River Road in Gatlinburg
  • Parking available directly behind the aquarium
  • Strollers and wheelchairs are available onsite

18. Peabody Hotel

gigantic signage with red light outline on top of the building of Peabody Hotel and a US flag, seen as one of the best things to do in Tennessee

Vesa Airio/Shutterstock

This elegant hotel was built in 1869 and is known for the Peabody Duck March. Twice a day, five resident ducks march to the hotel’s fountain for visitors to observe.

A tradition since the 1940s, these charming ducks are a hit with both children and adults. When they are not showing off for visitors, they reside in the Royal Duck Palace on the hotel’s rooftop.

Good to Know:

  • Located at 149 Union Avenue in Memphis
  • Peabody Duck March occurs at 11 AM and 5 PM daily
  • Ducks are North American mallards; one male and four females

19. Forbidden Caverns

Go underground for a unique exploration of the Forbidden Caverns. Featuring special lighting effects and guided tours, these caverns are fun for all ages.

See impressive calcite formations, chimneys, and grottos, as well as cave onyx and a stream. These caverns were once used to make moonshine and opened to the public in 1967.

Good to Know:

  • Located at 455 Blowing Cave Road in Sevierville
  • Open April to November; closed on Thursdays and Sundays
  • Free parking available
  • Visitors must navigate slippery surfaces, narrow passageways, and several stairs
  • Outdoor picnic area available for guests 

Things to Consider

Image of Nashville, Tennessee at dusk with an aerial shot of the skyline over the river

Sean Pavone/Shutterstock

When planning a trip to Tennessee, one of the main things you will want to consider is your budget. This will determine what type of activities you will do, where you will stay, and so on.

Be realistic about how much you can afford for this trip and plan accordingly. Some attractions offer free or discounted prices on certain days. Seniors, students, and members of the military may also be eligible for discounted fees.

Always ask at hotels and attractions if there are any discounts you may be eligible for. Do not try to cram too much into your vacation — that is a sure way to make a trip stressful.

Consider choosing one major city or area of Tennessee to explore and focusing your time there. Traveling from city to city can eat up a lot of your precious vacation time. Expect the best but plan for the worst.

We all want perfect weather on our vacation, but this isn’t always the reality. Tennessee is in the top ten rainiest states– pack an umbrella and research indoor activities to do if the weather takes a turn for the worse.

Frequently Asked Questions

Evening view of the old mill in Pigeon Forge, one of the best things to do in Tennessee, with the river flowing over the dam

Kevin Ruck/Shutterstock

What is the number 1 attraction in Tennessee?

With over 3 million visitors each year, Dollywood is the most popular attraction in Tennessee. This theme park has something for the whole family including rides, concerts, a water park, and a spa. The park has won numerous awards for its restaurants, entertainment, and children’s activities.

What’s Tennessee most famous for?

Tennessee is known for its country music. Nashville, Tennessee is considered the country music capital of the world. Tennessee is home to the Grand Ole Opry, Graceland, and the Country Music Hall of Fame.

What is the prettiest part of Tennessee?

You will find stunning scenery at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee. More visitors come to this park than any other national park in the United States. You will enjoy the view of the mountains, forest, and flowering plants.

Is there anything to do in Tennessee?

We sure think so! Tennessee offers a range of attractions for all ages. There is an abundance of natural parks to explore as well as museums and art galleries. You can also find concerts, theaters, aquariums, and zoos in Tennessee.

Is Tennessee safe to visit?

Although Tennessee has a higher than average
crime rate, it is generally considered safe to visit if you take proper precautions. Use common sense and follow practices that you would in any large city, such as not walking alone at night and keeping your belongings secure.

Your Turn — Book Your Tennessee Adventure Today!

Tennessee is home to dozens of spots that will educate and entertain the whole family. Take in the scenic beauty of the area with a trip to one of the state’s natural attractions.

Learn about the culture and history of this part of the country by visiting one of the many museums. Wherever you choose to spend your time, we’re sure you will enjoy your time in Tennessee!