One of the greatest advantages commensurate with life in the United States is that the country offers an unrivaled variety of desirable vacations destinations regardless of your preference of leisure-time activities. Despite the numerous options, anyone planning a vacation to a distinctive American locale would be remiss not to consider one of the beautiful Tennessee cities we have described below.
Tennessee is an excellent vacation option due to the state's varied attractions. Tennessee's story occupies a huge and significant segment of American history. From its time as a colonial frontier backwater to its present position as the Mecca of country music, the state has always played an outsize role in the United States. This story is on display in the museums, restaurants, boardwalks, and vast landscapes that give Tennessee its unique and alluring character.
What is the Best Time to Visit Tennessee?
As is the case with many cities in similar climate zones, Tennessee is not at its best during the winter months, with the possible exception of Christmas time. Many cities across the state decorate their entire downtown areas for yuletide festivities which maximizes the charm of all Tennessee cities, large or small. Outside the Christmas option, the best options are spring and fall as the summer can be uncomfortably warm.
April through the first weeks of June is a great time to visit Tennessee. The state's rural areas are in full bloom making outdoor activities a great way to see Tennessee's spectacular scenery. In spring, Tennessee cities come to life with music, outdoor restaurants, and a variety of festivals that can be selected to accommodate visitors of all ages.
Fall is when the tourism industry in Tennessee winds down for the year which can be a great advantage for visitors who prefer less hustle and bustle. The cities have not calmed down entirely; there will still be plenty to do and plenty of live music to see. In the rural areas of the state, the fall colors are awe-inspiring, providing a unique take on Tennessee's varied physical features.
What Types of Activities Are There to Do in Tennessee?
Tennessee draws a massive number of visitors every year based on the variety of attractions in the state. Tennessee's history is long and tortuous; you can visit a plantation from the antebellum period of the state's history, a civil war battlefield, and a venue famous for its impact on the trajectory of music and culture in the United States, all on the same trip. Alongside the state's rich history, visitors can experience the living, breathing culture of Tennessee through distinctive cuisine, an impressive collection of museums, and its many music venues.
When visitors leave the confines of Tennessee cities, they will find one of the most stunning states in the Union. From the Great Smoky Mountains in the East to the Northern reaches of the Mississippi River Delta in the West, visitors will find no shortage of space to use for all kinds of outdoor activities.
Top 5 Tennessee Cities
Below we have described our favorite Tennessee cities, but we would be remiss not to note that the Volunteer state has a lot more to offer than we can describe here. So, while our list is informative, it is far from exhaustive. We encourage you to use the following information as a jumping off point to explore the ins and outs of a truly beautiful state.
If you are a fan of country music, Nashville is a must-see city for your trip to Tennessee. In addition to famous venues like The Grand Ole Opry and the Tennessee Performing Arts Center, Nashville is replete with hole-in-the-wall live music venues in which the stars of tomorrow hone their craft.
After you have spent the night out enjoying some of the best country artists in the United States, you can rest up and relax away an afternoon in the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Country music is only the beginning of all Nashville has to offer its visitors; the city is also home to an impressive array of history and culture. Nashville hosts four, year-round art walks which feature both contemporary and classical styles, a multitude of historical sites including Andrew Jackson's Hermitage, and a bevy of well-reputed restaurants which serve both traditional Southern cuisine and innovative, new-age dishes.
Memphis, situated in the far western portion of the state, attracts visitors based on its illustrious history and its top-of-line cuisine. Rock 'n' roll fans will enjoy a visit to Graceland, the lavish estate where Elvis Presley lived during the most influential years of his career; Sun Studios, where Elvis recorded his first and many subsequent records; and the Memphis Museum of Rock 'n' Soul which is home to multitudinous memorabilia which captures the rich cultural influence of Memphis's most celebrated musicians.
Visitors to Memphis can take a step further back in the city's history with an excursion to the Cotton Museum, the Victorian Village, and the Davie's Manor Plantation, all of which offer a unique glimpse into life in 19th century Tennessee. These historical landmarks are perfectly complimented by Memphis's stunning collection of both classical and contemporary art much of which is housed in the Dixon Gallery, the Belz Museum of Art, and the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art.
In addition to the diverse cultural landmarks described above, visitors to Memphis will have ubiquitous access to arguably the best barbecue in the country. With an amalgam of the most popular styles of barbecue in the country, there is absolutely no reason to go hungry in Memphis.
Unlike its larger neighbors to the East, Knoxville is a largely unknown destination, yet, it is one of the best Tennessee cities to visit, especially for families with younger children. Knoxville's downtown area is one of the oldest urban centers in the state, and it has a number of historical landmarks which are easily identified and appreciated on one of Knoxville's walking tours. After a little sight-seeing downtown, visitors have access to a wide variety of museums, many of which are family-friendly, right in the heart of Knoxville.
One of the most alluring aspects of Knoxville for potential visitors is the city's proximity to Great Smoky Mountain National Park which is less than an hour away. In addition to the activities available in the park, visitors have a plethora of options for hiking, mountain biking, and canoeing in the beautiful mountains surrounding Knoxville.
Sports fans, particularly football fans, may be drawn to Knoxville as the home of the University of Tennessee Volunteers. UT is one of the largest and oldest university systems in the United States with a stunning flagship campus just Southwest of the Knoxville's downtown core; it is well worth a visit, even if you haven't managed to get ahold of tickets to see the Vols.
Like Knoxville, Chattanooga is one of the lesser-known Tennessee cities that is ideal for a family vacation with the kids. Chattanooga is famous for Ruby Falls, the largest underground waterfall in the country, and Lookout Mountain Cave. Adventurous visitors can ascend Lookout Mountain by rail, enjoy the spectacular views, and then descend the mountain by zip-line.
Chattanooga is also renowned for its collection of distinctly American art, especially work produced in the 18th and 19th century American South. Visitors should be sure to visit the Hunter Museum of American Art which is just a short walk along the Tennessee River from the Bluff View Art District where a wide variety of art is on display for both appreciation and purchase.
Visitors with children should pay a visit to some of the many family-friendly attractions which include an aquarium, a zoo, and an interactive railroad museum.
Johnson City is the perfect destination for visitors who prefer a quiet, visually spectacular location. Nestled among the Appalachian Mountains, the city is proximate to many state parks in which visitors can go hiking, biking, boating, and horseback riding along the scenic banks of the Nolichucky River.
History buffs will enjoy a short drive to nearby Jonesborough, the mountainous hamlet in which American legends Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone spent the formative years of their lives.
Within the city limits, Johnson City boasts an array of museums, including the largest natural history museum in the state, alongside numerous live music venues, restaurants, craft breweries, and historic architecture that rivals the attractions of the best Tennessee cities, all without sacrificing a small-town feel.
For the best possible vacation to Tennessee, visitors should consider going during the spring or the fall, unless, of course, you chose to spend your Christmas in Tennessee. On arrival, you can create a trip that includes all Tennessee has to offer. No matter which city you use to anchor your trip, you will have the opportunity to visit museums on par with most lauded galleries in the country before you dine on Tennessee's unique cuisine and enjoy live music in a unique and charming venue. When you are ready to leave the city, you will find a spectacular countryside to explore. At some point, you may even find the strength to leave.