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Top 10 Must-Visit Destinations in Tennessee: A Travel Guide

By Nick K, Posted on 05 Mar, 2023 at 07:39 am

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Top 10 Must-Visit Destinations in Tennessee

Tennessee is a destination like no other. From its vibrant cities to its majestic mountainous regions, the state offers something for everyone, making it the perfect place for a vacation. With so much to offer, it can be hard to decide where to go and what to do on your trip to Tennessee.

To help you out, we've compiled our top 10 must-visit destinations in the Volunteer State. 

Nashville: Home to the Country Music Capital of the World

Nashville is a place buzzing with music and culture, attracting world-wide attention for its unique mix of country, soul, gospel and other genres. Alongside an impressive lineup of live music venues, restaurants and bars, Nashville also boasts some of the best attractions in the south.

Here are our top three picks for must-see attractions in Nashville.


 Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum

This iconic museum is a must-see for anyone interested in learning about the history of country music. From memorabilia such as Elvis Presley’s guitar to unique photos and collections spanning generations, this museum offers an immersive look into the genre that has shaped American culture.

Visitors can explore interactive exhibits to learn more about their favorite stars or take part in entertaining competitions such as a karaoke challenge.

 Ryman Auditorium

Often referred to as “the mother church” of country music, this National Historic Landmark was once home to the Grand Ole Opry radio show from 1943–1974. Its stage has witnessed performances by legendary artists including Hank Williams Sr., Patsy Cline and Johnny Cash.

If you're looking for a bit of nostalgia while you’re there, check out one of their regular tours which offer visitors a glimpse into its storied past through audio recordings and original artifacts from notable performers who have graced its stage over time.

 The Parthenon

Built in 1897 for Tennessee’s Centennial Exposition, the Parthenon stands 44 feet tall and proudly displays replicas of various sculptures found inside Athens' original Parthenon temple located in Greece. This impressive structure serves not only as a museum but also as an art gallery displaying many works from local Tennessee artists throughout its halls.

Additionally, visitors can observe daily religious services happening at its altar or stroll through nearby Centennial Park - which features ponds, picnic areas and walking trails - during their visit while they soak up some sun on warmer days!

 Nashville Featured Hotels:

 Closest Destinations:

  • Franklin (21 miles)
  • Brentwood (14 miles)
  • Hendersonville (18 miles)


Memphis, Tennessee

Memphis, Tennessee is a vibrant city that is the birthplace of rock and roll, home to some of the most famous entertainment venues in America, and host to many attractions that appeal to tourists from all over the world. From the iconic Graceland estate to Beale Street and the National Civil Rights Museum, Memphis has something for everyone - no matter their interests. 

For those looking for a great experience in Memphis, here are the Top 3 Attractions:


Home to Elvis Presley, This elaborate mansion is one of the most famous tourist attractions in America. Located on a 13-acre estate just outside downtown Memphis, it’s easy to see why people are drawn here. Inside you will find pictures, artifacts and memorabilia from Elvis’ life.

Not only can you tour the inside of his home but also explore other buildings such as his auto museum with 23 vintage cars and an airplane hangar filled with aircrafts he owned including his customized Lisa Marie jetliner.


  Beale Street

Recognized as one of America’s most vibrant music scenes The historic street has been around since 1841 and is known for its lively atmosphere featuring live blues music almost every night. A stroll down this colorful street will take you past various restaurants, souvenir shops and even a few nightclubs that attract visitors from near and far.

It's also home to some impressive landmarks like W C Handy Park which offers outdoor concerts in the summertime


 National Civil Rights Museum

This award-winning museum chronicles African American history from pre-Civil War days up until modern times. It documents an era of oppression through engaging exhibits like Rosa Parks’ bus seat or photographs taken during civil rights marches or lynchings that occurred throughout history which are sure to leave an impression on any visitor who takes it all in while they explore this essential part of American history housed at this educational facility located on Mulberry Street next door to The Lorraine Motel where Dr Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated in 1968 making this location all that more important as well as emotionally stirring when visiting it today.

 Memphis Featured Hotels:

 Closest Destinations:

  • Southaven, MS (16 miles)
  • Germantown, TN (19 miles)
  • Olive Branch, MS (23 miles)


Gatlinburg: Gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Gatlinburg, Tennessee is the perfect destination for anyone looking for a nature-filled vacation. Located at the entrance of the 800,000 acre Great Smoky Mountains National Park, there are plenty of outdoor activities and fascinating attractions to explore.

Here are some of the top three attractions that Gatlinburg has to offer. 

  Great Smoky Mountains National Park

This natural wonder is one of America’s most visited national parks. With more than 800 miles of trails available for hiking and backpacking, visitors can experience a variety of terrain from lush forests and mountain peaks to cascading streams and waterfalls. Wildlife such as black bear, white-tailed deer, wild turkeys, bobcats and salamanders flourish in this area’s diverse habitats. The park also features many historical sites including old log cabins and cemeteries that date back centuries.

Whether you just want to take in the beauty of nature or immerse yourself in its history, a trip to this park is sure to be memorable.


  Ober Gatlinburg

his mountaintop amusement park is a great place for families looking for fun activities while visiting Gatlinburg. At Ober Gatlinburg, visitors can ride nine thrilling rides such as the Alpine Slide and Mountain Coaster as well as enjoy ice-skating on an Olympic size rink.

There’s also an indoor wildlife viewing area where you can observe local species like black bears, river otters and falcons up close. In addition to these attractions, the park offers scenic chairlift rides with spectacular views of Mt LeConte and beyond during your visit too!


  Ripley's Aquarium

If you’re looking for something unique during your stay in Gatlinburg then make sure you stop by Ripley's Aquarium! Home to over 10 thousand sea creatures from around the world, this interactive aquarium provides guests with an opportunity to see amazing sea life close up like never before.

From massive sharks gliding through the tank to colorful coral reefs teeming with tropical fish - it’s easy to get lost in this underwater wonderland!

Plus they have interactive touch pools so you can interact with starfish and stingrays while learning about ocean conservation too!

 Gatlinburg Featured Hotels:

 Closest Destinations:

  • Pigeon Forge (6 miles)
  • Sevierville (13 miles)
  • Knoxville (36 miles)


Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

Pigeon Forge, Tennessee is a popular tourist destination and boasts a wide range of attractions and activities for all types of travelers. Whether you’re looking for family-friendly thrills or something a bit more laid back, Pigeon Forge has it all.

Here are the top three attractions to check out when you visit Pigeon Forge: 



Dollywood is an amusement park located in the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. It was opened by country music icon Dolly Parton in 1986, and today it offers some of the most exciting rides, shows, and splashy attractions in the area. Thrill seekers will love rides like Wild Eagle, Lightning Rod, and Tennessee Tornado while kids can enjoy fun experiences like Chasing Rainbows and River Battle.

If you want to relax while still being entertained, make sure to check out one of the many shows that take place throughout the day like Dreamland Drive-In Show or Valley Theatre. 

  Titanic Museum Attraction

The Titanic Museum Attraction in Pigeon Forge is one of two locations worldwide featuring full-scale replicas of the grand ship that sank in 1912. As you walk around this interactive museum you will learn about various aspects of life on board such as first-class cabins or steerage class accommodations as well as facts about survivors and their stories. You can even touch an iceberg made from 28 tons of real ice!

Get lost in history with recreations including a reconstruction of Captain Smith’s cabin, sitting room theatre recreating the night sky before the disaster, life jackets worn by third-class passengers during their escape and much more! 

  The Island in Pigeon Forge

The Island at Pigeon Forge is an entertainment complex designed with fun for everyone in mind! There are plenty of shopping options at over 60 specialty stores offering a variety of merchandise from clothes to souvenirs; restaurants ranging from quick serve Mexican food to fine dining Italian cuisine; outdoor activities such as mini golf, go karting and laser tag; live entertainment including dueling pianos shows; carnival games; fountains with light displays for kids (and adults!) to enjoy; arcades and escape rooms perfect for family bonding time; plus much more!

With so much variety The Island makes for an unforgettable day trip experience no matter your age or interests!

 Pigeon Forge Featured Hotels:

 Closest Destinations:

  • Pigeon Forge (6 miles)
  • Sevierville (13 miles)
  • Knoxville (36 miles)

Chattanooga, Tennessee

Chattanooga, Tennessee is a city that offers plenty of outdoor activities and historic sites for visitors to enjoy. From the majestic mountains to the sparkling Tennessee River, the scenic beauty of this city is unparalleled. With so much to do in Chattanooga, it can be overwhelming to narrow down your choices for the top three attractions.

So here are our picks for the Top 3 Attractions in Chattanooga, Tennessee! 


  Tennessee Aquarium

The premier attraction in Chattanooga is undoubtedly the Tennessee Aquarium. Located on the banks of the Tennessee River, this impressive aquarium features more than 12,000 animals from around 600 species – including everything from freshwater fish and invertebrates to reptiles, amphibians and birds. In addition to their breathtaking exhibits and live animal presentations, they also offer a range of educational and interactive activities perfect for all ages.

Explore their butterfly garden or take a journey through their "River Journey" exhibit where you'll encounter river giants like American alligators and white sturgeons.

  Lookout Mountain

One of the most iconic landmarks in Chattanooga is Lookout Mountain, one of six parks managed by the National Park Service’s Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park. This incredible mountain has long been known as one of America's most beautiful natural sights with its awe-inspiring lookouts offering stunning panoramic views over several states including Alabama and Georgia.

Along with its stunning vistas, Lookout Mountain also boasts some incredible historical sites like Point Park; located at the summit featuring Battle of Lookout Mountain Monument which honors Union soldiers who fought bravely during 1863's Battle Above The Clouds; Ruby Falls-the tallest underground waterfall open to public view; Confederates Memorial State Historic Site which preserves Confederate cemetery where 526 soldiers were laid to rest; Cravens House which served as headquarters for Confederate General Braxton Bragg; and Ochs Museum that houses Civil War artifacts among many others items related to local history making it an ideal destination for history buffs! 

  Rock City

Nestled atop Lookout Mountain lies Rock City Gardens: renowned as one of seven wonders of the world! This unique attraction features ancient rock formations that are sure to mesmerize with its majestic beauty while spectacular views abound across seven states (Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi , North Carolina , Virginia and Kentucky). Explore their massive gardens filled with hundreds of varieties of flora including rare plants like carnivorous pitcher plants along with other favorites such as tulips and daffodils blooming throughout springtime!

Plus you'll find lush trails leading up Mt. Lovers Leap where you can enjoy even more stunning scenery from Lover's Leap Bridge or take pictures from Fairyland Caverns’ enchanted grotto while discovering their magical “See Seven States” panoramic vista!

 Chattanooga Featured Hotels:

 Closest Destinations:

  • Cleveland (24 miles)
  • Dalton, GA (30 miles)
  • Fort Oglethorpe, GA (15 miles)


Knoxville, Tennessee

Knoxville, Tennessee is a vibrant and lively city situated in the hills of East Tennessee. It is home to the University of Tennessee, several museums, and a bustling downtown area. Knoxville has something for everyone looking for a unique and exciting experience: from outdoor activities to shopping and dining, there's always something to do in this vibrant city. 

When it comes to attractions, Knoxville offers an array of entertainment for its visitors. Here are the top three attractions that you must visit when you come to the city: 

  Market Square

Located in the heart of downtown Knoxville, Market Square is one of the most popular destinations in town. This pedestrian-friendly plaza is full of life with buskers, street performers, live music, art galleries and more! The square has recently been renovated with a new stage, modern seating areas and plenty of room for all your events and activities! Market Square also hosts some of Knoxville's biggest festivals throughout the year such as Dogwood Arts Festival and Rhythm N' Blooms Festival. 

  Sunsphere Tower

One of the most iconic symbols in Knoxville is the 266-foot-tall Sunsphere Tower. Built for the 1982 World’s Fair, this gold sphere overlooks Downtown Knoxville and provides stunning panoramic views over Fort Loudoun Lake as well as surrounding mountains. Visitors can take an elevator up to an observation deck or simply admire its gleaming exterior from below - whatever you choose to do here will surely be memorable! 

  World's Fair Park

Right next door to the Sunsphere Tower lies World’s Fair Park - a sprawling urban park with lush gardens, walking trails and sculptures celebrating the history of Knoxville's 1982 World’s Fair. Many locals use this park for jogging or taking their pets on walks; however don't forget to check out special events like Live at Lunch concerts held here during summer months! Every year during late April through mid-July visitors can also explore over 200 vendors at The Farragut Friday Night Markets - just another reason why you should come experience Knoxville first hand! 

 Knoxville Featured Hotels:

 Closest Destinations:

  • Alcoa (14 miles)
  • Maryville (17 miles)
  • Farragut (10 miles)


Franklin: A Charming Small Town with Rich Civil War History and Boutique Shops

If you're looking for a charming small town with rich Civil War history and quaint boutique shops, look no further than Franklin, Tennessee. Located a few miles south of Nashville, this cozy hamlet offers something for everyone. From its unique attractions to its delicious local eateries, there's plenty to explore in this picturesque town.

Here are the top three must-see attractions when visiting Franklin: 



Carnton is a historic plantation located in Franklin. It served as a Confederate hospital during the Battle of Franklin in 1864, which was one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War. Today it serves as a museum where visitors can learn more about the battle and view original artifacts from that time period. Additionally, Carnton hosts various special events throughout the year such as living history demonstrations and musical performances. 

 Lotz House Museum

The Lotz House Museum is another historic attraction in Franklin that should not be missed. This antebellum home was built in 1858 by German immigrant Johann Albert Lotz and his family. During the Battle of Franklin it served as an encampment for Confederate soldiers who had been wounded in battle. Today, visitors can tour the house and learn more about this important site through interactive displays and guided tours. 

 Downtown Franklin

Finally, no visit to Franklin would be complete without exploring Downtown Franklin. This vibrant downtown area features some of the best shopping, dining and entertainment options around. You can find everything from quaint boutiques offering handmade jewelry to trendy restaurants serving up local favorites like ribs or fried catfish sandwiches. There's also plenty of art galleries and live music venues where you can catch some great live music from local acts or nationally touring bands alike!

 Franklin Featured Hotels:

 Closest Destinations:

  • Brentwood (6 miles)
  • Nashville (21 miles)
  • Spring Hill (11 miles)


Clarksville, Tennessee

Clarksville, Tennessee is a city situated to the northwest of Nashville and home to Fort Campbell. With its abundance of outdoor activities, friendly locals, and a variety of attractions, Clarksville has something for everyone to enjoy.

Here are the top three attractions that make Clarksville unique:


  Fort Defiance Civil War Park and Interpretive Center

Visitors to this park can take in the sights and sounds of a civil war battleground located right in downtown Clarksville. The scenic nature trails allow visitors to explore historic fortifications while learning about the battles fought here during the war. There’s also an interpretive center that houses exhibits, weapons displays, and interactive programs designed to give guests an immersive experience into civil war history. 

  Dunbar Cave State Park

This majestic cave was once used by Native Americans centuries ago as a place of shelter, worship, and healing. Now open to the public with guided tours available, visitors can explore this massive cave system with its beautiful stalactite formations and breathtaking views. In addition to exploring the cave system, visitors can also enjoy canoeing or fishing on Dunbar Lake or take part in one of their many educational programs offered year-round such as archery or wildflower walks. 

  Liberty Park and Marina

Located along the Cumberland River near downtown Clarksville lies this relaxing local park where locals often come for picnics or just some relaxation time away from the hustle and bustle of city life. The park offers plenty of opportunities for recreational activities such as swimming at their beach area or renting kayaks/canoes at their marina for exploration along the riverfronts.

There are also two playgrounds perfect for kids as well as pavilions that offer great spaces for parties or cookouts!

 Clarksville Featured Hotels:

 Closest Destinations:

  • Springfield (23 miles)
  • Franklin (68 miles)
  • Hopkinsville, KY (19 miles)

Johnson City

When it comes to a vacation destination in the state of Tennessee, there’s no better option than Johnson City. Located at the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, this city is home to some of the most stunning natural scenery in all of America. But that’s not all Johnson City has to offer! It’s also home to some excellent attractions that are sure to make your visit even more enjoyable. So if you’re planning a trip to Johnson City, here are the top 3 attractions you won’t want to miss: 

  Rocky Mount State Historic Site

Rocky Mount State Historic Site is an outdoor museum situated atop Buffalo Mountain. First established in 1936, this site contains more than 500 artifacts ranging from Native American tools and pottery to early pioneer relics. Visitors can take guided tours of the house and grounds or explore on their own as they learn about the history and culture of Appalachia. 

  Tipton-Haynes State Historic Site

This state historic site is located near downtown Johnson City and offers visitors a truly unique experience. Here, guests can tour ten historic buildings constructed between 1790 and 1930 – including two log cabins, a barn, spring house, smokehouse and schoolhouse. Through interactive exhibits and special events such as Civil War reenactments, visitors can gain insight into what life was like for Tennessee settlers during this period. 

  Tweetsie Trail

The Tweetsie Trail offers something for everyone – from leisurely strolls along its 10-mile paved path through scenic woods and meadows to adventurous hikes up steep hillsides with breathtaking views of east Tennessee. Whether you’re looking for an easy morning jog or a challenging afternoon hike, this trail is sure to meet your needs! Plus, visitors will find plenty of picnic tables along the way should they wish to stop for lunch or dinner during their exploration.

 Johnson City Featured Hotels:

 Closest Destinations:

  • Kingsport (20 miles)
  • Bristol (28 miles)
  • Elizabethton (14 miles)


Bristol: A City With Rich History and Great Attractions 

Nestled along the Tennessee-Virginia border, Bristol is a historic city with an abundance of attractions. From its roots in country music to its renowned racetrack, Bristol is a great place for a family vacation or weekend getaway. Here are the top three attractions that make Bristol so special: 

  Birthplace of Country Music Museum

This world-renowned museum is dedicated to preserving and celebrating the legacy of early country music in Bristol. Located near downtown Bristol, the museum features artifacts from some of the world's most famous artists, including Jimmie Rodgers, The Carter Family and more. Visitors can also enjoy live performances, interactive displays and educational programs about early country music history.

  Bristol Caverns

Take a step back in time with a visit to the fascinating subterranean world of Bristol Caverns! Located just outside of town, these limestone caves offer visitors the chance to explore their winding passages and see stunning underground formations like stalactites and stalagmites. Guided tours are available to help guests safely experience all that this natural wonder has to offer.

  Bristol Motor Speedway

Experience auto racing at its finest by visiting this legendary racetrack! Home to NASCAR events like the Food City 500 and Night Race, as well as other motorsport competitions such as drag racing and dirt track events, there's always something exciting going on at BMS. And even if you're not a fan of cars or racing, you can still have an unforgettable time watching from one of their grandstands or exploring their many attractions like Fan Zone and International Speedway Hall of Fame.

 Bristol Featured Hotels:

 Closest Destinations:

  • Kingsport (18 miles)
  • Johnson City (28 miles)
  • Abingdon, VA (18 miles)


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About Author

Nick K

Nick K, a travel blogger based in Europe, has been a solo traveler for over 15 years. He always has had his head over the skies and his backpack all over the world. He has traveled to over 30 countries and has penned down his experience with the motto of "on the next destination." He has written over 300+ blog posts written with a combo of videos and photography.