Things to Do in Tennessee - page 2
Though it is hundreds of miles from the coast, this large aquarium is home to more than 10,000 sea creatures and over 350 different marine species. Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies’ large size makes it a main attraction for the area, and it is said that there are more fish in the aquarium than people living in Gatlinburg.
Oceanic habitats on view include coral reefs, open seas, tropical rain forests and lagoons, while specialty animal habitats were created for sharks, rays and penguins. There is also an interactive “touch a ray” bay, a discovery center for children and a systems control tour that provides a behind-the-scenes look at how the aquarium runs Live shows featuring scuba divers and animal feedings take place daily.
Built in 1928, the Memphis Orpheum Theater is a historic theater and one of America’s few remaining “movie palaces” from the 1920s era. Before it was the Orpheum, it was the site of the Grand Opera House and home to vaudeville performances for nearly two decades. Since then it has withstood the threat of bankruptcy, demolition and being burnt to the ground to become known as the “South’s Finest Theater.”
Decorated with ornate crystal chandeliers, luxe draperies, carved moldings, and a large pipe organ, the theater was restored in 1996 to its former glory along with an expansion of the stage and backstage areas. Today, the theater hosts top Broadway shows, concerts, comedy shows, and special events year-round. Many famous faces have graced the Orpheum stage, and it continues to be a center for arts and entertainment and culture of Memphis.
Belmont Mansion offers Nashville visitors the chance to experience an antebellum-era home, complete with antique furnishings and period details. Uncover Belmont’s history and learn about its owner, Adelicia Acklen—one of the wealthiest and most successful women in 19th-century Tennessee.
Located in Nashville, the Patsy Cline Museum celebrates the life and career of the country music legend. The museum holds the largest collection of items related to the singer and includes hundreds of never-before-seen artifacts, personal belongings, costumes, furniture, and memorabilia, along with rare video footage.
Discover the story of soul music at the historic home of Stax Records, now the Stax Museum of American Soul Music. The museum lays out the legacy of one of soul music’s top record labels while also unraveling the evolution of soul music in America. Along the way, discover the backstory of artists ranging from Otis Redding to Aretha Franklin.
The Gatlinburg Museum is home to Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Odditorium, where “truth is stranger than fiction.” The museum boasts a collection of bizarre artifacts from all over the world spread over three floors, 16 galleries and 12,500 square feet. Visitors will find everything from an authentic shrunken head to the world’s rarest egg, two-headed animals, a spinning vortex tunnel and other unique works of art. See a 12-foot Transformer statue created from scrap metal parts, or view the authentic 19th-century vampire killing kit. There are over 500 exhibits, artworks and interactive displays that celebrate the strange and exotic.
At Belle Meade Historic Site & Winery, you can experience a sanctuary of Southern hospitality. Located just west of downtown Nashville, Tennessee, this historic site now functions as a museum and is a popular food and wine destination.
First occupied in 1807 and continually expanded throughout the 19th century, Belle Meade became world renowned as a first-rate thoroughbred horse-breeding establishment. Though a variety of tours and experiences are offered, the history of Belle Meade is covered in two tours: The Mansion Tour tells a century of Belle Meade’s history through the eyes of the Harding and Jackson families as well as the women, men, and children who labored here and contributed to the preeminence of this site. The Journey to Jubilee Tour, invites discussion and focuses on the enslaved individuals, telling their story both before and after emancipation. Book your tour online to guarantee entry.
Go behind the distilling scenes at the oldest registered distillery in the United States: Jack Daniel’s, founded in 1863 in Lynchburg, Tennessee. Learn the history behind the distillery that’s emblematic of Southern culture and find out how the legendary old No. 7 whiskey is made at the source.
The park at Court Square is a beautifully landscaped open space offering a change from the urban structures of the city. With a large fountain, gazebo, and benches, it is a popular spot for locals to enjoy a lunch break or a relaxing afternoon. In the summer months the park is home to outdoor concerts, food truck gatherings, karaoke contests, and other community events.
Situated right at the center of downtown Memphis, it is considered by many to be the heart of the city and thus is also a frequent meeting place. The square is surrounded by some of the most architecturally significant buildings in Memphis, and is recognized on the National Register of Historic Places. It is a great place to sit and relax in the shade while taking in some of the sights of Memphis, as the antique trolleys roll by.
Known for hosting live music tribute shows, the Main Event Theater is conveniently located on the Parkway in Pigeon Forge. At a show you get to rewind through country music history with Conway Twitty covers, blast through rock and roll's past with an Elvis impersonator, and revisit Las Vegas with the music of Neil Diamond and Tom Jones.
More Things to Do in Tennessee
Take in views of the spectacular Nashville skyline while rollin’ down the Cumberland River aboard the General Jackson Showboat. This Victorian-style riverboat includes a 2-story theater hosting a range of dinner shows, such as Taste of Tennessee and Music City Nights, as well as a Southern Sunday brunch.
Since 2006 the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville has been honoring musical super stars of all genres with displays, galleries and exhibitions highlighting one of the city’s main attractions: Live music. And while this destination has been a hot ticket since its inception, the museum relocated in 2010 to an even more impressive spot—the historic Nashville Municipal Auditorium—part exhibition hall, part convention center and part major music museum.
Visitors can spend several hours combing through interactive displays that showcase the best of music. An impressive Grammy exhibit pays homage to some of the world’s top performers, and an excellent audio tour offers passionate travelers an even deeper look into the collection at the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum.
Travelers can check out the museum on its own, or combine it with an evening catching live music on the city’s main strip. A tour of the museum can also be included as part of a larger exploration of Nashville’s scene, including the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.
Offering the beautiful outdoors, music, and history, this 342 acre (138.4 hectare) public park is what Memphis is all about. A visit to Overton Park can provide you with a relaxing afternoon filled with whatever activities you desire. If you're in the mood to lounge in the sun, play a game of Frisbee, or have a picnic, head over to Greensward, one of the largest open areas (about 3 acres/1.2 hectares) in Memphis with no designated purpose other than outdoor recreation.
If you came to Memphis for the music, then be sure to check out the historic Shell Theatre, the site where Elvis Presley gave his first paid concert in 1954. Nature lovers should visit the Old Forest Arboretum, a forest tract and natural arboretum. Walk along its trails and see over 300 different kinds of plants, and 32 species of trees. Veterans Plaza, which contains memorials to the veterans of Memphis and Shelby County, is also worth checking out.
Overton Park is also home to the Memphis Zoo and a 9-hole golf course.
Gorgeous blue mountain scenery, abundant wildlife, and a prime location within driving distance of the Eastern Seaboard make Great Smoky Mountains National Park the most visited national park in the United States. Come to camp, hike, and explore for an adventure-filled vacation, or stay and enjoy a mountain retreat away from it all.
When Nashville turned 200 it decided to throw a party—and to open a park. Since June, 1996, the 19-acre Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park has given locals and visitors a calm and scenic place to rest. The park boasts numerous features, like an impressive view of the Capitol building, erupting geyser fountains, an informative Civil War exhibit and a Greek amphitheater for live concerts.
Visitors can take an easy walk along the .9-mile paved Bicentennial Mall Trail, or stop at the nearby Nashville Farmers’ Market before picnicking on the well-kept lawns. The 200-fee wide granite map on the park’s southern end gives visitors a bird’s eye view of the state and at the park’s northern end, travelers can wander the short Path of Volunteers and the flora-lined Walkway of Counties.
Nashville may be the country music capital of America, but the Schermerhorn Symphony Center brings a touch of class to a bustling downtown area that’s filled with gritty bars and live music venues.
Since 2006, the Center’s Laura Turner Concert Hall has been home to the Grammy Award-winning Nashville Symphony. Its natural lighting, 30 soundproof windows and custom-built organ make for a unique concert experience. The smaller Mike Curb Family Music Education Hall hosts performances for children, schools and families as part of the Center’s Music Education City initiative.
While the symphony is one of the hottest tickets in Nashville, visitors say even if you can’t catch a performance, it’s still worth touring the grand space and wandering through the beautiful public Martha Rivers Ingram Garden Courtyard on a trip to Nashville.
Victorian Village, an historic neighborhood once known as Millionaire’s Row, is lined with grand mansions dating back to the mid to late 1800s. Some of these Victorian-era estates, including the Mallory Neely House, James Lee House, and Woodruff-Fontaine House, have been converted into museums, inns, and even a nightlife hot spot.
Nashville is regarded as one of the best music cities in the United States, so it comes as no surprise there is a Hard Rock Café in town. Opened in 1994, the Hard Rock Café Nashville has become a beloved part of the city. It’s conveniently located downtown, near a number of other music related spots like the Johnny Cash Museum, George Jones Museum, and Schermerhorn Symphony Center.
The café underwent a renovation in 2009 that preserved the legacy of the original location, but made needed technological upgrades and enhancements. Today, the Hard Rock Café Nashville has nearly 13,000 square feet of space that includes a 378-seat restaurant, open-air terrace, the signature Hard Rock Shop, and an impressive state-of-the-art concert venue.
Like other Hard Rock Cafes around the world, the Hard Rock Café Nashville features music memorabilia on the walls. Be sure to tour the restaurant and see various guitars, platinum records, and more.
The historic RCA Studio B is where Nashville’s legendary music scene began. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this Tennessee studio is credited as being the epicenter of Music City and the place where the Nashville Sound originated. RCA Studio B has recorded more than 35,000 songs—many of them platinum hits.
Situated in Nashville’s Riverfront Park, Fort Nashborough was where James Robertson and his band of settlers founded the city back in 1780. While the original fort—built to defend the first families from Native American attacks—is gone, the site currently has a smaller replica of what the original might have looked like.
Arguably America’s musical heart, a cultural melting pot that created the rhythm and blues sound, Memphis has a number of tourist attractions dedicated to the craft. Local favorites—some well-known, some more obscure—are celebrated in the Memphis Music Hall of Fame, a small upstairs Smithsonian-branded museum, which shares a building with the Hard Rock Café Memphis and a retail outlet of Memphis clothier Lansky Bros. The museum is the headquarters for an off-site annual induction ceremony that adds new note-worthy blues, soul, and rock musicians from the city to its ranks—among its honored acts Al Green, Justin Timberlake, Johnny Cash, David Porter, Elvis Presley, and B.B. King.
Visitors can read about the perfect storm that led to a burgeoning music scene in Memphis, and browse interactive displays offering information about inductees’ and their discographies. There’s also videos and large glass cases housing prized possessions including a playbill and guitar used by Johnny Cash; Isaac Hayes’ white, electric organ; Elvis Presley’s briefcase telephone; and one of Al Green’s green suits. There’s also a bevvy of outlandish, shiny and ostentatious costumes worn by inductees (including one ornamented with a stuffed snake), an Oscar from the movie Hustle and Flow, and ½ of Jerry Lee Lewis’ baby blue Cadillac protruding from a wall.
Visitors to the Red Skelton Tribute Theater can enjoy one of the two long-running shows: Brian Hoffman's Red Skelton tribute, which recreates the beloved comedian’s characters and skits from radio and television, or musician Patty Waszak’s variety show, which includes standards and rock favorites performed on a variety of instruments.
With a history dating back to 1879, Hatch Show Print is one of the oldest continually working letterpress print shops in the country. A Nashville icon, Hatch Show Print is known for its distinctive use of bold colors, hand-carved type, and eye-catching imagery, and has produced show and concert posters for performers of all types.
Oddities and artifacts abound in the permanent collections of the free-to-the-public Tennessee State Museum, together they tell the story of this particular swath of the American South from 12,000 years ago to the early 1900s. The main exhibit space consumes the ground floor of the massive office tower at the James K. Polk Cultural Center, and is divided into six eras such as the “First Tennesseans,” “Civil War and Reconstruction,” and the “New South.” The Military Branch Museum, a vestige of the museum’s former nearby location in the War Memorial Building prior to its 1981 move, is run separately and offers an in depth look into major battles from the Spanish American War to World War II featuring weapons, uniforms, flags and personal items from Tennessee soldiers.
Among the more unusual finds in the main space are a 3,600-year-old mummy brought by Tennessean merchant marine to the state during the prosperous antebellum period, a Frontier-era log cabin showing colonial life, mastodon bones, a huge collection of quits, a hand-drawn Confederate battle field map, a covered wagon, a horse-drawn fire engine with brass water pump, Daniel Boone’s cutlery set and pocket knife, an early model of a flying machine, a moonshine sill, a model of a white wooden riverboat, Andrew Jackson’s personal items and a leather jacket once worn by former President Dwight D. Eisenhower during his role as a WWII General. Rotating exhibitions keep things fresh and have included artwork from Japanese museums, the original Emancipation Proclamation, photographs of Elvis and a collaborative exhibit with the adjacent Tennessee Performing Arts Center on Tennessee’s African American musical heritage. Though captivating for school children and adults, there is little interactive here to entertain families with very young children. Plans for a shiny new State Museum, proposed for a location along Bicentennial Mall a few blocks away, are in the works.
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