Though home to some of the biggest cities in the South, Tennessee’s roots as a rural wonderland for outdoorsmen remain unchanged, offering tourists no shortage of opportunities for scenic hiking, camping, and boating adventures. To wit, one of the state’s most cherished features is Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Not only is it one of the most visited nature destinations in all of America, it’s also a designated World Heritage Site, covering 800s square miles of some of the most beautiful landscapes in the country.
The live music scene
As a hotbed for rock ‘n’ roll, country, and blues, Tennessee has always had a reputation for great live music. Catch a concert at the legendary Grand Ole Opry, operating out of Nashville since 1925. Take a walk down Memphis’ famous Beale Street to hear up and coming artists crooning under the neon signs. Step into the historic Bijou Theater and you’ll hear real musicians with real instruments playing real music. Sure there are plenty of DJs for hire in Knoxville, TN, too, but when you have the best performers in the world playing live, why settle?
History and heritage
Fun fact: There are no less than 168 historic sites across the state, including 71 Civil War battlefields. History buffs can tour the Burkle Estate, a Memphis home once used by the Underground Railroad to smuggle runaway slaves to freedom. Nashville’s Hermitage allows visitors to wander the same perfectly preserved plantation halls as its most famous owner, President Andrew Jackson. At Bleak House in Knoxville, you can see cannonballs still embedded in the walls. The past is never forgotten in Tennessee, because it’s still alive in the present.
There’s not a state in the South that doesn’t claim to have the best barbecue in the world, but only Tennessee is telling the truth. No, really. Whether you order the slow-roasted baby-back ribs slathered in sticky vinegar and tomato sauce or the melt-in-your-mouth hickory-smoked pork shoulder rubbed with chili powder and paprika, one taste of Memphis-style BBQ is enough to convert even the staunchest Yankee into a true believer. Foodies take note, a culinary tour through Tennessee may not be healthy for your waistline, but it does wonders for the soul.
It’s not a myth. Southern hospitality is real, and Tennessee natives take it seriously. Far above any scenic overlook, tourist trap, monument, memorial, or museum, if you want one good reason to visit this state, the very best one is this: we’re all family here. And when you cross that Mason-Dixon line, you’re family too.