Famous for its whiskey, being the birthplace of Country Music and the Blues, the Great Smokey Mountains, its network of over 10,000 caves, being home to Elvis’s beloved mansion, and its famous vibrant and soulful cities, Tennessee is one of the most alluring and captivating states in the USA.
The landscapes here are pretty special too, from rolling farmlands to spectacular waterfalls, here are the best and most beautiful places to visit in Tennessee…
1. Nashville – the famous vibrant music city which is one of the best places to visit in Tennessee
Apart from its strategic location during the Revolutionary War, Nashville is known for its worldwide country music. A hub of the large recording industry, the city is full of music attractions including the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum and the Ryman Auditorium.
Spend time exploring the musical heritage, southern hospitality and architectural buildings of the city. Nicknamed the Athens of the South, Nashville is home to the majestic Parthenon and the Athena statue for those looking for a slice of history.
Take a walk across the John Seigenthaler Bridge, Cumberland Park or tour the historic Belle Meade Plantation, this capital city is an iconic heritage of Tennessee.
2. Smokey Mountains National Park – one of the most famously beautiful places to visit in Tennessee
Renowned for its pristine mountains, alpine waterfalls, vast biodiversity and spruce-fir forests, the Smokey Mountains National Park is America’s most visited national park.
Whether you begin your journey in the quaint town of Gatlinburg, Townsend, or Sevier County, the park’s famous paths along the way offer many accessible spots to unwind yourself.
Soak up some scenery at the Cades Cove, Newfound Gap and Ramsey Falls or hike the lofty Clingmans Dome and Mount Le Conte, every trip of the Smokies is full of adventures.
Be it the Appalachian Trail, a wildflower walk, or a trip to one of the numerous waterfalls, there’s always a new scene to explore.
3. Old Mill Pigeon Forge – a Tennesse beauty spot which is home to the oldest mill in the country
Dating back as early as the 19th century, the Old Mill is one of the oldest continuously operating grist mill in Tennessee. Built-in 1830, the Old Mill of Pigeon Forge is one of the popular places in the Smokies.
Located on the banks of the Little Pigeon River, the historic Old Mill is truly a sight to behold. Built by businessman Isaac Love, the grist mill is a vital part of East Tennessee’s rich heritage.
Watch the hydro-powered mill grinding fresh flour and relish the homemade delicacies from the Old Mill Signature line in this beautiful town.
The quaint ambiance and rustic charm of Pigeon Forge offer a welcoming atmosphere for visitors and locals alike.
4. Memphis – the city famous for the blues, soul and rock ‘n’ roll
The sprawling midtown area in Memphis is a cultural hub. Visit the Brooks Museum of Art offering varied sculptures and paintings of renowned artists or catch the local performing arts at the Playhouse on the Square and let the art connect you.
Step back in time with some of the oldest neighborhoods in Midtown including the Central Gardens, Evergreen Historic District, Cooper-Young and the Chickasaw Gardens.
Head over to Overton Park with beautiful trails, old-growth forests, museums, lakes and much more. At the heart of the park is the Levitt Shell, a place where musicians spell their magic.
5. Emerts Cove Bridge – an impressive and very photogenic historic bridge
Reminiscing the early settlers and history of the lovely state, the Emerts Cove Bridge is minutes away from downtown Gatlinburg.
Named after a Revolutionary War soldier Frederick Emert, this striking log-style structure with cut-out windows gives an impressive view of surrounding trees and gushing rivers.
Take a walk across the bridge or take a tour of the historic City Hall nearby, the bridge is a beautiful gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Emerts Cove Bridge offers a perfect spot to take photos, hike, watch wildlife or go white water rafting in the nearby areas.
6. Ijams Nature Park boardwalk and Tennessee River – a stunning spot to explore in Tennessee
An incredible natural resource into the woods, the Ijams Nature Center is located barely a mile from downtown Knoxville. A 315-acre nature park in South Knoxville, the park offers a beautiful stretch of green space for a little nature time.
Just a mile downstream from the birth of the Tennessee River, an extensive boardwalk on the river offers splendid vistas along the way.
Walk along with the lush landscapes along the Tennessee River, paddle along the Mead’s Quarry, or hike the scenic trails, Ijams Nature Center is a great way to explore outdoors and historic sites within the beautiful escape into the wilderness.
7. Big South Fork – an outdoor haven home to beautiful Tennessee scenery
Miles of scenic gorges cutting through the Mississippian age rock, the Big South Fork River carves numerous natural and historical features along its way.
Surrounding over 125,000 acres of land on Cumberland Plateau, Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area harbors the Cumberland River and its tributaries.
Miles of sandstone bluffs, natural arches, and unusual hoodoos form a part of the majestic park. A hiker’s dream paradise, the park offers beautiful trails including the Honey Creek, Twin Arches, Rock Creek, and numerous other trails.
With multiple outdoor adventures, Big South Fork is a must stop while exploring the Southeast Region.
8. Graceland – the famous home of Elvis Presley
A designated National Historic Landmark of Memphis, Graceland offers a unique opportunity to step into the iconic mansion of Elvis Presley. With 120 acres of dedicated land to the King of County Music, Elvis fans can have a closer look at the life of Presley.
Take a memorable journey to the most famous rock ‘n’ roll mansion in the world and learn how he changed the face of popular music.
Elvis Presley’s Memphis features the largest comprehensive Elvis museum in the world, the Entertainer Career Museum, the Presley Motors and Presley Cycles along with new virtual and immersive reality activities like never before.
9. Cherokee National Forest – a gorgeous destination for outdoor recreation and scenic drives
Tennessee’s only national forest, the Cherokee National Forest is headquartered in Cleveland. Encompassing over 650,000-acres of land, the forest stretches across ten East Tennessee counties. The lofty mountains, tumbling streams and diverse vegetation offer plenty of recreational opportunities.
Notable sites in the forest include the Ocoee River, 150 miles of Appalachian Trail, Laurel Falls, Big Frog Mountain and Wilderness, Watauga Reservoir, Citico Creek Wilderness and much more.
Enjoy a scenic drive, thrill of whitewater, or camp under the stars, the Cherokee forest is the ultimate outdoor recreation destination.
10. Fall Creek Falls – Tennessee’s most spectacular waterfalls
The highest free-fall waterfall in the east of the Mississippi River, Fall Creek Falls is located near Spencer. Cascading at a height of 256 ft. Fall Creek Falls Park is one of the largest and most visited state parks of Tennessee.
Laced with deep gorges, lovely waterfalls, lush stands of hardwood forests and streams, the park encompasses more than 29,800 of eastern Cumberland Plateau.
One of the most scenic and breathtaking outdoor recreation areas in America, the Falls Creek State Park offers a peaceful and relaxing getaway to appreciate the beauty of magical land.
Other notable waterfalls in the park include the Piney Falls and the Cane Creek Falls.
11. Lookout Mountain – the perfect destination for out-of-the-ordinary experiences
An upscale town of Lookout Mountain in Hamilton County is known for its scenic overlooks and archaic monuments.
Take an unforgettable journey on the Lookout Mountain Incline Railway, an incline railway leading to the top of Lookout Mountain.
Atop the mountain is Point Park, a Civil War park with several monuments, paved walking paths and confederate artillery positions. Visit the underground cascading Ruby Falls and the massive rock formations at the Rock City, this charming town never ceases to amaze you.
12. Belle Meade Plantation – a historic mansion that is now operating as an attraction
Preserving Tennessee’s history, architecture and hospitality, Belle Meade Plantation takes you back to the life of the Old South in the 1800s.
Located just west of Nashville, the historic plantation mansion’s grounds is also called the “Queen of Tennessee Plantations”.
Together with its outbuildings, the plantation sprawls over roughly 5,400 acres. Tour the beautiful Greek Revival Mansion with its preserved dairy, carriage house, stable, mausoleum and Harding cabin.
Get immersed in Tennessee’s history with the guided tours of the mansion, arboretum, and grounds while savoring some of the finest wines of the state.
13. Roan Mountain State Park – home to over 2000 acres of beautiful preserved forest
Nestled in the foothills of the lofty Roan Mountains is the Roan Mountain, State Park. Located in Carter County of Northeast Tennessee, the park encompasses more than 2,000 acres of hardwood forests along the rugged ridges.
Winding its way through the park is the Doe River which provides habitat to diverse fauna and flora in the Roan foothills.
Within proximity to the park is the Appalachian Trail and the famous Rhododendron Gardens of the Roan Mountain. Hike along the creeks and ridges, tour the historic old Miller Farmstead, or camp in the woods, the state park offers a quiet place in the lush greenery.
14. Raccoon Mountain Caverns – a great family attraction to explore in Tennessee
One of the finest caves of Tennessee, Raccoon Mountain Caverns is located just minutes from downtown Chattanooga. The nationally recognized cave system offers spectacular views of Lookout Mountain and Raccoon Mountain.
Part of the Cumberland Plateau, the Mississippian Period limestone caves with diverse formations have been open to the public since 1931.
Noted for its varied passageways, large waterfalls, diverse formations and abundant fossils and natural waterfalls, the Mountain Caverns is a hidden gem of Tennessee.
15. Reelfoot Lake National Wildlife Refuge – a beautiful refuge for migratory birds
Bordering northwest Tennessee around Reelfoot Lake, the Reelfoot Lake National Wildlife Refuge preserves the lake and its surrounding ecosystem.
A primary wintering ground for migratory birds like waterfowl, bald eagles, and Canada geese, the refuge is a designated Bird Area by the American Bird Conservancy.
Besides wildlife photography and bird-watching, the refuge offers a wildlife drive, hiking trails, a boardwalk, and an observation tower to watch the birds closely.
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Gary Nunn – Videographer, photographer and writer
Gary is an award winning full time professional photographer and videographer with too much wanderlust for his own good. Fueled by strong coffee, you’ll often find him wandering well off hiking trails in search of interesting photographic subjects or scenery to video. Self taught and with the use of pioneering digital techniques, he quickly built up a strong client base and has worked with many prestigious organizations, including GQ, BBC, London Fashion Week, Grazia, Sky, Metro, Vogue Italia. He specializing in evocative images of people, places and cinematic videography and his goal is to make the viewer look twice and engage. As well as a penchant for good design, travel, starting up new businesses, the ketogenic diet and Hungarian Vizslas, he also has a huge affection for Chicago, Bucharest, Scandinavia, Croatia and absolutely everywhere in Italy. Find Gary on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube or his Website.