On a recent trip, our Operations Director, Nicci Buck discovered the sights and sounds that created the Soundtrack of America. Here’s a taste of what she experienced.

Tennessee is best known for being the birthplace of Rock ’n’ Roll in the United States but you should also know that the “Volunteer State” is just as popular for the variety of food, historical towns and natural attractions you will find through the state.

For example, Tennessee is renowned for authentic home-style and fried cooking with everything from wings and steaks to grits and fries on every menu. On the other hand, this is also where you will find the Great Smoky Mountains where towering peaks stand head and shoulders above some of the most colourful towns in America.

Either way, Tennessee is a must visit destination and in this blog, we will take a closer look at why the state has gathered such an impressive reputation:

Point Park, Chattanooga

Knoxville, Clarkville and Murfeesboro are typical examples of small-town-America but it must be said that not all destinations are created equal. With this in mind, Nashville, Memphis and Chattanooga usually feature on the itinerary for most visitors and off course, then you have the infamous Great Smoky Mountains…

Here’s a little of what you can expect on a visit to Tennessee:

Memphis – The Home of Elvis, B.B King and Beale Street
Located in the very southwest of the state, Memphis is quite a large city with just shy of one million residents. As you may know, this was home to Elvis Presley and B.B King among others, which is why the town is often referred to as the birthplace of Rock ’n’ Roll.

That being said, you will also find other attractions in town such as the Memphis Zoo and the National Civil Rights Museum. Further, the variety of places to eat is simply staggering with everything from buttery mashed potatoes and barbecue chicken to sausage gravy biscuit and seared sea scallops. In fact, if you eat one thing in Memphis, make it the fried pickles at Gus’s Place. As if that’s not enough, Beale Street is one of the most colourful strips in the entire country for live music and vibrant nightlife.

Tip: Whether you consider yourself a fan or not, Graceland is such an insightful place to visit and full of old memorabilia that never fails to amaze visitors. As you may know, this was the home of Elvis Presley and the family permit visitors entry to the home – although rumours suggest Graceland may soon close to the public.

Country Music Hall of Fame , Nashville

Nashville – Country Music and Southern Fried Food
Once again, Nashville is most famous for live music but in this instance, the genre is typically country music as opposed to Rock ’n’ Roll. For this reason, the Country Music Hall of Fame is located in town and many musical attractions can be found in every direction including the historic Hatch Show Print Shop and RCA Studio B where all the greats recorded their albums.

Nicci participating in a choir-style recording session in the very spot where Elvis recorded over 250 songs at the Country Music Hall of Fame,Historic RCA Studio B Nashville.

Aside from the music scene and history, the many restaurants of Nashville make this the perfect spot to explore through taste. As usual, all the favourites are available like slow roasted ham and fried chicken. When you do visit, make sure to pop into Arnold’s Country Kitchen for macaroni cheese with turnip greens and then the flagship Goo Goo Shop & Dessert Bar!

Tip: Travel just outside Nashville to visit the Jack Daniel Distillery (A stop along the new Tennessee Whiskey Trail).

What would lunch be without Charles Esten aka Deacon Claybourne from the
TV series, ‘Nashville’?

Chattanooga – The Scenic City in the South
Chattanooga sits next to the Tennessee River and has a reputation for being the “Scenic City in the South”. Featuring some stunning rock formations, underground waterfalls and the biggest freshwater aquarium on the planet; the attractions just keep on coming in Chattanooga. In fact, you can even take a fascinating trip inside Terminal Station, which is a beautifully reserved station from 1909. As it turns out, there is also a fantastic art scene in the city, with several museums including Hunter Museum, Rock City Gardens and the Bluff View Art District. As if that’s not enough, you can visit the new Songbirds Guitar Museum, which has many of the finest Les Paul and Gibson guitars on the planet.
Tip: You just have to sample Chattanooga’s MoonPie – fantastic!

Great Smoky Mountains

Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Finally, you have the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, as if you ever needed any more reason to visit Tennessee!

Straddling the border of North Carolina and Tennessee, the Great Smoky Mountains is the most popular vacation spot in this part of America. As you might expect, the raw beauty of the mountains is a large part of the reason why but then also because these mountains are within easy reach of nearby towns.

In case you might not know, the Great Smoky Mountains is one of the most visited National Parks nationwide. Sevierville, Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge are the three main destinations bordering the park and each one offers something a little different. For example, Gatlinburg is home to the main ski resort in the mountains, while you can check out the Titanic Museum at Pigeon Forge.

It is also here that you can visit the Applewood Farmhouse Restaurant for some authentic home cooking or alternatively, enjoy some of the best donuts in the deep-south at Courthouse Donuts.

Here’s a quick snapshot of the three towns:

Sevierville – Situated to the south of the park, this is a beautiful old town with many facades from the 1800’s and a large statue of Dolly Parton, who was actually born in Sevierville.

Statue of Dolly Parton

Gatlinburg – Gatlinburg is arguably the most famous of the three towns and often noted as the gateway to the mountains. You can find many hotels, restaurants and attractions in the town, one of which is a fantastic amusement park.

Pigeon Forge – Another mountain town, Pigeon Forge is home to Dollywood Amusement Park, named after the above-mentioned singer Dolly Parton. Pigeon Forge also has some excellent places to eat and easy access to the nearby park.

That being said, the rolling hills and towering peaks of Smoky Mountains National Park are always the highlight. In between these peaks, visitors can take to hiking trails in search of waterfalls and climbing hillsides, all the while keeping a lookout for bears. The truth is, this luscious park is worth of the reputation and offers the perfect opportunity for visitors to witness some truly majestic mountain scenery in the south.

As you can see, Tennessee is almost a microcosm for everything that’s special about the southern states in America. Whether you yearn for some southern home-style cooking, an encounter with Mother Nature or even just a bit of Rock ’n’ Roll; there’s something in Tennessee for everyone…and then an awful lot more besides!

Get your Hillbilly on at Hatfield & McCoy Dinner Feud, Pigeon Forge.

From the high-energy big cities of Nashville and Memphis to the unique small towns, to the expansive outdoors of the Great Smoky Mountains, Tennessee’s three grand regions offer an authentic holiday experience and United Europe Travel Services (Pty) Ltd are the true specialists in creating tailor-made holidays to this part of the world. Plan your trip of a lifetime today – contact us!

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