Things to Do in Tennessee - page 3
Built in 1871, this iconic home was a top attraction on what was once known as Millionaire’s Row. Today, it draws visitors from across the country eager to see how the wealthy set once lived.
Visitors who tour the grounds will learn about the life of Amos Woodruff—a famous carriage maker, president of the city council and candidate for mayor who first owned this stunning home. They will also hear about the life and times of Noland Fontaine, who ran the largest cotton business in the US and owned the Woodruff-Fontaine house between 1861 and the late 1920s. Travelers can step back in time as they explore the French Victorian architecture and family heirlooms that line the halls and rooms of this iconic home.
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.
If you've not had any luck when it comes to meeting your favorite musician, a visit to Madame Tussauds Nashville might be the next best thing. Marvel at true-to-life wax likenesses of music legends, interact with the figures, and snap great selfies with celebs such as Carrie Underwood, Miley Cyrus, and Keith Urban.
For a rejuvenating stroll through manicured gardens, head to Cheekwood Botanical Gardens & Museum of Art, a 1930s estate just a stone's throw from downtown Nashville. Enjoy the extensive gardens, and visit the exhibition galleries and contemporary sculptures at this art hub.
With seats for 20,000, The Pyramid is an arena that sits on the banks of the Mississippi River in downtown Memphis. Designed to resemble the Great Pyramids of Giza, it stands tall at 321 feet high and is one of the largest pyramid structures in the world. It is slightly taller than the Statue of Liberty and has become an icon of the Memphis skyline.
The arena was first constructed as the Great American Pyramid in 1991 with an exterior of stainless steel and was originally conceived by a local artist to replicate the Great Pyramid of Memphis in Egypt. A statue of Ramesses II stood at the Pyramid’s entrance until it was moved to the University of Memphis campus in 1991. The interior has nearly half a million square feet of space and was used primarily for sporting events up until 2004.
The George Jones—a premier Nashville bar, eatery, and music venue—has a lot to offer, including a smokehouse menu, rooftop cocktails, live country music, and an on-site museum. Find world-class musicians performing daily on two stages, or just stop by for great views and libations at a top Nashville rooftop bar.
Located on downtown Nashville’s famous Lower Broadway district, this live music destination attracts visitors in search of a true country experience. With three stories of performance space, down home food and stiff drinks, Honky Tonk Central is Nashville at its finest.
Live acts at this local institution typically play to a packed house, and travelers will find music to meet all tastes on each of Honky Tonk Central’s three sprawling levels. There’s room to dance at this top nightlife spot that guarantees a good time, and plenty of tables mean there’s a place to rest when visitors are done kicking up their heels.
Travelers can venture to Honky Tonk Central on their own for a quintessential Nashville evening, or purchase a popular Honky Tonk bar pass that includes skip the line fast-track access and vouchers for drinks at several of the city’s live music destinations.
When Elvis played on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1956, he was wearing a sport coat made by local Memphis clothier, Bernard Lansky. Explore the legacy at Lansky Bros., a shop that's been outfitting musicians for decades. From Elvis-inspired sweaters to vintage accessories, Lansky at the Peabody hotel is a beacon of Memphis style.
Standing at the epicenter of the Battle of Franklin, the Lotz House bore witness to one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War. Today, the historic house is a museum chronicling the fateful events of Nov. 30, 1864 and providing a fascinating insight into Tennessee’s Civil War history.
A grand historic house–turned–Civil War field hospital, Carnton is a must-see for history buffs visiting the Nashville area. The house, now a top area attraction, once served as the grounds of the Battle of Franklin, one of the deadliest battles of the Civil War.
More Things to Do in Tennessee
Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage is the historic home and plantation of Andrew Jackson, the seventh US president. Visiting gives you a sense of Jackson’s everyday life—original furnishings make the mansion homey—and also of 19th-century life in the South for everyone, from aristocrats to enslaved persons. Plus, it’s a great Nashville day trip.
Uncover a treasure trove at Historic Travellers Rest Plantation & Museum, a storied property with origins as a Native American village and a role in the Civil War. The 1799 home and historic buildings are open for you to stroll the lush grounds and take a guided tour that's rich in Tennessee history.
The former home of Country Music Hall of Famer Barbara Mandrell, Fontanel mansion is a luxe log home in Nashville, Tennessee. The home, nestled in the woods and fronting a vast lawn, comprises 33,000 square feet (10,058 square meters) of living space including more than 20 rooms, 13 baths, five fireplaces, and an indoor shooting range.
In a city filled with auditoriums and concert venues, it’s the unassuming Bluebird Cafe that best captures the spirit of Nashville. For the last 32 years, the Bluebird has been showcasing some of the Music City’s most significant and recognizable talent. Many country superstars, like Garth Brooks, LeAnn Rimes, Keith Urban, and Taylor Swift—as well as the songwriters who made them famous—got their start in this small café.
The Gaylord Opryland Resort, known to many as the Opryland Hotel, is practically a destination all on its own. The grounds of this resort and convention center in the heart of Nashville include nine acres of indoor gardens, climate-controlled glass atriums, and even an indoor river that visitors can navigate on a Delta flatboat.
Consistently ranked among the top zoos in the United States, the Memphis Zoo is a favorite due to the diversity of its animals, its numerous attractions, and its cherished giant pandas. Home to more than 3,500 animals representing over 500 different species, the Memphis Zoo is a great place to spend a family-friendly day.
Located on the southern end of Mud Island—which is actually a peninsula between the Mississippi River and Wolf River Harbor—Mud Island River Park is a gathering place that is home to a museum, an amphitheater, water features, and outdoor spaces perfect for picnicking and admiring views of the river and the Memphis skyline.
Whether you're a museum buff, or just want to see a massive pink building, the Pink Palace Museum is well worth stopping by when you're in Memphis. Covering a diverse array of subjects ranging from archaeology to chemistry, the Pink Palace Museum serves as the mid-south's major science and historical museum.
The headquarters for the museum, a mansion made from pink Georgian marble, served as the private residence of a wealthy entrepreneur until he faced some financial misfortunes. He turned it over to the city of Memphis, and since the late 1920s it has contained a variety of exhibits, many of them focusing on Memphis history. Exhibit topics today range from a commemoration of the invention of the supermarket, to features of Native American pottery, dinosaur fossils, and a miniature circus.
Fun for all ages, the Nashville Zoo at Grassmere is home to thousands of animals from all over the world—as well as a large community-built playground featuring a 35-foot-tall (10.6-meter-tall) tree house. You can also visit the grand on-site Grassmere Historic Home.
If your Smoky Mountains visit takes you near Sevierville, Tennessee, and you want to add a little speed to your road trip, you should pay a visit to the NASCAR SpeedPark Smoky Mountains.
The park features 22 family-friendly attractions, including eight go-kart tracks, two mini golf courses, a three-story indoor rock climbing wall, an arcade and thrill rides. Go-kart tracks include the Smoky Mountains Speedway, where drivers operate a 3/8 scale version of an actual Sprint Cup car. The Intimidator is a challenging track named after Dale Earnhardt. Other tracks such as The Competitor and Slidewayz allow a passenger to accompany the driver on the challenging course.
On the edge of the Smoky Mountains, the family friendly roadside stop Goats on the Roof draws visitors with a wide range of attractions, including the eponymous goats that graze on the roof of the building, and also a unique Alpine-style roller coaster that twists and turns through the forest. Unlike traditional roller coasters, The Coaster at Goats on the Roof runs single carts that are driver operated. Riders can go alone or with a friend, and once they’re strapped in, they have control of the ride with a hand brake to adjust the speed. At full speed, the coaster reaches almost 30 mph, the track is about a mile long, and the average ride lasts for about 7 minutes.
The Hard Rock Café Pigeon Forge sports a country twang in the East Tennessee home of Dolly Parton’s famed theme park, Dollywood. This particular location is fairly new, recently relocated from nearby Gatlinburg to a spacious spot next door to the Smoky Mountain Opry. In addition to the main restaurant, visitors can hang out on the outdoor patio, catch a live show on the stage or virtually explore the Hard Rock’s vast music memorabilia collection at the Rock Wall Solo, a 52-inch interactive touch wall. There’s also plenty of memorabilia to check out in person, as the Hard Rock Cafe Pigeon Forge features three main displays devoted to Dolly Parton, Jimi Hendrix, and Madonna—there’s also a lace dress from Taylor Swift among other country icons.
Country music legend Dolly Parton is co-owner of Dollywood, a family-centered theme park in the Smoky Mountains of Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Amusements include more than 40 rides and attractions, 15 live shows, and several large seasonal festivals inspired by Dolly Parton and the history of the Smoky Mountains.
Visitors to Gatlinburg have plenty of activities to choose from, but one that might not be immediately apparent is the Wild Bear Falls Water Park – because it's entirely indoors.
Head for the Westgate Smoky Mountain Resort & Spa and you'll also find the water park, complete with two exciting water slides. There's a lazy river ideal for a relaxing float, hot tubs for soaking, and a pool set up for sports like water basketball. There are also kid-friendly water attractions. One has kid-sized slides and another is just a spray for toddlers only.
Because Wild Bear Falls Water Park is completely indoors, it's a great place to enjoy warm water even during a Tennessee winter. The temperature inside the water park is always warm. There is a retractable roof on the facility, however, for days when it's just as nice outside as it always is inside the park.
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