Tennessee has an interesting history that you are encouraged to investigate in your free time. Three U.S. presidents (Andrew Jackson, Andrew Johnson, and James Polk) lived in Tennessee homes that are now national historic sites, the closest of which is Jackson’s Hermitage. There are also numerous Civil War battle sites. Some of the bloodiest battles took place just south of Nashville, and every year in Franklin they restage the Battle of Franklin.
Lookout Mountain offers a view of five states on a clear day. The unusual rock formations of Rock City and the 145-foot drop of Ruby Falls are impressive. The Aquarium is one of the largest in the world and definitely worth seeing. Check out the Chattanooga Choo-Choo, a restored Victorian railroad depot that creates an airy environment for the restaurant it houses. Also stop by the Warehouse Row stores, including J. Crew and Ralph Lauren outlets.
The headquarters for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is located here. The town is a huge tourist trap with the nearby Pigeon Forge, home of Dolly Parton’s amusement park Dollywood. However, the mountains and park are absolutely beautiful and great for hiking, camping, and fishing. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited national park in the United States, and draws a huge crowd during the peak fall foliage season, which is usually right around our fall break. If you do head out there for fall break, be forewarned about the traffic. It’s unbelievable, especially on the park roads. Despite the traffic, you’ll see few people in the backcountry.
Two places of interest are the recently renovated Customs House and the Bijou Theater. If you get hungry while in Knoxville, the Ruby Tuesday’s at the old L&N railroad station overlooks the site of the 1982 World’s Fair.
This is the home of the Jack Daniel’s Distillery, the oldest distillery in the US. The tour of the distillery is free and has impressed students in the past. Ironically, the distillery is located in a dry county. You can, however, purchase one product from the on-site store.
Originally a Chickasaw Indian Village set on the bluffs above the Mississippi River in West Tennessee, Memphis is the only city in Tennessee bigger than Nashville, and it really has a lot to offer. For example, many art exhibits that skip Nashville will stop in Memphis museums. For the musically inclined, plan to visit The Old Orpheum Theater, which features touring Broadway shows, or the Pyramid, which hosts guest concerts and traveling exhibitions. Blues Alley and the recently restored Beale Street overflow with the music of WC Handy, the “Father of Blues,” who played in Memphis. A Jazz and Blues Festival is held as part of the annual Memphis in May celebration. Other popular attractions in Memphis include the Peabody Hotel, featuring the famous Peabody Ducks, who strut from their private penthouse elevator every morning at 11:00 to frolic in the marble fountain of the hotel lobby, and Mud Island, an amusement park built on an island in the Mississippi River. Overton Square, filled with attractive shops and restaurants, is also a popular place to visit. Finally, be sure to visit Graceland, the home of the King.