The family vacation, the ones you don’t just remember, but replay over and over again. When your heart skipped a beat and eyes opened wide to the wonders of the world. It’s a connection, a reunion and it’s made in Tennessee.
Dolly Parton’s Dollywood in Pigeon Forge is Tennessee’s No. 1 attraction and a world-class theme park with adrenaline-inducing rides like Wild Eagle, America’s first winged coaster, the wooden coaster Thunderhead, and FireChaser Express, the first dual-launch family coaster in the U.S. Inspiring theatrical shows, concerts, and Dollywood’s Splash Country, the waterpark that houses the more than 20 water slides and splash pads. Book a stay at Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort & Spa for family-inspired rooms, spa services, a pool, live music and storytelling at night and much more. Reach new heights at Gatlinburg’s newest attraction, Anakeesta where a tree canopy walk, gem mining for the little ones, barbecue, shopping and dual-ziplining wait to fill a fun day for the family. Visit Ruby Falls in Chattanooga, the largest and deepest waterfall open to the public in the U.S., for its beautiful cave formations and impressive waterfall. Enjoy the ZIPstream Aerial Adventure Course, adjacent to Ruby Falls, for an adventure above the trees in the suspending obstacle courses. Explore the Secret City, Oak Ridge, the site of the Manhattan Project that is told through interactive exhibits and well-preserved artifacts at the American Museum of Science and Energy. Discover America’s largest underground lake, The Lost Sea in Sweetwater where guests take a voyage across the lake in a glass-bottom boat.
Take in some of the best bluegrass music at Bluegrass Underground in The Caverns in Pelham. Learn the deep-rooted music history in Nashville with interactive exhibits at the Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum and go behind-the-scenes in some of the nation’s iconic music sites like Ryman Auditorium and the Grand Ole Opry, all in Nashville. Loretta Lynn’s Ranch in Hurricane Mills is an opportunity to peer into the famous musician’s home along with the newly added Loretta’s Frontier Homestead that has original log cabins and 400 artifacts.
Casey Jones Home & Railroad Museum tells the story of the famous engineer who saved his passengers by sacrificing his life. Enjoy the Old Country Store which has a southern-style buffet, ice cream served in an 1800s replica ice cream parlor, fudge and gifts. Explore Cherry Mansion in Savannah to take a peek at the historic Antebellum home that was General Ulysses S. Grant’s headquarters during the Civil War Battle of Shiloh. The Tennessee River Museum in Savannah highlights archaeology, Trail of Tears, the Civil War battles over the Tennessee River and more than 200 fossils in the paleontology exhibit. In Memphis, bring the family to the National Civil Rights Museum, commemorating the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the story of Civil Rights in America.; Dixon Gallery and Gardens – a collection of Impressionist and post-Impressionist art and a botanical park; Shelby Farms where kids and adults can fish, boat, hike, bike, horseback ride and visit bison on its 4,500 acres.
Memories can be made in the Appalachian and Great Smoky Mountains in East Tennessee. Kids and adults find the Birthplace of Country Music Museum as the story of the 1927 Bristol Sessions recordings are told. The museum explores the way sound technology shaped their successes and how they were the foundation for the rich musical heritage that can be traced in today’s music. Interactive displays, exhibits, images and artifacts help bring the historic event to life. Hands-on learning is fun at the Hands On! Regional Museum in Johnson City. Here, kids learn about a variety of topics including physics, space, light, sound and even The Tesla Experience – an exhibit that honors inventor Nikola Tesla through a 200,000 volt bi-polar musical Tesla Coil, the only one of its kind in the U.S. In Pigeon Forge, experience attractions like the Titanic Museum Pigeon Forge that tells the story of the crew and passengers aboard the Titanic, WonderWorks where exhibits on science are featured in an interactive and fun way. Gatlinburg has the newly-opened Guinness World Records Adventure that highlights some of the famous world records in 20 interactive exhibits, games and challenges.
In Nashville, explore space, nature and the human body at Adventure Science Center. Browse world-class paintings, sculptures and tapestries at Frist Center for the Visual Arts. Cannonsburgh Village, a reconstructed pioneer village from 1830s to the 1930s, can be found in Murfreesboro. Kids can learn about the Civil War through a comprehensive collection of Union and Confederate artifacts at the Lairdland Farm House and Civil War Museum.
Discover the rich natural and musical history of Brownsville at the West Tennessee Delta Heritage Center and the Tina Turner Museum at Flagg Grove School which honors the Queen of Rock n’ Roll in the one-room schoolhouse she attended. Enjoy seeing more than 25 iconic cars made famous in movies and TV shows at Rusty’s TV & Movie Car Museum in Jackson. And with tickets only $5, it’s an affordable way to entertain the whole family. Discovery Park of America in Union City offers entertainment in an educational setting with 50 acres and 70,000 square feet of exhibits ranging from nature to technology to science, a Human Slide, Earthquake Simulator, The Observation Tower and more. The Pink Palace Museum in Memphis is one of the largest of its kind in the Southeast and has a replica of the first self-service grocery store, cultural and natural history exhibits, dioramas and audio-visual displays for a well-rounded, fun and educational experience.
Zoos & Aquariums
The Tennessee Aquarium is the No. 1 attraction in Chattanooga and in the Top 5 for aquariums worldwide with 10,000 animals in two buildings: River Journey that showcases fish and plants in local and regional rivers and Ocean Journey where exotic plants and animals from the Earth’s regions are highlighted. Ripley’s Aquarium in the Smokies in Gatlinburg is one of the most popular attractions in the Smoky Mountain region and celebrated among the top aquariums in the country.
More than 4,500 animals call Memphis Zoo home, including the newest Zambezi River Camp featuring hippos, Nile crocodiles, flamingos, okapi, fish, African birds and more. The Nashville Zoo is in a multi-year expansion plan which includes a new Entry Village that opened in 2016, the spider monkey and white rhinoceros exhibits that opened in 2017. Exhibits to be open include a Peruvian-style lodge which will house Peruvian creatures including pudus, viscachas, marmoset, Andean bears and sloths, a Sumatran tiger exhibition, and the new animal health center to enhance the Zoo’s veterinary capabilities. Zoo Knoxville is where more red pandas have been born than any other zoo in the world. It’s also the first zoo to see critically-endangered Northern spider tortoises hatch. Recently, Zoo Knoxville has opened Tiger Forest, a new habitat for critically-endangered Malayan tigers and white-naped cranes. Guests become fully immersed in the exotic Orient thanks to authentic structures and decor. Chattanooga is home to Chattanooga Zoo that underwent a South American Expansion including multiple indoor and outdoor exhibits of monkeys and tamarins, South American birds, and a space of interactive elements for education, keeper chats and more. The zoo’s African Expansion includes multiple exhibits of giraffes and lions, multiple view opportunities, animal feeding stations and encounters with guests, a special event plaza and more.