A Year-Round Guide To Some Of Tennessee’s
Very Best (And Most Unique) Experiences
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Oct. 26, 2022) – Today marks National Tennessee Day, a day that recognizes the state’s remarkable voices, rich history and inspirational triumphs. Celebrate Tennessee not only today but 12 months a year with some of Tennessee’s most unique experiences. Tennessee offers something for everyone, whether you’re a die-hard foodie, outdoor adventurer, live music connoisseur or dedicated road-tripper from winter through spring, summer through fall. Check out just a small sampling of #TN365 from @TNvacation below.
Hit The Fresh Powder
Yes, Tennessee is home to its own ski resort — Ober Mountain — where you can ski and snow tube, ice skate indoors and take a ride on the Ski Mountain Coaster high above Gatlinburg. Purchase a ski area ticket for unlimited access to all the slopes during your session. Ober Mountain has all your gear covered as you can rent skis and snowboards, jackets, pants and helmets. After hitting the slopes, grab a bite to eat at Seasons of Ober Restaurant, where you can soak in the views while dining on steaks, chicken and more from the seasonally inspired menu. Take a spin on the indoor ice-skating rink (open year-round) and browse the shops for apparel, gifts, jewelry and more.
Land a Big One
As the weather in Tennessee gets cooler, the fishing scene heats up. Winter is a great time to visit the largest natural lake in Tennessee, located in Tiptonville (about 2 hours north of Memphis), directly adjacent to the Mississippi River. Long known for its exceptional crappie fishing, Reelfoot Lake is a 18,000-acre lake filled with fishing opportunities. You might also want to check out the Reelfoot Lake Eagle Festival (Feb. 3-5, 2023),a perfectly wintry blend of outdoors, birding and the arts. Attendees can take guided bus and photography tours that provide unforgettable encounters with eagles and other waterfowl.
Expand Your Ears
If you’re a fan of adventurous and eclectic sights and sounds, the Big Ears Festival is for you. Nearly 200 performances at historic theaters, warehouse spaces, museums, galleries and clubsalong with exhibitions, films, literary readings and markets around Knoxville, happen during this one-of-a-kind festival, celebrating 10 years in 2023, March 30-April 2, 2023. Heralded by New York Times as “one of the world's greatest music bashes,” the 2023 lineup includes Belá Fleck, Bill Frisell, Arooj Aftab, Iron & Wine, Vijay Iyer, John Zorn, Amadou & Miriam and hundreds more. The only drawback to Big Ears is that you can’t possibly see everything.
Get A Taste Of Tennessee’s Food Festivals
Spring is the perfect time for a road trip to places in Tennessee you've never been. These Tennessee spring festivals offer up a taste of Tennessee and much more. A family-friendly food and art festival that celebrates hot slow – a mustard, mayo and secret sauce concoction. The Hot Slaw and Art Y’all Festival takes place April 1, 2023 in Cleveland with live music, artist exhibitor, pop up street performances, food vendors and hot slaw smothered on burgers, hot dogs and more. Thousands of people flock to the small town of Paris for the five tons of fried catfish that is served during the all-you-can eat feast each April. Stay an extra day to enjoy the World’s Biggest Fish Fry’s Grand Parade and catfish races. Explore more Tennessee spring festivals here.
Chase A Few Waterfalls
Welcome to Cookeville, Tennessee, a place considered to be a hidden gold mine of waterfalls. Within a 40-mile radius of Cookeville’s downtown, there are over 150 documented waterfalls and many scenic overlooks. Depending on your hiking experience level, you can plan to experience seven waterfalls, four overlooks, many state natural areas and state parks within four days. Travel to Ozone Falls to explore the glorious 110-foot cascade. This waterfall was a filming location for the 1994 Jungle Book movie, and you can easily tell why — it feels like you’re in another country. Afterwards, go chasing more waterfalls in the Cumberland Plateau including Burgess Falls, Greeter Falls, Foster Falls and many more.
Party With Your Fellow Music Fanatics
This internationally acclaimed music and arts festival is held each June on a beautiful 700-acre farm. Bonnaroo (June 15-18, 2023) brings together some of the best performers in all genres of music, including rock, jazz, Americana, hip-hop, electronica, and more. In addition to dozens of epic performances, the festival's 100-acre entertainment village buzzes around the clock with attractions and activities, including a classic arcade, on-site cinema, silent disco, comedy club, theater performers, and a music technology village. The lineup for 2023 has yet to be announced — but you can be sure it’ll be packed with favorites. Music fans can also check out the internationally famous CMA Fest this June 8-11, 2023 in downtown Nashville and the AMP Summer Concert Series by West Tennessee Farmers Market in Jackson June through September 2023.
Discover Tennessee Trails & Byways
Stumble upon hidden gems while you take the scenic route on a summer road trip in Tennessee. These 16 self-guided driving routes take you off the beaten path for authentic experiences that connects you with places that you never knew you wanted to visit. Trails feature attractions, restaurants, and unexpected stops as you walk in the footsteps of legends and discover Tennessee. Trace stories from cotton fields to music legends following West Tennessee’s country roads on the Cotton Junction Trail. In Middle Tennessee, retrace the footsteps of pioneers and discover unique treasures on the Promised Land Trail. Follow in the footsteps of settlers, storytellers and musicians along the Pie in the Sky Trail in East Tennessee. Pick up maps at welcome centers and look for brown signs across the state.
Pay Tribute To The King
Elvis fans from around the world make the pilgrimage to Graceland every August during Elvis Week. Events like the Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest, panel discussions and special concerts serve to celebrate the life and legacy of the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll. Elvis Week is only the beginning of your Presley adventures in Tennessee: take a trip to Elvis Presley’s Memphis, the 200,000-square-foot entertainment and exhibit complex featuring artifacts and photos from the Graceland Archives, a collection of the King’s signature jumpsuits and his favorite cars. After exploring Graceland, experience many other iconic spots that Elvis would frequent in Memphis including Sun Studio, The Arcade Restaurant and Beale Street Entertainment District.
Ride The Rapids
Early fall is a great time for a family whitewater adventure, with many of the most popular rivers offering a mellower (but still exciting) experience — they call it “natural flow season” for good reason. Available for beginners and seasoned rafters alike, the outfitters along the Ocoee River have several knowledgeable friendly guides to lead your expedition and provide an incredible and safe trip on the river. With 10 miles of continuous class III and IV rapids, you will be sure to get soaked and have a blast. There are several different experiences you can book which will take you to different parts of the Ocoee, or you can book full river experiences. Catch more rapids on the Nolichucky River, the Upper Pigeon River and the Hiwassee River.
Soak In Some Fall Color
Celebrate National Tennessee Day (Oct. 26) by enjoying one of the state’s greatest (pun intended) natural wonders: Great Smoky Mountains National Park. In the fall, leaf-peeping options abound here, including Gatlinburg Scenic Overlook, Ben Morton’s Overlook and more. Even better, many views are easily accessible from the comfort of your vehicle on scenic drives such as the Cades Cove Loop and Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. If finding seasonal scenes on foot is more your style, the Park’s 800 miles of trails offer beautiful panoramas and vistas that show off fall’s colorful tapestry of changing leaves. Fall colors can be experienced by all with the first-ever colorblind viewfinders outfitted with innovative EnChroma lenses, designed to alleviate red-green colorblindness, installed at beautiful lookouts across the state.
Get Hot As Winter Approaches
The weather might get chillier this time of year — but you can heat things up considerably with a deep dive into Nashville’s famed hot chicken scene. For close to a century, hot chicken has been a Nashville staple with several restaurants feature versions of the fiery bird. Founded in 1945, Prince’s is the OG, offering six heat levels ranging from Plain to XXXHot (not for the faint of heart). Hattie B’s is a more modern take on Nashville Hot Chicken and even with four locations, the lines can be long, so make sure you build in extra time to enjoy the hotness. Choose from one of six heat levels — from Southern (no heat) to Shut the Cluck Up!!!. Make sure you leave room for the famous banana pudding. At Bolton’s, select from six spice levels, but ordering the hottest might get you a doubtful look — it’s so hot that warnings are posted by the cash register. Pro tip: After eating, wash your hands before touching your face.
Celebrate The Season With Dolly
Dollywood, Tennessee's No. 1 attraction, lights up like a Christmas tree during the holiday season. With more than 5 million dazzling lights, Smoky Mountain Christmas is a family favorite in the Great Smoky Mountains. Meander to Glacier Ridge to see the Christmas Light Show set to symphonic music, a unique walk-through of the Aurora Borealis, and lots of illuminated displays and colorful lights. Christmas stories unfold onstage, celebrating family, song and tradition. And, every Friday and Saturday, weather permitting, the "Merry & Bright" fireworks will fill the sky synchronized to new Christmas tunes.
ABOUT TENNESSEE DEPARTMENT OF TOURIST DEVELOPMENT
Tennessee is the home of the blues, bluegrass, country, gospel, soul, rockabilly, and rock ‘n’ roll— delivering an unparalleled experience of beauty, history, and family adventure, infused with music that creates a vacation that is the “Soundtrack of America. Made in Tennessee.” Explore more at TNvacation.com and join other Tennessee travelers by following “TNVacation” on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and YouTube, and “Tennessee” on Snapchat.
Mary Katelyn Price