Big personalities shaped Tennessee and left a memorable legacies. Wherever you go in the state, from the prehistoric to the nearly new, you’ll find evidence of the changes wrought by innovative Tennesseans. As such, Tennessee has an unexpectedly rich history from native culture to early settlers, and Civil War sites to some of the most beautiful landscapes the country has to offer.
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Andrew Jackson’s home, The Hermitage, features “Born for a Storm,” a state-of-the-art, $1.1 million interactive exhibit that captures the rich story of our seventh president’s meteoric rise from humble beginnings to the White House. Focusing on three key areas of Jackson’s life, the display highlights his childhood as an orphan, resiliency as a general and visionary leadership as a president.
Tennessee’s oldest town has been called the Storytelling Capital of the World. Walk along well-preserved Main Street and go back in time to the days of Daniel Boone, Andrew Jackson, David Crockett and John Sevier (the state’s first governor). Known as “The little town with the big story,” Jonesborough pre-dates Tennessee’s statehood.
Beale Street Historic District
The music and entertainment pulse of downtown Memphis, Beale Street served as a haven for African Americans migrating from small towns at the turn of the 20th century. Legendary greats such as W.C. Handy, B.B. King, Rufus Thomas, Willie Mitchell and Isaac Hayes have all showcased their talents on Beale. The well-known street has played a pivotal role in branding Memphis as one of the most musically rich cities in the world, and was prominent in hosting some of the first black business owners in the south.
Tupelo Elvis Festival
The Tupleo Elvis Festival honors Elvis Presley, Tupelo’s native son, and the impact his music has had on the world. Held in June, each year’s festival features local, regional and national artists, a Sunday gospel concert, and a tribute artist contest. In addition to great music, you can also find local food vendors, a carnival midway, pet parade, beauty pageant, 5K run, disc golf, movie poster exhibit and more.
Southern Heritage Classic
Thousands gather in Memphis annually each September to cheer on rival college football teams from Tennessee State University and Jackson State University during the Southern Heritage Classic. The festival surrounding the game includes lively tailgate parties, a celebrity golf tournament, a women’s fashion show, and a showcase of local musicians.
Battle of Nashville Driving Tour at Shys Hill
The Battle of Nashville, fought on both land and water, was one of the final large-scale engagements of the Civil War. The Confederacy’s last offensive action, on December 15-16, 1864, finished the Army of Tennessee as an effective fighting force. The driving tour includes the main points of the Union defenses of Nashville and the Confederate lines of battle.
Chaffin’s Barn Dinner Theatre
Since 1967, Chaffin’s Barn Dinner Theater has been offering Nashville audiences exciting top-quality professional theater and a mouthwatering buffet. The Barn was Nashville’s first professional theater and continues to produce entertaining comedies, musicals and mysteries.
Rock City Gardens
Take an unforgettable journey high atop Lookout Mountain and wrap yourself in the magnificent view. Enjoy the quiet woodland paths and gardens, discover ancient rock formations and a spectacular 140-foot-high waterfall, and explore more than 400 species of plants, flowers and shrubs. Each step is a discovery you won’t want to miss.
Nashville Zoo at Grassmere
The Nashville Zoo features wildlife from around the globe and is anchored by the Grassmere Historic Home. The home and surrounding farm are filled with five generations of stories waiting to be told. As a bonus, a beautiful garden maintained by Davidson County Master Gardeners awaits your discovery. Plus, Nashville Zoo’s Jungle Gym is somewhat of a Middle Tennessee legend with more than 66,000 square feet for your children to burn off steam running, swinging, and climbing just like the other wild animals in the zoo.
National Civil Rights Museum
See, hear and touch the stories of the Civil Rights Movement from slavery to present day human rights struggles. The National Civil Rights Museum recently reopened following a $28 million renovation. The museum is located at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated.
Tennessee State Museum
The Tennessee State Museum is one of the largest museums in the nation with more than 60,000 square feet of permanent exhibits and another 10,000 square-foot changing exhibition hall. Exhibits begin with prehistoric people and continue through the early 1900s. Located in Nashville, the museum has one of the best Civil War Collections in the nation.
The Ryman Auditorium first opened its doors in 1892 as a vision of Capt. Thomas G. Ryman. With the coming of the Grand Ole Opry show in 1943, the Ryman found its identity as the Mother Church of Country Music. When the Opry moved to its current location, the Ryman was left vacant. It was not until 20 years later in 1994 that the Ryman was restored to be the national showplace that it is today. Musicians like Roy Acuff, James Brown, Patsy Cline, and Sheryl Crow have performed on the Ryman stage thus solidifying its place as an historical venue for people everywhere.
Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum
The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum features more than 40,000 square feet of exhibit space. In addition to live entertainment, the museum showcases an enormous two-story wall displaying every gold and platinum record to make the country charts, the Ford Theater, a full-service restaurant, and a 5,500 square-foot museum shop.