Situated along the Tennessee River and nestled among the mountains of Southeast Tennessee, Chattanooga has truly earned its nickname as the "Scenic City." Once named the most polluted city in America by the Department of Health, Chattanooga has experienced an urban revitalization over the past few decades, making sustainability a priority and giving the city a much-needed boost of diversity without losing touch of its small-town charm. Chattanooga is primarily known as a historical hub, having served as a Civil War battlefield and the grand central station for southern railway travel in the 19th and 20th centuries. Today, the city is a pioneer of different sorts, as one of the first cities in the U.S. to offer its citizens 2 gigabits per second (read: extremely speedy) Internet service, and the first American city to have its own typeface, appropriately named "Chatype." Silicon Valley better start watching its back.
With three entrances to Great Smoky Mountains National Park located in the heart of downtown Gatlinburg, it's no surprise that visiting the park is the most popular attraction in this eastern Tennessee town. In fact, it's such a hit that Gatlinburg's population balloons during peak tourist season from less than 4,000 residents to more than 40,000. With miles of trails for hiking, biking and horseback riding, as well as historical exhibits and cabins, and the opportunity to view black bears, elk, deer and other wildlife in their natural habitat, it's easy to see why the park is such a hot spot. When you're not in the park enjoying its natural wonders, you'll likely spend time admiring it from several of Gatlinburg's top attractions, including the Gatlinburg Space Needle and the Ober Gatlinburg Aerial Tramway.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park spans both Tennessee and North Carolina, with the border running through the center of the 522,427-acre tract. The mountains have a long history of human settlers from the prehistoric Paleo Indians to 19th-century European settlers. Today, more than 10 million people visit the park each year – it's one of the few free national parks in America – to enjoy scenic drives to Cades Cove or along the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail and outdoor activities like hiking, biking and fishing. Pack a picnic for stunning hikes to Abrams or Rainbow Falls, or bike the Cades Cove Loop on Wednesday and Saturday mornings when the road is closed to traffic. Learn the history of the park at the Cades Cove Visitor Center and explore the historic gristmill and Cable Mill or stop by Sugarlands Visitor Center to see wildlife exhibits, view a film on the park and pick up unique souvenirs at the gift shop.
Tennessee's third-largest city, and the site of its first capital, often flies under the radar, but once visitors get acquainted with the historic and charming Knoxville and its accessible downtown, as well as its proximity to the Great Smoky Mountains, they often become fans. One of Knoxville's most famous landmarks is the gleaming Sunsphere, a 266-foot-tall, gold-tinted tower built for the 1982 World's Fair. Now an observatory, located in the World's Fair Park, it's just one of the city's many attractions.
Memphis is constantly grooving, either to the songs of Elvis echoing throughout the city or to the tunes of up-and-coming musicians along Beale Street. Graceland is the major draw for many; however, audiophiles who come only for Elvis will be pleased to find out that Memphis has much more to offer. Johnny Cash, Isaac Hayes and B.B. King also nurtured their unique sounds in Memphis bars and recording studios. Along with the significant role Memphis played in music history, this city also serves as a poignant reminder of the civil rights movement. It was here that Martin Luther King Jr. petitioned for the equal rights of black sanitation workers in 1968. After leading a peaceful protest in March, King returned to the city on April 3 only to be assassinated a day later at the Lorraine Motel, now the site of the National Civil Rights Museum.
Nashville has evolved over the years and has become a city of a lot of things for a lot of different people. It's a popular weekend getaway for those based on the East Coast and in the Midwest. It's a foodie retreat for those who love affordable Southern cooking and international fusion cuisine. And it's a fun bachelor and bachelorette spot for friends looking to bond before taking the big leap into marriage. But Nashville at its core is a haven for country music fans. The bars lining Broadway (plus the famous Bluebird Cafe) host some of the most talented undiscovered artists in the country. In fact, Nashville is where many musicians – including Faith Hill, Tim McGraw, Reba McEntire, Taylor Swift, Florida Georgia Line and Sam Hunt – were discovered or launched their careers. The best way to soak up Nashville's country scene is to enjoy the free live tunes at establishments throughout the city.
Best Places to Visit in the USA