The Best Things to do in Tennessee

The 25 Best Things To Do in Tennessee

Home to the stunning Great Smoky Mountains National Park – the most-visited national park in the United States – Tennessee is a paradise for outdoor lovers. While the state might be famous for its scenic vistas and epic hiking trails, Tennessee also boasts a wide range of historic landmarks, family-friendly activities, and cultural attractions.

From blues to country to rock ’n’ roll, music is huge in this Southern destination. In Nashville, you can listen to country greats at the Grand Ole Opry, while Memphis is home to Elvis Presley’s estate at Graceland and Beale Street’s iconic blues bars. 

Explore the state’s Civil War past at historic battlefields and pay your respects at the world-renowned National Civil Rights Museum. Kids will love riding roller coasters at Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, while Ruby Falls appeals to adventurous travelers as one of the tallest and deepest underground waterfalls.

Don’t leave the Volunteer State without savoring some of its signature flavors, including the famous Nashville hot chicken and Memphis barbecue. And if you want to sample some of Tennessee’s excellent whiskeys, a visit to the Jack Daniel’s Distillery in Lynchburg is a must! 

With so many fun things to see and do in Tennessee, you might not know where to start. To help you create your dream itinerary, we’ve compiled a list of the absolute best things to do in Tennessee, including its top attractions, family activities, hidden gems, and historic landmarks. Kick your wanderlust into overdrive with our unique Tennessee bucket list.

25 Cool and Unique Things to do in Tennessee

1. Explore the Music Scene in Nashville 

Best Things to do in Tennessee: Music Scene in Nashville

Known around the world for its music scene, Nashville is a little bit of country and a little bit of rock ‘n’ roll. Before you go out and appreciate the city’s live music scene and honky-tonks on Broadway, take the time to learn about Nashville’s rich history and musical roots at one of its iconic music-related museums. 

Start your musical journey at the Country Music Hall of Fame, where you can browse exhibits and plaques dedicated to some of country music’s most popular artists. Learn about Johnny Cash and Patsy Cline and snap photos of Elvis Presley’s iconic gold Cadillac limo. 

If you’re a fan of “The Man in Black,” add a visit to the Johnny Cash Museum to your itinerary. This fascinating museum features the largest collection of Johnny Cash memorabilia in the world, with handwritten notes, guitars, and demo tapes on display. You can also learn more about his marriage to June Carter Cash and his famous prison concert tour. 

Many music fans consider a visit to Nashville’s RCA Studio B one of the must-do things in Tennessee. The legendary recording studio has been the recording location for an array of iconic musicians. The Patsy Cline Museum is another favorite, while the George Jones Museum has a BBQ restaurant and live music venue attached to it. 

Buy Tickets for the Country Music Hall of Fame

2. Try Nashville Hot Chicken at Hattie B’s

Unique Things to do in Tennessee: Hattie B’s
Images courtesy of Hattie B’s

If you’re a foodie, a visit to Hattie B’s should be at the top of your Tennessee bucket list. You’ll want to come hungry for this culinary experience, as this top-rated restaurant chain serves some of the best Nashville hot chicken in the state! 

So, what is Nashville hot chicken? This local specialty is essentially fried chicken that is slathered with a cayenne-infused sauce. The laid-back restaurant setting is perfect for sinking your teeth into its delicious menu items, which include chicken breasts, thighs, tenders, and wings. 

After choosing your heat level preference (ranging from No Heat to Burn Notice), take a look at the restaurant’s side dishes. Crinkle-cut fries, baked beans, and pimento mac & cheese all pair perfectly with your platter of hot chicken. 

The family-owned chain opened its first location in Midtown Nashville in 2012. Thankfully, Hattie B’s has expanded to other cities such as Memphis, Birmingham, Atlanta, and Las Vegas so you can get your spicy chicken fix outside of Nashville. However, we suggest enjoying this local specialty in the city it was created in!  

3. Catch a Live Music Performance in Nashville

They don’t call Nashville “Music City” for nothing, and seeing a live performance in this iconic city is one of the coolest things to do in Tennessee. The venues here are as diverse as the songwriters that grace the stages. You can jam out to anything from Americana to country to pop. 

Seeing a show at the Grand Ole Opry is a dream for most country music fans. There are no bad seats in this legendary venue, and you’ll often find the biggest names in country music headlining here. Dubbed “the Mother Church of Country Music,” the Ryman Auditorium was the first venue to attract stars such as Dolly Parton, Hank Williams, and George Jones and remains one of the best places in Nashville to enjoy a live concert. 

Other great spots include Bluebird Cafe, which showcases up-and-coming songwriters, and Mercy Lounge with its intimate setting. To experience one of Nashville’s best bluegrass clubs, add The Station Inn to your list.

For a unique experience, Robert’s Western World is a long-time downtown live music joint where you can kick up your heels and let loose. Across the alley from Ryman, Tootsies Orchid Lounge is known for its world-famous honky-tonk. 

Book Tickets for the Grand Ole Opry

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4. Stroll the Foliage-Filled Pathways at Cheekwood Gardens

Fun Things to do in Tennessee: Cheekwood Gardens
Images courtesy of Cheekwood Gardens

Take a break from all the music action in Nashville and spend an afternoon in the sunshine, strolling Cheekwood’s 55 acres of meticulously landscaped gardens. The beautiful 1930s estate features a Georgian mansion that now serves as a botanical garden, arboretum, and museum. 

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the estate’s historic rooms and art galleries showcase over 7,000 pieces of art. Outside, you can explore various gardens along a 1.5-mile woodland trail dotted with beautiful sculptures. The Howe Garden is one of the most beloved gardens, featuring azaleas, trilliums, trout lilies, Virginia bluebells, a variety of ferns, and a small colony of pawpaw trees. 

If you’ve got the kids in tow, head to the popular Trains! exhibit. Set in the Turner Garden, both kids and the young-at-heart will enjoy its train depot playhouse inspired by the book, The Little Engine That Could. There’s also a special children’s tunnel, dioramas of miniature worlds, and a walking bridge.

Cheekwood is one of the top cultural attractions in Nashville, offering families a variety of activities, festivals, and programs throughout the year. If you time your visit for spring, you can catch a glimpse of the garden’s 150,000 blooming bulbs, while winter offers a chance to see one-mile of holiday lights strung around the estate. 

Nashville Sightseeing Flex Pass

If you’re planning on visiting a lot of attractions in Nashville, make sure you check out the Nashville Sightseeing Flex Pass. It gives you access to 3-7 tours and attractions around Nashville including Cheekwood Gardens and the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Buy the Nashville Sightseeing Flex Pass

5. See a Quirky Replica Parthenon in Nashville

Must do things in Tennessee: Parthenon in Nashville

It may seem strange to find the Parthenon in Tennessee, but this full-size Greek replica stands proudly as the centerpiece of Nashville’s Centennial Park. It was originally built for Tennessee’s 1897 Centennial Exposition to celebrate the city’s self-declared reputation as the “Athens of the South.”

Inside you’ll find the tallest indoor statue in the US, a large 42-foot-tall statue of the goddess Athena. You’ll also find plaster replicas of the Parthenon’s marbles that are direct copies of the original sculptures that date back to 438 BC. (These originals are now on display in London’s British Museum.)

The Parthenon also acts as an art museum, with paintings by 19th and 20th-century American artists displayed in its galleries. The cultural attraction hosts Architectural Tours highlighting the temple’s construction and the 2,500-year architectural history of the real Parthenon. You can also attend symposiums and learn about ancient civilizations or hear some live chamber music during an ECHO session.

Book a Double-Decker Bus Tour of Nashville

6. Get Off-the-Beaten-Path in the Quaint Town of Franklin

What to do in Tennessee: Town of Franklin
Images courtesy of Leiper’s Fork Distillery

If you’re a fan of small-town charm, head to Franklin for an off-the-beaten-path adventure. Located 21 miles from Nashville, this quintessentially Southern town is worth a visit, even if you’ve only got one day to explore. 

Take a stroll along Main Street – which runs through the heart of the 16-block historic downtown – for some boutique shopping and sightseeing. The well-preserved area features vintage movie theaters and centuries-old buildings that blend seamlessly with trendy shops and eateries. 

Tennessee Things to do: Town of Franklin

If you’re a history enthusiast, you can take a Civil War home tour at Carnton, Carter House, and Lotz House. Alternately, The Factory features 11 depression-era factory buildings that were transformed into art galleries, restaurants, and shops. 

For a glimpse into local small-batch whiskey, take a guided tour and tasting at Leiper’s Fork Distillery. If you’re hungry, stop at GRAYS on Main, one of the best restaurants in Franklin. It was a pharmacy for more than seven decades before becoming a restaurant and is now known for its menu of Southern favorites and excellent live music!

Book a Haunted City Tour of Franklin

7. Visit Graceland and the Elvis Presley Memphis Complex

Best Things to do in Tennessee: Graceland
Images courtesy of Graceland

A Tennessee bucket list would be incomplete without including a trip to Graceland, the well-known former estate of music legend Elvis Presley. Just 10 miles south of downtown Memphis, it has become the ultimate pilgrimage site for music lovers. 

At this 14-acre property, you’ll have the chance to take an interactive iPad tour of the King of Rock ’n’ Roll’s home. Wander through the home and walk in his footsteps while listening to stories by Elvis and his daughter. You can even see his tomb, which is in the Meditation Garden. 

You can browse the foyer and living room where he entertained celebrities, his father’s office, the poolroom, and the famous Jungle Room adorned with shag carpets. Don’t miss the state-of-the-art entertainment and exhibition complex, which houses personal artifacts such as his flashy jumpsuits, memorabilia from his movies, a record collection, and Priscilla’s wedding dress.

Car enthusiasts will love exploring the building housing his collection of favorite cars, including the iconic 1955 pink Cadillac and 1975 Dino Ferrari. You can also hop aboard his luxurious 1958 Convair 880 airplane with gold-plated seats and leather tables. 

8. Immerse Yourself in the Music Scene in Memphis

What to do in Tennessee: Music Scene in Memphis

While Nashville is known for its country music roots, fans of rock ’n’ roll should head straight to Memphis. Known worldwide as “The Birthplace of Rock ’n’ Roll,” Sun Studio is the natural place to start your journey in this musical city. You can take a tour of the legendary recording facility and see where famous artists such as Elvis, B.B. King, and Johnny Cash once recorded.

For a comprehensive look at the city’s music history, add the Memphis Rock ’n’ Soul Museum to your itinerary. It’s worth a visit to this Smithsonian museum to learn about the history of this genre of music through galleries that display instruments, costumes, and other music-related items. 

Honoring Memphis musicians for their lifetime achievements, the Memphis Music Hall of Fame is another worthy stop. You’ll be introduced to some of the greatest musicians of all time through its interactive exhibits, unique memorabilia, and rare recordings.  

Known as the “Home of the Blues,” Beale Street is the most famous road in Memphis where a collection of live music clubs pump out rock, soul, and blues each night. Each venue is unique, from the live goats at Silky O’Sullivan’s to the late-night dance parties in B.B. King’s Blues Club

Book a 3-Hour Music Tour of Memphis

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9. Visit the National Civil Rights Museum

Unique Things to do in Tennessee: National Civil Rights Museum

Located in Memphis, the National Civil Rights Museum is a one-of-a-kind cultural attraction and one of the best things to do in Tennessee. Not only will you learn about the struggles involved in fighting for civil rights during the 1960s movement, but you can experience first-hand accounts of events through videos and special displays. 

A short distance from Beale Street, this complex is housed in the Lorraine Motel where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968. Step inside this eye-opening museum to see its multimedia presentations highlighting the civil rights movement, as well as 260 artifacts, 40 films, and a variety of interactive media that details five centuries of US history. 

Some of the highlights of this thought-provoking museum include stories of civil rights activists, a Greyhound bus ridden by Freedom Riders, and Martin Luther King Jr.’s motel room and the balcony where he spent his final hours. There are also artifacts from the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka case. 

10. Get Your Fill of Authentic Tennessee BBQ

Fun Things to do in Tennessee: Authentic Tennessee BBQ
Images courtesy of Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint

Barbecue is taken very seriously in Tennessee and trying some is a must-do when visiting this diverse state. While Memphis-style pork ribs are often the star of the show, you’ll find a variety of tempting barbecue dishes on the menu – from pulled pork sandwiches to dry-rub ribs to juicy brisket. 

Not all barbecue joints are created equal, and there are a few spots that should be added to your Tennessee bucket list if you’re a meat-eater. The award-winning Central BBQ in Memphis is a great place to start. Serving fall-off-the-bone meat made with intricate dry rubs, it’s one of the best barbecue eateries in the US. 

In Nashville, Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint is a solid favorite and home to West Tennessee-style whole hog BBQ and world-class ribs. Peg Leg Porker BBQ is another popular choice, pairing their barbecue platters with local beers on tap and plenty of different bourbons. 

Drive south to Chattanooga to eat at Hickory Pit Bar-B-Que for traditional hickory-smoked chicken, beef, or pork. Helen’s Bar BQ is a hometown favorite in Brownsville, serving mouthwatering pork sandwiches and ribs with no frills. 

11. Explore Knoxville’s Vibrant Downtown 

Tennessee Bucket List: Knoxville’s Vibrant Downtown

Located in eastern Tennessee, Knoxville offers an enticing mix of gorgeous mountain scenery, Southern charm, and family-friendly attractions. While it makes an excellent base for exploring the wonders of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Knoxville’s walkable downtown area is also worth a visit for its historic landmarks, museums, and markets. 

For a birds-eye view of the downtown core, visit the observation decks at the Sunsphere tower to appreciate the stunning 360-degree panoramic vistas. The tower is located in World’s Fair Park, a picturesque spot in Knoxville where locals go to enjoy the outdoors. It features scenic walking trails, a lake, a performance lawn, and an interactive play area for kids. 

Don’t leave Knoxville without strolling through the historic Market Square, where a collection of shops, restaurants, bars, and cafes create a lively setting to shop and eat. The pedestrian-friendly area has been a local gathering spot since the 1860s and plays host to outdoor concerts, festivals, and farmers’ markets throughout the year.

Another highlight of the downtown area is the Museum of East Tennessee History, which details the region’s history through 13,000 artifacts. Enjoy interactive displays and listen to first-person accounts, then browse the collection of decorative arts, textiles, and Civil War items. 

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12. See “The Vols” Play at Neyland Stadium

Tennessee Things to do: Neyland Stadium

If you want to cheer on the local team, attend a Tennessee Volunteers football game at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville. Not only is it one of college football’s most iconic landmarks, but it’s also one of the largest stadiums in the country.

Built in 1921, there are still many long-standing traditions at Neyland Stadium. Before a football game, there is the home game Vol Walk, a pep rally parade where fans join the coach, team, and Pride of Southland Band and march to the stadium. 

Don your favorite orange and white apparel and watch the Vols run through the iconic “T” as Smokey the mascot joins the field. One of the most popular University of Tennessee traditions includes tailgating before the game, while bars and restaurants near the stadium also offer a lively atmosphere. 

13. Hike the Great Smoky Mountains

Unique Things to do in Tennessee: Great Smoky Mountains

Hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the absolute best things to do in Tennessee. If you love the outdoors, this activity should make an appearance on your Tennessee bucket list. Not only is it America’s most visited park, but it also has over 600 miles of trails with beautiful mountain views, cascading waterfalls, and gorgeous year-round foliage.

Day hikes are in abundance in this park, from the popular 2.6-mile Laurel Falls hike to Grotto Falls, a well-maintained 2.8-mile trail where you can walk behind a waterfall! If you’re up for a challenge, the 3.3-mile Chimney Tops trail has an elevation gain of over 800 feet and features an observation deck where you can take in the stunning vistas. 

Other highlights of the Great Smoky Mountains include seeing the 6,643 round-top Clingmans Dome, paddling along Fontana Lake, and biking through Cades Cove to see a collection of historic buildings. The park is also renowned for its photogenic fall foliage that peaks from mid-September to mid-October. 

If you visit the Great Smoky Mountains in late-May to early-June, try and see the synchronous fireflies. This surreal experience allows you to witness thousands of tiny lightning bugs flash on and off simultaneously in an eye-catching mating ritual. The best way to see this rare local phenomenon is to book a campsite at Elkmont Campground, just 25 minutes from downtown Gatlinburg

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14. Spend a Day at Dollywood

Cool Things to do in Tennessee: Dollywood
Images courtesy of Dollywood

One of the world’s most-loved celebrities, Dolly Parton is a sassy songstress known for her role in country music and generous philanthropy. With its thrill rides, exciting events, and live entertainment, her namesake Dollywood theme park in Pigeon Forge is a top attraction in Tennessee and a fun getaway for the whole family. 

The sprawling 160-acre theme park is set in the Great Smoky Mountains and offers a choice of more than 50 world-class rides. Plan to spend at least an entire day here, as thrill-seekers won’t want to miss the park’s popular rides, such as Barnstormer, Daredevil Falls, and Dragonflier. Little ones can get in on the fun too, with a carousel, swings, and bumper cars available. 

Live shows are a part of the entertainment, including a Wings of America presentation with birds of prey. You’ll find all kinds of unique crafts to pick up from local artisans, such as candles, blown glass, and customized metal gifts. When hunger strikes, fill up on BBQ, pizza, and Southern favorites at one of the on-site restaurants. 

Kids will love hopping aboard the Dollywood Express, an old steam railway that circles the park. Other Dolly-related attractions include the Splash Country waterpark, a Chasing Rainbows museum highlighting Dolly’s life, and Dollywood DreamMore Resort

15. Enjoy Year-Round Fun at Ober Gatlinburg

Images courtesy of Ober Gatlinburg

Home to both an amusement park and ski area at the top of Mount Harrison, Ober Gatlinburg is a four-season attraction in Gatlinburg. Opened over 50 years ago, this family-friendly complex is beloved by locals and visitors alike due to its wide variety of experiences on offer. 

It’s a popular spot to enjoy skiing and snowboarding, while other fun winter activities include ice skating, ice bumper cars, and snow tubing. The winter season at Ober Gatlinburg is usually from mid-December to mid-March. 

A highlight of the park is the Aerial Tramway, which offers beautiful views of downtown Gatlinburg and the surrounding Smoky Mountains. In spring, you can admire the green landscapes on the tramway, on a thrilling mountain coaster, or on an alpine slide. 

Winter might be the park’s most popular season, but summer brings fun activities such as summer tubing and water raft rides. You can also sign up for a Wildlife Encounter experience and get up-close to river otters, bobcats, and black bears. 

Fall is a perfect time to ride the Aerial Tramway, as you’ll be rewarded with postcard-worthy views of the surrounding fall foliage. This time of year also boasts seasonal events such as Oktoberfest. 

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16. Sample Moonshine

Must do things in Tennessee: Sample Moonshine

Did you know the Smoky Mountains are known for being a popular spot to sample moonshine? One of the best places to taste this local spirit is in Gatlinburg, with multiple distilleries allowing you to get a taste of their signature flavors. 

Three of the most popular distilleries in Gatlinburg are Sugarlands Distilling Co., Ole Smoky Moonshine, and Doc Collier Moonshine. They each offer a fun experience where you can get a behind-the-scenes look at the distilling process and try a few samples of their hooch. 

If you think moonshine isn’t your thing, try one of the infused flavors instead. Many of the distilleries offer unique flavor combinations, from apple pie to maple bacon. If you have a sweet tooth, you might prefer variations that are soaked in fruit, such as cherries or peaches! 

Book a Moonshine Tasting Tour

17. Get a Bird’s-Eye View of Gatlinburg from the Space Needle

Best Things to do in Tennessee: View of Gatlinburg from the Space Needle

For a unique look at the Smoky Mountains, visit the Gatlinburg Space Needle, an iconic attraction towering 407 feet over the city. Upon arrival, glass elevators will whisk you up to the observation deck for incredible 360-degree views of the National Park and Mount LeConte. 

At the top, you’ll find educational exhibits detailing the history of the town and the surrounding mountains. For a romantic outing, the sunset views from the Gatlinburg Space Needle are particularly spectacular, while families with kids will love peering through the viewfinders for a closer look at the mountains. 

When you’ve had your fill of stunning vistas, head back to the ground level and visit Arcadia, the 30,000 square foot amusement center. Perfect for a family game night, it features state-of-the-art games and the largest collection of amusement games, simulators, and activities in Gatlinburg. 

If you’re feeling hungry, visit the on-site Slice Pizza Bakery. The Italian restaurant has an enticing selection of delicious calzones, sandwiches, and New York-style pizza. 

Smoky Mountains Sightseeing Flex Pass

If you’re planning on visiting a lot of attractions in Gatlinburg, make sure you check out the Smoky Mountains Sightseeing Flex Pass. It gives you access to 30 of the top-rated tours and attractions in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge including the Space Needle, Ripley’s Believe It or Not!, the Rocky Top Mountain Coaster, and more.

Buy the Smoky Mountains Sightseeing Flex Pass

18. See a NASCAR Race at the Bristol Motor Speedway

Must do things in Tennessee: Bristol Motor Speedway

If you have a need for speed or are curious about what a 600-horsepower engine sounds like, then a NASCAR race at the Bristol Motor Speedway might be right up your alley. It’s a top thing to do in Tennessee for sports fans and thrill-seekers alike.

Bristol Motor Speedway is one of the most popular tracks on the NASCAR schedule because of its unique features, including its stadium-like seating, steep banking, and two pit roads. Known as the “World’s Fastest Half-Mile,” it’s also the third-largest sports venue in the United States. 

Sitting in the stands at this NASCAR short track venue and watching cars jockey for a position is an electrifying experience. A visit here is a feast for the senses, offering a mix of colorful sights, heart-racing action, and almost-deafening sounds.

19. Take a Step Back in Time at Chattanooga Choo Choo

Tennessee Things to do: Chattanooga Choo Choo

All aboard the Chattanooga Choo Choo! Opened in 1909, this historic train depot was a major link between the northern and southern states during the golden age of railroads. These days, the Terminal Station is a part of the famous Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel and its entertainment complex that houses shops and gardens. 

One of the best ways to experience this historic landmark is by staying overnight. Giving guests an insight into Chattanooga’s bygone era, the hotel boasts unique Victorian sleeper cars that were once reserved for the wealthiest passengers. 

Even if you aren’t booking a stay, you can still visit the on-site Glenn Miller Gardens, which boasts two acres of beautiful flower-filled landscapes and lawn games such as life-size checkers, Jenga, corn hole, and bocce ball. You can also catch a live show at The Comedy Catch or enjoy a night out on the lively Station Street next to the complex. 

The complex is also home to some of the best dining in Chattanooga’s historic Southside district, from the chef-driven menu at Frothy Monkey to live music and shareable dishes at Backstage Bar. Wash your meal down with a cold beverage at the unique pour-your-own beer hall at American Draft.

Book a Night at the Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel

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20. Make Memories with the Family in Chattanooga

Best Things to do in Tennessee: Chattanooga

Chattanooga is a world-class destination in Tennessee and one of the most affordable cities in the US, making it a favorite for all types of travelers. Families, in particular, will love its long list of kid-friendly museums and attractions that will keep everyone in the group entertained. 

The Tennessee Aquarium is one of the city’s top family-friendly attractions. The massive aquarium is home to multiple exhibits featuring a variety of species, including otters, sharks, stingrays, and penguins. The Creative Discovery Museum is one of the top children’s museums in the United States and invites little ones to touch, learn, and play through its exhibits. 

For an interactive experience, visit the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum for a scenic trip into the Tennessee mountainside on a vintage train. If it’s sunny, add a visit to Coolidge Park to your itinerary and let the kids splash around in the animal-themed fountains or hop aboard the antique carousel. 

Outdoor-loving families will enjoy a budget-friendly afternoon of fun at the Tennessee Riverwalk. Located downtown, the picturesque waterfront area is a great spot to enjoy a family bike ride!

Book a Tennessee Valley Railroad Train Ride

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21. Marvel at Ruby Falls

Cool Things to do in Tennessee: Ruby Falls

Adventure awaits at Ruby Falls, the tallest and deepest underground waterfall in the US that’s open to the public! A visit to this natural wonder is one of the coolest things to do in Tennessee. You’ll descend 26 stories by elevator to reach a scenic cavern path that leads to the 1,120-foot-tall underground waterfall.

Hidden deep within the summit of Lookout Mountain, guided tours get you up-close to the thundering waterfall. Along the way, you’ll have the chance to marvel at ancient geological formations, such as stalactites, stalagmites, columns, drapes, and flowstone. You’ll also get an in-depth look at the cave’s fascinating history. 

It’s just a short drive from downtown Chattanooga and offers a full day of activities. You can visit the waterfall, then enjoy panoramic views of the Tennessee Valley and Tennessee River from Lookout Mountain Tower, Blue Heron Overlook, and the Village Plaza. 

If you’re an adrenaline junkie, take your visit to new heights with a zip-lining adventure at Ruby Falls. The experience includes a 40-foot climbing tower and 700 feet of zip lining as you soar through the treetops overlooking the Tennessee Valley. 

22. Explore Fall Creek Falls State Park

Tennessee Bucket List: Fall Creek Falls State Park

Perched on the upper Cane Creek Gorge, Fall Creek Falls State Park is one of the best things to do in Tennessee if you’re an outdoor lover. It’s one of Tennessee’s largest and most visited state parks, encompassing more than 29,000 acres sprawled across the rugged Cumberland Plateau. 

The park offers a long list of other family-friendly activities. As one of the highest waterfalls east of the Mississippi, the 256-tall Fall Creek Falls is the star attraction here. If you want to go waterfall chasing, Piney Falls, Cane Creek Falls, and Cane Creek Cascades are a few of the park’s other notable natural wonders. 

A day of exploring Fall Creek Falls offers the opportunity to see beautiful cascades, gorges, and waterfalls along its scenic pathways. With more than 56 miles of trails, hikes in this park cater to all skill levels and range from short walks to long-distance overnight trails. 

The on-site Nature Center offers hands-on environmental education through arts and crafts and nature-led programs. If you want to get your adrenaline pumping, the Canopy Challenge Course provides an aerial adventure with bridges, rope swings, and zip lines. You can also tee off at the 18-hole Fall Creek Falls Golf Course or spend a night under the stars in one of the park’s cozy cabins.

23. Tour the Jack Daniel’s Distillery

Fun Things to do in Tennessee: Jack Daniel’s Distillery
Images courtesy of Jack Daniel’s Distillery

Located in the small town of Lynchburg, the world-renowned Jack Daniel’s Distillery is a must-see attraction in Tennessee. It offers unique tours and tasting experiences, where you’ll get a behind-the-scenes look at what goes into creating the signature Jack Daniel’s taste. 

There are a variety of tours to choose from, including The Angel’s Share tour that was once reserved for distillers. You’ll have the chance to sip smooth-tasting whiskey drawn from individual barrels and sample two limited edition whiskeys.

Opt for the Flight of Jack Daniel’s to taste five JD products and be sure to visit the historic Barrel House. For a down-home two-course meal paired with whiskey, sign up for the Taste of Lynchburg tour. Lastly, the Dry County Tour is whiskey-free and highlights the whiskey-making process. 

About a 30-minute drive away, the Cascade Hollow Distilling Co. (home of George Dickel Tennessee Whisky) also offers whisky tours. Located in a tranquil setting, you can see how they continue to craft George Dickel Whisky just like they did in the 1800s. Outdoor seating is available for self-guided tastings. 

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24. Take a Boat Ride on The Lost Sea

Cool Things to do in Tennessee: Lost Sea

Craighead Caverns is home to the USA’s largest and the world’s second-largest non-subglacial underground lake. It’s by far one of the coolest places to visit in Tennessee! You can see this natural wonder, called The Lost Sea, by taking a tour of the extensive cave system. 

Located between Sweetwater and Madisonville, the Lost Sea Adventure starts with a guided tour of the caverns with a .75-mile round-trip walk on its sloping pathways. Along the way, knowledgeable guides will highlight the caverns’ fascinating history and explain how the large cavern was formed.

Best Things to do in Tennessee: Lost Sea

The tour stops at an incredible underwater waterfall that is beautifully lit, and you’ll get up-close with a rare collection of anthodites, known as “cave flowers.” Once you reach the bottom of the cave, get ready for an epic boat ride on America’s largest underground lake, where you’ll cruise through various rooms. 

The tour takes about an hour and a half and is a memorable experience for adventurous travelers and families. Above ground, you’ll also find a self-guided Nature Trail and a Sea Village with shops.

25. Explore Tennessee’s Civil War Heritage 

Tennessee Things to do: Tennessee’s Civil War Heritage

If you’re a history buff, you’re spoiled for choice with things to do in Tennessee. The “Volunteer State” has a rich Civil War history. Its numerous battles have now been commemorated by visitor centers, museums, and memorials. 

One of the best sites to visit is Fort Donelson National Battlefield, which is the location of the first major Union victory. Come here to see its visitor center, fort, cemetery, and majestic eagles. Afterward, you can visit the historic Dover Hotel, where Ulysses S. Grant accepted the Confederate surrender of the fort. 

Shiloh National Military Park offers a somber experience, as it was the site of the first notable Civil War battle in the west and is home to more than 3,500 graves. Alternatively, Chickamauga-Chattanooga National Military Park holds great significance as the largest military park in the United States. 

Nearby, Point Park Battlefield is where the “Battle Above the Clouds” occurred. Another stop on the Tennessee Civil War Trails, Stones River National Battlefield is the site of one of the bloodiest conflicts in the Civil War. Park rangers at Stones River offer a variety of talks, walks, tours, and living history programs throughout the year.

Book a Tennessee Civil War History Tour

There you have it – 25 of the best things to do in Tennessee! What’s your favorite thing to do in The Volunteer State?

Planning a trip to Tennessee? Check out our favorite books and travel guides!


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Debi Pinell
Debi Pinell
8 days ago

In activity #3, who are you referring to as George James? There is no famous country singer by that name who has history at the Ryman Auditorium. Perhaps you meant to write George Jones. In that case, you would be correct. Also, there is only ONE room (not plural) the boat ride encompasses at The Lost Sea. In addition, when you referred to a Smoky Mountain Flex Pass, you associated it with Nashville, TN. The Smokey’s do not extend to Nashville. Apparently, you have not visited the places of which you’re writing, or else your proofreading skills are nonexistent.

Valerie Wheatley
Valerie Wheatley
8 days ago
Reply to  Debi Pinell

Thank you for so thoroughly reading our article Debi! And you are absolutely right, incorrectly stating a last name and writing “rooms” instead of “room” are egregious errors indeed. If you are looking for a perfectly edited article might we suggest purchasing a travel guide at your local bookstore? They are writing for a profit, we are writing for the love of travel (which occasionally includes some errors because we’re human). And Nick Wheatley (1/2 of the Wandering Wheatleys) was born and raised in Tennessee so I’m pretty sure he’s been there once or twice…

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