Tennessee: Civil War battlefields, music heritage and the Great Smoky Mountains

Visiting the United States? There are 50 states in all.

Tennessee, a Southern state, is a top destination for music lovers, history buffs and outdoors enthusiasts. Tennessee is the birthplace of rock ’n’ roll and the capital of country music, and it’s also the site of many Civil War battles. The beauty of its Great Smoky Mountains offers respite from the stresses of modern life.

Seeking culture? All of Tennessee’s major cities — Memphis, Nashville, Knoxville and Chattanooga — have symphony orchestras, as well as ballet, opera and theater companies. Moreover, museums are everywhere, from the National Civil Rights Museum, in Memphis, to the Museum of Appalachia, in Clinton.

In June, find live music at the Bonnaroo Music Festival in Manchester, featuring rock ’n’ roll, jazz and hip-hop; the CMA Music Festival in Nashville, a country music event; or the Riverbend Festival in Chattanooga, offering multiple genres.

(State Dept.)

Nature’s bounty

Great Smoky Mountains National Park — straddling the border of Tennessee and North Carolina — is the most visited U.S. national park, outranking even the Grand Canyon. It boasts more than 1,300 kilometers of hiking trails and views of mist-covered mountains.

The rising sun casts an amber glow over the Great Smoky Mountains. (Thinkstock)

Shrines to music royalty

In Memphis, don’t miss Graceland, the lavish estate of Elvis Presley. The residence-turned-museum, preserved as it was when Presley died there in 1977, showcases the legend’s living quarters and memorabilia, and visitors can pay their respects at Presley’s tomb.

Graceland welcomes 600,000 visitors from all over the world each year. (Joseph Novak/Creative Commons)

Memphis also offers the Memphis Music Hall of Fame and the Memphis Rock ’n’ Soul Museum. You can tour Sun Studio, the venue where Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, B.B. King and Roy Orbison made their first recordings. In Nashville, take in the Country Music Hall of Fame or a performance at the Grand Ole Opry, a showcase for country music artists.

At night, downtown Nashville is illuminated by neon signs that reflect the city’s deep musical roots. (Shutterstock)

Family fun

Kids love Dollywood, Tennessee’s premier theme park. Named for country singer Dolly Parton, the park — located in Pigeon Forge — features live concerts, rides, water slides, an old steam railway and local crafts.

An old steam locomotive, the Dollywood Express, is a signature attraction at Dollywood. (Sdenny123/Creative Commons)

Remaking a nation

With numerous Civil War battlefields within its borders, the entire state of Tennessee is considered a Civil War National Heritage Area. Visit Shiloh National Military Park in April to observe a reenactment of the Battle of Shiloh. Tour any of the battlefields to learn how civil war reshaped the United States.

Cannons boom as a Civil War battle re-enactment brings history to life. (Shutterstock)

An echo of ancient Greece

Stop by The Parthenon, a Nashville museum that’s a full-scale replica of the original Parthenon in Athens. Built in 1897 as part of the Tennessee Centennial Exposition, the structure houses American art from the 19th and 20th centuries.

Rectangular columned building (Thinkstock)
In Nashville’s Centennial Park, a replica of Greece’s Parthenon showcases a permanent art gallery. (Thinkstock)

Learn more about Tennessee and check out the other 49 states. If you need a visa to visit, here’s how to get one.