From the Appalachian folk music of the Smoky Mountains to the cherished country ballads of Nashville to the mellow blues of Memphis, Tennessee is a land of song. Start your journey in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, where steep hiking trails and low-slung valleys compete for attention. Nearby, folk and bluegrass bands fiddle away in Gatlinburg, while in Pigeon Forge strands of country music can be heard at Dollywood, run by the one and only Dolly Parton, who was born in Sevierville, just down the road a ways.
Keep Dolly playing as you stride into Nashville. (Pick up a pair of rhinestone cowboy boots to step with flair.) Here you’ll find Tennessee’s temples to country music—the Grand Ole Opry, the Ryman Auditorium, the Bluebird Café—as well as a boom in restaurants cooking up hot takes on down-home fare. Fill up on biscuits and gravy, meat-and-three combos, or hot chicken, a fiery Nashville specialty.
Blues fans and Elvis pilgrims flock to Memphis to sing and dance under Beale Street’s bright lights—music from the street’s many blues clubs regularly spills out into the night. Graceland, the mansion Elvis Presley once called home, is a must, as is Sun Studio, where the King got his big break. For a change of pace, there’s the National Civil Rights Museum, the rails-to-trails corridor Greenline, and barbecue aplenty in the southwestern corner of Tennessee.
Between the golfing, shopping, and near year-round outdoor activities, this eastern Tennessee town is the perfect place to recharge.
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Music City’s Moment
Your local-approved guide to Nashville as it steps into the national spotlight.
Nashville, set on a bluff on central Tennessee’s Cumberland River, earned its first nickname, “Rock City,” in the mid–19th century for its abundant limestone. Only much later would it be dubbed “Music City,” but the roots of its musical legacy date back to that same period. Today the flash and flair of Nashville’s rhinestone-bedecked country-music scene draws about 14 million visitors a year. Quite a few are so equally captivated by the area’s other charms—rolling parkland, sprawling estates steeped in history, globally minded museums—that they are deciding to stay for good (each day, around 70 people move here).