Getty Images

Stock Photos from 123RF



Carmac Falls, Smithsville, Tennessee© Kevin TavaresCarmac Falls, Smithsville, Tennessee
© Kevin Tavares
From the Civil War to civil rights, and from jazz and blues to rock and country, Tennessee has played a key role in both American history and American music.

Music fans are spoiled for choice. In Nashville, country artists give career-defining performances at the Grand Ole Opry and are immortalized in the Country Music Hall of Fame.

In Memphis, the Beale Street Historic District preserves the area where blues greats like W.C. Handy honed their craft. (A Beale Street tailor is even credited with inventing the zoot suit, the universal uniform of early 1940s hipsters.) Today, after a concerted revitalization project, the street is once again lined with nightclubs. It's also home to the Memphis Rock and Soul Museum, affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution.

In addition, Memphis is a prime destination for all things Elvis. The big draw is the King's mansion, Graceland, but you'll also find all sorts of Elvis-themed shops and other attractions—even a Heartbreak Hotel.

But the city also played a sadder role in the nation's history, as the site of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at the Lorraine Motel in 1968. The motel is now part of the National Civil Rights Museum, which traces the story of the civil rights movement from its roots to the present day.

Tennessee was the site of some of the most famous battles of the U.S. Civil War, which you can learn more about at Shiloh National Military Park, and Chickamauga and Chattanooga Military Park.

Sunset at Morton's Overlook, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee© Michael HareSunset at Morton's Overlook, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee
© Michael Hare
For families, major attractions include the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga, one of the largest freshwater aquariums in the world, and the Dollywood theme park in Pigeon Forge (where you'll also find a mind-boggling collection of outlet stores). Not far from Pigeon Forge is family entertainment of a totally different type: the beautiful Great Smoky Mountains National Park, where you can camp, hike and fish in stunning surroundings.

by Laura Byrne Paquet

Stock Photos from 123RF

Stock Photos from 123RF