Each region is known for its distinctive musical heritage: Bluegrass (East), Country-western (Middle), and Blues (West).
|East Tennessee |
Home to Bristol, Chattanooga, Johnson City and Knoxville, is mountainous and reflects an Appalachian cultural influence.
|Middle Tennessee |
The state's most prosperous area, including cities such as Nashville, against a backdrop of rolling hills.
|West Tennessee |
Bordered by the Mississippi River and generally considered the extreme northern boundary of Mississippi Delta cultural influence. Memphis is part of this region, and hosts a wide variety of historical sites and attractions.
- 1 Nashville – Country music capital of the world and the Tennessee state capital.
- 2 Chattanooga – home of the Chattanooga Choo Choo and the Tennessee Aquarium.
- 3 Cleveland – a City with Spirit and home of Lee University
- 4 Gatlinburg – Gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
- 5 Greeneville – one of America’s Most Charming Towns & Villages
- 6 Johnson City – site of East Tennessee State University and the USVA Mountain Home.
- 7 Knoxville – Home of the University of Tennessee at Knoxville
- 8 Memphis – Home of the blues and the birthplace of rock 'n' roll.
- 9 Pigeon Forge – Home of Dollywood – Country legend Dolly Parton's amusement park.
- 1 Appalachian National Scenic Trail
- 2 Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area
- 3 Great Smoky Mountains National Park
- 4 Obed Wild and Scenic River
- 5 Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail
- 6 Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area
- 7 Dollywood and Dollywood's Splash Country
Tennessee is the only state in the U.S. to have more than one metropolitan area in each of two time zones. Roughly the eastern third of the state is in the Eastern Time Zone—this includes Knoxville and Chattanooga. The rest of Tennessee is on Central Time (same as Chicago). If you have to be somewhere at a certain time in the Eastern zone (and are in the Central zone), don't forget to allow for an extra hour to get there.
Tennessee was founded in 1796, making it the 16th state to be admitted to the Union. During the Civil War, its allegiances were sharply divided, though the state government did secede from the Union. Quickly falling back into Union hands, it was one of the first Confederate states to rejoin the Union. The state has been the home of American icons including former President Andrew Johnson and entertainer Dolly Parton. However, it has also been home to such unsavory characters as Jesse James, and Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest, a prominent, post-war leader of the first Ku Klux Klan.
Many native Tennesseans speak in the dialect of the American South. This dialect changes slightly as you cross through each region, and is especially pronounced in rural areas
Generally speaking, it is accepted that people in the South speak more slowly, and carefully than those from the North. In particular, visitors from larger cities will have to adjust to the different pace of speech if they visit Tennessee's smaller mountain towns; speaking quickly and bluntly can be perceived as inconsiderate and may engender a negative response. Some Tennesseans in especially rural or mountainous areas may be difficult to understand by those not familiar with American South or Appalachian colloquialisms, slurring or speech cadence.
Interstate 40 criss-crosses the state from west to east, connecting Memphis, Nashville, Knoxville and the Smoky Mountain Region. Interstate 55 is entirely situated in Memphis. Interstate 155 crosses from Missouri into northwest Tennessee, ending in Dyersburg. Interstate 24 enters from Kentucky near Clarksville, passes through Nashville and ends in Chattanooga (but not before briefly dipping into Georgia for about three miles). Interstate 65 runs through Nashville in its trek from Kentucky to Alabama. Interstate 75, coming from Kentucky, links Knoxville with Chattanooga before heading into Georgia. Interstate 81 starts at Interstate 40 just east of Knoxville and heads northeast to Bristol before moving into Virginia. In the Kingsport area, Interstate 26 runs south from Interstate 81 into North Carolina (towards Asheville), while Interstate 181 heads toward Kingsport and the Virginia state line.
There are several airports in the state. Memphis International Airport is served by many major airlines, with service to Toronto Canada as its only international route (as of Nov 2019). Nashville International Airport is a hub for Southwest Airlines and is served by many other airlines domestically, and by International Airlines offering non-stop service to destinations in Canada, Mexico, Jamaica, The Bahamas, Dominican Republic, United Kingdom and Germany. There is air service at smaller airports at Maryville (Knoxville), Chattanooga and Bristol. Southern Tennessee is easily accessible to the Huntsville, Alabama, airport.
Amtrak service in Tennessee is limited to the City of New Orleans service stopping in Memphis and Newbern.
Greyhound offers service throughout Tennessee. Megabus offers service to Memphis (from Chicago, Champaign-Urbana, St. Louis, Atlanta, Birmingham, Dallas, and Little Rock), to Nashville (from Atlanta), to Chattanooga (from Atlanta), and to Knoxville (from Washington, D.C., Christiansburg and Atlanta).
As in most American states, automobiles are the primary form of travel. In larger cities you will find public bus systems, and Greyhound buses are an option for travel in between cities. There are also major airports in all large cities (Nashville, Memphis, Knoxville, Chattanooga, and the Tri-Cities) and many smaller airports scattered across the state.
There is no option for rail travel to Middle or East Tennessee. However, Amtrak runs the fabled "City of New Orleans" line through Memphis and Newbern. This is certainly worth considering if you are planning to visit those areas, especially if you are heading along the Mississippi River. Also, the city of Nashville operates a commuter rail from the suburbs to the downtown area.
Information on transit can be found here.
- Rock City, near Chattanooga. Famous for "See Rock City" signs all over the southeastern United States, especially on birdhouses.
- Graceland, in Memphis.
- Fall Creek Falls State Park- in Spencer it is Tennessee's most visited state park. It holds the largest free falling waterfall east of the Mississippi River.
- Cades Cove- Wildlife viewing location
- The Lost Sea Adventure- Sweetwater
- Lookout Mountain
It is becoming increasingly rare to locate truly authentic "Southern" cuisine in places other than a privately owned family kitchen table, but the state still offers some truly wonderful regional fare. Some local specialties include hot chicken from Nashville, and Memphis-style barbecue, which includes the famous rib tips.
Tennessee is known for its Tennessee whiskey, which meets the legal requirement for bourbon whiskey, but with the additional requirements that it be filtered through maple charcoal after the distillation but before the aging step, and that it be made within the state.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a World Heritage Biosphere Reserve and draws millions of visitors from around the region and the world annually. Covering nearly 1,000 square miles it is home to temperate rainforests and some of the rarest and most unique plant life in North America. The park suffers from high levels of air pollution due to surrounding cities such as Knoxville and Sevierville as well as the numerous coal-fired power plants of the Tennessee Valley Authority.
Traffic congestion is fairly severe within the Park's Cades Cove "loop," as many people stop to take in the vistas of the sprawling valley and its many deer and bears that freely roam the area. If you plan to go, car pool if you can.
Depending on where you plan to visit, there are many things to do in Tennessee from white water rafting on the Ocoee River, to visiting Gatlinburg, and seeing the Music City of Nashville. For outdoor adventures, you must go visit the Ocoee River rafting, which was home of the Olympics. You can have an all day adventure going down the Ocoee River and experience the fun of the outdoors.
During the spring months, the state is often heavily affected by major rain storms which lead to a risk of major flood potential. These floods are by no means on a small scale; they are often widespread and last for several days or even weeks. In May 2010, the state experienced a "1000-year flood" which resulted in numerous fatalities and over $2 billion of property damage statewide.
Travelers to the region during this season should consider planning ahead; stay informed about weather events in the region before making your journey. If there is an eminent flood warning or an ongoing threat of a flood occurring in the area at which you plan to travel to or through, consider deferring your travel plans or take an alternate route to your final destination. Avoid flood ravaged areas, as these areas are unsafe for any non-essential travel.
Thunderstorms and tornadoes
Although it is not anywhere near the official "tornado alley", the state (particularly its central and western regions) does experience very violent thunderstorms during the spring and summer months of the year. These thunderstorms frequently have the potential to spawn small scale tornadoes, but this is not to say that the potential for larger scale events is not possible. During the April 2009 tornado outbreak, the city of Murfreesboro was struck by an intense EF-4 tornado which resulted in 2 deaths and caused $40 million in property damage.
Therefore, any travelers to this region during these months should be vigilant of the changing weather conditions.
Refer to the Tornado safety page for more details regarding this matter.
In terms of race relations, racism is not that prevalent in the state. It's wise to avoid the poorest of areas if you feel you might be targeted by racist people. Younger Tennesseans are generally more progressive and tolerant than their seniors.
Tennessee, like almost all states in the South, is a conservative state, although it's a bit more progressive than, say, Mississippi.
As is the case with almost all states in the South, old-fashioned rules of etiquette and courtesy are followed. Not following such nuances can make you stand out like a sore thumb.
Tennessee is tied with Missouri for having the most neighboring states. It has eight in total.
- Arkansas - Tennessee's western neighbor, "The Natural State" is home to the Ozark Mountains in the northwest while the south and east of the state has flatter land and shows more of its agricultural heritage.
- Missouri - The state's northwestern neighbor is home to Branson, a music city similar to Nashville (but nowhere near as large), and St. Louis, the gateway to the West.
- Kentucky - Tennessee's northern neighbor is the Bluegrass State, home to the Kentucky Derby, Mammoth Cave National Park and the Corvette Museum.
- Virginia - Across Tennessee's northeast corner, Virginia is known for the Blue Ridge Mountains and Shenandoah National Park.
- North Carolina - Located east of Tennessee, North Carolina is where you'll find Chimney Rock, Biltmore Estate and Grandfather Mountain.
- Georgia - Tennessee's southeastern neighbor is across the border from Chattanooga, and includes Rock City, the historic village of Helen, and the vibrant city of Atlanta.
- Alabama - The state to the south of Tennessee has the Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville and the popular Gulf Shores resort region.
- Mississippi - Southwest of Tennessee, Mississippi boasts Civil War battlefields, scenic parkways, antebellum charm, and riverboat casinos.