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Tennessee is located in the southern region of the US. It’s a state that has a little bit of everything. From vibrant cities to rustic towns to a buzzing craft beer and whiskey scene and out-of-this-world southern cuisine, it has something for all types of travelers.
The capital, Nashville, is known as Music City and famed for its country music roots. The southwest city of Memphis is the home of blues and rock-n-roll, and Elvis Presley’s mansion complex, Graceland.
The Great Smoky Mountains lie on the eastern side of Tennessee. They’re dotted with quaint mountain towns that have plenty to offer for outdoor enthusiasts and active visitors.
If you’re planning a trip to this southern state, here are the 17 best Tennessee vacation spots!
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Nashville is the most populated city in the state of Tennessee. It’s mostly known for its strong country music roots, but the city is filled with a wide range of attractions. From large scenic parks to museums to a buzzing bar and restaurant scene, Nashville has a little bit of everything!
Our Favorite Places to Stay in Nashville, Tennessee
Memphis is the second most populated city in the state of Tennessee. Similar to Nashville, Memphis is filled with idyllic parks, plenty of museums dedicated to music, and a pulsating live music scene. However, whereas Nashville is all about country music, Memphis is known as the home of the blues music and the birthplace of rock-n-roll!
Our Favorite Places to Stay in Memphis, Tennessee
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The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the most scenic attractions in Tennessee. Guests can enjoy all sorts of outdoor activities, from camping to biking to horseback riding, fishing, and more! The park has trails to suit all skill levels, from family-friendly hiking paths to adventurous back-country backpacking!
Our Favorite Places to Stay in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee
Knoxville is a hidden-gem in Tennessee! Although the city’s claim to fame is its offering of outdoor attractions, you’ll also find plenty of indoor activities. There are museums that cater to all ages, and a great blend of entertainment and cultural attractions. Knoxville has a friendly, small-town mentality but a big-city appeal!
Our Favorite Places to Stay in Knoxville, Tennessee
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Named after country singer Dolly Parton, Dollywood is a theme park that provides plenty of family fun. It offers a mix of folksy crafts, themed rides, live concerts, and entertainment all ages will enjoy. From fast-paced roller coasters to kiddie rides to water slides, there’s something for everyone! The park also offers dining options and fun dinner shows.
Our Favorite Places to Stay in Dollywood, Tennessee
Chattanooga’s official nickname is “Scenic City” which is reinforced by its abundance of outdoor activities. The city is surrounded by mountains and ridges alluring all fans of open-air excursions. Inside the city, downtown Chattanooga is a must-visit. It showcases a wide variety of entertainment, dining, and cultural attractions.
Our Favorite Places to Stay in Chattanooga, Tennessee
Gatlinburg is nestled at the entrance of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This quaint resort town is one of the best places to visit in Tennessee to explore nature. Gatlinburg is home to Tennessee’s only ski resort, making it an attractive destination in winter. During the warmer months, camping, fishing, white water rafting, and hiking are popular activities.
Our Favorite Places to Stay in Gatlinburg, Tennessee
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Franklin offers a unique blend of historic and modern allure. The city contains the site from one of the bloodiest wars fought in the Civil War, the Battle of Franklin. You’ll find many historic locations spread throughout the city. The charming historic Main Street is lined with antique shops, art galleries, restaurants, and more!
Our Favorite Places to Stay in Franklin, Tennessee
Many people think Nashville is the birthplace of country music, but in 1998 the U.S. Congress recognized Bristol as the official “Birthplace of Country Music”! The city’s other claim to fame is the Bristol Motor Speedway, a legendary NASCAR short-track. The speedway is one of the largest sporting venues in the world!
Our Favorite Places to Stay in Bristol, Tennessee
Clarksville is full of history and character. The charming downtown area contains a collection of 1870’s buildings. At the Historic Collinsville Pioneer Settlement, you can learn about the Civil War events that took place in the area. The Cumberland River borders the city and provides a peaceful place for visitors to enjoy leisurely water activities.
Our Favorite Places to Stay in Clarksville, Tennessee
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Rock Island State Park is a great attraction in Tennessee for fans of the outdoors and water activities. Enjoy hiking, kayaking, canoeing, fishing, or just relaxing. The park has several swimming holes (swim at own risk), a sandy beach, and a boat ramp. If you’re looking for vacation spots in Tennessee where you can camp, the state park has 10 cabins and 60 campsites.
Our Favorite Places to Stay in Rock Island State Park, Tennessee
Johnson City offers a great mix of outdoor activities and cultural attractions. It has a bustling downtown, with art galleries, local boutiques, and antique stores. It’s also a food hub that features great local and regional restaurants and craft breweries. With such an eclectic range of activities, this is a Tennessee vacation spot that has something for everyone!
Our Favorite Places to Stay in Johnson City, Tennessee
Townsend is one of three “gateways” to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It’s a quaint, small-town that’s perfect for budget travelers, or anyone wanting a peaceful, low-key vacation. Explore the local museums, see historical buildings, and enjoy outdoor activities like horseback riding, river tubing, and hiking.
Our Favorite Places to Stay in Townsend, Tennessee
Murfreesboro is known for its strong ties to the American Civil War. From prominent Civil War battlefields to 19th-century mansions to a small village staged to highlight early Tennessee life, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time! This city is one of the best Tennessee destinations for history buffs.
Our Favorite Places to Stay in Murfreesboro, Tennessee
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Oak Ridge is a city with a fascinating past. It’s nicknamed the Atomic Bomb City and the Secret City. It was established in 1942 as a production site for the Manhattan Project. Today, it has many sites visitors can explore that are related to WWII. Oak Ridge is also surrounded by nature and offers plenty of activities for outdoor entertainment.
Our Favorite Places to Stay in Oak Ridge, Tennessee
Burgess Falls State Park is one of the most picturesque places in Tennessee to visit. The park is revered for its natural beauty. There are four cascading waterfalls that tower down from 250 feet in elevation. Throughout the park, you’ll find hiking trails suitable for all skill levels.
Our Favorite Places to Stay in The Burgess Falls State Park, Tennessee
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Columbia perfectly represents small-town America. It has a friendly vibe and a charming historic appeal. Filled with restaurants, craft breweries, local shops, and a bustling arts district, it’s quirky and creative. Columbia’s close proximity to Nashville makes it the perfect place to take a day trip!
Our Favorite Places to Stay in Columbia, Tennessee
We hope you enjoyed our list of the best places to vacation in Tennessee. As you can tell, this state is made up of fascinating cities; each with its own unique character and charm.
Whether your ideal vacation involves history, music, nature, shopping, or whatever else, you’ll find there’s a city that fits perfectly with your travel requirements.
The best part is, Tennessee isn’t a considerably large state, meaning you can easily visit more than one city on your vacation. Even if it’s just for a day trip, we recommend seeing as much of this gorgeous state as possible!
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Emma Johnson lives to travel! Born in Washington D.C., Emma is a hotel connoisseur and a staff writer at Hotel Jules. An army brat, Emma got the travel bug early and has never been able to stop. Now, she has proudly visited 70+ countries and plans to visit every country in the world! Passionate about her ukelele (obviously) and her family, Emma eventually wants to retire in Thailand and write a book about all of her travel experiences.