Tennessee is more than just the birth place of rock 'n' roll. It's a brilliant holiday destination for families and couples alike as well as an eye-opening and cultural experience, offering fantastic Southern-style cuisine along the way.
Here's our guide to a jam-packed six-day road trip of this historic, cultural and beautiful state…
Day one – Atlanta to Gatlinburg (Smoky Mountains National Park)
After arriving in Atlanta, Georgia, pick up a car and head towards the Smoky Mountains. The interstate out of the city can be a little busy, but once you're through the hustle and bustle, the drive on the I-85 is incredibly scenic. With the glorious Smoky Mountains ahead of you, the drive through this beautiful National Park is worth every minute.
Gatlinburg is a great stop to explore the mountains – with beautiful hiking trails, nature lookouts (including bears and elk), plenty of activities such as fishing and rafting – this is the ideal 'breath of fresh air' destination after a long journey. The town is filled with plenty of family-friendly activities, including a brilliant aquarium and mini golf, and there are plenty of restaurants to choose from - the renowned ribs at Calhoun's are delicious!
For accommodation, there are plenty of good quality hotels, or for ultimate relaxation visitors can hire a mountain cabin, offering scenic views of the beautiful mountains.
Day two – Gatlinburg to Pigeon Forge (for Dollywood)
Only a 15-minute drive north out of the mountains - but still in view - Pigeon Forge is certainly worth a visit, ideally for two or three days if time allows. Its vast parkway is full of leisure and fun attractions with eateries galore.
The big attraction of Pigeon Forge of course is Dollywood – Dolly Parton's theme park, needing a whole day to explore. Here is also Dolly's tour bus and her Chasing Rainbows museum, an interactive display of memorabilia, costumes, awards, special keepsakes and photographs.
Continuing the Dolly Parton theme into the evening, a visit to her Dixie Stampede is a must. Guests are in for a fun night of Southern style cuisine and live entertainment featuring cowboys and cowgirls, horses, buffalos, chickens and racing pigs – all whilst drinking from a cowboy boot shaped cup.
Pigeon Forge's other attractions include Dolly Parton’s Splash County water park, countless outdoor activities, magic shows, dinner shows and outlet malls. The Titanic Museum is popular with vistors – with thousands of real artefacts and recreations, including the renowned Grand Staircase, bringing this piece of history to life.
Day three – Pigeon Forge to Nashville
After a shopping visit at the Tanger Outlet Mall, get immersed in the world of Nashville, aka Music City, where so many iconic artists and music legends started their music careers. Nashville is a great city to walk around, with a fantastic view of its skyline on arrival. The sound of country music on Broadway - known as the Honky Tonk - combined with the brick work of its surrounding streets and the occasional cowboy boot store, really makes you feel that you've stepped either back in time or on to a film set.
The first port of call should be the Country Music Hall of Fame – showcasing the history and memorabilia through the decades of the genre, followed by a visit to the Johnny Cash museum, which takes music fans through the musician's dramatic life.
The Bluebird Café and Puckett’s restaurants are worth dining at, followed by an evening of enjoying the Honky Tonk bars on Broadway – with talented live bands playing just for tips, these atmospheric bars are a great end to a day of sightseeing. If you have time, squeeze in a visit to the RCA Studio B, the Ryman Auditorium and the Grand Ole Opry.
Day four to six – Nashville to Memphis
After a final walk along Nashville’s beautiful riverfront, drive to the soulful city of Memphis. If you are an Elvis Presley fan, now’s the time to take a slight detour via Tupelo, Mississippi, to visit his birthplace and childhood home.
The Peabody is definitely a hotel to consider for your Memphis stay. Not only is it a three-minute walk from the famous Beale Street, but is soaked in history and has an curious ritual of the marching ducks - during which a gropu of ducks walk down a red carpet to the hotel's fountain. A pre-dinner aperitif on the hotel's roof, watching the sunset over the stunning Mississippi River is a great way to start an evening.
There is a really cool vibe and urban flair in Memphis. Surrounded by a wealth of musical talent as you stroll through the legendary Beale Street - where many blues artists including BB King and Louis Armstrong helped to develop the style of the blues - Memphis is full of musical and cultural history. It's also a favourite for barbecue lovers - who should definitely check out BB King's for a barbecue dinner.
One of your days in Memphis should be dedicated to Elvis Presley and rock 'n' roll – starting off with a tour of the legendary Sun Studio, where music royalty including Elvis, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison began their recording careers and where rock 'n' roll came together in the 1950s.
Here you get to learn the history of the studio and hear some of the great stories of what happened there - including the famous Million Dollar Quartet – an unplanned performance from Elvis, Johnny, Carl and Jerry when Elvis stopped by the studio unexpectedly one day when the others were recording a session.
After a tour of Sun, head over Graceland, the world-famous home of Elvis Presley. While touring his beautiful mansion and grounds, listen to the words of his daughter, Lisa-Marie, as she talks of her memories at Graceland on your audio guide. The house is a work of art from the stunning living room to the infamous jungle room. The most moving moment perhaps comes at the end of the tour where you reach the graves of Elvis and his parents, as well as the plaque of his twin brother who passed away at birth. The tour also includes his airplanes and many cars.
Another highlight of Memphis is a visit to the mind-blowing National Civil Rights Museum, a moving and educational collections chronicling the Civil Rights Movement from slavery to today's human rights movements. The expansive display is located at the Lorraine Motel where on 4 April, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. If you have time, also visit the Memphis Rock 'n' Soul Museum and Stax Museum of American Soul Music, and the Memphis Zoo to see their famous giant pandas.
For more information and to plan your trip visit gatlinburg.com, mypigeonforge.com, visitmusiccity.com, memphistravel.com and tnvacation.com.