Nashville, Tennessee

Your Tennessee Bucket List: Must-Do Experiences in the Volunteer State

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We’re all about discussing pipe dreams and worldly travel aspirations over here, but something people often overlook when plotting out that epic to-do list is their own metaphorical backyard. Well, not this girl. There are so many bucket list adventures in Tennessee that I thought it was time to highlight a few of the top ones that should be on your radar.

Trip to Lynchburg, Tennessee

1. Sing along at a show at the Grand Ole Opry

If you haven’t ever been to the Opry before, you can’t even imagine the magic. You never know who might show upโ€”Carrie Underwood, Keith Urban, Dustin Lynch, Little Big Town, basically every big player in country takes the stage on the regular (OK, aside from my girl Taylor Swift)โ€”and it’s just a really amazing time. (Be sure and pony up for the VIP tour so you can see backstage and the behind-the-scenes.) You can then spend the night at the behemoth Opryland Resort next door.

Backstage tour at the Grand Ole Opry

2. Cheer on the Vols at a game at Neyland Stadium

OK, so we haven’t had the best few years (understatement of the year), but that doesn’t make Knoxville on Game Day any less fun. Join the sea of orange, chant “V-O-L-S, go Vols, go!” and sing the classic “Rocky Top” at the top of your lungs as you see firsthand just why the SEC is the toughest conference in the NCAA (and don’t even try to argue with me on that point, as you know good and well you will lose!).

Neyland at the University of Tennessee: The Best Football Stadiums in the Country

3. Day trip out to Dollywood

This is something I didn’t actually do until I was 26, and let me tell you, Dollywood as a twenty-something is every bit as fun as Dollywood as a kid. I thought this Dolly Parton-branded theme park was going to be classic tourist kitsch, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. The grounds are well-manicured, the park is kept spotless and the roller coasters are great. (I’m sure the shows are entertaining, too, but we didn’t sit through any of them so I can’t say for sure.)

Dollywood in Gatlinburg, Tennessee

4. Tour the Jack Daniel’s Distillery

Other than Elvis, Jack might just be our biggest claim to fame. The hour-long tour at Jack Daniel’s in Lynchburg is both informative and hilarious. The upside: It’s free. The downside: Since it’s a dry county, you can’t taste, you can only sniff. Poke around the gift shop and museum and, once you’re done, pig out next door at Miss Mary Bobo’s Boarding House. Calories well spent.

Jack Daniels Distillery in Lyncburg, Tennessee

5. Explore Chattanooga’s Riverfront

Five years ago, I wouldn’t have given Chattanooga a second thought. But dang, it got cool in my absence. Some must-dos: the Tennessee Aquarium, shopping the North Shore, picking through the treasures at the Knitting Mill Factory, a refreshment at Pure Sodaworks, ice cream at Clumpies.

Of course, that’s only scratching the surface and not even taking into account BBQ, blues and Beale Street in Memphis; antiques shopping in Bell Buckle; honky tonkin’ in Music City; chillin’ on the mountain in Sewanee; and a number of other “must” activities for Tennessee visitors.

How about you: Is there anything that’s on your Tennessee bucket list?

  • August 15, 2013

    Jack Daniels and Dollywood? Yes please!! Sign me up ๐Ÿ˜‰

    xo Becky

    • August 28, 2013

      I’ll meet you at Jack–it’s only a few miles from my parents’ house =)

  • August 15, 2013

    Thanks for sharing your list. I have to be sure to check out grand ole opry if I ever get to go visit Tennessee!

    • August 28, 2013

      Definitely do. Although the venue is less than desirable (in the parking lot of a mega-mall, yuck!), the music and the atmosphere are amazing.

  • August 15, 2013

    My mom and dad went to Tennessee last year for their anniversary. My dad is a huge Elvis fan. I wanted to go with them, but I suppose that would cramp there style. ๐Ÿ˜‰ These are awesome picks to check out though! Have you ever heard of Memphis in May? It’s a triathlon there, and it’s been on my radar for a while!

    • August 28, 2013

      It’s actually a month-long festival which kicks off with a music weekend (a similar lineup to Bonnaroo), a BBQ festival and more. So if you go for the tri, stick around for the rest of it! My sister goes every year and loves it; I haven’t made it just yet.

  • August 15, 2013

    Don’t get me started on our competing UTs and FOOTBALL.

    • August 28, 2013

      We can claim 1st, but you can claim best (for now, at least). I will say growing up a Vols fan was a source of great pride during the Peyton/Fulmer/T Martin eras, but unfortunately, we’ve seen a rough few years, er decade.

  • August 15, 2013

    Glad you included my hometown, Chattanooga, on the list! It’s so different than it used to be…some really great spots to check out! Next time you’re there, try Aretha Frankensteins (the pancakes are the best), Milk & Honey gelato, Urban Stack, Terminal and Taco Mamacita’s. Yum yum. And the River Walk along the Tennessee River is the perfect place for a run, walk or picnic.

    • August 28, 2013

      Ooooh I LOVE Chattanooga. I go at least once a month just to eat and shop. And Scott even likes it better than Nashville! I’ve been to Terminal but none of the others so will add them to my list for subsequent visits. THANKS!

  • August 15, 2013

    Bonnaroo…been twice & it’s fantastic!

    • August 28, 2013

      I’m from the county so I’m glad you like it! I definitely won’t be missing it again next year.

  • August 15, 2013

    My husband and I were just talking last night about places we would love to take our son to visit. The dinosaur place would be a blast. I’ll keep those places in mind for when we plan our next trip. Thanks!!

    • August 28, 2013

      Definitely let me know if you need more recs! I could talk for days about my favorite offbeat Southern attractions =)

  • August 18, 2013

    Yay Tennessee!! Love your list — and fun photos, as usual. I’ve never been to Chattanooga or Knoxville. Would love to! Because of family, we only ever go to Memphis. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • August 28, 2013

      Girls’ trip #3: The Best of Tennessee! Let’s make it happen now that you’re not tethered to an office desk =)

  • August 19, 2013

    I love that stadium picture – it must be an electrifying atmosphere in there!

    • August 28, 2013

      Yeah, nothing like West Coast football, ha! Though you went to school in LA so maybe a bit more comparable than going to a Berkeley or Stanford game (which is akin to a high school football game in the South!).

  • August 20, 2013

    I must say that you have made an amazing list of the hot tourist locations of Tennessee. I am a big fan of the oddities and offbeat locations of Tennesse. Due to lack of time we missed out on the distillery on our last year vacations to the place. I hope that sometime soon we could plan out another visit to Tennessee.

    • August 28, 2013

      Yup, as am I, which is why my book Tennessee Curiosities was so fun to write–it’s all about the backroads and offbeat parts of this quirky state!

  • August 20, 2013

    Wow, didn’t know there was a lot of fun tourist destinations in Tennessee, thanks for sharing these

    • August 28, 2013

      These are just the biggies. I could write a whole book on Tennessee’s tourist side! …oh wait, I already did ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • August 21, 2013

    Wow these pictures look amazing,..I bet Dollywood was an experience!!

    • August 28, 2013

      Way more classy and less trashy than I would have expected!

  • August 21, 2013

    The stadium photo is crazy!!

    • August 28, 2013

      Have you ever been to Neyland before? Even in our worst years, the experience is off the hook.

  • August 24, 2013

    Great stadium shot indeed…and a good list too!

  • August 26, 2013
    Nelson's Mama

    You can actually have a little taste at the distillery now ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • August 28, 2013

      Say it ain’t so! I had no idea (and I grew up down the road!).

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