From country music to Gatlinburg, Tennessee is filled with notable things that make it famous, and if you’re wondering, “what is Tennessee known for?” then you’ve come to the right place!
As an American who has traveled the USA all over, I can tell you that the answer to, “what is Tennessee famous for?” is – quite a lot!
You’ve got Memphis and Nashville, of course, but there’s also Dollywood, Civil Rights history and so much more.
In this guide, we’ll uncover all the cool things Tennessee is known for, including foods Tennessee is famous for and people Tennessee is known for!
1. Country Music
Tennessee’s deep-rooted connection to country music has earned it the nickname “Home of Country Music” and, in fact, one of the best things to do in Tennessee is to watch live country music!
The city of Nashville, in particular, stands as the epicenter of this musical genre.
Nashville’s fame is largely attributed to the Grand Ole Opry, the longest-running radio broadcast in American history, which has showcased country music’s biggest stars for decades.
As the capital of Tennessee, Nashville is more than just a musical mecca.
It boasts a diverse cultural scene that extends beyond its country music roots.
The city’s vibrant downtown area features an array of museums, art galleries, and theaters, offering a rich blend of artistic expression.
Memphis is globally renowned for its significant contributions to the world of music.
It’s the birthplace of blues and rock ‘n’ roll, with Beale Street standing as a testament to its historical musical significance.
The city’s Beale Street Historic District is a lively area where visitors can experience live music, delicious cuisine, and vibrant street life.
Moreover, Memphis is synonymous with Elvis Presley’s legacy, attracting fans and tourists to Graceland, the iconic mansion where the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll lived and is now buried.
4. Great Smoky Mountains
Straddling the border between Tennessee and North Carolina, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a natural wonder that draws millions of visitors each year.
Its breathtaking landscapes encompass lush forests, cascading waterfalls, and diverse wildlife, making it a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts.
The park offers a vast network of hiking trails, ranging from easy strolls to challenging backcountry routes, allowing visitors to explore the beauty of the Appalachian Mountains.
5. Jack Daniel’s Distillery
Nestled in the small town of Lynchburg, the Jack Daniel’s Distillery is an iconic American institution.
Founded by Jasper Newton “Jack” Daniel in the 19th century, it’s the oldest registered distillery in the United States.
The distillery’s handcrafted Tennessee whiskey is celebrated worldwide for its distinct flavor and production process.
6. Blues Music
Memphis’s legacy as a cradle of blues music is profound.
Beale Street, with its historic significance, has played a pivotal role in the development and propagation of this genre.
Once a hub for African American culture and commerce, Beale Street became a melting pot for musicians, both established and aspiring, to share their music.
Icons like W.C. Handy and B.B. King performed here, contributing to the evolution of blues into a global phenomenon.
7. Civil Rights History
The National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis stands as a poignant reminder of the struggle for equality and justice in the United States.
Located at the former Lorraine Motel, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968, the museum traces the history of the civil rights movement from its beginnings to its lasting impact.
8. Oak Ridge
Oak Ridge holds a significant place in modern history as a key site in the development of the atomic bomb during World War II.
The city was established as a part of the Manhattan Project, a secret research effort that led to the creation of the world’s first nuclear weapons.
9. Tennessee Titans
The Tennessee Titans, based in Nashville, are the state’s professional football team.
The team’s fan base passionately supports it, and games at Nissan Stadium create an electrifying atmosphere.
10. Andrew Jackson
Andrew Jackson, the seventh President of the United States, left an indelible mark on both American history and Tennessee’s heritage.
His former home, The Hermitage, located near Nashville, serves as a historical site and museum.
The Hermitage offers a glimpse into Jackson’s life and the era in which he lived.
11. University of Tennessee
The University of Tennessee system encompasses multiple campuses, with the flagship campus located in Knoxville.
Known for its academic excellence and research contributions, the university plays a vital role in advancing education, science, and culture in the state.
12. Appalachian Culture
Tennessee’s connection to Appalachian culture is deeply rooted in its history.
The Appalachian region’s distinct traditions, music, and way of life have influenced the state’s culture and identity.
The Appalachian Trail, a long-distance hiking trail that extends through the state, offers an opportunity to experience the natural beauty and cultural richness of this region firsthand.
Dollywood, located in Pigeon Forge, is a testament to the legacy of country music icon Dolly Parton.
The theme park combines family-friendly entertainment, thrilling rides, and live performances, creating an immersive experience for visitors of all ages.
Chattanooga’s claim to fame includes its association with the beloved MoonPie snack.
Originating in the early 20th century, the MoonPie is a classic Southern treat consisting of marshmallow filling sandwiched between two graham cracker cookies, coated in chocolate.
15. Tennessee Walking Horse
The Tennessee Walking Horse is a unique breed known for its smooth, distinctive “running walk” gait.
Originating in the southern United States, particularly Tennessee, this breed is celebrated for its comfortable and stylish way of moving.
16. Scenic Drives
Tennessee offers a wealth of opportunities for scenic drives, allowing travelers to experience the state’s diverse landscapes.
The Natchez Trace Parkway, a historic route that follows the path of the Natchez Trace trail, offers a leisurely drive through picturesque countryside.
17. Memphis BBQ
Memphis is renowned for its distinctive style of barbecue, which emphasizes slow-cooked, smoked meats and tangy, tomato-based sauces.
The city’s barbecue joints and restaurants are famous for their ribs, pulled pork, and other smoked delicacies.
18. Athens of the South
Nashville’s moniker as the “Athens of the South” reflects its prominence as an educational and cultural hub.
The city is home to numerous colleges and universities, including Vanderbilt University and Tennessee State University.
19. Music Festivals
Tennessee hosts an array of music festivals that celebrate diverse genres and bring together music enthusiasts.
The Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester is a renowned event that features a wide range of musical acts, as well as art installations and communal experiences.
20. Tennessee River
The Tennessee River flows through the state, offering scenic beauty and recreational opportunities.
It has played a crucial role in the region’s history, influencing settlement patterns and economic development.
Chattanooga is a city that has undergone a remarkable transformation, transitioning from an industrial hub to a modern urban destination.
The revitalized downtown area boasts attractions such as the Tennessee Aquarium, which showcases aquatic life from river habitats to ocean ecosystems.
22. Southern Cuisine
Tennessee’s culinary scene is deeply rooted in Southern traditions, featuring comfort foods and regional specialties.
Dishes like hot chicken, cornbread, biscuits and gravy, and collard greens reflect the state’s rich culinary heritage.
23. Walking Horse Celebration
The Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration in Shelbyville is an annual event that celebrates the Tennessee Walking Horse breed and its unique gait.
The celebration features a variety of equestrian competitions, showcasing the breed’s versatility and elegance.
24. Vanderbilt University
Vanderbilt University, located in Nashville, is a prestigious private research institution known for its academic excellence and contributions to various fields.
Its historic campus features a blend of modern facilities and classic architecture, fostering a vibrant academic and research community.
25. Whitewater Rafting
The Ocoee River in southeastern Tennessee is a popular destination for whitewater rafting enthusiasts.
The river’s challenging rapids and stunning scenery create an exhilarating outdoor adventure.
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