Visiting Tennessee

About Tennessee – The Volunteer State

Tennessee naturally divides into three “grand divisions” – mountainous East Tennessee, Middle Tennessee with its plateau and foothills, and the cotton fields of West Tennessee. Not only are these divisions geographical, they translate into distinctive political and economic regions. (Source: 2007-2008 Tennessee Blue Book)


In 1784, what is now East Tennessee broke away from North Carolina and formed the State of Franklin, naming General John Sevier as their governor. This fledgling state was doomed from the start; never recognized by the federal government, it ceased to exist after only four years. After this collapse, the area existed as a federal territory until a 1795 survey revealed that a sufficient proportion of the population desired statehood. As a result, William Blount, the territory governor, called for a constitutional convention to be held in Knoxville, where delegates drew up a state constitution and bill of rights. During this time, the delegates also elected John Sevier to be state governor, while William Blount and William Cocke were selected to be members of the United States Senate and Andrew Jackson became a member of the United States House of Representatives. In a close Congressional vote on June 1, 1796, Tennessee became the sixteenth state. (Source: 2007-2008 Tennessee Blue Book)

William Blount  John Sevier William Cocke 
 William Blount  John Sevier William Cocke

The Volunteer State

Tennesseans have a history of selfless participation in American war efforts. The nickname originated during the War of 1812, when Governor William Blount called for volunteers and thousands of Tennesseans enlisted. During the Civil War Tennessee sent approximately 187,000 Confederate and 51,000 Union soldiers off to fight. In recent history, around 100,000 Tennesseans enlisted or were drafted into the first World War and, during World War II, over 300,000 Tennesseans served in the armed forces while others served at home in war related industries.

Tennessee also has a great history of political leaders, including three presidents: Andrew Jackson, James K. Polk and Andrew Johnson.  (Source: 2007-2008 Tennessee Blue Book)
 Andrew Jackson  James K. Polk Andrew Johnson 
 Andrew Jackson  James K. Polk Andrew Johnson

Visiting Tennessee

Tennessee has something for everyone: from music and arts to world-class sporting venues, outdoor adventures and a bounty of history, all combined with a healthy dose of Southern hospitality. Within a day’s drive of 65 percent of the population of the United States, Tennessee is a destination for all seasons. (Source: Tennessee Department of Tourist Development) 

History: Home to three U.S. presidents and the scene for many Civil War battles, Tennessee is rich in history. Some of these memorable sites include:

Andrew Johnson
Andrew Johnson Historic Site, Greeneville, TN – The home of President Andrew Johnson and a museum commemorating his life.

Civil Rights Museum
National Civil Rights Museum The National Civil Rights Museum is located at the Lorraine Motel, site of Dr. Martin Luther King's assassination. Through their collections, exhibitions, and educational programs, this museum recounts the American civil rights movement and its legacy.

Fort Johnson
Fort Donelson National Battlefield, Dover, TN – Site of the North’s first major victory during the Civil War.

The Hermitage, Nashville, TN –
The home of President Andrew Jackson.

James K. Polk
James K. Polk Home, Columbia, TN –
The home of President James K. Polk.

Museum of Appalachia
Museum of Appalachia, Norris, TN – A living history museum of pioneer, frontier, and early artifacts of mountain life in the Southern Appalachian Mountains.

Shiloh National Military Park –
Site of one of the major battles of the Western Front of the Civil War.

Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area –
The Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area tells the whole story of the Civil War, emancipation, and Reconstruction. Its focus includes national battlefields as well as historic houses, museums, cemeteries, churches, towns, and neighborhoods significantly associated with the state's diverse Civil War heritage.

State Capitol
Tennessee State Capitol Built from 1845-1859, the Capitol is home to the Tennessee state legislature and the governor.  Monuments of the Capitol grounds pay tribute to the three Tennesseans who served as President of the United States (Andrew Jackson, Andrew Johnson, and James K. Polk).

Trail of Tears
Trail of Tears National Historic Trail A national historic trail commemorating the 1838 forced migration of the Cherokee Nation to the Indian Territory in present day Oklahoma.

Outdoors: Tennessee has diverse natural wonders to explore and experience. A few notable locations are:

Cherokee National Forest
Cherokee National Forest -
Stretching from Chattanooga to Bristol along the North Carolina border, the 640,000-acre Cherokee National Forest is the largest tract of public land in Tennessee.

Smoky Mountains National Park
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Part of the Cherokee National Forest, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited national park in the United States. World renowned for its beauty and diverse animal and plant life, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the perfect venue for almost any outdoor pursuit.

Land between Lakes
Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area
When the Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers were impounded to create Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley, an inland peninsula was formed. In 1963, President John F. Kennedy designated the peninsula Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area in an effort to demonstrate how an area with limited timber, agricultural and industrial resources could be converted into a recreation asset that would stimulate economic growth in the region.

Reelfoot Lake
Reelfoot Lake State Park
Located in the northwest corner of Tennessee, Reelfoot Lake State Park is one of the greatest hunting and fishing preserves in the nation. It is believed that the lake was created after the New Madrid Earthquakes in 1811 and 1812.

Ruby Falls
Ruby Falls
One of the Southeast’s most popular destinations, Ruby Falls is a 145 foot, underground waterfall found in Lookout Mountain.

Tennessee State Parks
Tennessee State Parks
There are 54 state parks across Tennessee.

Arts and Entertainment: From world class cities to small towns, here are several points of interest from across the state:

Country Music Hall of Fame
The Country Music Hall of Fame, Nashville, TN –
From its earliest days to today’s biggest stars, the Country Music Hall of fame is a destination for music fans of all genres.

Creative Discovery
Creative Discovery Museum, Chattanooga, TN –
Designed especially for children under age 12, the Creative Discovery Museum makes learning seem like playing.

Dollywood, Pigeon Forge, TN –
Part amusement park, part craft fair, all combined with a live entertainment showcase, Dollywood is a family adventure in the Smoky Mountains.

Elvis Presley’s Graceland, Memphis, TN –
No longer just his home, Graceland has become the epicenter of all things Elvis.

Frist Center
Frist Center for the Visual Arts, Nashville, TN –
The Frist Center for Visual Arts presents world-class visual arts, interactive displays, and educational programs. Their mission is “to inspire people through art to look at their world in new ways.”

Grand Ole Opry
Grand Ole Opry, Nashville, TN –
An American icon, the Opry is where country music is made every week.

Hands On Museum
Hands On! Regional Museum, Johnson City, TN –
The Hands On! Museum literally gives children of all ages a “hands on” education of science, arts, and the humanities as they enjoy and explore over 20 exhibits.

Hunter Museum
The Hunter Museum for American Art, Chattanooga, TN –
The Hunter’s collection spans a wide variety of styles and media in order to capture the spirit of “American” art.

Incline Railway
The Incline Railway, Lookout Mountain -
Designated as both a National Historic Site and National Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark, the Incline Railway climbs historic Lookout Mountain, at a breathtaking 72.7 percent grade track, the steepest passenger railway in the world.

Story Telling Center
International Storytelling Center, Jonesborough, TN
The world’s premier institution for storytelling. The Center strives to preserve this art form and use it to improve lives in a modern setting.

Orpheum Theatre
The Orpheum Theater, Memphis, TN –
Billed as “Where Broadway Meets Beale,” the Orpheum is a restored, historic landmark that hosts everything from opera to ballet, concerts, touring Broadway shows, and gospel musicals.

Ryman Auditorium
Ryman Auditorium, Nashville, TN –
The Ryman was the first home of the Grand Ole Opry and remains “Nashville’s Premier Performance Hall.”

Soulsville USA
Stax Museum of American Soul Music  The Stax Muesuem contains more than 2,000 cultural artifacts, music exhibits, video footage, and items of memorabilia is designed to preserve and promote the legacy of American soul music.
Tennessee Aquarium
Tennessee Aquarium, Chattanooga, TN – The Tennessee Aquarium features both freshwater and saltwater exhibits and is right next door to the IMAX theater.

Women's Basketball Hall of Fame
Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame, Knoxville, TN –
The Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame celebrates 100 years of women in the sport, including the great Tennessean Pat Head Summit.

For more details about Tennessee destinations or to start planning your trip, the best source for information is the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development website.

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