This Deep South state offers variety in abundance, from the musical legends of Memphis and Nashville to some of the defining sites of the Civil Rights Movement. It’s also a state blessed with a spectacular natural world, not least in the Great Smoky Mountains and the waterfall-studded Cumberland Plateau. Wash it all down with delicious barbecue dinners, craft beers and oak-aged whiskies for the ultimate Southern experience.
The roots of American music
To the north of Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia, the mountainous state of Tennessee is yet another southern gem known for its immense contribution to American popular culture. Indeed, throughout the neon-lit bars of Memphis’ Beale Street it’s possible to trace the roots of everything from country, blue grass and gospel to rockabilly, rock n’ roll and soul. And, lest we forget, Tennessee was the home of one Elvis Presley whose sprawling Graceland estate is arguably the world’s ultimate piece of rock memorabilia.
Adventures in the great outdoors
But, there’s far more to Tennessee than its musical heritage. The Great Smoky Mountains – one of America’s oldest ranges – offers glorious hikes and white-water adventures, while in the central Cumberland Plateau, dramatic waterfalls and sprawling vineyards invite days of thrilling exploration. There’s even more thrill-seeking fun to be had zip-lining through the forests of Gatlinburg, or for something more sedate, board a cruise along the mighty Mississippi in Memphis.
Classic Southern cuisine
All that adventure is the perfect preamble to the state’s renowned food scene – delicious Memphis barbecues, biscuits and gravy and Nashville hot chicken washed down with a craft beer, local wine or bourbon. In the state’s headline cities, restaurants range from homely and traditional to cutting-edge modern – the superb and multi award-winning Catbird Seat in Nashville is among our favourites – but all with that same Southern hospitality for which the Deep South is rightly famed. Take in the best of it with a visit to a food festival, or visit some of the 30 distilleries along the Tennessee Whisky Trail. And no visit to the state would be complete without a tasting at the Jack Daniels factory in Lynchburg.
The Civil Rights Trail
Stretching across 14 states, the Civil Rights Trail takes in many of the key sites from the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 60s. Tennessee is host to 10 of these, including the Clayborn Temple and the Mason Temple Church of God in Christ, where Dr. Martin Luther King delivered his ‘Mountaintop’ speech on the eve of his assassination at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis. It’s this site which now hosts the National Civil Rights museum where, along with seeing the balcony where Dr King lost his life, visitors can trace the history of the Civil Rights Movement through videos, images and a host of other multi-media exhibits.
Top itineraries in Tennessee
When it comes to American music, all roads lead to the Deep South. This fly-drive celebrates the very best of the region's musical heritage, from soulful blues and brassy jazz to riverboat calliopes and gospel choirs.
Discover a rich and innovative culture, history and heritage on this 15-day self-drive tour of the Deep South states of Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee.
Meander down the Mississippi on a river cruise, visiting a number of historic sights. Begin in Memphis and end in New Orleans as you experience some of the USA's finest music culture scene, including the birthplace of the King of the Blues – the late B.B. King.
Top places to stay in Tennessee
Experience the opulent luxury of the USA's most famous river ship, as included dining and a full spread of onboard entertainment introduces you to the unique cultures of the Deep South.
The Union Station Hotel is a characterful, central boutique hotel situated inside a beautifully-restored 19th-century railroad station in downtown Nashville. Its signature restaurant, Prime 108, is the proud recipient of the prestigious Forbes Four-Star award for culinary excellence.
Ever since its construction in 1869, The Peabody has been a stylish landmark in central Memphis. It’s even hosted past presidents on visits to the ‘Blues City’.
Where to go in Tennessee
When to go to Tennessee
Nashville – Music City, a place where Johnny Cash made his mark, emerging as a lyrical legend. We've collated a list of the top 5 things you must do when you visit Nashville, from enjoying all-day music that lines honky-tonk bar streets to sampling Southern soul food.
How British Airways' new, non-stop flights to Nashville will affect travel to the Deep South and the best ways to take advantage of them.
Wexas consultant Bert Hyett recounts his recent trip to the Deep South, cruising on the Mississippi River aboard the classic steamboat, American Queen.
Meet our Tennessee experts
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