from ASHLEY at A SOUTHERN GYPSY
Ashley is the mastermind behind A Southern Gypsy, a travel blog focused on adventure, outdoors and wildlife. After spending five weeks in Southeast Asia, she returned home realizing shorter trips are more her style. Now she is delivering the best of her hometown, Nashville, with plenty of shorter trips in between. Hates mustard & pickles. Needs coffee to function.
Attempting to narrow down the best things to do in Tennessee to just three items is an extremely difficult task. I don’t even feel like this is very fair to my wonderful home state, but I have finally decided to choose one thing from each section of Tennessee. Tennessee is often described in three part sections anyway - West, East and Middle.
Visit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park borders Eastern Tennessee and Western North Carolina and just happens to be the most visited US National Park. It also happens to be one of the only parks that does not have an entrance fee. The Smoky Mountains will always continue to be one of my favorite places in the world - the scenery is absolutely gorgeous, the trails are wonderful, and wildlife sightings are common. Last year, we went on a Smoky Mountains & Blue Ridge Parkway road trip where we saw countless black bears, elk, turkeys and deer. With the park being less than four hours away from me my whole life, I’ve visited many times and it is always a wonderful place to go. There are plenty of day hikes, backcountry hiking & camping and even portions of the Appalachian Trail.
A few things I would make sure not to miss in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park:
- Cades Cove (best place to see black bears in the wild)
- Moonshine Distilleries
- Catalooche Valley (best place to see loads of elk)
- Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail
Eat, Drink and Listen your Way through Nashville
Nashville is my hometown and I couldn’t pick just one thing in this wonderful city so my suggestion would be to spend several days just going wherever the city takes you. Start in one place and then ask a local where their favorite place in the city is and then go there and keep the trend going - it’ll be amazing to see where you end up. We don’t have a very easy public transportation system (bus only and confusing from what I hear) but we do have both Lyft and Uber. Nashville is a booming city - with an ever-growing culinary, brewery and music scene.
A few things I would make sure not to miss in Nashville:
- Food Truck Scene (a couple of favorites - The Grilled Cheeserie, Deg Thai )
- Parthenon in Centennial Park (we are known as ‘the Athens of the South’)
- Honky Tonks on Lower Broad
- Nashville Flea Market (every 4th weekend of each month)
- Eat Hot Chicken (trust me!)
- Walk around Belmont and Vanderbilt’s campuses
Elvis Presley’s Graceland
For the West side, I’m including Elvis Presley’s Graceland as something to see in Tennessee - because, come on, it’s Elvis! At Graceland, you can take a tour of the fourteen-acre estate. Closely behind the White House, Graceland is the second most visited home in the United States (what?!). You can tour the King’s jungle room, pink Cadillac, record collection and much more.
A few other things to do while in Memphis:
- Memphis Zoo
- Sun Studio (the birthplace of Rock ’n Roll - where Elvis recorded his 1st song)
- Beale Street Historic District
- National Civil Rights Museum - Lorraine Motel (where MLK was assassinated)
There you have it! If I could only do three things, one thing in each section, of my wonderful home state - these would be it. Don’t get me wrong though, I would never be satisfied with doing only three things in Tennessee. I often used to think that Tennessee was underrated and overlooked, but am starting to see more and more interest by others wanting to come visit - which makes me extremely happy. Don’t hesitate to reach out for any questions you have about visiting Tennessee!