Welcome to the Volunteer State! Tennessee is the 14th smallest state in the Union but it has more people than any State we have visited thus far except for Florida. Tennessee ranks 17th in population. That places Tennessee firmly on the “urban” side of the urban/rural question.
The oddly elongated shape of Tennessee brings us to the first interesting fact about the state. Eight states or, in other words, 15% of the nation borders Tennessee. Kentucky and Virginia to the north; North Carolina to the east; Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi on the south; Arkansas and Missouri on the Mississippi River to the west. Only Missouri has so many border partners.
Tennessee was admitted to the Union as the 16th state in 1796. It was the last State to leave the Union and join the Confederacy upon the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861. Occupied by Union forces from 1862, it was the first State to be readmitted to the Union at the end of the war.
Tennessee was the epitome of the tragic “brother against brother” story of the Civil War. It furnished more soldiers for the Confederate Army than any other state save Virginia. That may not sound very divided, until you know that Tennessee also provided more soldiers for the Union Army than the rest of the Confederacy combined.
Nashville provides the State of Tennessee with its capital. Memphis is the largest city. Those two are joined by Knoxville, Chattanooga, Clarksville, and Murfreesboro among cities exceeding 100,000 in population. The geographic center of Tennessee lies within the city limits of Murfreesboro.
Major Airports in Tennessee:
McGhee Tyson in Knoxville sends into the sky about 800,000 passengers each year. Nashville International greets about 4.5 million passengers annually.
Memphis International provides service to almost 5,000,000 passengers a year.
The most common destination from all three airports is Atlanta.
The Top Four Grossing Movies Filmed in Tennessee:
Django Unchained (2012)
The Blind Side (2009)
Death Proof (2009)
Walk the Line (2005)
First Lady Sarah Childress Polk
Military/Politics: David Farragut, Al Gore, Benjamin Hooks, Alvin York, and Cordell Hull.
Actors: Natalia Dyer, Morgan Freeman, Kali Rocha, Sandra Locke, Max Charles, Noah Cyrus, Benjamin Flores Jr., Olivia Holt, Lucy Hale, Cybil Shephard, Johnny Knoxville, Chord Overstreet, Audrey Whitby, Luke Benward, Colin Ford, Megan Fox, and Ginnifer Goodwin.
Entertainers: Eddy Arnold, Kelsey Ballerini, Kyndall Harris, Quentin Tarantino, Jacob Whitesides, “Tennessee” Ernie Ford, Miley Cyrus, Kenny Chesney, Justin Timberlake, Aretha Franklin, Dolly Parton, Dalton Rappatoni, Yo Gotti, Lisa Marie Presley, K Michele, Minnie Pearl, Tina Turner, Keith Habersberger, Juicy J, Chet Atkins, and Lester Flatt
Writers: James Agee, Barbara Howar, and Grantland Rice.
Athletes: Randy Orton, and Ric Flair
Weird and Wonderful Facts About Tennessee:
Tennessee became “The Volunteer State” when volunteer soldiers from there displayed marked valor at the Battle of New Orleans during the War of 1812.
The legend of Davy Crockett says he was born on a mountaintop in Tennessee. That is a lie. He was born on the banks of Limestone Creek near Greenville.
Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry is broadcast live from the building of the same name, and is the longest continuously running live radio program in the world. Since Nov. 28, 1925, it has aired every Friday and Saturday night.
Bristol (not Nashville) is known as the birthplace of country music.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited National Park in the United States. The name comes from the bluish haze which often envelopes the hills.
Though Elvis Presley wasn’t born in Tennessee his Memphis home, Graceland, is one of the most visited tourist homes in the world.Coca-Cola (pronounced co-cola in much of the South) was first put in bottles in 1899 at a Chattanooga plant. Two local attorneys purchased the bottling rights to the drink for $1.00.
President Andrew Johnson held every elective office in Tennessee at the local, state, and federal level…but he was born in North Carolina.
There are more horses per capita in Shelby County than any other county in the United States.
The largest earthquake in American history, the New Madrid Earthquake occurred in the winter of 1811-12 in northwestern Tennessee.
The Lost Sea in Sweetwater is the largest underground lake in the United States.
Let’s Take a Trip Through Tennessee:
Tennessee is a great State through which to travel. So get up! Thank you very much!
We’re going to cover Tennessee from its western edge to the Great Smokies in the east. On the way we will see the culture that sets Tennessee’s two largest cities apart.
We are going to start in Memphis where it all began. Sun Records, early musical home to Elvis, Johnny Cash, and many others. On the tour, we will see the original furniture, hold the mike and stand in the very spot where Elvis created his first record July 18, 1953.
We’re going to see Graceland later but first, we must pay our respects at The Lorraine Motel. Rev. Dr, Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered here, and The National Civil Rights Museum is established in his memory at this spot. As a part of the tour, we will see the room where Dr. King was staying and visit the room from whence the fatal shot was fired. “Moving” doesn’t begin to say it.
Now on to Graceland. It will be a religious pilgrimage for lovers of the original King of Rock and Roll,. For music and history lovers, it’s a must for the cultural significance. Elvis Presley’s life was one of a kind in scope, success and tragedy. Pay a little extra for the chance to see the planes. King and “The King” both deserve a day. We will stay two nights at Hampton Inn & Suites Memphis-Shady Grove Road for $93 a night.
The next day we head east for a little over 200 miles (remember it is a wide state) to Nashville. A trip to the Ryman Auditorium is a must. It is the famous home of the Grand Ole Opry. The history of country music oozes out of the walls at the Ryman. For a few dollars extra, you can see some of the filming locations from the television series “Nashville.” Later visit downtown Nashville. Experience the shopping and see one of the many live music venues into which a famous person might walk and play a tune. It really does happen that way.
The next day our plans include a stop at The Bluebird Cafe. We made reservations since the place is small, but it is a must see while in Nashville. No cover ($7.00 suggested food/beverage purchase) and a great seat to performers playing their songs and telling us the stories behind the songs. We will stay two nights at Club Hotel and Suites. Rooms from $80.
A couple of hours on the road will take us to Chattanooga. More reminiscent of the Old South than its two more contemporary cities, Chattanooga is a delight. We are going to do three distinctly different things while in town.
First, we are going to Ruby Falls. We take an elevator ride over a thousand feet down into a cave to start our journey. The cave itself is cool (literally and in the figurative sense) and a short walk to one of the truly awesome water features in the country.
Next up, whiskey! The Tennessee Stillhouse offers a tour highlighting the history and structure of Tennessee bourbon. The tour includes a flight and some cocktails at the end.
“Pardon me, boy, is that the Chattanooga Choo Choo?” You simply can’t take a trip to Chattanooga and skip the Choo Choo. It is the history of railroading in the area as well as a hotel in and of itself. Splurge for a room on the train for $127 a night.
Finally, a couple of hours east brings us to Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Here we will find some good places to leave the crowds behind and commune with what God wrought. Pack a picnic lunch and let’s get started.
Roaring Fork will be our first destination because through it we’ll find our second. A leisurely drive (We do mean leisurely. Twenty mph for the most part) into the mountains will take us to the trailhead for Grotto Falls. Watch your step over rocks and tree roots. Hikers of all ages and skill levels will enjoy the trip behind the falls at the end of the trail.
Hungry yet? Chimneys Picnic Area is our next stop. It has picnic tables made out of concrete, pull-in parking areas, and restrooms. The West Prong Little Pigeon River runs beside the picnic area. The effect is both peaceful and scenic.
The popular Hardwood Cove Nature Trailhead is located near the front of the picnic area. This trail runs a loop on the side of a mountain and is famous for wildflowers that bloom in the spring. Stay at The Cardinal Inn. Okay, it is technically in North Carolina but I won’t tell anyone. Rooms from $80.
It has been an eventful five days so far. One more if we take extra time in Memphis or Nashville. If there is still time we might want to check out Dollywood. It is a theme park up in Pigeon Forge made famous by Dolly Parton.
Remember when we started The Greatest Road Trip Ever Taken? We said that there will be something unique in every State. Tennessee has enough uniqueness in it to be several States! We hope you enjoyed our trip across one of our favorites.