Get ready for a bigger and better year in Tennessee
With the holidays all wrapped up, it’s time to look to the horizon for what the upcoming year has in store for Tennessee. World-class attractions, non-stop amusement, and yearlong celebrations will have Tennessee abuzz throughout 2014.
Travel to the birthplace of country music: Bristol, Tenn. The state is excitedly anticipating the opening of The Birthplace of Country Music Museum, a 24,000-square-foot facility that will house the Birthplace of Country Music operations which include educational programs and artistic programming. The center is expected to be a major tourist attraction for the region, drawing at least 75,000 guests per year. Learn the music history of the region as the museum approaches the heritage within the larger cultural fabric of Appalachian and American culture. Old-Time String Band, Folk, Bluegrass, Americana, Gospel and Piedmont are just some of the genres that will be covered in exhibits. The museum is scheduled to open in August 2014.
Dollywood in Pigeon Forge is ready to blow its guests away with its new ride, FireChaser Express which will open in March. This family-friendly rollercoaster launches both forwards and backwards. Riders are launched forward at zero to 16 mph in 1.1 seconds as they travel through two helices, twists, and turns at 12 stories. They are then launched backward zero to 20 mph in two seconds for a ride duration of a thrilling two minutes and 19 seconds.
Sports fanatics and outdoor enthusiasts will want to visit Rocky Top Sports World in Gatlinburg, an 86,000-square-foot multi-sport facility with championship fields and courts. There are also seven state-of-the-art synthetic, fully lighted fields on the 80-acre campus, an indoor climbing wall, and on-site indoor and outdoor dining. Situated less than 10 minutes from the entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Rocky Top Sports World has quickly become the most talked about tournament destination in the Southeast.
The 2013 Southern Living Idea House at The Mansion at Fontanel is re-opening in February as The Inn at Fontanel, a boutique, “micro-hotel.” The five-structure hotel, connected by 2,700 square-feet of deck with patio furniture, has six suites including the Double Queen North Bunkie, Double Queen South Bunkie, King Carriage House Suite, two King Guest House Suites, and the Inn at Fontanel King Suite within the main hotel building. A beautiful courtyard of gardens and Porter’s Pond with a bubbling fountain and waterfall complete the hotel’s goal of giving its guests luxury and peace.
The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum has undergone some expansions since 2013. With the addition of The Omni Nashville Hotel and the Music City Center, The museum will have more than doubled in size by March. Home to more than 2 million artifacts, the museum’s galleries will expand in the spring to include a 6,400-square-foot space that will hold more than 100 new artifacts, technology-enhanced exhibits, spotlights on contemporary artists, and so much more. New activities include a 40-foot guitar, recording booth, replica tour buses, and songwriting stations.
Turntables are making a comeback in 2014 as the historic Variety Record Lounge in Columbia makes vinyl cool again. Under new owners, the “listening lounge” will also sell vintage furniture and accessories. Turntables and refurbished stereo systems will be made available so guests can complete their listening rooms at home. Feel the inviting energy and relaxed atmosphere as in-store performances featuring artists from all genres will take place throughout the year.
West Tennessee kicks off the 60th Anniversary of Rock n’ Roll with yearlong commemorative events. Graceland kicks off the celebration with Elvis’s birthday Jan. 8-11 where fans from around the world will congregate to honor the King who started it all when he walked into Sun Studios in Memphis July 5, 1954 and recorded “That’s All Right.” Graceland will also have a 60th anniversary exhibit on display March 1. Sun Studio and various locations around Memphis will also have events with special entertainment, activities during Elvis Week, and much more.
Discovery Park of America, a 50-acre entertainment and cultural complex, is now open in Union City. It offers visitors a world-class educational experience focusing on nature, science, technology, history, and art, including a 60-foot replica of a human body with a 30-foot slide. Throughout January, the museum is celebrating Space & Flight Month with a temporary space exhibit that has two space shuttle commander pilot mock-up seats, moon rocks, astronaut EVA Space Suit, and an X-33 Spaceplane. Guests can also feel as if they are in outer space, participate in stargazing, have lunch and meet with astronauts.
After a $27 million renovation, the National Civil Rights Museum has installed new exhibits at the Lorraine Motel, the famously known spot where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated April 4, 1968. Guests may tour the balcony of the Lorraine Motel through Feb. 2. The motel will be closed until March 1 when it is re-opened to visitors. New technologically-advanced exhibits, touchscreen and multi-user interaction will bring the Civil Rights Movement to life, giving new dimensions to American history.
Which of Tennessee’s new attractions and events are you most excited about? Let me know in the comments below!