Take a journey through high bluffs and history on the Great River Road Trail
Prepare to head out on the Great River Road trail, one of 16 Discover Tennessee Trails & Byways, by popping into the Riverside Drive Welcome Center which has some bronze Elvis Presley statues, perfect for a photo-op, and info about the area’s attractions, hotels, local events and more.
Once you’ve picked up your Great River Road brochure, rev up the car’s engine and head out on this trail that honors and preserves the history of cotton growers and Civil War tensions. This piece of Tennessee was once the western boundary of America and with its high bluffs, forests, and bottomland that borders the Mississippi River, there’s no doubt this land is still wild and free. The route is part of the Great River Road National Scenic Byway, which encompasses 10 states starting from Minnesota and ending at the Gulf of Mexico.
All aboard the Memphis Trolley! A great way to see downtown Memphis, passengers board a restored vintage trolley car for a trip along the Mississippi River. The Main Street Line follows the original mule-drawn trolley as patrons get a breathtaking view of the Mississippi River along the Riverfront Loop. See the Memphis skyline by Memphis riverboat led by a Riverlorian, providing live historical commentary. The 90-minute cruise helps guests see the river through the eyes of Native Americans, pioneers, boatmen and soldiers.
Catch a glimpse of the first encounters in the mid-1500s between Europeans and the Chucalissa people, the original Memphis residents at the Chucalissa Museum and Archaeological Site. The preserved archaeological dig is home to a prehistoric, preserved village and pottery, weapons, jewelry and tools of the native people.
Travel through Tipton and Lauderdale counties with their small town charm and beautiful countryside. Need to stretch your legs? Check out Charlene’s Colony of Shoppes and Murray Hudson Antiquarian Shop in Halls, Tenn. Charlene’s includes an antique shop in a former WWII U.S. Army base hospital and a tearoom which is in a 1950s church. Shopping, afternoon tea, cuisine and lots of history can be found in this quaint location. Murray Hudson Antiquarian Shop has more than 25,000 antique maps, globes and historical books, beckoning its visitors to step back in time. Proprietor Murray Hudson has been collecting these artifacts for more than 30 years. He even has the first U.S. atlas, which dates back to 1795!
Try to spot a bald eagle and almost every kind of shore and wading bird at the 14-mile long and 5-mile wide Reelfoot Lake at Reelfoot Lake State Park in Tiptonville. Hiking, biking, boating and eagle tours are offered to guests. Check out the nature center and see bald eagles, owls and other birds up close and personal.
Wind your way through Union City and be sure to check out the new 50-acre, $100 million education center that is The Discovery Park of America. An entertaining ‘grounds-and-garden’ experience and an iconic 100,000 square-foot Discovery Center with ten learning galleries are featured on the property. Freedom Square, The Chapel, The Depot, The Settlement, The Barn and Mill Ridge, four gardens, a shrub- lined maze and the grand pavilion sprinkle the Discovery Park grounds. Inside the Discovery Center, take a thrilling ride down the giant human slide. American history and technology exhibits are also displayed, capturing the country’s historical past through interactive and technological visions.
Then it’s off to Fort Pillow State Historic Park, the 1,600-acre state park that overlooks the Mississippi River and was a strategic spot for the Confederate Army during the Civil War. Fortifications were quickly built but have been well preserved today. The park also offers camping, fishing, and boat access as well as picnic facilities.
Make your way through more historical towns and continue to drive through beautiful bluffs and countryside as you end your trip at Shelby Forest General Store. Reminisce about your Great River Road trip over fresh-made biscuits and world-famous cheeseburgers in this charming market.