Willow, the keeper of the forest, at Anakeesta in Gatlinburg
Photo Credit: Anakeesta

12 whimsical places to visit in Tennessee

Lose yourself in the magic of some of Tennessee's charming places.

If you didn’t know, Tennessee is a pretty quirky place with so many places to visit and folks to see. Embrace a little bit of whimsy encapsulated in charm and magic in stunning Tennessee.

East Tennessee

Anakeesta – Gatlinburg

Astra Lumina at Anakeesta in Gatlinburg, TN.
Photo Credit: Bruno Destombes

The magic of Anakeesta in Gatlinburg is like no other in the Smokies. Nestled within the mountains and located above and in the heart of downtown Gatlinburg, Anakeesta adds an element of magic to the majesty of the mountains. The newest attraction, Astra Lumina, offers an enchanted night walk among the stars with illuminating encounters of lighting, projection and sound. Plus, with the quaint Firefly Village, canopy skywalk, and the Treeventure Challenge Course for the kiddos, Anakeesta is the perfect spot to entertain folks of any age.

Wandering Llamas – Greeneville

Photo Credit: @nicolelopezlemon

Llamas and hiking – what a combo! But the addition of llamas on your adventure hike with Wandering Llamas is not only for cuteness’ sake! These gentle beasts provide some surprising benefits, including not having to carry your gear and a learning opportunity for parents and kids alike. Enjoy a two-hour hike on a trail through the beautiful Great Smoky Mountains or on a panoramic country paved road. Or partake in a delightful Wine & Cheese Llama Hike along a scenic wilderness trail, then visit the llama farm and munch on a mouthwatering charcuterie board.

Rubik's Cube - Knoxville

Photo Credit: David Myers

When in Knoxville, you'll want to head to the Knoxville Convention Center to snap a photo with the "world's largest" Rubik's Cube on display. A gift from the Hungarian government for the 1982 World's Fair, the cube is 10 feet tall and weighs 1,200 pounds. Each panel weighs 300 pounds.

Fairy Land Caverns at Rock City – Chattanooga

Photo Credit: Alisa Kessler

Gnomes, fairies and fables – oh my! As you wander through the beautiful rock formations, gardens and tunnels at Rock City in Chattanooga, you may find yourself transported to another land. All of a sudden, as you peek through windows in the tunnels, you see jolly gnomes playing, castles in miniature and beloved fairy tale tableaus. Once you’ve surfaced from this colorful wonderland, make sure to explore the rest of Rock City, including the breathtaking “See 7 States” panoramic view.

Bonus: The Lost Sea – Sweetwater

Photo Credit: Amanda Stravinsky

Have an unforgettable adventure at the largest underground lake in the United States – The Lost Sea. Located in Sweetwater, your tour begins with a 3/4-mile round-trip walk through the caverns. As the grand finale, you will take a boat ride on The Lost Sea where you can touch the chilly water, see cave-dwelling rainbow trout and multiple cave formations.

Middle Tennessee

Pickett State Park Dark Sky Viewing - Jamestown

Photo Credit: @omeganon22

Unlock that sense of mesmerizing childlike wonder that stargazing brings at Pickett CCC Memorial State Park, the first state park in the southeast to be listed as a certified dark sky viewing location. The park, along with Pogue Creek Canyon State Natural Area, earned the Silver-tier International Dark Sky Park designation in 2015 for their commitment to preserving the natural beauty of the night sky.

Rock Quarry Cave - Erin

Photo Credit: Cari Griffith

Hiding behind the Piggly Wiggly in Erin, Tenn., is a historic cavern carved as part of an old limestone quarry. A huge rock behind the grocery store looks out of place with the surrounding businesses, but the rock houses a large cave that was artificially constructed for the quarry. Inside is a soaring vaulted ceiling and a stunningly blue pool of water. Venture over to the other side of the store to see the furnace stacks and read a little more on the location’s history.

World’s Largest Cedar Bucket – Murfreesboro

Come for the World’s Largest Cedar Bucket, stay for the historic village. The bucket is the most popular attraction within historic Cannonsburgh Village, the original name of Murfreesboro. In the days before indoor plumbing, buckets were a necessity for everyday chores. In 1866, the Tennessee Red Cedar Woodworks Company was the only industry in Murfreesboro and the only company in the U.S. that built cedar buckets. The company built this large cedar bucket as a marketing/promotional tool, which traveled from fair to fair in the late 1800s and early 1900s, finally returning to its original home in 1976.

Bonus: Homesteads House Museum – Crossville

Photo Credit: TNECD

One of the original 252 houses built in Crossville, the Homesteads House Museum has been furnished to give guests an idea of what the daily lives of Homesteaders were like during the 1930s and 1940s. Many of the beds, chairs and mattresses are from original homesteader families, which would have been made on their property during the time they lived there.

West Tennessee

Crystal Shrine Grotto – Memphis

Photo Credit: @_yesygarcia

Tucked away in a historic East Memphis cemetery, the Crystal Shrine Grotto is a handmade project eight years in the making – all lovingly created by one man, Dionicio Rodriguez, in the 1930s. This 59-foot man-made cave is carved into the side of a hill and features five tons of crystal covering the walls and ceiling as well as 10 scenes depicting the life of Christ from birth to the Ascension. While you wander through to the Grotto, make sure to stop by the Broken Tree Bench and 15-foot-tall Abraham’s Oak, also created by Rodriguez.

Tennessee Freshwater Pearl Museum – Camden

Photo Credit: Cari Griffith

The only freshwater pearl culturing farm in the United States, the Tennessee River Freshwater Pearl Farm is located at the Birdsong Resort in Camden. The freshwater pearl is Tennessee’s official state gem and is rarely found in the indigenous washboard mussel, but the founder of the farm and museum adapted a Japanese technique of farming freshwater pearls within Tennessee’s native waters and species of mussels. The museum is situated on Birdsong Creek, just off the Tennessee River and Kentucky Lake, so visitors can dock their boat, stay in one of the overnight cabins and take a tour.

"The Mindfield" – Brownsville

Photo Credit: Tennessee Tourism

The Mindfield is perfect proof that Brownsville artist Billy Tripp is a bit different from the rest. The life’s work of Billy, "The Mindfield" is a collection of steel soaring up to 13 stories high, each piece representing various events and periods of Billy’s life from 1989 – and it continues to evolve to this day. Among the salvaged pieces, Billy has added cryptic messages in metal letters and artworks within the artwork suspended by chains or mounted on weather vanes.

Bonus: National Bird Dog Museum – Grand Junction

Photo Credit: Alisa Kessler

This 30,000-square-foot museum is dedicated to preserving hunting traditions, field trial and, of course, bird dogs. Within the National Bird Dog Museum, visitors can learn more about the art of bird dog hunting through the repository of art, photography, and memorabilia about field trials, shooting sports and more than 40 breeds of bird dogs. From Red Setter to Golden Retrievers, you’ll certainly learn about the fascinating history of the hunting partnership between man and dog.

 

 

 

 

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