Whitewater rafting at Ocoee River in Tennessee
Photo Credit: Jeff Adkins / Journal Communications Inc.

Tennessee Trip Guide – Summer Travel Inspiration

Enjoy a day outdoors, visit Tennessee's locally owned restaurants, bakeries, wineries and more and enjoy a summer music festival.

Kick off summer in Tennessee. Reconnect with nature. Take your own culinary tour of Tennessee's restaurants. Enhance your summer with one of Tennessee's music festivals or concerts. You'll find some of the top things to do in Tennessee this summer below.

Top Outdoor Things to Do

Summer Stargazing & Camping

Photo Credit: @johnsoncityaerialphotography

See the stars like never before this summer in Tennessee. Visit Obed Wild & Scenic River National Park in Wartburg, designated an International Dark Sky Park. Fall Creek Falls State Park located an hour south of Cookeville is another ideal spot to view the night sky. Blue Bank Resort in Hornbeak sits upon picturesque Reelfoot Lake with lakeside lodging and firepits you can sit around and marvel at constellations.

Fishing & Day on the Lake 

Float over to Tennessee for a relaxing day on the water. Dale Hollow Lake in Byrdstown is a water sport enthusiast’s and fisherman’s dream with five marinas, over 620 miles of undeveloped shoreline and spring-fed, ultra-clear waters. A Bill Dance Signature Lake, Dale Hollow is also known as one of the nation’s premier bass fisheries. Douglas Lake, set in foothills of Dandridge, offers breathtaking mountain scenery, various water recreational activities and is a top spot for bass and crappie fishing. Percy Priest Lake, a short 15-minute drive from downtown Nashville has fishing, boating and watersports and even a waterpark. 

Hiking in a State Park

Hike along some of Tennessee’s most beautiful trails on your summer vacation. Rock Island State Park, just north of McMinnville, has stunning waterfalls, including the 30-foot cascading Great Falls and the breathtaking Twin Falls, as well as Blue Hole which is a popular spot for swimming. Cumberland Mountain State Park in Crossville features over 14 miles of hiking trails. Visit Old Stone Fort State Archeological Park in Manchester for an incredible look at the centuries old Native American site which is home to hiking trails and a number of waterfalls. For mountain views, Roan Mountain State Park delivers with wildflower and wildlife populations, which are in peak-bloom during the late spring and summer months.  

Whitewater Rafting

Tennessee offers a variety of thrilling whitewater rafting experiences through our many rivers. The Ocoee River is widely recognized as one of the best places to raft Class III – IV rapids. Featuring a wide range of rafting levels, tubing trips along the Lower Ocoee, fishing excursions on the Toccoa River, hiking and biking in the Cherokee National Forest, camping, and more are offered along the river. The Pigeon River in Hartford also offers Class III and IV rapids perfect for an exhilarating summer day-trip, located only 45 minutes from Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and Knoxville. 

Waterparks in Tennessee

Splash into fun at Tennessee’s water attractions. Dollywood’s Splash Country Water Adventure Park located in Pigeon Forge is 35-acres and full of things to do, including a 1,500-foot lazy river, Tennessee’s tallest twin speed slides and the first and only watercoaster in Tennessee, RiverRush. Outdoor Gravity Park in Pigeon Forge features an unforgettable wet and wild “zorbing” experience where you roll down a hill in a giant 11-foot inflatable ball with up to 3 people. SoundWaves at Gaylord Opryland in Nashville is an upscale indoor and outdoor water attraction where you can make a splash on three levels of thrill rides or just relax but the pool all year-round. Shelby Farms Park in Memphis is an expansive outdoor park with 20 lakes where you can fish, canoe, paddleboard, or kayak and the Water Play Sprayground for kids 12 and younger with a water tunnel, interactive spray jets, water pumps and geyser boulders. 

Top Restaurants and Bars to Visit 

Outdoor Patios & Rooftops 

Photo Credit: @avablu_photography

Tennessee has lots of outdoor dining for summer. The Pharmacy Burger Parlor & Beer Garden in East Nashville serves delicious burgers, wursts, and eclectic beer selection with a dog-friendly patio. Café 7, located within Rock City Gardens, serves up delicious southern cuisine with a modern twist and spectacular views. Located atop 1 Hotel Nashville, Harriet’s Rooftop offers guests exclusive views of Nashville’s skyline in an elevated 21+ nightlife setting complimented with bespoke libations and light bites. Cliff Top Grill and Bar at Anakeesta in Gatlinburg has views of the Great Smoky Mountains and Downtown Gatlinburg. A rooftop hotspot at The Memphian Hotel in Memphis, Tiger and Peacock is the perfect place for signature cocktails and a variety of small plate snack options.  

Barbecue in Tennessee

Tennessee is nationally renowned for its barbecue. Visit Charles Vergos’ Rendezvous in Memphis for world-famous ribs. Edley’s Bar-B-Que in Nashville is known for their low and slow smoked meats, with the local favorites being the brisket, mac & cheese, banana pudding, and famous boozy milkshake. Helen’s Bar-B-Que in Brownsville is home to some of the best barbecue in the state, cooked up by Helen Turner, one of the nation’s few female pit cooks. Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint in Nolensville is a stop beloved by barbecue purists for their 22-hour, slow-cooked pulled pork, ribs, and brisket. 

Wineries in Tennessee

Stroll the rolling hills and savor the exquisite wines of Tennessee’s wineries and vineyards this summer. Arrington Vineyards is 25 miles south of Nashville and features five tasting rooms, live music, and 16 acres of vineyards. Visit Crown Winery in Humboldt with a Tuscany-styled, Instagram-worthy property where you can try their wide range of fine wines. Apple Barn Winery in Sevierville serves unique apple-based wines. Tsali Notch Vineyard in Madisonville offers popular Muscadine wines and juices, as well as property tours with views of the Smoky Mountains and Cherokee National Forest. White Squirrel Winery & Vineyard in Kenton has apple, blackberry, blueberry and more fruit wines.

Ice Cream Parlors in Tennessee

Photo Credit: @unbotheredfoodies

There’s nothing quite like a delicious frozen treat on a hot summer day. Clumpies Ice Cream Co. in Chattanooga has a variety of fun and creative flavors like Firecracker, French Silk, and Pralines and Cream. Located in the northeast region of Tennessee, make a stop at The Scoop Ice Cream Parlor, a family-owned full-service ice cream shop which serves tasty ice cream, milkshakes, banana slips, and sundaes, as well as dairy-free, sugar-free, and vegan-friendly options. Enjoy the old-fashioned pharmacy soda fountain at Tinsley-Bible Drug Store in Dandridge. Nash Family Creamery in Chapel Hill has over 20 ice cream flavors made in small batches with high quality ingredients. The Levee Coffee & Creamery is a must-visit, local shop when in Collierville with unique flavors like fruit loop, vanilla cotton cream, and caramel cashew. 

Must-Do Summer Music Experiences

Top Music Venues

Tennessee is the place to visit this summer to make music memories. Visit the legendary Grand Ole Opry and Ryman Auditorium in Nashville to experience unparalleled history and talent. The Caverns in Pelham is one of Tennessee’s most unique music venues with its main stage underground. When in Memphis, be sure to check out the Overton Park Shell, an outdoor amphitheater which hosts over 50 free concerts throughout the year. The Tennessee Theatre in Knoxville as well as the Tivoli Theatre in Chattanooga are both former 1920’s movie palaces turned into famed music and performing arts venues. The historic theatres host a variety of shows, from their resident symphony orchestras to Broadway musicals. 

Tennessee Music History

Tennessee is teaming with rich music history just waiting to be discovered. Explore Elvis Presley’s Graceland in Memphis which includes his mansion, classic cars and gold records. Loretta Lynn’s Ranch in Hurricane Mills includes Loretta Lynn’s antebellum mansion, several museums and numerous trails on the property. Encounter boundless history at one of Tennessee’s music museums, from the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum and National Museum of African American Music in Nashville to the Stax Museum of American Soul Music in Memphis and Birthplace of Country Music Museum in Bristol.  

Music Festivals in Tennessee

Photo Credit: Journal Communications Inc./ Jeff Adkins

Every summer, Tennessee hosts a number of can’t miss music festivals which bring in artists from a multitude of genres and backgrounds. Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester is one of the biggest summer festivals in Tennessee, featuring 4 days of adventure with over 150 performances on 10+ stages of music on a huge 700-acre farm. Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion in Bristol is an award-winning, three-day, Appalachian music festival. And, Pilgrimage Music and Cultural Festival in Franklin brings today's hit artists together; past performances include Chris Stapleton and Willie Nelson.

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