The United States is big. Very big! Which, usually means it’s pretty hard to explore the whole of the country in one trip. In fact, it’s near impossible! That being said, there’s every reason (and no excuse) as to why you can’t see a big chunk of one state during a vacay away.
And you know what, that’s exactly what we did with our bumper trip to Tennessee. Over the course of our trip, we got to see and experience some of the best things to do in Tennessee – which honestly is an epic state to explore.
Now, I don’t want to ramble on for too long, but I wanted to share our route and itinerary of some of the very best things to do in Tennessee.
Hopefully, our route and pit stops will help in planning your own trip (well, that’s why I wanted to share it) but if I haven’t given you all the answers you need, just pop me a message. We are always happy to offer some more advice or tips. Heck, you’ll have a job to stop me nattering on about Tennessee! 🤣
With that in mind, take a little look at our route map I’ve created below (swipe left to right over the map). This will hopefully give you a rough idea of the journey we took, all whilst stopping off at as many of the best things to do in Tennessee (as physically possible). 🗺
As with all our itineraries, pick and choose the stops you like and create your own bumper trip to Tennessee.
Take a look at our 1-week itinerary of the best things to do in Tennessee. 🇺🇸
Day 1: Nashville
1800: Arrival in Nashville
We took the direct British Airways flight from London to Nashville which got us into the city by around 6 pm. Best of all, the airport seems quite small for international flights so immigration was much quicker than spots like JFK.
2000: Grab a bite to eat
After a little relax and unpack at your hotel, head straight over to Hattie B’s near the university for some of the hottest fried chicken.
It’s a proper spicy welcome to Tennessee and it’s totally worth it! Hattie B’s is a no-frills type of diner (the kinda place you just chill and eat chicken) and one popular spot to eat at in Nashville. This means that occasionally there’ll be a little wait. But as they say, good things come to those who wait! 🍗
2200: Catch some Zzzzz’s
Head straight for your hotel and drift off to sleep. You’ll be on about 5-6 hour difference from the UK, so try and sleep as long as possible (and don’t be inclined to wake up at 4 am like your body tells you to).
Day 2: Nashville
0900: Breakfast at your hotel
Wake up bright and early and grab some bacon and eggs whilst at your hotel. 🍳
1030: Head out to explore Nashville
Right, first thing on the agenda is 12th Avenue South and specifically the area near Draper James (you know, Reece Witherspoon’s shop). Once here, make sure to take some time to stroll the area and get a feel for the side of Nashville.
With spots like Bartaco, Imogene And Willie and the famous Five Daughters Bakery, it’s an area to work up an appetite exploring the streets.
Oh, also, make sure to spot the ‘I Believe In Nashville’ mural, which is right next door to Draper James.
1300: Lunch at Pinewood Social
So, about a 15-minutes drive from 12th Avenue South is Pinewood Social, it’s a spot you’ve just got to go for lunch and one of the best things to do in Tennessee… especially if you love bowling.
Pinewood Social is more of a space than just a restaurant, it’s got an Airstream bar, it’s very own boutique bowling alley and a pretty epic pool. Not to mention all the yummy food and cocktails. 😋
1400: Head to The Gulch area of Nashville
After filling your tummy to the brim at Pinewood Social, drive for about 10-minutes (or walk in about 30 minutes) to The Gulch area of the city. Here you’ll find one of my favourite murals, the What Lifts You Wings mural.
Not only that, you’ll also catch some of the other amazing street-murals on the road opposite, it’s a really cool area of town and a great little spot to see before taking a ramble to Union Station.
1430: Stop for cocktails at Union Station Hotel
After parking your car in The Gulch, ramble over to the Union Station Hotel, which is one of the more historic buildings to see in the city. That being said, it’s the inside that really is gorgeous! Take a seat at the concourse bar and grab yourself a little tipple.
1500: Explore the Ryman Auditorium
The Ryman is possibly one of the most famous concert settings in the city and a space that’s known the world-over for its history and artists that have played there.
Once inside, take a tour of the main theatre space and explore the exhibitions too. You can even record your own country single whilst you’re here.
1600: Discover the Country Music Hall of Fame
After visiting Ryman Auditorium, stroll over to the Country Music Hall of Fame. It’s the largest museum of country music anywhere in the world and well worth a little gander. If you’re into country music and you know many of the stars, you’ll honestly find this place hard to leave.
Make sure you also buy your ticket to include the tour to Studio B (this is where some of the biggest hits by people like Dolly Parton recorded).
For us Brits, it’s a little like Tennesse’s version of Abbey Road Music Studio.
1800: See the views from John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge
After a little jig to some of that Nashville sound, head right on over to John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge for some views of Downtown Nashville.
2000: Dinner at 5th & Taylor
Based in Germantown, 5th & Taylor serves ups some of the best food in the city. Not only that, it occupies the coolest space (an old printing warehouse) that’s only a 15-minute or so drive from most of downtown. In fact, you could even walk it if you’re close by the Capitol Building.
I had the best beef-cheek stew, which was sooooo tasty! If you’re planning on going, it’s best to book a table in advance – they do fill up pretty quick on weekends.
2300: Catch some zzzz’s
Day 3: Nashville
1000: Brunch at Loveless Cafe
It might be about a 30-minute drive from downtown Nashville, but it’s totally worth it. Now, the Loveless Cafe has been going since the 1950’s and has gained lots of love from locals and visitors alike.
Just off the roadside, it’s a quaint little farmhouse-style estate that serves up the best Southern platter I’ve had in all of Tennessee. Their warm biscuits are amazing!
1130: Explore Cheekwood Estate
About a 10-minute drive from the Loveless Cafe is Cheekwood. Once home to the wealthy Cheek family, the Cheekwood Estate is now an art gallery, gardens and historic mansion house that’s so gorgeous to explore.
Once here, make sure to take a self-guided tour of the rooms, wander the beautiful gardens and see the art installations that are dotted all across the estate.
1300: Visit Belle Meade Plantation
On the way back to downtown Nashville is Belle Meade Plantation a stop that’s well worth a visit. Once inside the plantation, it’ll take you around 45-minutes to have a guided tour of the main house and another 45-minutes to explore the grounds and other quarters.
The estate is gorgeous and they really do showcase the reality of how the plantation operated.
1500: See the Parthenon
Yup, there’s a life-sized replica of the Parthenon of Athens right within Centennial Park in Nashville. Apparently, this was part of a wider celebration in the 19th century and was built as Nashville was regularly given the nickname as the ‘Athens of the south’.
Once here, make sure to explore the park and the Parthenon itself. You can also buy tickets to go inside and see the statue of Athena that’s right inside. It’s well worth seeing.
1600: Three Brothers Coffee
About a 10-minute drive from the Parthenon is Three Brothers Coffee and was possibly one of my favourite coffee spots in all of Nashville. They have some amazing lattes with home-made syrups.
It’s a great pit stop for a late afternoon pick-me-up. ☕
1630: Head to Lower Broadway
After a little tipple, take a stroll down to Lower Broadway and see what makes this area of Nashville so unique. It’s filled to the brim with live music venues, bars and restaurants where you could honestly spend a whole month and still not visit them all!
Take a wander through the streets, listen to some of the live music and fall into the Nashville music scene. It’s pretty epic.
1630: Five Daughters Bakery
Home to the famous 100-layer doughnut, Five Daughter Baker is a great stopping point (if you didn’t already visit the one on (12th Avenue South). Make sure to try some of their seasonal specials or go for their original maple glaze. Yum! 😋
2000: Choose a dinner spot
Nashville has a pretty epic foodie scene, with so many of the best restaurants dotted all across the city. For some tasty food, pop over to spots like; Etch, Lockland Table or Mas Tacos.
For some suggestions on where to eat, read our guide to the best restaurants in Nashville.
2300: Catch some zzzzz’s
Day 4: Nashville & Memphis
Grab breakfast at your hotel
1100: Drive to Memphis
1430: Arrival at hotel
After checking in, take an hour or so to relax or go for a brief stroll around downtown Memphis and the Mississippi River.
1600: Head to Marciel’s Taco Shop (for a late lunch)
After working up an appetite, head over to Marciel’s Taco Shop on South Main Street. This family-run haunt is totally delicious and serves up some of the best Mexican food in the city.
1700: See the Peabody Hotel Ducks
At 11 am and 5 pm every day, the Peabody Ducks are escorted (via red carpet) too and from the reception fountain. It’s a parade that’s happened every day for decades and has come to be something of an institution in Memphis.
Now, if you want a good spot to see the ducks, head here about 30 minutes before.
1800: Peabody Rooftop Party
After visiting the Peabody Ducks, head straight up onto the roof for one of the hotels’ rooftop parties that happens in the summer (between April to August). Tickets cost around $15, or so, and they have some of the coolest music and best bands from around Tennessee and beyond!
2300: Head for a nightcap on Beale Street
Just before the night draws to a close (or is just getting started 🤣) head for a nightcap down to Beale Street, which is possibly one of the more famous streets in Memphis.
Make sure to stop off at Mr Handy’s Blue Hall, The Absinthe Room and Silky O’Sullivan’s.
Day 5: Memphis
1000: Brunch at the Beauty Shop Resturant
Based in Midtown, the Beauty Shop Resturant is a quirky little spot that once used to be the favourite beauty shop of Priscila Presley. Nowadays, the beauty shop has closed, but in its place is a pretty funky restaurant (with all the original beauty shop memorabilia inside).
Sit in the old hairdressing chairs and perming stations and have one of the tastiest brunches in Memphis.
1100: Visit Graceland
After filling up at brunch, drive 15 minutes (or so) to Graceland, the former home of Elvis Presley. Now, entrance costs are a little higher than most other attractions in Memphis but it’s well worth the visit.
Once here, you’ll be able to wander through the grounds of the house, go inside the incredible private jets and even wander through his home itself.
Honestly, the rooms are incredible to see – it really is a place to visit.
1400: Stax Museum
After hearing all about Elvis and exploring his home, drive about 10-minutes to the Stax Museum to experience so much more of American Soul music.
Here, you’ll be able to see Isaac Hayes’ famous Cadillac Eldorado, learn more about its roots in southern gospel music and Stax artists themselves.
1500: National Civil Rights Museum & Lorraine Motel
Sometimes, you visited places that are so significant (to the world) that they cannot be missed. The National Civil Rights Museum and the Lorraine Motel is one of these.
Now, the Lorraine Motel is the spot where Martin Luthur King, Jr was assassinated and now lives as a civil rights museum that showcases the importance and struggles for equality… and something that should never be forgotten.
Honestly, this spot is as pertinent today as it has ever been and it’s well worth a visit to reflect on the struggles that happen all around us.
1700: Sun Studio
After reflecting at the National Civil Rights Museum, pop over to Sun Studio (one of the most famous studios in all of the United States). After all, this is the spot where Elvis was first discovered and got his first real break. Still, to this day, you can hold and sing along with the very same microphone that Elvis used in the Studio way-back-when.
Tours happen 7 days a week, with the last ones around 530pm. Best of all, if you don’t drive they also have a free shuttle bus that goes to (and from) Graceland and Beale Street.
1900: Victorian Village
After a visit to Sun Studio, head across to the Victorian Village that was once on the outskirts of Memphis. Nowadays, it’s very much a part of the city itself and is well worth a little gander at whilst in the area. After all, the houses are stunning!
Make sure to see the Magevney House, the Mallory-Neely House and the Woodruff-Fontaine House, – all of which are on Adams Street. Now, 7 pm will be a little too late to go inside the museum houses, but if that’s your thing, make sure to head here earlier in the day.
2000: Gus’s Fried Chicken
After all that exploring, there’s no doubt you’ll have worked up a pretty decent appetite? That’s why you should pop straight over to Gus’s Fried Chicken, which is probably one of the most famous fried chicken spots in Memphis.
Now, there are a few Gus’s Fried Chicken spots dotted around the city but we headed to the downtown branch on South Front Street. Trust me, you’ll love the fried chicken here.
Just one thing to remember, if you arrive at around 8 pm, it’s best to expect some queues. This spot is very popular with locals and visitors.
Day 6: Memphis, Nashville & Knoxville
1000: Grab a coffee
Grab a big cup of coffee and save your appetite for an early lunch.
1000: Explore downtown Memphis
Wander around the downtown area and explore some of the spots you might have missed.
12:00 Head for lunch at Central BBQ
Now, Central BBQ (on Central Ave) is one of those spots that just oozes good southern food. Make sure to head here bright and early for some of the best ribs (both wet and dry) in Memphis. We opted for the slab for two (with four sides) and it was immense!
Honestly, I felt like I needed to be rolled away after our grub! 🤣One thing to note, this is another popular spot to eat so make sure you leave a little time for queuing. But rest assured, the queues go down real fast.
1300: Jerry’s Snow Cones
So many people told us about Jerry’s famous snow cones in Memphis. Even in London, someone mentioned them to us!
Now, Jerry’s Snow Cones are pretty famous in Tennessee, especially for their supremes that they make. These literally consist of any flavour of snow cone imaginable with a massive dollop of ice cream (for good measure). It’s a gluttonous little pleasure that’s sooooo good in that Tennessean Summer heat.
Now, one thing to note, you will have to queue quite substantially here. From starting to queue to finally getting our snow cone took around 60 minutes. Trust me, if you’re not patient, you might wanna give this spot a miss. That being said, if you are you’ll be rewarded with one of the best snow cones in all the land!
1400: Drive to Nashville
So, your final destination for today is Knoxville, but Memphis is a good ‘halfway point’ to stop for a little rest and a bite to eat. Crack open your best Spotify playlist (country music style, obviously) and head out onto the road! 🎶
1730: Dinner at Mas Tacos, Nashville
After a three-hour, or so, drive from Memphis, make sure to stop off at Mas Tacos (Mcferrin Ave) for a tasty bite to eat before you carry on east. Now, before visiting Mas Tacos, I had no idea what the fuss is about. After all, Mexican food is just Mexican food, right? I was totally wrong!
Mas Tacos is the royalty of all Mexican food joints in Tennessee and a spot I’m already craving for again. Pretty inexpensive, You can grab yourself a hearty meal and drinks for less than $15-$20 (including tip). Make sure to grab some of their yummy fish tacos… and their pulled pork ones, too! 🌮
1830: Grab a 100-layer doughnut
After all those amazing Tacos, you’ll no doubt be needing a little sugar fix before your ride to Knoxville. Quickly stop off at Five Daughters bakery (this time on Eastland Avenue) and grab one or two of their 100-layer doughnuts for your drive. After all, you need a little car snack for the journey, right?
Well, that’s my excuse anyway! 🤣
1845: Drive from Nashville to Knoxville
Drive east across Tennesse to arrive at Knoxville.
2130: Arrival in Knoxville
Check into your hotel and get a good night rest before exploring Knoxville.
2300: Catch some zzzzz’s
Day 7: Knoxville
0900: Breakfast at your hotel
We stayed at the Tennessean (that’s right next to the Sunsphere). The rooms are so nice and plush. Plus, it’s right in the centre of Knoxville itself.
1000: Explore the Knoxville Museum of Art
A few minutes stroll from the Tennessean is the Knoxville Museum of Art, which is a great place to explore some of the city’s best-kept art from around the region.
Make sure to explore the Cycle of Life exhibition by Richard Jolley. It’s hard to miss and totally gorgeous.
1100: Follow the Mural Trail around Knoxville
Knoxville has become something of a street-art hotspot in recent years, with so many murals and installations popping up across the city. You can follow the full trail with this free PDF of all the spots to see in the city, here.
One spot that’s pretty close to the Knoxville Museum of Art is ‘Weaving Rainbow Mountain’ that’s perched on the corner of Cumberland Avenue and Estabrook Road. If you’re struggling to find it, check this spot on Google Maps, here.
1200: Lunch in Market Square
After a little stroll along the Mural Trail, pop over to Market Square and grab a bite to eat at one of the yummy restaurants on the square itself.
We headed to Stock & Barrel that make some of the biggest burgers in the city. They also conjure up a pretty epic list of shakes, too.
1330: Head down Strong Alley
One of the most famous mural alleys in Knoxville has to be Strong Alley (that’s just off Market Square). Take a wander through the Alley, explore all the local street art and take a wander around some of the little boutiques close by.
1430: Wander the downtown Knoxville
Now, remember I said that one of the best things about Knoxville is that it’s walkable? Well, the afternoon is a great time for a little wander around Gay Street (and the downtown area) across to the Old City. Whilst there, make sure to pop into Pretentious Glass for a tasty local ale and the Phoenix Pharmacy for a sweet treat…
… after all, you deserve it after walking the city! 🍦
1600: Visit the historic houses of Knoxville
Just like lots of Tennessee, the city of Knoxville is brimming with history – with loads of historical landmarks that you should definitely see. Now, it’s probably easiest to grab your car at this point (we found this much easier as they’re spaced quite far apart).
Make sure to visit James White Fort, which is the founding spot of the city of Knoxville. Best of all you can take tours inside and learn more about James White and the founding of the city itself.
Afterwards, make sure to pop into the William Blount Mansion and spot the Bleak House, which has a long history in the city.
1830: Meads Quarry Lake
After a day exploring the city, drive about 15 minutes from the downtown area itself to Mead’s Quarry Lake. It’s the perfect spot to just chill out, take a dip or head out on the water on your very own Kayak.
Now, if you’re struggling to find the lake, pop “3518 Island Home Pike” into your GPS or use this Google Maps link.
2000: Bowl at Maple Hall
Maple Hall was a total surprise to us and a pretty cool spot to grab a bite to eat and bowl!
Now, this isn’t any old bowling alley. It’s proper cool and the lanes are under the buildings of Gay Street itself. Rent ya self some bowling shoes, secure a line and grab a few cocktails. Plus, they make some of the best mac and cheese I’ve ever tasted!
2000: Or see a show at the Tennessean Theatre
Alternatively, if you’re not feeling the bowling vibe, book yourself into a show at the Tennessean Theatre. It’s one of the grandest spaces I’ve seen! They have a whole list of shows (and worldwide artists) that come to play here.
Check their schedule and try to book your tickets in advance. Tickets can sell out quickly for popular nights.
2230: Visit a secret speakeasy
Now, this is one of the coolest little speakeasies we’ve visited. The Peter Kern Library is tucked away on the side of the Oliver Hotel that’s perched on Union Avenue.
To get this secret speakeasy you’re going to need a little determination. Once you’re facing the front of the Oliver Hotel, head to the left left-hand and stroll on up the alley. About 15 metres up, you’ll find a door with a red globe light… head inside and you’ll have arrived within the Peter Kern Library itself.
They conjure up some of the tastiest cocktails that are perfect for a little nightcap.
2330: Catch some zzzzzz’s
Fancy an extra day?
Of course, you do! 🤣
If you’ve got a late flight home, you might as well make the most of the extra time and have another day exploring? If that floats your boat, take a look at our final day itinerary before leaving for your flight home. ✈️
Day 8 Knoxville, Lynchburg and Nashville
0900: Breakfast at hotel
After filling up, head out on the road and checkout of the Tennessean Hotel. 🚙
10:00: Drive to Lynchburg
We drove the route via Chattanooga that straddles the state border with Georgia and is a great place to stop for lunch on your 3.5 hours (or so) drive.
Alternatively, you can take another little stop at Ruby Falls, which is a pretty spectacular underground waterfall. The tour of the falls will take you around 2-hours, so make sure you factor that time into your day.
1400: Arrive in Lynchburg
After arriving in Lynchburg, head straight for the Jack Daniels Distillery. Now, it’s best to book your Jack Daniels Distillery tour in advance as there are limited numbers of tickets each day.
One inside, learn more about Jack, see how he made/makes his famous liquor and learn about his life. Best of all, you’ll get to see the source where every bottle still comes from.
Now, one thing to note is that licensing laws are pretty strict in this region, so you have to book one of the specific ‘wet’ tours if you’d like to try a tipple (and of legal age). We did the ‘dry tour’ and took a bottle back to London…
… all for safekeeping, of course. 🤗
1600: Explore Lynchburg
After your Jack Daniels Distillery tour, head a few minutes to the centre of Lynchburg itself. Here, you’ll find a quaint little place that’s filled with little shops, stalls and a gorgeous square.
1630: Drive to Nashville
After a day of exploring, head back to Nashville which is about a 1.5-hour drive.
2030: Fly home
We flew direct back to London on the Heathrow-Nashville service and say goodbye to sunny (and totally amazing) Tennessee. ✈️