TENNESSEE, the Volunteer State

What to see

Memphis Graceland Elvis Presley - City Tour - Mud Island
Nashville Grand Ole Opry - Belle Meade Plantation
Chattanooga the Chattanooga Choo-Choo
Pigeon Forge Dollywood
Sugarlands Great Smoky Mountains NP
Other pages other states | articles

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This is an extract of what to see in this state, with small photos. You will find the full description, history and full-sized photos, in my e-book View America: South East

In the travel series View America, South East covers Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Tennessee. It is not a traditional travelogue, but a non-commercial and more or less objective chronicle of an in-depth exploration of these states. Each state is described with its own brief historical background and its main sights, tourist attractions and points of interest.

This e-book does not describe directions, lodgings, restaurants, casinos or entertainment, except where these may interact with the narrative. It is illustrated with more than 80 full-sized photos.

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TENNESSEE doesn't really have a nickname - except maybe somewhat disrespectful for the Monkey State, but it is often called the Volunteer State, because of the great courage of the volunteers, during the many wars in the 1700's and 1800's. It derives its name from the Cherokee village Tanasi, along the Tennessee River. Later, the river, the area, and eventually the whole state took on this name.

In 1796, Tennessee joined the US as the 16th state. The capital and largest city is Nashville. Tennessee is composed of three completely different area's, with Memphis in the west, Nashville in the center, and Chattanooga and Knoxville in the east. This division has played a major role throughout its entire history.

Its surface is 109,000 km2, and initially it was almost entirely forested, of which 52 % remains. There is a population of some 5.7 million inhabitants, with a density of 54 per km2. The original wildlife was composed of buffalo's, wolves, cougars, and wapiti-moose, but all of them are gone, and only a few black bears and some deer are left. Recently, wolves were reintroduced in the Great Smoky Mountains Park.

Until 1940, the state's economy was largely based on agriculture, with cotton and tobacco as main crops. Natural boundaries are the Mississippi River in the west, and the Smoky Mountains to the east, with the outstanding Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This is the largest park in the US, with a surface of more than 2,100 km2. It is spread out over three states (Tennessee, Kentucky and Virginia), and it houses more different plant species than can be found in the whole of Europe !

Other points of interest are Lookout Mountain at Chattanooga (on a clear day seven states can be seen), Graceland (the home of Elvis Presley), Beale Street in Memphis (the blues), the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville (a live country music show since 1925), Dollywood in Pigeon Forge (country and western singer Dolly parton), and Mud Island in Memphis (a remarkable park on the Mississippi River).

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Graceland : Elvis Presley

Graceland is the former home of Elvis Presley. The guided tour of this spectacular and fabulous estate presents an interesting and detailed explanation about his career, his more than one hundred and ten gold and platinum records, and the more than 1.5 billion records he sold worldwide ! More highlights are numerous souvenirs such as Elvis' cars, his clothes and his costumes, his two private planes, etc. Definitely a must !

Memphis : Graceland - Elvis Presley 1 Memphis : Graceland - Elvis Presley 2
Memphis : Graceland - Elvis Presley 5
Memphis : Graceland - Elvis Presley 6
Memphis : Graceland - Elvis Presley 7

Mud Island

Next to the Welcome Center you'll find Mud Island, which is a small island in the Mississippi, right on the border between Tennessee and Arkansas. Although this attraction is most unusual and really stunning, it is poorly documented. A Monorail leads to the island, and you'll end up in a beautiful park, nicely landscaped and well maintained.

The most spectacular attraction of the park is undoubtedly a scale relief model of the lower Mississippi river, from its confluence with the Ohio River in Illinois to the Gulf of Mexico, over a distance of nine hundred and fifty four miles. The model is also hydraulic, and it is eight hundred meters long ! One thousand seven hundred and forty-six pre-modeled concrete blocks were used to portray the entire river and the major cities along it. Simply extraordinary !

Memphis : Mud Island 3 Memphis : Mud Island 4


Grand Ole Opry

An evening performance at Nashville's Grand Ole Opry, the Mecca of the Country and Western music, is of course a must ! This "institution" portrays a live radio program of Country and Western, that has been continuously on radio and TV since 1925, or for more than eighty years ! The program is so famous and popular, that an enormous auditorium with three thousand seats was built, to allow more visitors... Virtually every major Country and Western artist has performed here, and the program is always worth the trouble.

Nashville : Grand Ole Opry 1 Nashville : Grand Ole Opry 2 Nashville : Grand Ole Opry 3

Pigeon Forge : Dollywood

Dolly Parton, the extremely popular Country & Western singer, but also successful actress and competent writer, was born near Pigeon Forge, and she appeared for the first time on the radio in a local radio station. Her place of birth and her well-deserved popularity were reason enough to build a theme park with her name, that has become an enormous success.

Dollywood offers many rides, attractions and shows, and it is a real family theme park. Next to Dollywood, Pigeon Forge is home to a Splash Park (aquatic center), and a Dixie Stampede, with Dinner & Show.

Pigeon Forge 3 : Dollywood Pigeon Forge 4 : Dollywood

Sugarlands : Great Smoky Mountains

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a beautiful nature park in the Appalachians. It is also the park that has the highest number of visitors in the entire US, far more even than the Grand Canyon ! It is also the only American National Park where the access is free !

The name "Smoky Mountains" comes from the extensive and widespread fog in the mountains. This fog in turn results from the sudden cooling in the Appalachian mountains of the warm air from the Gulf of Mexico. Especially in the morning and after rain, this fog is most persistent.

the Great Smoky Mountains 1 the Great Smoky Mountains 2

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