The Volunteer State. Where people go to play country music and the weather just can’t make up its mind. We all know about the big attractions like Graceland in Memphis, Jack Daniel’s Distillery in Lynchburg and Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, but keep reading to find some different destinations and out of the ordinary events for your next trip down South.
Concrete Parthenon- Nashville, Tennessee
If you love Greek history but maybe can’t afford to go across the water just yet, you might be happy to know a replica of the real Parthenon stands in Nashville, Tennessee. Built in 1987 for Tennessee’s Centennial Exposition, the all concrete estate is in the middle of Centennial Park and allows guests and park goers to explore every aspect of the Athenian building.
The cool thing about seeing the replica is that visitors really can walk in and out of the building. A small entry fee ($6 for adults and $4 for kids) gets you inside to see the massive statue of Athena, Greek goddess of wisdom, skill and strategic war. It also serves as an art museum with 63 donated paintings by 19th and 20th century American artists.
The original Parthenon, dedicated to Athena, was built under the orders of Pericles in Athens. Though the purpose of the temple was to show power and wealth, it was torn down by the Persians in 480 BC. That didn’t work out too well, did it?
Reelfoot Lake State Park- Tiptonville, Tennessee
Reelfoot Lake is not your average, ordinary body of water. It’s located in the northwest corner of Tennessee and is mostly known for its fishing and wildlife watching. The 15,000 acre lake was made by several earthquakes happening between 1811-1812. These earthquakes caused the Mississippi River to flow backwards, consequently forming Reelfoot Lake.
This park may appeal to you more if you enjoy wildlife. During January and February, visitors can expect to find thousands of golden and American bald eagles. If bird watching isn’t your thing, the park also has several hiking trails and two campgrounds complete with water, electricity and grills on the shore of the lake. Admission is free.
Walnut Street Walking Bridge- Chattanooga, Tennessee
The Walnut Street Walking Bridge is a destination that you may want to visit not for its sights, but for its rich history. Its original purpose was to allow travel between the black part of town (North Shore) and south of the river, where mostly whites lived. Built in 1891, it was the first non-military highway bridge to extend across the Tennessee River.
Beside its many firsts of its time, the bridge also has some legal and racial justice history. Alfred Blount was lynched on the bridge in 1893, then Ed Johnson in 1906. Both were victims of allegedly attacking a white woman. Johnson’s case made it all the way to the Supreme Court, making it the only criminal trial in Supreme Court History. The trial is now called United States v. Shipp.
With a length 2,376 feet, the bridge is still one of the longest walking bridges in the world and even hosts several events like the annual “Wine over Water.” The views from the Walnut Street Bridge are truly beautiful and breathtaking. Once across to either side, visitors can treat themselves to two different ice cream shops: The Ice Cream Show on the south side and Clumpies on the Northshore.
Old Stone Fort- Manchester, Tennessee
Traveling through Middle Tennessee? If you are, Old Stone Fort should be at the top of your destinations list. There are few things that are worth your time in Manchester: Bonnaroo, Starbucks and Old Stone Fort.
This is a really cool place to visit even if you don’t like being outdoors. It has hiking trails that vary from easy to difficult, a huge waterfall that is quite literally picture perfect, a small museum and, of course, a campground.
So the views and scenery are great, it’s the rich history that is truly amazing. The area was excavated several times to find clues on its origin, but the excavation in 1966 revealed, with the help of charcoal samples found within a wall, that it may have been built as early as 30-430 A.D. Some say it was built for defense. The digs from 1966 say it was more for religious or ceremonial purposes.
It’s a great place to take a scenic break from a never ending car ride and it’s a great destination for a short camping trip.
Tennessee Renaissance Festival- Arrington, Tennessee
Chivalry isn’t dead yet. See this for yourself at the Tennessee Renaissance Festival every May in Arrington, Tennessee.
Take a trip WAY back to 16th Century England (1500s) where knights fought for glory, the Tudors usurped the throne, and castles were all the rage. Once inside the festival, grab a turkey leg and a beer in a wooden mug and watch a live jousting tournament. Then take a tour of the man-made Castle Gwen and feel like royalty as you walk through its corridors. It’s easy to spend a day at the tree shaded grounds because there is always an event taking place. Don’t forget to do a little shopping and buy a knights sword or a dragon statue.
The festival is family friendly with tons of games, interactive story time and fairies running around! Best to plan your trip around May, though. The festival only runs each weekend of the month.