The Southern Belle Riverboat operates sightseeing trips along the Tennessee River. The Southern Belle offers a variety of daily cruise options on its 450-passenger vessel built in 1985.
What is today Rock City has been a popular tourist attraction for years. But, it was until the 1930s that the Rock City of today began taking shape. Frieda Carter, whose husband, Garnet, fashioned one of the country’s first miniature golf courses and a housing development atop Lookout Mountain, built a walkway and rock garden for the people living in the development. To promote the new attraction, which officially opened on May 21, 1932, Carter’s husband hired Clark Byers to paint farmers’ barns – for free, if the barns’ owners would let him paint “See Rock City” on the roof. The campaign worked; the slogan not only helped to draw guests to Rock City, it also became one of the most recognized advertising tag lines of all time. Today, Rock City features winding, garden-lined trails. But, the highlight is Lover’s Leap, a natural overlook where travelers can supposedly see seven states from one spot.
In the 1920s, Leo Lambert thought Lookout Mountain Cave would make a great tourist attraction. Once used as a hideaway for outlaws, refuge for Native Americans and a hospital during the Civil War, a railroad tunnel built in the early 1900s intersected the cave’s entrance and sealed it from the public. But that didn’t deter Lambert from searching for the cave. In 1928, he led a team of engineers and started digging an elevator shaft to access the cave. Ninety-two days later, Lambert found the cave, but not before digging through more than 400 feet of solid limestone. But when Lambert realized there might be more than just a cave buried beneath Lookout Mountain, he took off down a tight corridor, and 17 hours later, he found what today known is as Ruby Falls.
The Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum is the largest operating historic railroad in the Southeast. Designated the Official Railroad Museum of Tennessee, TVRM trains operate over rails that were first laid in 1856, and trains pass through the 979-foot-long Missionary Ridge Tunnel, an exceptional feat of engineering when it opened in the 19th century.
Fort Nashborough is a recreation of a stockade established in early 1779 in the French Lick area of the Cumberland River valley. The stockade was a forerunner to a settlement that would become Nashville, Tennessee. The square-shaped log stockade covered 2 acres and contained 20 log cabins. The reconstructed fortification, which stands near the original location, is maintained by Nashville Parks and Recreation.
A statue honoring John Montgomery, the namesake of Montgomery County, was erected in 2002. While on a hunting expedition, Montgomery claimed Clarksville, Tennessee’s second oldest city. The city is named for Gen. George Rogers Clark.
The Chattanooga Whiskey Company was launched in November 2011, but the company initially distilled through contractor MGP of Indiana in Lawrenceburg, Indiana, because of Tennessee laws. In March 2015, after officials changed local laws, the company opened the first legal distillery in Chattanooga since Prohibition.
The Lookout Mountain Incline Railway is one of the most popular attractions in Chattanooga. The railroad, which opened on Nov. 16, 1895, is the last reminder of a once vibrant railroad scene that existed on Lookout Mountain. It’s also a great reminder of what a great railroad town (and great town in general) Chattanooga is. Of course, once you take the railroad to the top, you’ll be reminded why Chattanooga is the Scenic City.
The popular Ross’s Landing sits below the Tennessee Aquarium along the south shore of the Tennessee River. The park is home to a river pier, a marina and a natural amphitheater. The green space is home to several festivals and outdoor concerts. The landing, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is the last site of the Cherokee’s 61-year occupation of Chattanooga. It is named for John Ross, who served as the Cherokee Nation’s principal chief and is considered to be the embarkation point of the Cherokee removal on the Trail of Tears.
In 1898, the federal government built a customs house and a post office at the corner of Second and Commerce streets to help process the increasing volumes of mail to and from the city. In 1984, the building was transformed into the Customs House Museum and Cultural Center touted as the state’s second-largest general interest museum. The museum features a number of permanent exhibits, including the postmaster’s office and Memory Lane, dedicated to telling the story of Clarksville and Montgomery County’s history.
Andrew Jackson built the original Hermitage in 1804, more than a decade before the Battle of New Orleans during the War of 1812 and more than 20 years before he was elected the nation’s seventh president. The current mansion was built between 1819 and 1821 and later underwent major renovations in 1831 and after an 1834 fire heavily damaged much of the house. The current Greek revival look of the house dates to 1835. Jackson — nicknamed “Old Hickory” — retired from public life in 1837, and he lived in The Hermitage until his death in 1845. Jackson and his wife, Rachel, who preceded him in death, are buried on the grounds.
Confederate troops in November 1861 built defenses overlooking the Cumberland and Red rivers. Following a major battle at Fort Donelson in nearby Dover, Confederate troops abandoned Clarksville; Union troops later found the abandoned fort and reworked it for their needs. In 2011, the city opened a $2 million interpretive center to tell the story of Fort Defiance. In addition to a movie in the center, visitors can see remarkable well preserved earthworks at the site and take in a newly installed Confederate money exhibit.
The Doughboy statue on display in downtown Clarksville dates to 1929. It features an American soldier holding a grenade in one hand and a rifle in the other and honors the soldiers who fought in World War I. For more than 40 years, it stood guard in front of Clarksville High School and was moved to the armory on Ft. Campbell Boulevard in 1972. On April 15, 2010, city and civic leaders rededicated the statue at its new location in front of the Transit Station on Legion Street in downtown Clarksville. In 2015, it moved to a new location at the Tennessee State Veterans Home.
The Sunsphere is the centerpiece of World’s Fair Park and is a symbol of Knoxville, Tenn. The tower is one of two buildings that survived the Fair. Substantive redevelopment of the 67-acre Fair did not materialize for many years. Though it was underutilized for most of its post-show life, the tower is today home to an observation deck, an event space and a restaurant and bar.
The Tennessee State Capitol, home of the Tennessee legislature and the governor’s office, is a National Historic Landmark. Designed by architect William Strickland, it is one of Nashville’s most prominent examples of Greek Revival architecture. It is one of only twelve state capitols (along with those of Alaska, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Louisiana, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, and Virginia) that does not have a dome.
The Johnny Cash Tennessee, Museum opened its doors to the public in May 2013. The museum, located in downtown Nashville, features a remarkable collection of Cash artifacts, including the standard concert posters and album covers. But the museum’s collection includes more off the beaten path artifacts such as the first wills of Cash and his first wife, Vivian; an artist royalty check from 1957; tin cups from Folsom Prison given to Cash in 1968, and handwritten lyrics of “Walk the Line” that cash wrote in 1990 for museum founder Bill Miller.
Thanks to mechanic Ernest Holmes, Chattanooga is inextricably linked to the world of towing. Holmes invented the tow truck in 1916 in Chattanooga, Tenn. Today, those trucks are indispensable emergency vehicles throughout the world. So, it makes sense the International Towing & Recovery Museum would open here in September 1995. Over its more than 20-year history, the museum has amassed a collection that includes antique and modern tow trucks, photos and related toys. Outside the museum stands the Wall of the Fallen memorial, which includes the names of towers killed in the line of duty.
By the 1930s and 1940s, Dunbar Cave was a popular destination, not so much because of its natural splendor, but because of the musical acts that performed at the cave entrance. The 8-mile-long Dunbar Cave was formed millions of years ago and has always attracted people. During digs at the site, archeologists found Paleo-Indian artifacts buried near the cave entrance, and in 2005, Indian glyphs were discovered on the cave walls.
The 2,376-foot-long Walnut Street Bridge, constructed between 1889 and 1891, was the first to connect Chattanooga, Tennessee’s downtown with North Chattanooga (or North Shore). According to the Historic American Engineering Record, “The bridge was apparently the first non-military highway bridge across the Tennessee River.” Streetcars formerly ran across the bridge, which was open to vehicle traffic until May 11, 1978. The bridge was the site of two lynchings, Alfred Blount on February 14, 1893, and Ed Johnson on March 19, 1906.
The Hunter Museum of American Art features works representing a range of genres, including American Impressionism, early modernism, regionalism and post World War II modern and contemporary art. The museum, perched on an 80-foot bluff on the edge of the Tennessee River, opened in 1952 and is located in a building represents three distinct architectural stages: the original 1904 classical revival mansion designed by Abram Garfield, the son of president James A. Garfield, which has housed the museum since its opening in 1952, a brutalist addition built in 1975, and a 2005 addition designed by Randall Stout which now serves as the entrance to the museum.
Judge William O. Beach paved the way for wine production in Tennessee when he opened this winery in 1987. While Beachaven produces a number of sweeter, fruit-flavored wines, it also produces a strong assortment of drier wines. For starters, consider sampling the Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. For anyone unsure about the wine, the tastings are free, as is a brief tour of the grounds. The winery’s highly popular Jazz on the Lawn series in summer months features free music at the winery.
The Tennessee Central Railway Museum is named for a railroad that traces its history to 1884 and operated until 1968. At its prime, the Tennessee Central Railway operated trains over a roughly 248-mile stretch of track running from Harriman, Tenn., to Hopkinsville, Ky., passing through cities such as Clarksville, Tenn., along the way.
Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park preserves the sites of two major battles of the American Civil War: the Battle of Chickamauga and the Chattanooga Campaign.
A stone cabin on this site is said to be stone blockhouse of the Valentine Sevier Station. On Nov. 11, 1794, Native Americans attacked the outpost, killing six; a seventh was scalped, but recovered. Valentine Sevier was a brother of Tennessee’s first governor, John Sevier.
The Country Music Hall of Fame first museum opened on Music Row in 1967. The current museum — located in downtown Nashville — opened in a $37 million facility in 2001 and features various permanent and temporary exhibits dedicated to telling the history of country music, from its earliest roots to modern-day superstars. No visit to the museum would be complete without purchasing an add-on tour of RCA Studio B. Located a few blocks away from the museum, the historic studio — still in use today — has been used by some of music’s biggest stars, from The Everly Brothers to Roy Orbison to Elvis Presley.
The Chattanooga Choo Choo dates to 1909 when it saw the departure of its first passenger train. The Choo Choo served as a functioning train station until Aug. 11, 1970, when the last passenger train departed. The station has since found a new life as a hotel, and guests can stay in either a standard room or in a refurbished rail car. There are plenty of places at the Choo Choo to eat and shop, and a 1924 New Orleans trolley whisks visitors around the hotel’s grounds.
Located about two miles from Downtown Nashville, Tennessee, Centennial Park is perhaps best known for its Parthenon replica. The 132-acre park originally opened in 1903 where the Tennessee Centennial Exposition was held in 1897. The Parthenon replica was built for the Nashville pavilion of the Centennial Exposition, but since it was largely out of plaster and as a temporary exhibit building, the structure was rebuilt in the 1920s. Prior to Centennial Park, the area was a fairgrounds after the Civil War and the home of a race track known as West Side Park from 1884 to 1895.
Thomas Ryman was a riverboat captain when he went to see popular revivalist Samuel Porter Jones address a crowd in Nashville. With plans to heckle Jones, Ryman instead emerged a changed man and decided to build a tabernacle where Jones could speak to large crowds. In the ensuing years, dozens of famed musicians, politicians and performers have appeared on the auditorium’s stage – from President Teddy Roosevelt to Harry Houdini to Charlie Chaplin. But, the “Mother Church of Country Music” is perhaps best known for its three-decade run as the host of the Grand Ole Opry. While the auditorium – located in the heart of downtown Nashville – eventually fell into a state of disrepair, this National Historic Landmark has been revitalized and transformed into one of the most famous music venues. The Ryman still regularly hosts concerts and is open during the day as a museum.
The house of John Luther “Casey” Jones is today a museum. Although it has been moved from its original location, it is open to the public and features a wide array of exhibits, including railroad memorabilia and Jones’ personal effects. A life-sized replica of Illinois Central engine No. 382, the locomotive Jones was engineering on his last trip, sits behind Jones’ house. The actual locomotive was repaired after the wreck and ran for 35 years before being scrapped.
The most impressive railroad relic in Clarksville, Tenn., is the swing bridge over the Cumberland River. With stone pillars dating to 1859, the 678-foot-long bridge is normally more than 50 feet above the river and can swing to allow river traffic to pass when the water level is high.
Chattanooga National Cemetery is located near the center of the city of Chattanooga, Tennessee. Administered by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, it encompasses 120.9 acres and has more than 50,000 interments. The cemetery was established in 1863, by an order from Major General George Henry Thomas after the Civil War Battles of Chattanooga, as a place to inter Union soldiers who fell in combat.
To take advantage of its best asset, the city built a mile-long walkway along the Cumberland River. The walkway provides visitors with nice views of the traffic traversing the river and offers a nice respite from the city’s usually congested streets. The river is also the backdrop for many events, including an annual music festival and also the home to the Christmas on the Cumberland celebration.