Have a Glass of Jack and Plan a Fall Weekend Getaway in Tennessee

By Compass + Twine,

Even if you’re not from Tennessee, you’ve likely heard of things from there. The Southern state is known for Jack Daniels whiskey, country music, and finger-licking barbecue. From east to west, the Volunteer State has some of the most charming towns and alluring cities the South has to offer. Country roads wind from the plains to the hills of the Smoky Mountains and there’s far more to explore than just cities made famous by the music scene (we’re looking at you Nashville and Memphis).

Below, we’ve rounded up the best places to visit in Tennessee to make your next trip as sweet as the tea south of the Mason-Dixon.


Chattanooga: Unparalleled Outdoor Scene

Chattanooga Tennessee

Nicknamed the ‘Scenic City,’ Chattanooga is located right in the heart of the Tennessee Valley. Surrounded by mountains with the Tennessee River snaking through the valley, the views are incredible.

Chattanooga has twice been named ‘The Best Town Ever’ by Outdoor Magazine. The ample amount of outdoor activities are one of the main reasons young people are moving to Chattanooga. Hot summers and mild winters mean you can be outside, paddle boarding on the Tennessee River, or hang-gliding off Lookout Mountain, nine to ten months out of the year.

Where to eat in Chattanooga: For upscale Southern cooking, check out The Public House. Set in the heart of Warehouse Row, a chic shopping space in downtown Chattanooga, you should start with an order (or two) of the pimento cheese and fried pickles, hands down our favorite dish here.

Why fall?: Summers in the South are sweltering to say the least. Go in the fall when the leaves are bursting with color. It’s stunningly beautiful and the weather is perfect.

Where to stay in Chattanooga: The Dwell Hotel

Dwell Hotel Parlor

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Lynchburg: Whiskey-Drenched Charm

Jack Daniels Bottle

Photo courtesy of Marcel Strauß, Unsplash

You’ve probably heard of the most famous guy from this small town — one Mr. Jack Daniels. The whiskey distillery is based here and you should make time to sign up for a tour. Located in central Tennessee, Lynchburg is a legit one-stoplight town and has a population of only a few thousand people. The small town charm extends to visitors, though, and you can be sure there’s enough whiskey to go around.

Where to eat in Lynchburg: Voted one of the best BBQ restaurants in the state, visitors must try Barrelhouse BBQ.

Other times to go to Lynchburg: Spring, when the flowers just being to bloom

Where to stay: Hampton Inn Tullahoma

Hampton Inn Tullahoma Pool

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Nashville: Music City

Nashville Tennessee Skyline

Photo courtesy of Joshua Ness, Unsplash

The capital of the Volunteer state, Nashville has long been home to country music singers, songwriters, and hopefuls trying to make a name for themselves in the music scene. Downtown Nashville has always been filled with honky-tonks and cafes — the stages for many up and comers.

But modern-day Music City is much more than a music destination. The food scene is probably one of the hottest in the country right now; award-winning chefs are flying south to add their own personal flair to Southern cuisine culture and food critics are taking notice. From clothing designers and mixologists to boutique hotel owners and artists, creatives of all shapes and sizes are finding a home in Nashville.

Where to eat in Nashville: Princes Hot Chicken – and don’t you dare order anything spicier than Medium. The story goes, a woman suspected her man was cheating on her so she tried to use his love of fried chicken against him. One morning, she added crazy amounts of cayenne to her recipe, thinking the heat would hurt him. Turns out, he dug right in and enjoyed every bit. ‘He’ was Thronton Prince and Princes Hot Chicken was born. Now, 100 years later, the restaurant still draws a crowd.

Other times to go to Nashvile: Early June for CMA Fest. Even if you aren’t a huge country music fan, the festival is a heck of a good time.

Where to stay: Omni Nashville

Omni Nashville

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Gatlinburg: More Tourists Than Locals

Photo courtesy of Ronnie Mayo, Unsplash

Home to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the most visited National Park in the U.S, Gatlinburg sits on less than 10 square miles. With only 4,200 residents, the town hosts more visitors (10 million annually!) than locals.  People flock to the East Tennessee town to hike the park, ski the only ski resort in the whole state, and sip moonshine.

The park is dog-friendly as long as pets are leashed, and the trails are gorgeous, making it a great thing to do with the whole family. The small town is great for a quick weekend trip or an afternoon stop if you’re just passing through.

Where to eat in Gatlinburg: Bennett’s Pit BBQ is a local favorite.

Other times to go to Gatlinburg: Visit Gatlinburg during the holiday season. You’ll be able to hike the mountains and ski while you’re in town. Plus the Village Shops are uber charming when they’re decorated for Christmas.

Where to stay: Old Creek Lodge

Gatlinburg Old Creek Lodge

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Franklin: Growing Like A Weed

Franklin Tennessee

Named after Benjamin Franklin, this small town is the fastest growing city in the state of Tennessee. History buffs may know it for the Battle of Franklin during the Civil War, and old historic homes are still open to the public for tours.

Just 20-miles south of Nashville, Franklin focuses on taking things down a notch from the chaos of the city. The slower pace is palpable and reminiscent of a time gone by. ‘America’s Favorite Main Street’ is chock full of boutiques and mom-and-pop restaurants and visitors are welcome to spend the day strolling aimlessly about, just enjoying the tranquil atmosphere.

Where to eat in Franklin: Tupelo Honey – a favorite of locals and visitors alike. They take a creative twist on typical Southern classics like pimento cheese nachos, Southern fried chicken BLT, and Tupelo shrimp and grits — all from Chef Eric Gabrynowicz, a James Beard Award Semifinalist.

Other times to go to Franklin: Spring during Main Street Festival. Artists of every type stand proudly behind their booths, selling everything from handmade jewelry to hand-stamped leather goods. You really get a feel for the charm of this town during Main Street Fest.

Where to stay: Drury Plaza Hotel Franklin

Drury Plaza Hotel Franklin Hotel Room

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Memphis: Home of the King

Memphis Tennessee

Photo courtesy of Dan Ball, Memphis Convention & Visitors Bureau

As you may well know, Elvis Presley called Memphis home. If you’re looking to visit, you can add visiting the King of Rock and Roll’s home to your itinerary. The music legend lived at Graceland mansion, and today the 14-acre estate is open to the public for daily tours.

Set right along the banks of the mighty Mississippi River, famed Beale Street comes alive just as the sun sets. Music spills onto the streets from blues bars and jazz lounges and musicians still come to the city to record at famous studios on Beale. Southern hospitality is alive and well here – you simply won’t find nicer people — and best of all, it’s an affordable place to visit.

Where to eat in Memphis: You can’t come to the BBQ capital of the state and not get BBQ. Head to Central BBQ, where the line will likely be out the door on the weekend. Get a pulled pork sandwich topped with slaw, hot wings, dry rub ribs, and creamy mac and cheese — and maybe bring a friend to share with.

Other times to go to Memphis: Spring, before the summer sweats take over. This is the best time to see the city and be able to enjoy exploring outside without having a heat stroke.

Where to stay in Memphis: The Peabody

The Peabody Memphis

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Pigeon Forge: Birthplace of Dolly Parton

Photo courtesy of Steve Shreve, Unsplash

The Great Smoky Mountains are the birthplace of one of the most famous country singers in the world. Dolly Parton was born and raised in Sevier County, which includes Pigeon Forge, and has left her mark on her hometown. Dollywood, her popular eponymous theme park, is one of the top draws for visitors. Nestled at the base of the Smoky Mountains, there are over 40 rides in the park. Next door, the waterpark Dollywood Splash Country is a great place to cool down.

Where to eat in Pigeon Forge:  One of our favorite Dolly venues is the Dixie Stampede. It’s a dinner theater with a Southern twist. Watch as riders atop 32 gorgeous horses prance, race and do tricks. You’ll enjoy a delicious Southern supper while you enjoy the show.

Other times to go: Summertime, so you can enjoy both of Dolly’s parks.

Where to stay in Pigeon Forge: Clarion Inn Dollywood Area

Clarion Inn Dollywood Area Pool

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Townsend: Gateway To The Smokies

Cades Cove Tennessee

Known as the gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains, Townsend is an especially small town in East Tennessee and a great base for exploring the outdoors. Here, you can stroll through the Smokies, spend an afternoon riding bikes around town, go fishing or enjoy a horse-drawn carriage ride.

We love packing a picnic and heading out to Cades Cove. The valley is one of the most popular sections of the Smokies and gets around two million visitors a year. You could easily lose track of the day lying in the grass, watching all the different types of wildlife mill about. Historic homesteads dot the cove and visitors can peek in and get a glimpse of the life early settlers here had.

Other times to go: For Spring Heritage Festival and Old Timers Day. The festival is in May and features bluegrass music, clogging performances, and delicious BBQ.

Where to stay in Townsend: Highland Manor Inn

Highland Manor Inn Townsend Pool

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Knoxville: Volunteer Country

Knoxville Tennessee Neyland

The people of Knoxville, Tennessee, the third largest city in the state, really do bleed orange. This is Volunteer Country, a place that shuts down on Saturdays to share their school spirit.

Home of the University of Tennessee, and the nearly 30,000 students who attend, football season is the most important time of year. Neyland Stadium seats a staggering 102,455 people and is close to capacity for almost every home game. A Saturday at Neyland is a lot like Sundays at church for most people and they take their school spirit seriously. Pro tip — plan ahead and pack lots of orange and white clothing and you’ll blend right in. When the Tennessee Volunteers aren’t playing, you can enjoy walking around downtown’s Market Square, surrounded by dozens of shops, bars, and restaurants.

Where to eat in Knoxville: Head to The Tomato Head, where you’ll likely be seated amongst gaggles of college kids and families with kids. The restaurant is a favorite of all ages and serves delicious pizzas and sandwiches.

When to go to Knoxville: Go for a Volunteer football game, particularly a big rivalry match such as Georgia, Florida, or Alabama

Where to stay in Knoxville: Hilton Knoxville

Hilton Knoxville Pool

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Lookout Mountain: Is it Tennessee or Georgia?

Lookout Mountain See Seven States

Lookout Mountain straddles the state line so you’re not quite sure which state you’re in. Rock City, though technically in Georgia, is a beautiful place to visit. Built into the side of the mountain, the park features ancient rock formations that you get to crawl and slide between in order to pass through.

Impressive views of the Tennessee Valley reward you at several vistas and you can even see seven states from one vantage point atop Lover’s Leap. The town of Lookout Mountain is a charmer and winding streets take you through gorgeous neighborhoods and sometimes along precarious mountainside curves.

Where to eat near Lookout Mountain: Café on the Corner, set in an old grocery store from the early 1900s, serves delicious Southern food. Grab a patio seat if you can.

When to go to Lookout Mountain: Visit Lookout Mountain in the fall to catch the leaves changing colors. From the top of the mountain, you’ll have views of the entire Tennessee Valley which, in October, is awash in electric reds, oranges, and yellows as the fall foliage hits its peak.

Where to stay near Lookout Mountain: Garden Walk Inn

Garden Walk Inn Lookout Mountain

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Where are you heading for your fall getaway? Leave a comment and let us know!

Featured image courtesy of Chad Madden, Unsplash