20 Tennessee Landmarks

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Home to Elvis, Dolly Parton and Tina Turner, Tennessee is the place to go for all kinds of music, from country to blues to bluegrass and rock and roll. Music fans will want to tick off famous landmarks in Tennessee such as Graceland, Beale Street and Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium.

Tennessee is also rich in nature, with the Appalachian mountains, caves, underground waterfalls and rivers. Home to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, there are stunning natural landmarks in Tennessee to discover.

Tennessee became the 16th state of the Union in 1796 but during the American Civil War, it joined the Confederacy in 1861. Plenty of battles were fought in Tennessee, in Fort Donelson, Stones River, Chattanooga, Knoxville and Shiloh.

20 Tennessee Landmarks

map of tennessee
Tennessee is a US state with plenty of landmarks.

Historic Landmarks in Tenessee

1- Graceland

Unsurprisingly, Elvis Presley’s former home is one of the most-visited historic homes in the United States.

More than 40 years after the rock and roll king died on the floor of his bathroom, the grand estate continues to attract visitors in droves.

The 14-acre property consists of his residential mansion and a separate building housing his favourite vintage cars and memorabilia such as clothes and awards.

The rock and roll great had 108 Billboard Hot 100 hits, 129 albums and 67 weeks topping the charts.

Fans can take a tour of the 70s style house and the Trophy Building, where his prized possessions are displayed.

Two luxury aeroplanes sit on his estate, and Elvis’ tomb is in the garden.

Graceland is at Elvis Presley Blvd, Memphis, TN 38116.

2- Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum

tennessee map
Tennessee map

Jacob Burkle, a German immigrant, built his estate near the Mississippi River when Memphis was known for its slave trade.

He also secretly built an underground passage to help slaves escape and act as a haven for them.

This underground passage is now part of the underground railroad, and his estate serves as a museum to tourists interested in learning more about the era.

You can visit this museum to experience what it was like for the slaves to travel underground and learn about the struggles faced by slaves to gain their freedom.

Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum is at 826 N 2nd St, Memphis, TN 38107.

3- Sun Studio

Sun Studio in Memphis is a tiny studio with a long history, where superstars like Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and B. B. King recorded their albums.

The studio was where different genres of music, such as country and rock’n’roll, were born.

The studio is still used to record artists today, but it also functions as a tourist destination for those who want to learn more about it.

Tourists who visit the studio can learn about the recording process and it’s worth going for the free parking and free shuttle service to nearby tourist attractions.

The studio also offers a voucher to a souvenir shop located inside the studio.

Sun Studio is at 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, TN 38103.

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4- Memphis Rock’ n’ Soul Museum

soul music record

The Memphis Rock’ n’ Soul Museum was created by the Smithsonian Institution and features an exhibition that tells the story of famous musicians and their struggles throughout their musical journey.

Displays feature vintage music as old as the 1930s and different musical-related exhibitions to create the perfect tourist experience.

The museum’s self-guided tour offers education about musical history, listing vintage songs and a good feel about how the phenomenon of rock and roll took off.

The tour also includes audio-visual programs available in different languages.

Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum is at 191 Beale St, Memphis, TN 38103.

5- Beal Street Entertainment District

memphis tennessee landmarks
Memphis is a cool city with several landmarks to visit.

Beale Street is the best place to visit in Memphis to see different musical attractions in a single area.

It’s known as the “Home of the Blues” and is a music time warp where clubs, restaurants and museums feature Blues musicians like B.B. King and Robert Johnson.

You can visit the Memphis Music Hall of Fame and the historic Orpheum Theatre to tap your feet to memorable performances by local musicians throughout the years.

There are several Southern-themed restaurants where you can tuck into a hearty meal.

Beale Street Entertainment District is at Beale St, Memphis, TN 38103.

6- The Cotton Museum

The Cotton Museum is on the first floor of The Cotton Exchange Building in downtown Memphis and was the headquarters of the largest cotton market in the world.

Memphis’ cotton trading heydey lasted from 1880 to 1920 and was known as the world’s cotton capital.

Around 70 per cent of the USA’s cotton was harvested in farms near Memphis.

The Cotton Exchange’s lower floors were where production occurred while the surrounding warehouses acted as storage.

These days, the building is let out to offices and businesses.

You can visit the first floor of the exchange, which exhibits the history of cotton in Memphis and shows how cotton is sourced and produced throughout history.

The Cotton Museum is at 65 Union Ave, Memphis, TN 38103.

7- Dollywood

Fans of Dolly Parton will want to tick Dollywood (yes, it was named after her) off their to-visit list.

Dollywood opened in the 1960s and is a theme park, water park and resort located in Tennessee’s Smokey Mountains.

It hosts millions of guests a year and is the biggest ticketed tourist attraction in Tennessee. Dollywood also hosts concerts and music festivals each year.

Visitors have a vast variety of services and attractions to choose from such as rides in the theme park, water slides in the water park or enjoying a relaxing day at the Dollywood Resort and Spa.

A few times a year, you can even get to see Dolly Parton herself make an appearance at the park.

Dollywood is at 2700 Dollywood Parks Blvd, Pigeon Forge, TN 37863.

8- The Parthenon

The Parthenon
The Parthenon is an incongruous landmarks in Tennessee.

Nashville’s Parthenon was built in the late 1890s and is a replica of the Parthenon in Athens.

The Parthenon was not intended to be a permanent structure but due to its popularity among the people, it was left standing.

It was initially used as a venue for large scale productions for large audiences but is now an art museum featuring artworks by American artists.

It’s also a venue for performances, roving exhibits and a popular backdrop for Greek plays.

The Parthenon is at 2500 West End Ave, Nashville, TN 37203.

9- Stones River National Battlefield

historical tenessee landmarks Stones River National Battlefield
Stones River National Battlefield is a historical landmark in Tennessee to visit.

The Stones River National Battlefield is a park along the Stones River in Rutherford County.

The location of the park marks the spot where a Civil War battle was fought between the Union and the Confederates for the control of a part of Tennessee.

The park features driving, hiking and virtual tours that portray historical battlefield scenes and has a cemetery where thousands of the soldiers who fought in the battle are buried.

Stones River National Battlefield is at 3501 Old Nashville Hwy, Murfreesboro, TN 37129.

10- President James K Polk Home and Museum

Tennessee 150th anniversary postage stamp.
Tennessee 150th anniversary postage stamp.

The President James K Polk Home and Museum is the presidential museum and former residence of the 11th president of the United States.

Polk was one of the least-known presidents and although he only served one term for four years, from 1845 to 1849, some historians believe he was one of the most successful presidents.

During his presidency, four states joined the United States (Oregon, New Mexico, California and Texas), he reduced tariffs, opened the US Naval Academy, issued the first postage stamp and started the construction of the Washington Monument.

On display are clothes, paintings, photos and displays that delve into his presidency.

President James K Polk Home and Museum is at 301 W 7th St, Columbia, TN 38401.

11- Tennessee State Capitol

historical landmarks in tennessee State Capitol
The State Capitol building is an architectural landmark in Nashville, Tennessee.

The Tennessee State Capitol opened to the public in 1859 and serves as a home to the Governor and General Assembly.

The building is home to statues of the seventh US President Andrew Jackson and the 17th US president Andrew Johnson. James K Polk’s and his wife’s tombs are on the grounds.

The Greek Revival style architecture fits in with Nashville’s theme of being the ‘Athens of the South.’

You can take a self-guided or guided tour to learn more about the history of Tennessee and the public galleries are open to visitors.

The Tennessee State Capitol is at 600 Dr. M.L.K. Jr Blvd, Nashville, TN 37243.

12- Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum

The Country Music Hall of Fame opened in Nashville in 1964 and is one of the world’s largest museums dedicated to American music.

The museum is the Smithsonian of country music and is the place to go in America to soak up everything you need to know about the history of American country music.

Its mission is to preserve the art form of country music as a cultural asset and to share this legacy. B30786

Some of its historic assets are Hatch Show Print’s letterpress operation, Music Row’s Historic RCA Studio B, Which is Nashville’s oldest recording studio and where Elvis Presley and Dolly Parton made important recordings.

Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum is at 222 Rep. John Lewis Way S, Nashville, TN 37203.

13- Ryman Auditorium

Ryman Auditorium is a music venue with a rich history and a performance hall that every music fan should visit.

It’s the birthplace of bluegrass and where country musicians first found an audience.

It first opened in the 1880s as a church called the Union Gospel Tabernacle and was renamed in 1904 as a tribute to Thomas Ryman upon his death.

Thomas Ryman was a riverboat captain in Nashville who became inspired to create a place of worship after hearing charismatic evangelist Sam Jones preach. Together, the two made a dream come true.

These days, Ryman Auditorium is a historic landmark in Tennessee that continues to host performances by popular musicians.

You can visit the auditorium to view live performances on a daily basis.

The venue also provides tours to learn more about the history of the auditorium and American music.

Ryman Auditorium is at 116 5th Ave N, Nashville, TN 37219.

14- Titanic Museum

iconic landmarks in tennessee Titanic
The Titanic is a fun landmark in Tennessee. Photo: Titanic Museum. 

The Titanic Museum in Pigeon Forge is a smaller-scale replica of the original Titanic and is a somewhat Disney-like attraction with a replica Grand Staircase that cost more than $1 million to build.

The museum has an extensive permanent collection of memorabilia and artifacts,, around 400 are genuine, to do with the famous ship that sank.

Go on a self-guided tour and learn what it was like as an actual passenger on the ship.

Each visitor is issued with a ticket that has the identity of a real Titanic passenger and will learn their story aboard the ship as well as find out whether they survived the original Titanic.

The Titanic Museum is at 2134 Parkway, Pigeon Forge, TN 37863.

Natural Landmarks in Tennessee

15- Clingman’s Dome

natural tennessee landmarks
The Smokey Mountains is home to a number of stunning natural landmarks in Tennessee, including Clingman’s Dome.

Clingman’s Dome, at 6,643 feet (2025 m), is the tallest mountain in both the Great Smokey Mountains National Park and the state of Tennessee.

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park spreads across the Tennessee border to North Carolina and is a stunning mountain landscape of wildflowers, rivers, waterfalls and forests.

A section of the famous Appalachian Trail cuts through this national park and it’s one of the most visited national parks in the USA.

Other attractions are around 80 historic buildings such as settler cabins and historic mills as well as a diversity of wildlife (there are over 1500 bears in the park).

Because of the morning fog, the mountains are known as ‘The Smokies.’

At Clingman’s Dome, there’s an observation tower on the North Carolina side that was built in 1959, where you can enjoy lovely views

Clingman’s Dome is at Great Smoky Mountain National Park, 107 Park Headquarters Road, Gatlinburg, TN 37738.

16- Buzzard’s Roost

tenessee state landmarks view at Buzzard's Roost
Buzzard’s Roost is a landmark in Tennessee’s Fall Creek Falls State Park.

Fall Creek Falls State Park is one of the most popular state parks in Tennessee and is a sprawling park on top of the Cumberland Plateau.

The park is a treasure trove of waterfalls, gorges and streams, including one of the highest waterfalls in the east coast, Fall Creek Falls at 256 feet.

Buzzard’s Roost is located under Millikan’s Overlook in Fall Creek Falls State Park.

The curiously named landmark was given this name because there’s a good chance a buzzard might fly past while you’re in the park.

Buzzard’s Roost is a popular destination for hiking enthusiasts as the park features a famous trail that leads you right to Buzzard’s Roost, where the view is stunning.

Buzzard’s Roost is at Fall Creek Falls State Park, 2009 Village Camp Rd, Spencer, TN 38585.

17- Ruby Falls

natural landmarks tennessee Ruby Falls
Ruby Falls is only one of the impressive natural landmarks of Tennessee.

Ruby Falls is the USA’s tallest and deepest underground waterfall.

The falls beneath the surface in a cavern of Lookout Mountain was accidentally discovered by Leo Lambert in 1928 who named it after his wife.

It’s a unique subterranean ‘landmark’ that is reached by descending 26-stories underground in an elevator to a cavern trail that leads to Ruby Falls.

The cavern is a treasure-trove of stalagmites, stalactites and there’s a waterfall light show.

There’s a stunning view from Lookout Mountain Tower of the mountains, valleys and Tennessee River.

There’s also a zipline, gift shops and a cafe.

Ruby Falls is at 1720 South Scenic Hwy, Chattanooga, TN 37409.

18- Cumberland Caverns

Cumberland Caverns is the second-longest cave in Tennessee and one of the longest in the world.

The caverns on the Cumberland Plateau’s western escarpment are formed from Mississippian Monteagle limestone and are a world of stalactites, stalagmites, helictites and other natural features.

Highlights include the Volcano Room, Monument Pillar, which is a large flowstone and the Crystal Palace, which has gypsum and crystal flowers.

You can take a tour of the cave, visit a gift shop or attend a music event in the Volcano Room.

Cumberland Caverns is at 1437 Cumberland Caverns Rd, McMinnville, TN 37110.

19- The Lost Sea

The Lost Sea is the largest non-subglacial underground lake in the USA and the second-largest of this kind in the world.

It was listed by the Guinness Book of World Records as America’s largest underground lake and is part of the extensive Craighead Caverns cave system.

The caverns were used by the Cherokee Indians and consist of a series of rooms.

A room known as the Council Room, about a mile from the entrance, has weapons, pottery, arrowheads, jewellery and other Indian artifacts.

Another intriguing discovery is the bones of a giant Pleistocene jaguar that got lost in the caves 20,000 years ago.

In the 1820s, white settlers used it to store potatoes as the cool 58°F temperature provided a natural refrigeration system.

In 1905, 13-year-old Ben Sands discovered the Lost Sea, which is a huge lake that is still being mapped. So far, divers have ascertained there’s a series of water-filled caverns.

The Lost Sea is at 140 Lost Sea Rd, Sweetwater, TN 37874.

20- Big Bone Cave

Big Bone Cave was discovered in 1811 and named after the bones of a ground sloth found in the cave.

The sloth bones are on display at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia.

Big Bone Cave is another long cave with various minerals like limestone and sandstone on the ridges of the cave and also under it.

It’s officially recognised as a National Natural Landmark by the United States.

The Big Bon Cave is at Rock Island State Park, 82 Beach Road, Rock Island, TN 38581.

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Christina Pfeiffer Travel Writer
Christina Pfeiffer is a writer, photographer and video blogger based in Queensland, Australia. She has lived in three continents and her career as a travel journalist has taken her to all seven continents. Since 2003, she has contributed travel stories and photographs to mainstream media in Australia and around the world such as the Sydney Morning Herald, CNN Traveller, The Australian and the South China Morning Post. She has won many travel writing awards and is a full member of the Australian Society of Travel Writers.