Tennessee is the state I’ve been most excited about visiting this year, so it feels surreal that we’re here now! From beautiful landscapes to the most popular national park in the US to our favorite city of our “Round 2” RV roadtrip so far, Tennessee has so much to offer!
Since Tennessee is such a wide state, we actually entered it four different times in between other states to hit each of the biggest cities in Tennessee: the northeast (Knoxville), the southeast (Chattanooga), the southwest (Memphis), and then the north-central (Nashville)!
We’ve really enjoyed our time in Tennessee. Here is a recap of our favorite things we did in each of those places, and some insight on the best things to experience in Tennessee! You can click on the links below to jump to each section:
We briefly visited Knoxville, Pigeon Forge, and Gatlinburg on our way to Great Smoky Mountains National Park! Apparently the Great Smoky Mountains was the most visited national park in America last year! It beat #2, the Grand Canyon, by over 5 million visitors. Surprised us, but it sure is beautiful!
One of the coolest things we’ve done on our trip was near Chattanooga…hang gliding! It was like real life Disneyworld “Soarin,” but even more fun. We got towed up into the air by an airplane, and then unclipped and glided down!
The flight was so smooth, and the Lookout Mountain Flight Park team (which are technically on the Georgia side of Lookout Mountain, but very close to Chattanooga) did a great job of making us feel comfortable and safe.
One thing that was really neat is that you get to take over the “controls” for a little bit up in the air! They even offer Introductory Experiences where, on the training hills, you can be in the glider by yourself! We would highly recommend going hang gliding – even if you have a fear of heights, I’m sure you will love it!
Rock City is a beautiful garden area with an overlook where you can overlook seven different states! The lush falls, green grass, and rock displays reminded us of the beauty of Ireland (which only Hud can actually attest to, since I’ve never been there :)
Ruby Falls, the tallest underground falls in the world, involves a cave tour before stumbling on a majestic, color-illuminated falls. And the Incline Railway is a really neat view of Chattanooga from near the top of historic Lookout Mountain.
There is SO much to do in Memphis! This historic city is right on the Mississippi River and is known for its blues, soul, and rock music origins.
Things to Do
- Peabody Ducks March: This happens every day at 11AM and 5PM at the Peabody Hotel. It doesn’t last for very long, but it’s a very iconic Memphis thing and hilarious to see!
- Beale Street: Another “must do” Memphis thing, this is a historic location and the main spot for Memphis’ nightlife.
- Bass Pro Shops Pyramid: Bass Pro purchased what used to be the Memphis Grizzlies stadium and turned it into an all-in-one shop, hotel, restaurant(s), bowling alley, archery range, laser arcade, aquarium…I could go on. It is HUGE and you could spend a whole day exploring it! Taking the elevator to the top of the pyramid is really fun and a great way to see the Memphis skyline.
- Mud Island River Park: This offers another great view of the Memphis skyline, the Mississippi River, and is easy to access through the Big River Crossing bridge!
- Malco Summer Drive-In: This was recommended to us by another RVer, and we were so glad we went! There’s not too many opportunities to take a 39 foot RV to a drive-in theater :) We saw Ready Player One, and it was pretty neat getting to sit in the comfort of our own RV while watching a movie!
Attractions to Tour
- Graceland: Graceland is the home of Elvis Presley, but it’s so much more than that. There is also a 200,000 foot complex featuring restaurants, museums, and more. Plus, his personal collection of cars and planes!
We learned SO much about Elvis, and it was really neat to see where he lived. They have a number of different ticket packages, from just a house tour to the Ultimate VIP Tour.
You can also stay at the Guest House at Graceland, which is right on the property.
This is an experience in itself, a boutique hotel designed with subtle elements of Elvis’ distinct style. We loved staying here as it is so close to nearby attractions and was a great place to relax after touring Graceland.
- Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum: Located in a home used in the underground railroad, this museum tour gives an in-depth look at the horrific slave trade and how the underground railroad helped slaves escape to freedom.
- Gibson Factory: We didn’t know anything about guitars before taking the Gibson Factory Tour, but we walked away with a whole new appreciation for these musical instruments. All Gibson guitars are literally created by hand, and it was impressive to see!
- National Civil Rights Museum: Memphis has historically been a center for civil rights, and this museum provided so much information on both past and current civil rights struggles. Located at the Lorainne Motel, where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, it was very sad yet very insightful to learn more about that tragic day and some of the issues that have persisted since then.
Places to Eat
- City Tasting Tours: The “problem” with Memphis is that there are SO many great places to eat, so this food tour was the perfect solution! Cristina (the owner) was the most wonderful tour guide and did a great job of introducing us to some of the best food in Memphis along with sharing a lot about Memphis.
We always love food tours because who doesn’t want to eat while learning history?! City Tasting Tours was on another level, though, because the portion sizes were HUGE! We had to save our food from the final stop (make your own cupcakes!) because we were so full…that’s a first!
- The Second Line: A restaurant located in mid-town, The Second Line has a casual atmosphere, fresh and local ingredients, and New Orleans-influenced food. Our waiter was great and was a Memphis native, so that was really neat to learn more about the city from a local’s eyes (again, while eating delicious food. :)
Campgrounds to Stay
Outside of Memphis is Cherokee Landing RV Campground, a Thousand Trails campground located in the most beautiful woods and right on two lakes! We stayed here for a week and it was the most relaxing and wonderful experience.
The weekend we arrived, the campground hosted a potluck and we got to meet many other full-timer RVers. One couple, who were in their 80s and had been RVing for over 20 years, had us over for drinks the next night and breakfast the following day. Pete and Shirley, you are gems, and it’s people like you that motivate us to continue to travel and want to share the same kindness you showed us!
Encore and Thousand Trails campgrounds are always known to be wonderful, but this was one of our absolute favorites. The hosts were so incredibly kind, the campground was very family friendly (there’s even a pool for the warmer months!), there were beautiful landscapes with great trails to run on, and the atmosphere was so peaceful. We absolutely loved our stay!
This was my first time in Nashville (and Hud had only visited as a kid), but for the past couple years I’ve been joking (the mostly serious but kinda joking kind) with Hud that I want to move to Nashville someday. After visiting, I’m even more into that idea! Nashville – aka Music City – is SO much fun and offers a million different things to do.
And if you’re into music (especially country), it’s even better. Like, we randomly heard Hunter Hayes doing soundcheck for a concert, and literally ran into Colbie Calliat on the street. I’m a huge fan of country music, so getting to spend time in Nashville is a dream!
Things to Do
- The Bluebird Cafe: The most popular listening room in Nashville (and made even more popular by the show “Nashville”), The Bluebird Cafe was even more magical than we expected! We got to hear songwriters play their original songs “in the round” that they’ve written for people like Florida Georgia Line, Brad Paisley, and Cole Swindell.
Most shows at The Bluebird Cafe do not have a ticket charge (which is incredible, as they easily could) – they make their money solely off food and beverage purchases (a very reasonable $10 minimum per person). This is an absolute must-do in Nashville, but be sure to reserve tickets online (I think there is a $5 charge for this) immediately as they become available…the tickets go very quickly. Such a fun night!
- SongBird Tours: Speaking of listening rooms, SongBird Tours is a listening room on wheels – and it was one of our favorite tours of our whole trip so far! Started by Trey Bruce (and his mom, Patsy Bruce), the bus tours around Music Row while you hear songwriters play their original music.
We were blessed to have Trey Bruce on our tour – he’s written songs for Carrie Underwood and dozens of other singers, and has incredible insight on the behind-the-scenes of Music City.
It was so interesting to learn more about music from songwriters’ perspectives! We don’t often highly recommend tours, but if you can book a tour with Trey on it, this is well worth it.
- Broadway: This is the main tourist street downtown, where all the famous honky tonks and rooftop bars are. Almost every bar has a live performer throughout the day and night, so it’s a fun place to hang out and listen to good live music (this is actually where Trey Bruce of SongBird Tours found country star Chris Janson, who he helped sign)!
Some of the most popular honky tonks are Robert’s Western World, Tootsie’s, and Paradise Park Trailer Resort. :) We also were given a lot of recommendations about Acme Feed and Seed, which is a classier and more open-style honky tonk.
Although we heard Broadway gets pretty crazy at night, it seemed like a super fun, packed, and fairly family-friendly place during the day. A great spot to take a family on Broadway is Savannah’s Candy Kitchen. This is a family-owned business with the most delicious pralines, ice cream, fudge, nostalgic candy, and more.
A majority of what they sell is handmade and hand-bagged, and plenty of samples are given! Savannah’s Candy Kitchen has location in GA, SC, and MD as well, and the Nashville location was such a happy atmosphere. Their milkshakes were so thick and delicious, and I also tried a handmade chocolate peanut butter cup and immediately wish I had 10 more of them! :) Such a fun, nostalgic, and delicious place to add to your list of Broadway stops.
- The Grand Ole Opry: Does this need an explanation?! The Grand Ole Opry was what solidified Nashville as Music City, and continues to be one of the top things to experience.
They have behind-the-scenes tours, which was incredible to experience during the show. We got to tour where the artists spend their time, saw Randy Travis backstage, and then got to hear Carrie Underwood at her 10 year Opry anniversary! Um she was INCREDIBLE! Such a powerful voice and incredible entertainer.
The neat thing about the Grand Ole Opry is that eight artists typically play in one show, so we had the opportunity to hear many other artists as well (including Old Crow Medicine Show, who first recorded “Wagon Wheel”). It was such a special night and a very Nashville experience!
- Gaylord Opryland Resort: Right by the Grand Ole Opry, Opryland is a full experience in itself. There are no words to accurately describe the intricate beauty of this resort. There are hundreds of plants and flowers, multiple waterfalls (including a 45 foot one), and a river…all INSIDE!
We did the Delta Riverboat cruise (only $10 per person!) to learn more about the 4.5 acre indoor garden and were blown away by the info we learned, like the fact that they wanted to not waste water when filling the manmade Delta River, so they sent mini Jack Daniel’s bottles around the country and received water back from over 1700 rivers and water bodies in the USA to fill the river with!
And speaking of Jack Daniel’s, that’s one of the Gaylord Opryland’s 17 restaurants and we had dinner there our first night in Nashville. It was SO delicious (still craving that barbecue and their rolls…oh and how could I forget their fruited sweet tea?!). Plus, our waiter was one of the best and friendliest waiters I’ve ever had. It was such a great experience and the perfect way to be welcomed to Nashville!
- Spa & Aesthetic Services: Nashville is the LA of the south, so there are a variety of spas, aesthetic practices, and other beauty services in the city. Skin Pharm is renowned for their cosmetic dermatology, and I was grateful for the opportunity to visit because I have not had a good skin routine while on the road.
The Skin Pharm team was so incredibly friendly and Carly, one of their practitioners, took the time to listen to me share about what I’d like my skin to look like compared to what it has been while on the road. This is all while I was sitting in the comfiest chair in Skin Pharm’s relaxed, upscale office. :)
Carly then explained how the wear and tear of everyday life on skin can be rejuvenated and improved through their services, and suggested some medical grade skin care that has already been making SUCH a big difference on my skin! Whether you live in Nashville or are visiting and looking for a dermatology practice who can help with anti-aging and facial rejuvenation needs, one thing I loved about Skin Pharm was that they fight the anti-aging process in a natural way, and help highlight their clients’ best features through the services they offer (including injections, lasers, and microneedling).
- Iroquios Steeplechase: I’ve always wondered what a steeplechase is like – and the Iroquois Steeplechase in Nashville is the perfect way to experience one (especially if you have an RV). This is one of the most fun events we’ve been to on our trip!
They have RV tailgating spots where you are literally right beside the racetrack, so you don’t have to worry about getting there before the gates open and fighting for a spot.
We did go early, and took a nap before the races started in the comfort of our own RV (and with the AC cranking)!
It was the most beautiful day and we had so much fun watching the races, seeing other people’s fashion and extravagant hats, and hanging out right beside the track in our hammock and lawn chairs under our RV awning!
If you don’t have an RV, there are plenty of regular tailgating spots available as well as box and club seats.
And if you have an Infield ticket, you can also add on entry to the Fox Den, which has food and drinks and music throughout the day/ We could not have asked for a more perfect day or a more perfect spot to view the races. It was such a fun day!
- CMA Fest: We’ve decided to stay near Nashville for the next few weeks so that we can attend CMA Fest – Nashville’s biggest music festival – next month!
Hosted each June by the Country Music Association, CMA Fest is known as “the music event of the summer.”
The lineup includes hundreds of artists on 11 different stages (the biggest of which is Nissan Stadium) and, at CMA Fest’s Fan Fair X, there are artist interaction opportunities for fans. Best of all, CMA Fest proceeds help carry on the CMA Foundation’s mission of enriching music education programs.
While most outdoor stages are free, Fan Fair X tickets (only $25 for a four-day pass) and the CMA Fest 4-Day Pass (which provides access to Nissan Stadium) can be purchased here. You can also watch the three-hour ABC television special of CMA Fest, but we’d SO love if you can join us in Nashville for CMA Fest!
For RVers attending CMA Fest, the best place to park is Main Event Parking. This is an eight-acre paved, fenced, and secured parking lot that is a less than 10 minute walk to Nissan Stadium! The have parking available for large RVs, and the absolute BEST thing is that you can purchase an overnight parking pass – so you don’t have to worry about moving the RV out every night and back in every morning. That also means you don’t have to double pay for both parking AND a campground (which are probably all booked by now anyway).
Main Event Parking makes CMA Fest so much more simple and fun for RVers to enjoy the weekend, with easy access to their RV and without the stress of figuring out parking. It is a family owned business, and the owners really care about keeping it a clean and safe place – even providing security and traffic control officials. Contact Main Event Parking to reserve your spot – we’d love to meet you!
Attractions to Tour
- Ryman Auditorium: The Ryman is the original location of the Grand Ole Opry, and is called “the mother church of country music” because it actually began as a church!
We learned a lot about the historic Ryman auditorium through the backstage tour. They also still hold concerts there, which we really hope to attend someday!
- Country Music Hall of Fame: Whether you are more into current country music or country music from “the good ol’ days,” the Country Music Hall of Fame most likely has an exhibit on it!
We learned a lot about the history of country music, and also had fun seeing exhibits like the dress Carrie Underwood wore when she won American Idol and Taylor Swift’s outfit for her “Love Story” music video.
Also through the Country Music Hall of Fame, you can tour Historic Studio B (where Elvis and many others recorded) and Hatch Show Print (a very popular letterpress shop in Nashville). We didn’t know anything about letterpress before doing the Hatch Show Print tour, but walked away with a whole new appreciation for it (we even got to make our own print)!
- City Tours: We began our time in Nashville with Really Entertaining Tours, a walking tour which taught us a lot about the history of the city (even taking us past the capitol building) and helped us understand the layout of downtown. Ryan, the owner and tour guide, was really entertaining. :)
We later did Gray Line’s Homes of the Stars tour, which takes you all around Nashville and the surrounding cities where celebrities live. There’s not a lot that you can actually see, but it’s fun to picture where the various country music stars live!
Our favorite city tour (besides SongBird Tours, mentioned above) was Old Town Trolley Tours. This is a hop-on-hop-off trolley that gives SO much information (and has really wonderful guides), but also doubles as transportation to areas of the city that are more difficult to get to through the city bus system (which we used exclusively in Nashville – there are not good parking options downtown). Above is a picture from Biscuit Love, which is in The Gulch and is an Old Town Trolley Tours stop that’s more difficult to get to by bus. We’ve done Old Town Trolley Tours in other cities before and always enjoy them, but our favorite one was in Nashville.
- Other Attractions: I could write another 8 pages (currently what I’m at with this draft!) about all of the other attractions in Nashville, but instead I’ll just list them in order of our favorites: The Parthenon & Centennial Park, 12 South Neighborhood (Draper James, Imogene & Willie, I Believe in Nashville Mural), Belle Meade Plantation, Bicentennial Capitol Mall & the Tennessee Capitol Building, The Gulch Neighborhood (What Lifts Your Wings Mural, Biscuit Love), Universities (Vanderbilt, Belmont, Tennessee State, Lipscomb, and more), Nashville Farmers Market, Music City Walk of Fame, Franklin & Hendersonville (nearby towns) Madame Tussauds Nashville, Musicians Hall of Fame, and the Lane Motor Museum. And there is sooo much more – if you want a better understanding of different neighborhoods in Nashville, feel free to let me know – each one seems to have its own sort of personality!
Places to Eat
There are SO many incredible restaurants in Nashville, so I figured the easiest way to list these would be by areas of the city!
- Downtown – The George Jones & FGL House: On and right off of Broadway, there are many honky tonks and rooftop bars – along with restaurants owned by country music stars. Two of our favorites were The George Jones (on 2nd Ave) and FGL House (on 3rd Ave).
The George Jones rooftop has a beautiful view overlooking the river, and the second floor is an entire museum dedicated to the life of George Jones and some history of country music – we really learned a lot. They had live music, which we really enjoyed while eating our food.
Florida Georgia Line is my favorite music duo, so it was really neat to go to their restaurant FGL House, which opened last year. It is one of the best designed and laid out restaurants we’ve ever seen, and the rooftop is HUGE! It is such a fun place to hang out and enjoy the evening. The atmosphere was a lot of fun, and the food was even better. They call it “Southern-style food with a California flair,” which is the perfect way to describe it. We especially enjoyed the Dirty Kettle Chips (pulled pork, bacon, cheese, and barbecue sauce on top of kettle chips). If you’re a fan of Florida Georgia Line, you’ll enjoy seeing the restaurant they created!
- 12 South Neighborhood – bartaco: One of our favorite restaurants on our trip so far! The stylish, open-air atmosphere was amazing, our waiter (shoutout Sam) was incredible, and the food was so unique and refreshing (their “secret taco” is especially fun).
I’m not a huge Mexican food person, but I loved bartaco’s food and look forward to going back again soon (they have other locations throughout the country as well).
- West End Neighborhood – Bread and Company: Nashville’s first artisan bakery. Delicious, fresh food (soups, salads, juice, and more) in a comfortable atmosphere. Many Vanderbilt students come here to study, and I can see why!
The fruit tea, the chicken noodle soup, and the pesto club sandwich were some of the best I’ve ever had – and Hud’s salad was huge! Plus, the Bread and Company team was so kind and wonderful.
- Five Points Neighborhood – Five Points Pizza: Rated #2 of all Nashville restaurants on TripAdvisor, this pizza place in East Nashville would be a great place to meet up with friends. Five Points Pizza has pizza, stromboli, salads, and more – their garlic knots were especially fantastic! We arrived 15 minutes before they opened and there were already people lined up waiting for the doors to open!
- The Gulch Neighborhood – Juice Bar: If Juice Bar could just travel with us around the country, I would be perfectly fine with that. :) Thankfully, there are eight Nashville locations as well as a number in other states as well! Juice Bar makes eating healthy easy! Their plant-based and organic options are plentiful. The acai bowls were incredible, and they also obviously offer a variety of juices – but also soups, sandwiches, and pad thai bowls which we will have to go back and try! Any excuse to visit again is fine by me :)
- Top Recommended Restaurants – The Loveless Cafe, Hattie B’s Hot Chicken, and Joey’s House of Pizza: The Loveless Cafe and Hattie B’s Hot Chicken were the restaurants people mentioned most when we asked for recommendations, and they are very iconic Nashville.
The Loveless Cafe has been a Nashville staple for more than 65 years, when the Loveless family started serving fried chicken and biscuits to travelers. Their home-cooked meals are still just as popular today (the fried chicken recipe is still the same!), with more than half a million visitors each year!
Nashville is known for its hot chicken, with Hattie B’s Hot Chicken being the most popular restaurant. There are typically long lines at the main location, but if you try one of their other two Nashville locations (which we did) the lines are often shorter.
And last but certainly not least – Joey’s House of Pizza is the #1 rated Nashville restaurant on TripAdvisor, which is easy to see why. Joey’s is a family-owned restaurant serving authentic New York pizza, topped with fresh mozzarella. The pizza was SO good – better than any New York pizza I’ve ever had, actually. We got just a basic pepperoni pizza, but they have speciality pizzas that look even better (just another good excuse to go back)! Craving pizza right now…
So all of that to say, Nashville – and Tennessee in general – is SO much fun and offers a lot to do. Really grateful we’ll be here for the next month, because I’m not ready to leave any time soon! It’s been in the high 80s every day, and I wrote this blog post while swinging on my hammock overlooking a pond. :) Thanks for the mems, Tennessee!