I have stayed in Nashville's Gaylord Opryland Hotel and I have stayed in Memphis's Peabody Hotel (love the ducks), and I can honestly tell you they are two of the finest hotels in which I have ever spent any amount of time. And why wouldn't they be? In my opinion, they've long since established themselves as icons in the hospitality industry.

So when I happened upon a list of eight of the best places to stay in Tennessee, I was sure I'd find those two among them. As it turns out, I was mistaken. They were nowhere to be found. And honestly, that's what makes it all the more interesting to me.

From the Smokies to Memphis, there are so many wonderful Tennessee hotels you could make a part of your getaway. But these eight caught the eye of a National Geographic curator, and she decided to compile a list.

The Wayback Hotel

You might just have your "heart" set on experiencing Dolly Parton's new resort HeartSong, but I'd imagine you'll be taking more than one trip to the Great Smoky Mountains. So you might as well indulge in the quirky charm of a former old-school Pigeon Forge motor lodge that now transports guests "back to the 60s". I give you The Wayback Hotel.

RT Lodge

This Smoky Mountains getaway was once a private home but now offers travelers a wonderful opportunity to just decompress and chill. Plus, free-to-use bicycles are available for jaunts around tiny Maryville and its beautiful college campus.

The Russell

For starters, The Russell is located in East Nashville, the coolest part of Music City. Secondly, it's a converted 115-year-old church. In fact, the stained glass is still there to evoke its earlier incarnation. This place is amazing.

1 Hotel Nashville

This unique, eco-friendly hotel--located next Music City Center--prides itself on sustainability and features more than 3,500 plants that grow right there inside the building. In fact, many of those plants are actually IN the guest rooms. Also, there are no pads of paper in the rooms, only chalkboards. Terrific idea, as are the refillable bottles and taps for drinking water.

The Hotel Chalet

I've always loved Chattanooga, but I've usually stayed in a national chain hotel rather than something special like this 50-year-old beauty--recently renovated--which was built on the grounds of the Chattanooga Choo Choo train station. Trains? History? Now THOSE are sweet amenities.

Bolt Farm Treehouse

This is all about glamping, gang, not camping. I've BEEN camping. There were no heated floors (a dream feature) or comfy slippers, just rugged outdoor life. At Bolt Farm Treehouse in Whitwell, there's outdoor life, but it's hardly rugged. There are just insanely luxurious features that might make it hard for the proprietors to get you to leave. Plus, you can sleep in treehouses and geodesic domes. Sign me up.

ARRIVE Memphis

ARRIVE is a chain of luxury hotels that are built in the downtown areas of large cities so as to take advantage of all the great tourist opportunities that presents. The Memphis hotel is no exception. Plus, at the ARRIVE Memphis website, you'll be able to download a field guide that will lead you to all the magnificent historical sites Memphis has to offer. Plus, I hear the music on Beale Street is pretty good.

The Memphian

The Memphian is what's known as a Tribute Portfolio Hotel. I'm not sure if that's because it is filled with the beautiful artwork of local creators or not. No matter. You'll be captivated just the same.

There are those who might think Tennessee is Nashville, the Smokies, and Memphis and not much else. They would most certainly be wrong in that assessment. And this guide to some of the truly unique hotels in the Volunteer State absolutely decries it.

These beautiful hotels might just be what you're looking for in a Tennessee vacation that's just a little bit left of center. Enjoy.

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