East Tennessee Is Great, But There’s Lots to Do in West Tennessee, Too [VIDEOS]
In terms of vacation destinations, there are more people in this part of the country that have Gatlinburg and the Smoky Mountains high on their list than you can shake a stick at.
WHAT TO DO IN WEST TENNESSEE
It's not a long drive and there is ALWAYS something to do. And it's not just Gatlinburg. There's Pigeon Forge, too, and, of course, plenty to do in and around Knoxville. Yes, the allure of east Tennessee is well-known. But WEST Tennessee is practically in our backyard, and there's a lot to do there as well.
Much of it involves Memphis, but if you love the history of music--and just plain HISTORY--you will never be bored.
BEALE STREET IN MEMPHIS
You could start by staying on or near Beale Street which offers an endless supply of opportunities for great music just about everywhere you turn. In fact, just stand in the middle of the street (watch for traffic) and just listen.
I suppose I don't need to mention Graceland, do I? But I also don't think it makes sense to talk about amazing sightseeing opportunities in west Tennessee WITHOUT mentioning one of the most famous homes in human history. SPOILER ALERT: It was where Elvis lived.
DISCOVERY PARK OF AMERICA
Less well-known, perhaps, is Discovery Park of America, the brainchild of Robert and Jenny Kirkland, where it's all exciting hands-on experiences with a focus on science, history, art, technology, transportation and so much more.
Kids of all ages will get a huge jolt of inspiration at Discovery Park--the Kirklands' goal when they conceived of the attraction more than a decade ago. It opened in 2013, and the Kirklands have since passed, but their dream lives on and so will they, essentially, thanks to the wonderfully entertaining and educational opportunity.
REELFOOT LAKE STATE PARK
I've heard of Reelfoot Lake in Tiptonville, Tennessee my whole life and have never been. Silly, silly me. The beautiful lake was created more than 200 years ago when, in 1811 and 1812, a series of violent earthquakes caused the Mississippi River to flow BACKWARD, creating Reelfoot Lake as we know it today.
The state park is unique in that the forest is a FLOODED forest with large cypress trees stretching out the water toward the sky and large cypress stumps submerged beneath the surface.
There are plenty of camping opportunities, and cabins are available, as well. Reelfoot Lake State Park keeps a busy schedule, with events planned throughout the season.
RUSTY'S TV AND MOVIE CAR MUSEUM
This next road trip suggestion brings tears to inner child's eyes. Oh, who am I kidding? It brings a little tear to my OUTER child's eye. I have never before heard of Rusty's TV and Movie Car Museum, but as someone who actually owned a collection of TOY cars and trucks from television series and movies, this is right up my wheelhouse.
I even still have my Starsky & Hutch Ford Torino. But they have the LIFE-SIZE replica inside this Jackson, Tennessee museum. It's one of more than 50 iconic vehicles from TV shows and movies we all love. I want to go right now.
THE NATIONAL CIVIL RIGHTS MUSEUM AT THE LORRAINE MOTEL
And when I get done at Rusty's, I'm gonna turn around and head back down to Memphis and explore the National Civil Rights Museum. I've always been fascinated by where this amazing catalogue of American history is located--it's AT the Lorraine Motel where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968.
Exhibits trace the history of civil rights in America from resistance in the days of slavery through the Civil War and Reconstruction and into the Jim Crow with a additional commemorations of events into the late 20th century.
It feels like Memphis covers so many angles in American history and should really be a part of any getaway focused on western Tennessee. Look at the wide variety of things to do. Hopefully, this has been helpful.
And maybe we'll see you on the road.