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A road trip through Tennessee offers us a wealth of entertainment, from arts and culture, to spectacular displays of nature, and of course, Graceland! Tennessee has been long considered the home of American soul music, and there are several museums devoted to showcasing the rich music history that stemmed from this fine state. Also, the many rivers and beautiful countryside make this a scenic road trip, filled with outdoor adventure.
Starting off in Chattanooga, the Tennessee Aquarium is downtown, and showcases penguins and sharks living in peace – as long as they stay in their own enclosures, naturally! The aquarium is also home to several different breeds of jellyfish, stingrays, and even butterflies that flit about in a lush tropical rain forest habitat.
Moving outside the city, Lookout Mountain is a featured destination for travelers from all corners of the globe. As the tallest peak in Tennessee, Lookout Mountain has been developed as an entertainment center with many featured attractions; Rock City boasts massive rock formations dating back to the days of primitive man, and provides a view of seven surrounding states. Ruby Falls gives visitors the chance to experience a 145-foot waterfall positioned deep inside Lookout Mountain. It’s really a one-of-a-kind view.
Our next stop is Townsend. We might be tempted to take the most direct approach, which is through a mountain pass, but that route isn’t exactly “big rig friendly.” For our purposes, the best bet is to head north on the I-75 for eighty miles and merge with Highway 321 heading east through Maryville; roughly thirty miles later we arrive in Townsend. This quaint community, located in the Great Smoky Mountains, is filled with friendly locals anxious to share their music, crafts, and culture with visitors. Feel free to partake in any of the many classes offered year-round and learn the craft of jewelry making, basket weaving, quilting, woodcarving, or doll making. No matter what time of year we visit, we can be assured of seeing the beauty of the Smoky Mountains as the foliage changes with the seasons. Let’s break out our fishing gear and sit a spell, tucked away from the rest of the world. It’s such a peaceful place; we may never want to leave.
Eventually, however reluctantly, we get back on Highway 321 headed west, where we connect with the northbound I-140 at Maryville. Approximately fifteen miles later we merge with the eastbound I-40, and take it another ten miles into Knoxville. If we’re looking for a taste of big city life, Knoxville is a metropolitan area with plenty of places to dine, shop, and resupply. But since the object is to get away from all that hustle, let’s proceed east from Knoxville via the I-40, where we merge with Highway 66 south towards Sevierville. Sevierville is an excellent spot to pull over and stretch. While we’re at it, let’s take some time to enjoy a day trip out in the wild; maybe rent a kayak or go horseback riding at one of the many local stables. For the racing enthusiast, there are several museums and shops dedicated to the NASCAR circuit, and a local petting zoo offers us the chance to get up close and personal with some of the more docile creatures that roam the earth.
Continuing south on Highway 441 out of Sevierville takes us into Pigeon Forge, the proud home of Dollywood! Dollywood, as you may know, is an amusement park owned by legendary country singer Dolly Parton, and is the most frequently-visited tourist destination in all of Tennessee – with the possible exception of Graceland. Dollywood features several exciting rides and attractions, including roller coasters, kiddie rides, and several newly-added water-themed rides that are guaranteed to keep you cooled off on a hot summer day!
Our final stop of Gatlinburg lies just over seven miles south on Highway 441. Gatlinburg is situated in the very heart of the Great Smoky Mountains, which has some of the most beautiful scenery to be found on the planet earth. Clean air, the likes of which we rarely breathe, and cool, crystal waters can be found in this paradise of Gatlinburg. Make sure to allow several days in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park for the enjoyment of the luxurious outdoors; there are so very few places like it anywhere in the world – and Tennessee is rich with them.