Where to Go for Summer in Tennessee: From the Great Smoky Mountains to Dollywood!

Situated in the southeastern part of the United States, Tennesee is a state known for its rich history, vibrant music scene, and stunning natural beauty – making it a perfect destination for the summer in America! 

From the majestic Great Smoky Mountains National Park to the bustling city of Nashville, you'll likely find a lot of great activities for the summer in Tennessee. 

Whether you're a nature lover or a history buff, Tennessee with its charms has it all. 

In this post, we will explore some of the top travel destinations and attractions that make Tennessee a must-visit destination for the warm season in the south.

Top 3 Summer Activities in Tennessee

Traveling with your family, including kids? Snag a ticket to Dollywood and Splash Country in Pigeon Forge to make the most of your summer holiday in Tennessee!

Are you an outdoor enthusiast? Join this hiking tour around the Great Smoky Mountains this summer in Tennessee!

Prefer history tours and beyond? Make sure to add this history walking tour in Memphis to learn more about American modern history in Tennessee. 

8 Best Summer Activities in Tennessee

Bridge in Memphis, TN.
Source: Unsplash.

1. Explore the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is practically one of the most visited national parks in the United States.

With over 13 million visitors annually, the number is higher compared to other popular national parks in the USA – and that includes Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming and Zion National Park in Utah!

From the breathtaking mountain vistas to its abundant wildlife, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee is definitely a nature lover's paradise!

The park offers a wide range of activities and attractions for visitors to enjoy in the summer, including hiking. There are over 800 miles of trails to explore in the Great Smoky Mountains, ranging from easy strolls to challenging multi-day hikes.

The Great Smoky Mountains also offers various outdoor activities, including camping, fishing, and wildlife viewing around the national park. It's home to a diverse array of plant and animal species, which offers a thrilling experience for outdoor enthusiasts in the summer!

Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee
Source: Unsplash.

2. Experience the Thrill of Dollywood

Unless you live under a rock, you've probably heard of Dolly Parton with her popular songs like “Jolene” or “9-to-5.”

Owned by the country music superstar, Dollywood is an amusement park that offers a unique blend of thrilling rides and live entertainment – all served with Southern charm. 

Situated in Pigeon Forge, the park is a must-visit destination in the summer for music lovers and thrill-seekers in Tennessee.

Dollywood features over 40 rides and attractions, including roller coasters, water rides, and live shows. One of the park's most popular attractions is the Lightning Rod, the world's fastest wooden roller coaster.

When in Dollywood, don't miss out taking a ride at the Wild Eagle – a steel wing coaster that offers breathtaking views of the Smoky Mountains in the surroundings. 

A visit to Dollywood is a must when you travel to Tennessee, especially if you're into country music like I do. You can enjoy live performances – from concerts, comedy shows, to dinner theater experiences!

Summer is the perfect time to visit Dollywood, as the park hosts some of the biggest summer celebrations in Tennessee – especially on the 4th of July!

Ride in Dollywood amusement park in Pigeon Forge, TN.
Source: Unsplash.

3. Discover Nashville Charms

No trip to Tennessee would be complete without a stop in Nashville, the state's capital and home to some of the best music in the world.

Known as Music City, Nashville is famous for its vibrant music scene, historic landmarks, and Southern hospitality. If you're traveling on a shoestring, you can also easily explore Nashville on a budget.

One of the must-visit attractions in Nashville is the Grand Ole Opry, a legendary country music venue that has hosted countless iconic performers over the years.

Visitors can take a backstage tour of the Opry, attend a live show, or even catch a performance at the nearby Ryman Auditorium, known as the “Mother Church of Country Music.”

In addition to its music scene, Nashville also offers a variety of other attractions. From exploring the historic district of Germantown to visiting the Tennessee State Capitol, it's definitely a great city to wander around – even if you're not sure what to do for the summer!

The city is home to several museums, including the Country Music Hall of Fame Museum where you can see some of the legendary names in the industry, from Patsy Cline to Reba McIntyre!

Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, TN.
Source: Unsplash.

4. Enjoy Water Sports at Norris Lake

For water sports enthusiasts, head to Norris Lake in northeast Tennessee for the summer. With its pristine water and scenic beauty, it's a perfect place to unwind while enjoying your sun-kissed summer days!

Norris Lake offers a wide range of water sports and activities for visitors to enjoy. Boating is one of the most popular activities on the lake, with several marinas offering boat rentals and guided tours.

You can also go fishing, swimming, jet skiing, or even try your hand at some popular summer activities like paddleboarding or kayaking.

If water sports aren't your cup of tea, Norris Lake also offers several hiking trails that enable you to enjoy its beautiful forests along the shoreline – arguably one of the best views to enjoy Tennessee in the summer!

Norris Lake in Tennessee
Source: Wikimedia.

5. Hike the Trails of Cumberland Gap

Situated at the intersection of three states of Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia, Cumberland Gap National Historical Park offers a unique blend of natural beauty and historical significance in the USA. 

The Cumberland Gap is named after the narrow pass through the Appalachian Mountains. It was used by the Native Americans and early settlers as a gateway to enter the west from the south. 

The park features over 85 miles of hiking trails that wind through its rugged terrain and offer stunning views of the surrounding mountains.

In addition to its hiking trails, Cumberland Gap National Historical Park also offers other attractions that make it a great place to visit for the summer.

You can explore the Hensley Settlement, a preserved Appalachian community that offers a glimpse into the past. Make a stop at the park's visitor center to see the exhibition of the area's past history and its significance for the community. 

6. Indulge in Southern Hospitality at Memphis

Located on the banks of the Mississippi River, Memphis is a great place to visit – whether you're a foodie looking to indulge in its world-famous BBQ or a history buff looking to immerse yourself in a piece of American history. 

From the iconic Beale Street that's known as the home of blues music to the Lorraine Motel where Dr. Marthin Luther King Jr was assasinated, you won't run out of activities in Memphis, TN!

Another must-visit attractions in Memphis, TN, in the summer is Graceland – the former home of the King of Rock ‘n Roll, Elvis Presley. 

You can book a private tour to explore the Graceland mansion and see where he lived and recorded his music. But it's not the only activity you can do around Graceland, as the whole complex offers various activities beyond Elvis. From shopping to dining, you can even watch a live performance depending on when you're going to visit Graceland in Memphis!

If you're into modern American history, you can also join this Memphis History Walking tour as the city is also home to the National Civil Rights Museum. Located at the historical site Lorraine Motel, it exhibits everything you need to know about the movement – including the spot in front of the room number 306 where Dr. King died in April 1968. 

Exterior of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, TN, showing room 306 with a large white and red wreath on the balcony railing, and vintage cars parked below.
Source: Unsplash.

6. Take a Scenic Drive on the Natchez Trace Parkway

The Natchez Trace Parkway is a 444-mile scenic drive that stretches from Natchez, Mississippi to Nashville, Tennessee.

The parkway was initially used by Native Americans and early settlers as a a trade route, but it also offers stunning views of lush forests and historic landmarks that make it one of the must-visit attractions in Tennessee. 

Some of the must-visit stops along the parkway include the Meriwether Lewis Monument, the Cypress Swamp, and the Tupelo National Battlefield.

Natchez Trace Parkway
Source: Unsplash.

7. Visit the Historic Homes of Chattanooga

Located in the southeastern part of Tennessee, Chattanooga is best known for the iconic song “Chattanooga Choo Choo.” The city is known for its rich history and stunning architecture, and you can visit Chattanooga Choo Choo hotel building that was once the railroad station in the city. 

In addition to the iconic train tour in Chattanooga, you can go to the Bluff View Art District to enjoy the stunning architecture of historic homes that have been converted into anything from restaurants to art galleries. 

You can explore the district's cobblestone streets while enjoying the view of the Tennessee River. Situated in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, it's a sweet spot to enjoy both nature and city vibes. 

Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel in Chattanooga, TN.
Source: Unsplash.

8. Have Fun at the Splash Country Water Park in Pigeon Forge

Located just next to Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Splash Country is a water park that offers a refreshing escape from the summer heat. You can even book a 2-in-1 ticket for entries to both Dollywood and Splash Country on your summer getaways in Tennessee!

With its thrilling water slides, lazy rivers, and wave pools, it's the perfect place to cool off and have some fun.

Splash Country features over 35 water attractions, including slides for all ages and thrill levels.

From the fast-paced Mountain Scream slide to the relaxing Downbound Float Trip, there is something for everyone at this water park. The park also offers several play areas for children, as well as cabanas and loungers for those who prefer to relax.


Tennessee may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you're looking for a place to go for summer getaways, but there are plenty of things to do in Tennessee in the summer – no matter what type of traveler you are!

 Whether you're looking to explore the natural beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, experience the thrill of Dollywood, or immerse yourself in the vibrant music scene of Nashville, this state has it all.

Home to various historic homes and landmarks, Tennessee offers a diverse range of experiences that are sure to leave a lasting impression if you're looking for something different this summer. 

So, pack your bags and get ready to discover all that Tennessee has to offer!


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