What Is Tennessee Known For? (15 Things It’s Famous For) 

Tennessee is also called the Volunteer State. It is tied with Missouri for the state that borders the most states. It gets its nickname from the impressive number of volunteers who signed up for the War of 1812 and the Mexican-American War. It is the 16th state, gaining statehood in 1796. The state capital is Nashville, but its largest city is Memphis. The Tennessee state flag has three stars. Each star represents the state’s three landforms: the lowlands in the west, the highlands in the middle, and the mountains in the east. 

Tennessee is known for music, barbecue, and The Great Smoky Mountains. The state played a key part in the development of both country and blues music. Today, its capital Nashville is still an important place in the music industry. The singers Tina Turner, Dolly Parton, and Aretha Franklin are all from Tennessee. 


Nashville is Tennessee’s capital. It is known as “Music-city” as it has been (and continues to be) extremely important in the music industry. 

The Grand Ole Opry radio show, the longest-running radio show in the US, is based out of Nashville. Since it began in 1925, the Opry has run more than 5,000 shows! 

The city is home to the Ryman Auditorium, also called the “Carnegie Hall of the South”. The auditorium has incredible acoustics. Legends like Elvis, Johnny Cash, and Patsy Cline have performed there. 

The Parthenon

Nashville has its very own reproduction of the iconic Parthenon in Athens. It was first constructed in 1897 to mark the state’s first 100 years. The building is an impressive full-scale replica of the original building (it’s huge). 

The Nashville Parthenon is in Centennial Park, the city’s most popular urban park. It also has a full scale replica of the Athena statue which is 42 feet tall. 

The building serves a dual purpose as it’s also the city’s art museum. Its permanent collection has 63 works by 19th and 20th-century American artists. 


Tennessee Whiskey is known worldwide because of brands like Jack Daniels and George Dickel. Legally, there is a lot more to Tennessee whiskey than it simply being made in the state. 

First off, it is made in the same way as bourbon, with 51 percent corn, then aged in charred white oak barrels. But, the extra special step is called the Lincoln County Process. The whiskey has to be charcoal-filtered before it is aged. 

The charcoal used is made specifically from sugar maple trees. This process created a mellow, rich, drink that is lighter than your typical bourbon. 


Tennessee barbecue is delicious. Period. While there are several styles in the state, Memphis-style barbecue reigns supreme. Memphis is known for its “dry” and “wet” pork ribs, and its pulled pork shoulder in a tomato-based sauce. 

In a dry barbecue, the spice rub is applied before smoking. But, with a wet barbecue, the meat is basted during smoking. 

Memphis is also known for using its delicious pulled pork shoulder on different foods. They are fans of pulled pork on pizza, nachos, and spaghetti!

Country Music

Tennessee, and more specifically Nashville, has long been associated with country music. Nashville has been called the “Songwriting Capital of the World” with many music careers launching there. 

But, Bristol Tennessee is the recognized “Birthdate of Country Music”. The origins of country music can be attributed partially to Appalachian settlers in the 1700s. They kept their native Scottish Highlander songs and ballads. Later on, during the 18th and 19th centuries, railroad workers and minstrels added their African heritage into the mix. 

The native fiddle of the European settlers combined with a native banjo to create a new sound. Then, later on post-WWI, the guitar and other instruments were added. 

The Blues

While Nashville is famous for country music, Memphis is known as the “Home of the Blues”. We don’t know the exact origin of the blues. But, Beale Street in Memphis was home to many mid-20th century blues musicians. 

WC Handy who many call the “Father of the Blues” was a regular on Beale Street. In 1912, he wrote and published the first commercially successful blues song, the “Memphis Blues”. This song launched the blues genre into mainstream America and the rest of the world. 

The Manhattan Project

The Manhattan Project was a research project into the development of nuclear weapons. One of its testing and development sites was in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. 

Oak Ridge was instrumental in World War II. It was where the US developed the atomic bombs later dropped on Japan. 

The town was nicknamed the ‘Secret City” as, being a top-secret war project, it wasn’t on any maps! The town was built to house 30,000 workers and was originally known as Site X. 

Moon Pie

Moon Pies are made by a bakery in Chattanooga, Tennessee. They are a sweet treat, first developed way back in 1917. Although they are made in Tennessee, they got their name from a Kentucky coal miner! 

A traveling salesman was selling snacks to a group of coal miners when one miner asked for a moon pie as ”big as the moon”. 

Moon Pies were one of Chattanooga Bakery’s most popular products. By 1929 they were selling hundreds by the box. It wasn’t until the 70s that the Moon Pie began expanding, adding new flavors like Vanilla and Banana. 


Graceland is the former home of Elvis Presley. The former home of The King is one the most-visited homes in the US. It gets over 500,000 visitors every year. 

Elvis purchased Graceland when he was only 22 years old. He paid $102,500 for the 14-acre estate which in today’s money is $924,000. 

The home was originally 10,000 square feet, but it has since been expanded by over 7,500 square feet. 

Shiloh Indian Mounds

The Shiloh Indian Mounds are one of the rare places in the US where ancient houses are still visible above ground. They are a National Historic Landmark inside the Shiloh Military Park. 

The mounds were built by Native Americans during the Missippian Era between 1100 and 1300 AD. This was when nomadic hunters began to settle as farmers. 

Only six mounds remain today. But they were a part of a city that stretched 22 miles along the Tennessee River. One mound is a burial ground, but the rest were likely platforms for temples or houses. 

The Great Smoky Mountains

The Great Smoky Mountains is the most visited National Park in the US. The park A.K.A. The Smokies straddle the border between North Carolina and Tennessee. 

It is almost divided equally between the two states. But, Pigeon Forge, the most popular Smoky Mountain town, is in Tennessee. 

The park spans 520,000 acres and is known for the mystical blue mist that surrounds its peaks and valleys. The park is one of the largest protected areas in the eastern US. It has a large bear population, with scientists estimating 1,500 bears live in the park! 

Dolly Parton

Dolly Parton, the famous “9 to 5” singer, was born in Locust Ridge, Tennessee. She, alongside other female singers, changed the world of country music for women.

Her first debut was at 10 years old when her uncle got her a part on a television variety show in Knoxville. It wasn’t long before she was spotted by producers in Nashville. She then made her first guest appearance on the Grand Ole Opry.

After graduating from high school, the singer packed up and moved to Nashville to launch her music career. 


Dollywood, in Pigeon Forge, is one of Tennessee’s top attractions. It is partially owned by Dolly Parton (could you tell?) and it is a thrilling theme park. It is extremely popular with families. When it opened in 1986, excited park visitors even caused a 6-mile long traffic jam!

Funnily enough, Dolly Parton has a fear of roller coasters and refuses to ride any of the rides. The park has many other attractions aside from rides like a replica of Dolly’s childhood home and a 25-pound apple pie. 

The Titanic Museum

The Titanic Museum in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee is the world’s largest Titanic museum. It has over 400 artifacts and personal belongings of passengers. 

The actual museum building looks like a scaled-down version of the Titanic. It cost $25 million to build. Inside the museum are true-to-scale replicas of the Grand Stair Case (this alone cost $1 million), and the first and third classrooms.

The whole experience is interactive, with the staff even being dressed in period costumes.

The Craighead Caverns

The Craighead Caverns is an extensive cave system in East Tennessee. The caves were historically used by Cherokee Indians. 

One mile from its small opening is a large room called the “Council Room”. In this “room”, a large number of Indian artifacts like pottery, weapons, and jewelry have been found. Aside from Native American artifacts, giant Jaguar bones dating back 20,000 years were found in the caves in 1939. 

The cavern also houses The Lost Sea, the country’s largest underground lake!