Tennessee, the most musical state in the USA, welcomes you with Rock'n'Roll, Blues, and Country Music, but also with the breathtaking scenery of the Great Smoky Mountains and the most popular Whiskey in the world.

Tennessee facts

Capital: Nashville
Area: about 109,000 km²
Population: about 6.9 million
Location: South of the USA
Nickname: The Volunteer State
Hotspots: Great Smoky Mountains, Graceland, Country Music Hall of Fame
Time zone: UTC - 5 (Eastern), UTC - 6 (Central)

Tennessee: location & population

The landlocked state of Tennessee is located in the Southeast of the USA. Along with Missouri, it is one of two states with the most borders. The Volunteer State has a total of eight neighbors: Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, Virginia, and Missouri. Geographically, culturally, economically, and legally, Tennessee is divided into three Grand Divisions: East Tennessee, Middle Tennessee, and West Tennessee.

The Volunteer State has had one of the fastest-growing populations of any US state since the 1970s. Especially in the urban regions around Nashville and Clarksville, many new economic sectors have emerged since then.

According to the 2020 Census, whites make up the largest population group in Tennessee, accounting for about 71 %. They are followed by African Americans (17 %) and Hispanics (7 %). Non-US-born residents represent about 5.5 % of the population.

The largest cities in Tennessee

The two most important metropolises in Tennessee are the capital Nashville in the center of the state and Memphis in the far west. But you'll also find a number of interesting places in the eastern part. These are the top five cities in Tennessee in terms of population:

City Population
Nashville 678,000
Memphis 651,000
Knoxville 188,000
Chattanooga 185,000
Clarksville 162,000

Nature and climate

The three parts of Tennessee have very different landscapes. While East Tennessee is dominated by the Appalachian mountain ranges, the central region of Middle Tennessee is dotted with fertile valleys and rolling hills. West Tennessee is characterized by large areas of farmland and the mighty Mississippi and Tennessee Rivers.

With the exception of some high altitudes in the Appalachian Mountains, Tennessee has a humid subtropical climate. Winds and precipitation that reach the Volunteer State from the Gulf of Mexico to the south are responsible for hot and humid summers, with temperatures reaching 31 °C in July and August. Winter months are mild to cool and bring lots of rainfall.

Best time to travel to Tennessee

While the musical US state of Tennessee is worth a visit at any time, yet there are a few special highlights waiting for you in summer and autumn.

Tennessee in summer

Festival season in Tennessee runs from May through September. If electrifying concerts are your passion, be sure to bookmark these musical highlights on your event calendar: the “Exit 56 Blues Fest” in Brownsville in May, the “Get Loud! Concert Series" in Memphis in June, Kingsport's "Fun Fest" in July, and the "Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival" in Manchester in early September.

Tennessee in autumn

In autumn, East Tennessee is a true dream for hikers and photographers! From about mid-October to early November, the leaves of the Great Smoky Mountains' trees turn a rich orange, and the bluish fog that rolls in between the peaks creates a unique contrast. Indian Summer shows itself in its most beautiful colors!

Traveling to Tennessee

The largest airport in Tennessee is the centrally located Nashville International Airport (BNA), which is used by more than 17 million passengers annually. Another important hub is Memphis International Airport (MEM) in West Tennessee.

Flights to Tennessee

If you want to get to the eastern part of Tennessee, e.g., to Chattanooga or Knoxville, it is a good idea to also look for cheap flights to Atlanta in the neighboring state of Georgia and continue your journey from there by train, bus, or rental car.

You can find direct flights from Europe with British Airways or Finnair from London Heathrow: for a ticket price of around € 600, you can get to Nashville and back with an overnight flight. If you want to fly from Frankfurt am Main to Tennessee, you have to plan a stopover. You can find connections with British Airways, for example, from about € 650. They take you via Dallas in Texas to Memphis or via Charlotte in North Carolina to Nashville.

Flights from East Asia, e.g., from Tokyo or Singapore, usually include a stopover in another major American city, usually Detroit, Atlanta, or Dallas. Ticket prices are mostly over € 1,000. If you take a second stop into consideration, however, you can occasionally make a bargain. For example, we were able to find a connection from Singapore to Nashville (stopovers in Doha, as well as New York or Boston) for less than € 900 with Qatar Airways.

Flights from Australia often bring you to Nashville with a stopover in Los Angeles. They can be booked, for example, with Delta from Sydney for about € 1,400.

Travel authorization Tennessee

Don't forget: If you are not a US citizen or Green Card holder, you will need a visa or ESTA to enter Tennessee.

ESTA – visa-free to the USA

With an ESTA, you can stay 90 days visa-free in the USA. Apply online now!

If you're flying to Tennessee, you'll probably land at Nashville Airport, which is located about 10 km southeast of the city. Once you arrive, you have the following transfer options to get to your accommodation:

Public transport from Nashville airport

Public transportation in Tennessee's capital is managed by the Nashville Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA), which mainly operates a network of city buses. Line 18 can take you from Nashville International Airport to the “Central 4th And 5th Ave - Bays Station” downtown for a ticket price of about $ 2. The bus line runs every day from 6 am to about 11 pm.

Shuttle from Nashville airport

If you are staying at a hotel in Nashville, find out if they offer a shuttle service to the airport. The hotel shuttle stop is located in the Ground Transportation Center on Level 1 of Terminal Garage 2.

Taxi from Nashville airport

You pay a basic fare of $ 7 for a cab in Nashville, plus $ 2.10 for each mile driven. Several cab companies are waiting for you at the Ground Transportation Center on Level 1 of Terminal Garage 2.

National Parks and natural wonders in Tennessee

If you're a nature lover, you'll be especially impressed by the Volunteer State's mountainous East. Grab your backpack and follow us to our top three nature highlights in Tennessee!

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The Great Smoky Mountains are the only national park in Tennessee, and you can't beat them for popularity! With more than 12 million visitors a year, the misty mountain landscapes are by far the most visited US national park. Embark on an exciting hike to spectacular vistas, camp under the stars, and discover hundreds of colorful wildflowers!

But beware: You'll be sharing the Great Smoky Mountains not only with many other tourists but also with the large black bear population for which the national park is famous.

Cherokee National Forest

The second most visited nature highlight in Tennessee is the 2,600 km² Cherokee National Forest in the southern Appalachians. The huge forest region is divided into eleven wilderness areas, which are characterized by a great variety of species. During your hikes through the forest, you will encounter black bears, raccoons, opossums, beavers, white-tailed deer, and many other animals. Afterwards, you can relax on the lakes of the Cherokee National Forest while trout fishing or enjoy windsurfing and water skiing.

South Cumberland State Park

In the border region of the US states of Tennessee, Kentucky, and Alabama, the Cumberland Plateau with the picturesque South Cumberland State Park unfolds. If your heart beats for hiking, you've come to the right place: twelve hiking trails take you to all corners of this nature reserve, passing steep slopes, gorges, and waterfalls.

Tip: A special highlight of the park is the 15-meter-long stone bridge Sewanee Natural Bridge, which was formed by the erosion of a sinkhole.

Top 10 sightseeing highlights Tennessee

The following places in Tennessee are must-sees and should be high on your travel list:

  • Country Music Hall of Fame
  • Graceland
  • Cades Cove
  • Grand Ole Opry
  • Ryman Auditorium
  • National Civil Rights Museum
  • Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center
  • Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies
  • Ober Gatlinburg
  • Dollywood

City highlights in Tennessee

Tennessee offers some of the most exciting city highlights in the US, especially for music lovers, as you'll be entering the home of several musical genres.

City highlights Nashville

Surrounded by beautiful rolling hills, Nashville is not only the capital of Tennessee but also a mecca of American country music. In addition to world-class concerts, the city on the Cumberland River also offers great restaurants, top museums, the Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park, and the magnificent Tennessee State Capitol.

Get inspired by these highlights in Nashville:

  • Country Music Hall of Fame
  • Grand Ole Opry
  • Ryman Auditorium
  • Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center
  • Parthenon

Accomodation in Nashville

City highlights Memphis

In Tennessee's second-largest city, Memphis, everything also revolves around the perfect sound: the city is not only a mecca of the Blues and Soul music genres but also the birthplace of Rock'n'Roll. Visit Elvis Presley's residence "Graceland" and the recording studio of "Sun Records." Then wind down the evening at a blues concert on Beale Street.

These city highlights are waiting for you in Memphis:

  • Graceland
  • Beale Street
  • Sun Studio
  • National Civil Rights Museum
  • Memphis Zoo

Accomodation in Memphis

City highlights Knoxville

Knoxville, named after President George Washington's Secretary of War, hosted the World's Fair in 1982, receiving its landmark, the 22.5-meter steel tower "Sunsphere," as a result of the event. Today, Knoxville is best known as the seat of the University of Tennessee. As a modern college town, Knoxville delights with creative restaurants, unique galleries and museums, and great concerts.

Discover these city highlights in Knoxville:

  • World's Fair Park
  • Knoxville Museum of Art
  • McClung Museum of Natural History & Culture
  • Ijams Nature Center
  • Zoo Knoxville

Accomodation in Knoxville

City highlights Chattanooga

The "Scenic City" of Chattanooga is located in southeast Tennessee, surrounded by the waters of the Tennessee River, Nickajack Lake, and Chickamauga Lake. Chattanooga's proximity to the Appalachian Mountains and the Cumberland Plateau also make it a popular destination. So, it's no surprise that the city's most famous attraction is “Lookout Mountain,” where you can take in the breathtaking scenery.

These are the top attractions in Chattanooga:

  • Rock City Gardens
  • Ruby Falls
  • Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum
  • Tennessee Aquarium
  • The Chattanooga Zoo at Warner Park

Accomodation in Chattanooga

Road trip in Tennessee

A road trip through Tennessee is also a journey to the roots of American music. Start your round trip in the west of Tennessee. There, on the banks of the Mississippi River, stretches the city of Memphis – probably the most musical place in the USA!

An absolute must-see is the former residence of Elvis Presley. The King of Rock'n'Roll lived in Graceland for around 20 years until his death in 1977. The estate became a museum in 1981 and counted its 20 millionth visitor in 2016. That makes it second only to the White House in Washington, D.C., among the most visited homes in America.

You can then follow in the traces of Rock'n'Roll to the former recording studio of the "Sun Records." Not only did Elvis record his first single here, but it was also a workplace for many other music legends of the 1950s, such as Johnny Cash, B.B. King, and Jerry Lee Lewis.

A visit to the "Memphis Rock and Soul Museum" rounds off your sightseeing tour. Then head to legendary Beale Street, which is still a hotspot for Memphis Blues: with a huge selection of bars, clubs, and concerts, your evening is all set!

Your journey will then take you to Middle Tennessee, to Nashville, the capital of Country Music. Visit the "Country Music Hall of Fame," where you can learn all about the most important personalities of this typical American music genre, and see many musical instruments and other exciting exhibits.

Your musical road trip ends in East Tennessee in the small town of Pigeon Forge. Here, the amusement park "Dollywood" welcomes you not only with the sounds of Country Music legend and co-owner Dolly Parton but also with many rides, shows, and attractions.

Instagram hotspots in Tennessee

Are you still looking for a location for great photos? These are our five Instagram hotspots in Tennessee:

  • Great Smoky Mountains
  • Lookout Mountain
  • Graceland
  • Beale Street
  • Country Music Hall of Fame

Food and drinks in Tennessee

When it comes to food and drinks in Tennessee, one beverage is sure to pop into your mind – the famous Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whiskey. The brewery has existed since 1866 in the small town of Lynchburg. Since then, Jack Daniel’s has established itself as the best-selling whiskey brand in the world.

The residents of Tennessee prefer to eat something hearty with their whiskey. We recommend these typical regional dishes:

  • Meat and Three
  • Fried Pickles
  • Sweet Potato Fries
  • Mac’n’Cheese
  • Cornbread
  • BBQ

Fun facts Tennessee

Do you want to learn more about the state of Tennessee? You probably didn't know these facts yet:

  • Reelfoot Lake was formed by a series of violent earthquakes on the "New Madrid Seismic Zone" in 1811 and 1812, and the region still experiences minor earthquakes every now and then.
  • The tow truck was invented in 1916 by Ernest Holmes of Chattanooga, Tennessee.
  • Tennessee has not one but ten state songs.
  • Miniature golf was first patented in Tennessee. In 1927, Garnet Carter received a patent for his Tom Thumb golf courses.

Immigrating to Tennessee

Do you like Tennessee so much that you want to relocate there? The following tips might help you do just that:

Working in Tennessee

If you are looking for a job in Tennessee, you have good prospects because the growing economic power in Tennessee has a positive effect on the job market. The unemployment rate in the Volunteer State is around 5.1 %, which is below the US average of 6 %. You'll have good job opportunities in the state's main industries. These include mechanical and automotive engineering, the chemical industry, the timber and textile industries, as well as agriculture, forestry, and mining. Other career opportunities are available in the tourism industry, especially around the recreation areas in East Tennessee.

Living in Tennessee

Good news! Compared to the rest of the USA, you can live quite cheaply in Tennessee. The Cost of Living Index is about 15 % lower than the national average. This is also due to the low tax burden, as Tennessee is one of nine US states that does not charge income tax.

Housing in Tennessee is about 30 % less expensive than in the rest of America. You can save particularly well in small towns and rural areas, but also in the metropolitan area of Memphis. Only Tennessee's capital, Nashville, is a little more expensive to live in: the costs here are about the same as the national average.

To Tennessee with a Green Card

Do you dream of emigrating to Tennessee? Then you need a Green Card! You can get the much-desired immigrant visa rather quickly and easily through the Green Card Lottery, through which the US government gives away 55,000 Permanent Resident Cards every year. Sign up now!

Green Card Lottery

Win one of 55,000 Green Cards in the official Green Card Lottery of the US authorities!