Celebrate Tennessee 12 months a year with some of the state’s most unique experiences.
Tennessee offers something for everyone, whether you’re a foodie, outdoor adventurer, live music connoisseur, or avid winter-to-spring, summer-to-fall road tripper.
Check out just a small sampling of vacation ideas for each month of the year courtesy of the Tennessee Department of Tourism Development.
January: Hit The Fresh Powder
Yes, Tennessee is home to its own ski resort – Ober Mountain – where you can ski and snow tube, skate indoors, and take a spin on the Ski Mountain Coaster above Gatlinburg. Buy a ski area ticket for unlimited access to all slopes during your session. Ober Mountain has all your gear covered as you can hire skis and snowboards, jackets, pants and helmets. After hitting the slopes, grab a bite to eat at Seasons of Ober restaurant, where you can soak up the views while enjoying steaks, chicken and more from the seasonally inspired menu. Take a spin on the indoor skating rink (open year-round) and browse the shops for clothing, gifts, jewelry and more.
As the weather in Tennessee cools, the fishing scene heats up. Winter is the perfect time to visit Tennessee’s largest natural lake, located in Tiptonville (about 2 hours north of Memphis), right next to the Mississippi River. Long known for its outstanding crappie fishing, Reelfoot Lake is an 18,000 acre lake filled with fishing opportunities. You might also want to visit the Reelfoot Lake Eagle Festival (February 3-5, 2023), a perfectly wintry mix of the outdoors, birdwatching and the arts. Participants can take guided bus and photography tours that provide unforgettable encounters with eagles and other waterfowl.
If you like adventurous and eclectic sights and sounds, the Big Ears Festival is for you. Nearly 200 performances in historic theaters, warehouses, museums, galleries and clubs, as well as exhibitions, films, literary readings and markets around Knoxville, take place at this one-of-a-kind festival, which celebrates its 10th anniversary in 2023, from March 30 to April 2, 2023. Heralded by the New York Times as “one of the greatest musical nights in the world”, the 2023 lineup includes Belá Fleck, Bill Frisell, Arooj Aftab, Iron & Wine, Vijay Iyer, John Zorn, Amadou & Miriam and hundreds more. The only downside to Big Ears is that you can’t see everything.
April: Discover Tennessee Food Festivals
Spring is the perfect time for a road trip to places in Tennessee you’ve never been. These Tennessee spring festivals offer a taste of Tennessee and more. A family-friendly food and arts festival that celebrates hot slowness – a concoction of mustard, mayonnaise and secret sauce. The Hot Slaw and Art Y’all festival takes place on April 1, 2023 in Cleveland with live music, artist exhibitors, pop-up street performances, food vendors and hot smothered coleslaw on burgers , hot dogs and more. Thousands of people flock to the small town of Paris for the five tonnes of fried catfish that are served at the all-you-can-eat party every April. Stay an extra day to enjoy the Grand Parade of the World’s Largest Fried Fish and Catfish Races. Check out more Tennessee spring festivals here.
May: Chase some waterfalls
Welcome to Cookeville, Tennessee, a place considered a hidden gold mine of waterfalls. Within a 40 mile radius of downtown Cookeville there are over 150 documented waterfalls and numerous lookouts. Depending on your level of hiking experience, you can plan to experience seven waterfalls, four lookouts, numerous state natural areas, and state parks in four days. Head to Ozone Falls to explore the glorious 110-foot waterfall. This waterfall was a filming location for the 1994 movie Jungle Book, and you can easily tell why – it feels like you’re in another country. Then, hunt for other waterfalls on the Cumberland Plateau, including Burgess Falls, Greeter, Foster and many more.
June: Celebrate with your music-loving friends
This internationally acclaimed music and arts festival is held every June on a beautiful 700-acre farm. Bonnaroo (June 15-18, 2023) brings together some of the best performers from all musical genres, including rock, jazz, Americana, hip-hop, electro, and more. In addition to dozens of epic performances, the festival’s 100-acre entertainment village buzzes 24 hours a day with attractions and activities, including a classic arcade, on-site cinema, silent disco, comedy club, theater artists and a music technology village. The lineup for 2023 has yet to be announced, but you can be sure it will be filled with favorites. Music fans can also attend the internationally acclaimed CMA Fest June 8-11, 2023 in downtown Nashville and the West Tennessee Farmers Market AMP Summer Concert Series in Jackson June-September 2023.
July: Explore the Trails and Roads of Tennessee
Stumble upon hidden gems as you take the scenic route on a Tennessee summer road trip. These 16 self-guided driving routes take you off the beaten path for authentic experiences that connect you to places you never knew you wanted to visit. The trails feature attractions, restaurants, and unexpected stops as you walk in the footsteps of legends and learn about Tennessee. Trace stories from cotton fields to music legends as you follow the back roads of West Tennessee on the Cotton Junction Trail. In Middle Tennessee, retrace the footsteps of pioneers and discover unique treasures on the Promised Land Trail. Follow in the footsteps of settlers, storytellers and musicians along the Pie in the Sky Trail in East Tennessee. Get maps at visitor centers and look for brown signs statewide.
August: pay homage to the king
Elvis fans from around the world make the pilgrimage to Graceland every August during Elvis Week. Events like the Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest, panel discussions and special concerts serve to celebrate the life and legacy of the king of rock ‘n’ roll. Elvis Week is just the start of your Presley adventures in Tennessee: Take a trip to Elvis Presley’s Memphis, the 200,000 square foot entertainment and exhibit complex featuring artifacts and photos from the archives from Graceland, a collection of the King’s iconic jumpsuits and his favourites. cars. After exploring Graceland, see many other iconic places Elvis would frequent in Memphis, including Sun Studio, The Arcade Restaurant, and Beale Street Entertainment District.
September: Ride The Rapids
Early fall is the perfect time for a family whitewater adventure, with many of the most popular rivers offering a gentler (but still thrilling) experience – they call it ‘natural flow season’ for a bit. good reason. Available for beginners and seasoned veterans alike, outfitters along the Ocoee River have several friendly and knowledgeable guides to lead your expedition and provide you with an amazing and safe trip on the river. With 10 miles of continuous Class III and IV rapids, you’ll be sure to get wet and have a blast. You can book several different experiences that will take you to different parts of the Ocoee, or you can book full river experiences. Catch more rapids on the Nolichucky River, Upper Pigeon River, and Hiwassee River.
October: Soak up Some fall color
Celebrate Tennessee National Day (October 26) by enjoying one of the state’s greatest natural wonders (pun intended): Great Smoky Mountains National Park. In the fall, leaf-viewing options abound here, including Gatlinburg Scenic Overlook, Ben Morton’s Overlook and more. Best of all, many sights are easily accessible from the comfort of your vehicle on scenic routes such as the Cades Cove Loop and Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. If you prefer to find seasonal scenes on foot, the park’s 800 miles of trails offer beautiful vistas and views that showcase the colorful tapestry of autumn’s changing leaves. Fall colors can be felt by all with the first-ever colorblind sights equipped with innovative EnChroma lenses, designed to mitigate red-green color blindness, installed at beautiful lookouts across the state.
November: get warm as winter approaches
The weather can get cooler this time of year, but you can heat things up considerably by immersing yourself in Nashville’s famous hot chicken scene. For nearly a century, hot chicken has been a Nashville staple, and several restaurants offer versions of the fiery bird. Founded in 1945, Prince’s is the OG, offering six heat levels ranging from Plain to XXXHot (not for the faint of heart). Hattie B’s is a more modern take on Nashville Hot Chicken and even with four locations, lines can be long, so be sure to allow extra time to enjoy the heat. Choose from one of six heat levels – from Southern (no heat) to Shut the Cluck Up!!!. Be sure to leave room for the famous banana pudding. At Bolton, choose from six levels of spice, but ordering the hottest might make you look dodgy – it’s so hot the cash register displays warnings. Pro Tip: After eating, wash your hands before touching your face.
December: Celebrate the season with Dolly
Dollywood, Tennessee’s number one attraction, lights up like a Christmas tree this holiday season. With over 5 million dazzling lights, Smoky Mountain Christmas is a family favorite in the Great Smoky Mountains. Hike to Glacier Ridge to see the Christmas light show set to symphonic music, a unique Northern Lights tour, and plenty of illuminated exhibits and colored lights. Christmas stories unfold on stage, celebrating family, song and tradition. And, every Friday and Saturday, weather permitting, “Merry & Bright” fireworks will fill the skies in sync with new Christmas tunes.