Last month, someone asked me for some advice about traveling in Tennessee . Naturally, that got me thinking about my favorite spots in the Volunteer State, from Ruby Falls  (1720 S. Scenic Hwy., 423/821-2544, daily 8 a.m.-8 p.m., $16-44 adults, $8-23 children 3-12), an impressive underground waterfall in Chattanooga, to the renowned Grand Ole Opry  (2802 Opryland Dr., 615/871-6779, hours and prices vary) in Nashville, where I once witnessed the zany antics of Minnie Pearl.
Another must-see destination is, of course, Great Smoky Mountains National Park  (865/436-1200, daily, free), the nation’s most visited national park, an incredibly scenic place to hike, fish, camp, have a picnic, ride a horse, or view wildlife and wildflowers. No matter when you visit, you should climb (or ski) to the top of 6,643-foot-high Clingmans Dome , the highest point in Tennessee and a picturesque spot to watch the sunrise or sunset. Even on the foggy day that I last visited, the vista was truly incredible – and knowing that I was straddling the border between Tennessee and North Carolina was pretty awesome, too.
But you definitely can’t leave Tennessee without visiting the Beale Street Historic District  in downtown Memphis . Like Bourbon Street in New Orleans, Beale Street is the perfect nightlife spot for lovers of groovy Southern music and mouth-watering Southern cuisine. Situated on a short stretch of historic Beale are several hoppin’ music clubs, fun-lovin’ eateries, and combinations of the two, including Pig on Beale  (167 Beale St., 901/529-1544, daily, $5-20), which features delicious barbecue chicken and ribs, plus live rockabilly, honky-tonk, and bluegrass music, and B.B. King’s Blues Club  (143 Beale St., 901/524-5464, daily, $8-23), the ultimate spot for live blues and a quintessential place for Southern vittles like fried green tomatoes, classic gumbo, fried catfish, and barbecued meats galore. Before the sun goes down, you might also want to tour the Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum  (191 Beale St., 901/205-2533, daily 10 a.m.-7 p.m., $10 adults, $7 children 5-17), with seven galleries devoted to the history of rural culture, soul music, and pioneers like B.B. King and Roy Orbison.
Of course, Beale Street isn’t the only destination worth seeing in Memphis, a legendary town alongside the Mississippi River. Before leaving, you should venture beyond Beale and sample slabs of beef and pork ribs at Neely’s Bar-B-Que  (670 Jefferson, 901/521-9798, daily, $7-20), a well-favored barbecue joint made even more famous by the Neelys’ cooking show on the Food Network. History buffs should visit the Stax Museum of American Soul Music  (926 E. McLemore Ave., 901/946-2535, hours vary seasonally, $12 adults, $11 seniors and students, $9 children 9-12, children under 9 free), which pays tribute to celebrated musicians like Otis Redding, Isaac Hayes, Tina Turner, and Aretha Franklin, and the National Civil Rights Museum  (450 Mulberry St., 901/521-9699, hours vary seasonally, $13 adults, $11 seniors and students, $9.50 children 4-17) at the Lorraine Motel, where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated on April 4, 1968. If you’re willing to spend a hefty amount of moo-lah for the privilege of seeing Elvis Presley’s former mansion, stables, airplanes, automobiles, and rock-‘n’-roll and Hollywood memorabilia, be sure to save an entire day for the Graceland  experience (3765 Elvis Presley Blvd., 901/332-3322, hours vary seasonally, $28-69 adults, $25-69 seniors, students, and children 13-18, $12-69 children 7-12, children under 7 free).
No matter what your schedule and budget will allow, you’re sure to enjoy a visit to Tennessee, a Southern state known for its gorgeous scenery and rich musical heritage. For more information, contact the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development  (800/462-8366).