The Essential Guide to Eastern Tennessee
Collected by Chris Chamberlain , AFAR Local Expert
The eastern third of Tennessee offers myriad outdoor adventures, from hiking to hang gliding to river rafting. Additionally, the region features several vibrant cities like Chattanooga, with its family-friendly riverfront lined with museums, restaurants, and other attractions, and Knoxville, home to the University of Tennessee and some fantastic Southern food. Visitors also shouldn’t miss the Tri-Cities of Bristol, Kingsport, and Johnson City, each full of musical heritage and small-town charm.
1400 Market St, Chattanooga, TN 37402, USA
The Glenn Miller Orchestra introduced America to the Chattanooga Choo Choo and Track 29 in the 1940s, but the train and its home at Terminal Station date all the way back to 1909. In 1973, the original Pullman train cars were converted into luxury...
3917 St Elmo Ave, Chattanooga, TN 37409, USA
Take the Incline Railway up Lookout Mountain on your way to Ruby Falls and Rock City and you’ll understand why the journey is often half the fun. In operation since 1895, the funicular has a maximum grade of 72.7 percent, making it the...
35 Station Street, Chattanooga, TN 37408, USA
Located on the fun campus of the Chattanooga Choo Choo, Songbirds Guitar Museum is worth a visit in and of itself. Here, music fans can browse some of the world’s most iconic axes—many of the guitars in the $200 million collection are...
1 Broad St, Chattanooga, TN 37402, USA
Perched over the river that runs through downtown Chattanooga, the Tennessee Aquarium offers a novel way to discover the magic of sea life. Exhibits here trace the path from mountain streams to the sea, showcasing aquatic animals in...
203 Broad St, Chattanooga, TN 37402, USA
Chef Erik Niel opened this stylish downtown spot in 2005 as a showcase for the seafood of his native Louisiana. Here, the menu changes frequently based on the freshest available catch, though house specialties like creamy shrimp and grits,...
2915 Island Home Ave, Knoxville, TN 37920, USA
With everything from traverses to bridges to zip lines, this “tree-based adventure park” is sure to get your heart pumping. At Navitat, a central tree house serves as the main platform, leading to six separate trails with 10 to 12...
501 Union Ave, Knoxville, TN 37902, USA
Former Blackberry Farm chef Joseph Lenn opened this downtown restaurant in 2016 as a shrine to the cuisine, farmers, and culture of Knoxville and greater Appalachia. Named after his late great-uncle, a bit of a rogue who ate at local restaurants...
119 S Central St, Knoxville, TN 37902, USA
If breakfast is indeed the most important meal of the day, then OliBea is surely the most significant restaurant in Knoxville’s Old City. Specializing in morning meals, the eatery offers the expected egg dishes, but with special attention...
Gatlinburg, TN 37738, USA
Hiking the Appalachian Trail is a bucket-list adventure for many outdoor enthusiasts, but the trip from end to end stretches more than 2,000 miles. For something a little quicker, hike the 2.5-mile section to and from the breathtaking Laurel...
126 Buffalo St, Johnson City, TN 37604, USA
Situated in the former East Tennessee & Western North Carolina depot station in downtown Johnson City, Yee-Haw Brewing Company is the sort of place that beer lovers plan an entire trip around. The brewery makes several core beers, from pale...
220 Piney Flats Rd, Piney Flats, TN 37686, USA
There are bigger and flashier moonshine distilleries in East Tennessee, but none are more fun to visit than this humble facility in the quaint town of Piney Flats. The distillery is run by the ironically nicknamed “Tiny” Roberson, a...
151 Speedway Blvd, Bristol, TN 37620, USA
Bristol Motor Speedway is an anomaly—both small and massive at the same time. The actual concrete oval where the cars race is just over a half-mile long, but the surrounding stadium is enormous, with capacity for more than 165,000 NASCAR...
101 Country Music Way, Bristol, VA 24201, USA
When record producer Ralph Peer of the Victor Talking Machine Company came to Bristol in 1927 to scout talent, he discovered both the Carter Family and “The Father of Country Music,” Jimmie Rodgers. He then recorded the two acts...
412 6th St, Bristol, TN 37620, USA
If the goal of a restaurant is to make guests feel at home, J Frank has a head start with its location in a restored Victorian mansion that maintains the feel of a family residence. Here, dining areas are spread throughout the former salon,...
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