We love Tennessee, we started here. Since our show is back on track and the people are traveling, we though it would fun to share some interesting facts about our state. Did you know that the word “Tennessee” summons a kaleidoscope of imagery and rich history ranging from iconic music to the rugged yet beautiful outdoors. Its treasures don’t go unnoticed – in 2019 this humble midwestern state outpaced the nation and shattered records with $23 billion spent on travel spending! And while it has many highly-publicized claims to fame, Tennessee also boasts quite a few hidden gems that you might not be aware of…
It’s the birthplace of Mountain Dew
The original formula for this Appalachian favorite was first invented back in the 1940s. The creators, beverage bottlers Barney and Ally Hartman, first marketed their sugary drink in three cities – two of which were Knoxville and Johnson City. The drink’s popularity didn’t stay local for long thanks to its popularity which led to the eventual acquirement by Pepsi-Cola in 1964, introducing Mountain Dew to the rest of the world.
It’s tied with the title as the most bordered state
A total of eight states surrounds Tennessee: Kentucky and Virginia in the North, North Carolina in the East, Arkansas and Missouri to the West and, to the South are Georgia, Mississippi, and Alabama. The only other state to touch that many other places is the neighboring state of Missouri.
True Tennessee whiskey can’t be made anywhere else in the world
Tennessee whiskey is more than just a label. It’s a very distinct whiskey style made with the iconic “Lincoln County Process” that uses a charcoal filter and distinct instructions regarding details like aging and timing. The famed Jack Daniels is responsible for most of the state’s whiskey exports, but other brands carry the official “Tennessee whiskey” label as well.
It’s home to the world’s oldest radio show
The Grand Ole Opry isn’t just a staple for country fans, it’s also a landmark in the music world. Nestled in Nashville today, the Opry is the longest-running radio show in the world for any genre. As one of its city’s top tourist attractions, a staggering 6,000 songs are performed at venue each year.
Cotton candy was born here
An unlikely pair invented the sweet treat in Nashville – a dentist and a candy maker. The original markers were Dr. William Morrison and John Wharton who created a machine that melted down sugar crystals and blew it through a screen creating delicate threads. It was first introduced at the 1904 St. Louis Fair and sold by the thousands.
So was the Moon Pie
Over in Chattanooga at a local bakery in 1917, this chocolate-covered snack cake quickly became a staple. It was a favorite item of regular customers and by the late 1920s hundreds were being produced in-house. In World War II, the pie was even utilized as an ideal ration item for servicemen and women overseas.
It’s home to approximately 10,000 caves and caverns
Tennessee is beautiful on the surface, but many might miss some of its literally hidden beauty. Across the state, there are 10,000 caves and caverns – many of which are thousands of years old – attracting spelunkers from across the country.
The birthplace of country music is actually in Bristol, not Nashville
Along the Tennessee-Virginia border, Bristol is nestled in the heart of Appalachia and filled with folk music and blues. In the infancy of the recording industry, Ralph Peer with Victor Records decided to record local musicians in Bristol where he signed two contracts that would result in nationally successful records. It was those initial contracts and resulting recordings that paved the way for what would become the country genre. To preserve this important piece of music history, Congress passed a resolution in 1998 officially recognizing Bristol as the “Birthplace of Country Music.” The city is home to its own museum and music festival that attract country music fans year after year.
It’s also the birthplace of America’s first female senator
Hattie Caraway was born in Bakersville in 1878. She would go on to become the country’s first woman to be elected (and re-elected!) full-term as a U.S. Senator representing Arkansas.
Prohibition put a big dent in the state’s distillery industry
Whiskey and moonshine were Tennessee staples prior to the Civil War. In 1908, the state had hundreds of registered distilleries, but many were wiped out when the state began enacting prohibition laws as early as 1910. While a handful were reopened between the 1940s and 1990s, it wasn’t until 2009 that enough legal reformations were taken to lift most barriers to an entry. As a result, today there are nearly 30 distilleries on the official Tennessee Whiskey Trail to enjoy.
Elvis Presley’s old home is the second most-visited house museum
Graceland, Presley’s world-renowned home, is a Memphis staple. What you may not know is that it is also the second-most visited house museum in the country. It’s second only to the White House attracting over 600,000 visitors annually.
Tin Pan South is the largest songwriter’s festival in the world
Tin Pan South is an event dedicated to songs and songwriters alike and takes place each year in Music City itself, Nashville. The annual five-day festival takes place across several venues in the city and includes all genres of music.
It boasts having the most visited national park in the U.S.
This honor goes to the one and only Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This park holds the lead as the most-visited national park in the nation by an impressive margin – in 2020 it has over twice the visitors (12.1 million) compared to runner up Yellowstone. It is also known as the “Salamander Capital of the World” being home to 30 different species of this amphibian.
The Tennessee River is a major commerce route
As the Ohio River’s longest tributary, the Tennessee River remains an important waterway for commerce and industrial purposes. An estimated 28,000 barges travel the river each year carrying goods weighing 45 to 50 million tons.
The world’s tallest treehouse towered over Crossville for over 25 years
About 100 miles away from Nashville stood the world’s tallest treehouse in the town of Crossville. A major tourist attraction, the structure stood at 97 feet tall. Unfortunately, it burned to the ground in 2019.