Dollywood’s Show-stopping Season Ahead

From the African rhythms of Ladysmith Black Mambazo to the smooth moves of the Flamenco Kings, the show stopping fun at Dollywood kicks off March 17th with the annual Festival of Nations and doesn’t stop until the season ends in January 2019.   Last year, the park introduced two new rides, Dropline and Whistle Punk Chaser, … Read moreDollywood’s Show-stopping Season Ahead

New Orleans at 300 – A quick guide to the Big Easy

It isn’t often a city in America celebrates its 300th birthday, but that’s exactly what New Orleans is doing this year. This city along the Mississippi River has defied the odds to become a true American treasure.   The French, Spanish, and Americans have all laid claim to the city and the British even tried to … Read moreNew Orleans at 300 – A quick guide to the Big Easy

Mississippi’s Coastal Treasures

Centuries ago, treasure hunters combed the coastal areas of the United States in search of riches.  Today, that hunt might lead you to Mississippi and U.S. Highway 90.  More than twenty miles of white sandy beaches, historic homes, trees draped in Spanish Moss, a lighthouse and towering hotels and casinos line this stretch of road … Read moreMississippi’s Coastal Treasures

Courage and Conviction on display in Clinton, TN

If you’ve ever driven I-75 north of Knoxville, you’ve probably seen a sign directing people to the Green McAdoo Cultural Center.  While the title does describe its location, it doesn’t let travelers know of its importance.  Inside the walls of this old school, the story of 12 high school students who changed the world is told.  Known as … Read moreCourage and Conviction on display in Clinton, TN

The Sunsphere – Knoxville’s Big Star

It is difficult to miss the Sunsphere as you pass through Knoxville. Throughout the years, this structure has become synonymous with the city. Even though it may not be the tallest building in the city, its golden aura stands out in a city not all that uncommon architecturally speaking. The Sunsphere rises 266 feet into … Read moreThe Sunsphere – Knoxville’s Big Star

7 Magnificent National Parks to see in East Tennessee

While the Western United States is home to the Grand Canyon, Yosemite and Yellowstone, East Tennessee showcases the most visited National Park in the country along with many others definitely worthy of a visit.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park 

 

Covering more than 500-thousand acres, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the nation's most visited with more than 10-million people coming to visit each year.  The park which sits along the North Carolina/Tennessee State Line provides countless opportunities to enjoy sweeping mountain vistas, waterfalls, wildlife and lessons from the past.

 

Whether it's a drive (and small hike) up to Tennessee's highest peak, Clingman's Dome, or a drive around the loop at Cades Cove, much of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is easily accessible, but there are plenty of places within the park's boundaries where you might go hours without seeing a soul.  Knoxville, TN and Asheville, NC are both about an hour drive.

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Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area

 

 

Straddling the Tennessee & Kentucky state line this park is relatively new. It was created in 1974 with the late U.S. Senator Howard Baker, Jr. being one of the primary proponents of the park.

 

 

The gorge created by the Big South Fork of the Cumberland River is the main draw, but the park is filled with natural arches,  waterfalls, opportunities for whitewater kayaking, and a great deal of history including a look at life in a coal mining camp, and an English Utopian settlement just outside the park.   While Big South Fork isn't much further from Knoxville than GSMNP, the crowds don't seem to gravitate toward it, making it easy to really get away from it all.

Obed Wild and Scenic River 

 

 

Not far from Big South Fork,  the Obed Wild and Scenic River offers spectacular views of a truly wild river and abundant opportunities for rock climbing. The park is a little off the beaten path, so consider starting your journey at the Visitor Center in Wartburg, located about 30 minutes north of I-40 at exit 347.  While there check out the overlook, the large rocks along the riverbed and visit the Nemo Bridge.  You might also look into free rock climbing lessons offered monthly by park rangers.

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Cumberland Gap National Historical Park

 

 

 

The original gateway to the west is actually located where Tennessee, Kentucky and Virginia all come together.  Now, that location is home to Cumberland Gap National Historic Park.  Whether it's walking out to the Pinnacle Overlook, hiking to the Tri-State peak, going deep inside the mountain in the Gap Cave, or just learning more about Daniel Boone's travels, this park should be a must see on anyone's list.

Chattanooga/Chickamauga National Military Park

 

 

Gettysburg is probably the most famous Civil War Battlefield, but in East Tennessee (and North Georgia) the Chattanooga/Chickamauga National Military Park provides valuable lessons about the War Between the States and unforgettable views.  From the top of Lookout Mountain you get unparalleled views of the city and the many bends in the Tennessee River.  You also get an idea of what soldiers in the Civil War went through as they camped out on the mountain.   Just a few miles away, on the other side of Lookout Mountain is the Chickamauga Battlefield, a solemn reminder of the many sacrifices soldiers made during that time.

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Manhattan Project National Historic Park 

 

 

The story of World War II's biggest secret is told at one of the newest National Parks.  You'll find part of that park in the "Secret City" of Oak Ridge, Tennessee.  The park is still being developed, but at places like the American Museum of Science and Energy and special tours of Manhattan Project sites, you can learn more about the ways workers here helped usher in the nuclear age without ever knowing what they were doing

Andrew Johnson National Historic Site 

 

 

The man who assumed the Presidency after Lincoln's assassination called East Tennessee Home.  He moved to Greeneville as a child, became a tailor and local politician before heading to Washington, DC.  Today, visitors can tour two of his homes, see his tailor shop and visit his grave inside a National Cemetery bearing his name.  

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My name is Clayton Hensley (a.k.a. the knoxdaytripper). Born and raised in East Tennessee (with a few years in SW Virginia), I have been traveling the backroads and hiking in the mountains for as long as I can remember. Through my writing and photography, I hope to inspire people to experience places they might not have heard about before or look at familiar places in a new light.

For more than 20-years now, my wife and I have called Clinton, TN home. We have two children who (for the most part) love to travel with us. My “real” job is working as a communications director for a large church and in what little spare time I have, I like to garden, take lots of pictures, collect Coca-Cola stuff and catch up on all those shows I miss because I’m always doing something else.

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