50 Interesting & Fun Facts About Tennessee State to Discover

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Bridge spanning a body of water against a backdrop of tall buildings
Cumberland river in Nashville, a major waterway in the southern USA

Tennessee has a lot to offer its visitors. After all, it's the country music capital of the United States! However, there's so much more to learn about this state in the South.

Did you know you can visit Graceland, where Elvis lived for much of his career? You can also be entertained by the world's longest-running radio show while you're in Nashville.

No matter your interests, there's trivia about the "Volunteer State" for everyone. Continue reading to learn 50 interesting and fun facts about Tennessee state that might surprise you!

  • 50 Tennessee facts

50 Tennessee State Facts

  1. Tennessee Fun Facts
    1. Elvis Presley called it home
    2. It's the "Volunteer State"
    3. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is impressive
    4. The Tennessee State Capitol is Greek inspired
    5. Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto was the first European to explore Tennessee
    6. Davy Crockett was born here
    7. The Grand Ole Opry is historic
    8. Andrew Jackson was the first Tennessee representative
    9. There are two state birds
    10. The Tennessee Valley Authority saves lives
    11. Earthquakes created Reelfoot Lake
    12. Tennessee State University is a top school
    13. The Tennessee Walking Horse borrowed its name
    14. The Tennessee River's course is unique
    15. There are three Grand Divisions
  2. Interesting Facts About Tennessee
    1. The raccoon is a state symbol
    2. There are two state phrases
    3. You can pan for gold
    4. Musicians flock to Tennessee
    5. Thousands visit the Tennessee State Fair
    6. It's the country music capital
    7. Cherokee National Forest preserves wildlife
    8. The state took in Katrina refugees
    9. Johnny Cash is commemorated here
    10. Few cities have over 100 thousand people
    11. Tennessee was the 16th state
    12. The name comes from the Cherokee
    13. The first settlers were French
    14. There are two state flowers
    15. It used to be home to the world's tallest treehouse
  3. Weird Facts About Tennessee
    1. Dolly Parton has a theme park
    2. Josephine Myrtle Corbin was born here
    3. Kingston was a short-lived capital
    4. Nashville is the "Athens of the South"
    5. It has more caves than anywhere else
  4. Historical Facts About Tennessee
    1. There were seven Native American tribes here
    2. 1930 had the hottest temperature
    3. The Civil Rights Movement made history here
    4. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated while in Tennessee
    5. The Lost Sea is a record holder
  5. Cool Facts About Tennessee
    1. The state is almost half farmland
    2. It's where Mountain Dew was invented
    3. The state is landlocked
    4. There are eight state borders
    5. Thank Tennessee for cotton candy
  6. Important Facts About Tennessee
    1. The first female senator was a Tennessean
    2. It was once under water
    3. There was Union and Confederacy support
    4. Tennessee was British before it was a state
    5. The Tennessee Promise program helps guarantee education

Show all

Tennessee Fun Facts

Brown and grey rocks with water flowing over them
Little River rapids in Smoky Mountain National Park in Tennessee
Quasarphotos/Depositphotos.com
Front of Graceland mansion with statues and pillars at the entrance
One of the facts about Tennessee state is that it was Elvis' home for 20 years

Elvis Presley called it home

In Memphis, Tennessee, you'll find Graceland. This property was Elvis Presley's home for 20 years. It's not just an important landmark for music, it's also the location of one of the most fun facts about Tennessee.

Graceland is the second most-visited residential museum in the country. Every year, nearly 1 million visitors come to see Elvis' famous home. That number has been steady since the museum first opened in 1982.

Blue road sign on highway: "Tennessee, The Volunteer State, Welcomes You"
Tennessee has a reputation for providing dedicated volunteers the US can rely on

It's the "Volunteer State"

Tennessee has multiple nicknames, but the only one that's been made official by the state's government is its moniker "Volunteer State." This nickname might be confusing at first, but it's historic in nature.

During wartime, Tennessee routinely saw large portions of its population volunteer to serve. This dedication to the country has given Tennessee the reputation of being a state full of volunteers the US can rely on.

Wooden walking bridge with a stream of water and trees on either side
Walking bridge at Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is impressive

A trip to Tennessee wouldn't be complete without visiting the Great Smoky Mountains. After all, it's the most-visited national park in America.

Every year, over 12 million visitors wander the park's land to admire the dozens of plants and animals that call it home. The geography is ancient and shows traces of the indigenous people who used to live there.

The Tennessee State Capitol is Greek inspired

Built in the 1800s, the Tennessee State Capitol is the beating heart of Tennessee's legislature. The building was built on top of a hill among other state government buildings. This feature made it the focal point of the surrounding area.

The capitol was designed by William Strickland, who modeled it after a Greek temple. This is, in part, due to the contributions ancient Greece made to the way civics and democracy worked. It's been in the National Registry of Historic Places since 1971.

Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto was the first European to explore Tennessee

Hernando de Soto was a prolific Spanish explorer. He first came to the Americas in 1593 and spent the four years that followed exploring the new continent.

His explorations helped create the first maps of the new world. He was the first European to ever travel through modern-day Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Tennessee. He had also explored Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Texas, and Louisiana.

Davy Crockett was born here

Davy Crockett has become a national folk hero thanks to his actions as a politician and as a soldier. Though he's most often associated with the Battle of the Alamo, he wasn't originally from Texas.

Crockett was born in Tennessee in 1786. He had humble beginnings as he and his immigrant parents lived in single-room homes during much of his childhood.

creativejen/Depositphotos.com
One of the facts about Tennessee state is that the Opry hosts weekly music concerts
Grand Ole Opry stage in Nashville has presented weekly music concerts since 1925

The Grand Ole Opry is historic

The Grand Ole Opry brings a lot of excitement to this list of Tennessee history facts. This concert hall boasts the world's longest-running radio show.

Every week since 1925, country musicians take the stage at the Grand Ole Opry theater. You'll find a mix of famous and up-and-coming musicians performing to show their talent in the country music genre.

Andrew Jackson was the first Tennessee representative

Andrew Jackson was born in the Carolinas, but he called Tennessee home for much of his adult life. After moving to Nashville, he rose to prominence in politics.

Before becoming the country's seventh president, he was a member of Congress. He was the first member of the House of Representatives to come from Tennessee, and he later served as a state senator.

There are two state birds

If you're interested in looking up the official Tennessee state bird, you'll find two answers. The mockingbird and the bobwhite quail are both state symbols.

The mockingbird is the official state bird and has had that title since 1933. As for the bobwhite quail, it has been the official state game bird since 1987.

The Tennessee Valley Authority saves lives

Tennessee has many rivers that run through its territory. Throughout history, these rivers have routinely flooded, which has caused devastation to the properties that are located near their banks.

The Tennessee Valley Authority (also called the TVA) was created in 1933 to combat this. The TVA manages the state's river systems to help control flooding and to ensure the river's water is safe.

Sunrise over a lake surrounded by trees
Reelfoot Lake, created by four strong earthquakes between 1811 and 1812

Earthquakes created Reelfoot Lake

Reelfoot Lake covers 18 thousand acres. As such, it's easy to believe that's how the area has looked for thousands of years. In reality, the lake is just over 200 years old.

Between 1811 and 1812, four strong earthquakes occurred that caused the geography along the New Madrid fault to change. Reelfoot Lake's creation was among these changes.

j.hendrickson3/Depositphotos.com
Bridge with "University of Tennessee" sign over a street against red brick buildings
The University of Tennessee campus is a top school, in part due to small class sizes

Tennessee State University is a top school

Tennessee State University is a popular choice for higher education among students around the country. Its campus is spread out over 500 acres of land in Nashville.

The school has been able to earn a top reputation, thanks to its dedication to the students. On average, there's a professor for every 12 students, which creates a prime learning environment.

The Tennessee Walking Horse borrowed its name

If you're looking for interesting Tennessee facts, you'll be fascinated to learn the state has a horse named after it. The Tennessee Walking Horse is a generally calm horse that's been popular among farmers.

The horse gets its name, in part, from the state where it was first bred. The other half of its name comes from the unique way the horse moves, which has been described as a "running walk."

The Tennessee River's course is unique

The Tennessee River flows through seven states before it joins the Mississippi. Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, and Kentucky all have parts of the river flowing through it.

The portion of the river that flows through Tennessee is particularly unique. It's the only river that flows in and out of a state multiple times.

There are three Grand Divisions

Tennessee may be one state, but its regions have vastly different geography. These differences have contributed to the state being divided into three sections called the "Grand Divisions."

The different recognized regions in the state are East Tennessee, Middle Tennessee, and West Tennessee. These regions also have regional centers which are Chattanooga, Knoxville, and Nashville, respectively.

Interesting Facts About Tennessee

f11photo/Depositphotos.com
Neon lights and signs against buildings, one saying "Nashville Crossroads Music City"
Nashville Crossroads is a live music venue located in the heart of Honky Tonk Row

The raccoon is a state symbol

You'll find the Tennessee state animal all over the country. It doesn't matter if you're near the wilderness or in the middle of the city, you'll likely come across raccoons at some point.

While many people view this animal as a pest due to its habit of opening trash cans, it's a state symbol in Tennessee. This choice was made official in 1971.

There are two state phrases

Like every other state in the USA, Tennessee has an official state motto. In line with the state seal and the area's leading industries, "Agriculture and Commerce," has been the Tennessee state motto since 1987.

However, there's also a state slogan. The Tennessee General Assembly chose "Tennessee—America at Its Best," to be the state's catchphrase in 1965.

You can pan for gold

Tennessee was part of the Gold Rush, though it was less popular than other locations. Gold isn't widespread in the state and is mostly found in its southeastern region.

Prospectors might not be rushing to the state anymore, but there are still gold deposits in the state. You can even get a permit to pan for gold. Most gold found today comes from the Cherokee National Forest.

Musicians flock to Tennessee

One of the most fascinating facts about the state of Tennessee is that Nashville is known as "Music City." That's because it's become a hub for aspiring musicians and songwriters.

Tin Pan South celebrates the music that's made the city so famous. It's the largest festival in the world that's dedicated to songwriters.

Thousands visit the Tennessee State Fair

Every September, Nashville's fairgrounds get a lot busier. For a week, vendors and entertainers of all kinds come to the area for the Tennessee State Fair.

The first state fair in Tennessee was held in 1855, and it's grown in size every year. Now, an average of 200 thousand tickets are sold annually.

brandonkleinvideo/Depositphotos.com
Dark brown brick wall with gold "Nashville Music City" sign painted on wall
Tennessee is the country music capital; many aspiring musicians move here each year

It's the country music capital

Country music has become synonymous with the South. Although the genre is performed all over the country, only one state can say it's the capital.

Tennessee is the capital of country music, in part because it was created in Bristol, TN. Today, hundreds of aspiring country artists move to the state each year in hopes of becoming the next big star.

Cherokee National Forest preserves wildlife

The Cherokee National Forest is split in half by the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The forest sits on 650 thousand acres of land that are largely undisturbed, despite providing 700 trails for visitors to hike.

All the recreational activities available to guests have been designed to be sustainable. Forest officials are also involved in conservation efforts to protect the local flora and fauna.

The state took in Katrina refugees

Hurricane Katrina was one of the worst national disasters to hit the southern part of the United States. Many cities in Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi were affected by the storm.

New Orleans was hit particularly hard with most residents being forced to relocate for months. As one of the closest unaffected states, Tennessee took in many Katrina refugees.

kzlobastov/Depositphotos.com
Brick building with large, white "Johnny Cash Museum" sign
Johnny Cash Museum in Nashville, one of the most visited landmarks in Tennessee

Johnny Cash is commemorated here

The Johnny Cash Museum is one of the most visited landmarks in Tennessee and is a popular place to visit on a weekend in Nashville. The songwriter's life and career are commemorated in multiple exhibits.

The museum has the largest collection of Johnny Cash memorabilia. Even though the singer-songwriter was originally from Arkansas, he moved to Memphis in 1954 and remained until his death.

Few cities have over 100 thousand people

As of 2021, less than 7 million people live in the entire state, making it the 16th largest state by population. However, the state doesn't have many cities with over 100 thousand citizens.

Nashville has the largest population, with just over 700 thousand residents. The second largest city is Memphis, with over 600 thousand. Only four other cities have a population of over 100 thousand.

Tennessee was the 16th state

One of the most important entries on this list of Tennessee facts and history is its statehood. Tennessee was the 16th territory to officially join the Union.

In 1796, just over 20 years after the war for Independence, Tennessee earned its star on the flag. Statehood was granted after it was shown that enough people lived in the territory to be able to form a state legislature.

The name comes from the Cherokee

There are multiple theories about where the name "Tennessee" comes from. The most commonly believed answer is that it comes from the Cherokee language.

The Cherokee population that lived in the area had a village named "Tanasi." This village was a sort of capital where the different tribes would convene for important occasions.

The first settlers were French

Though Hernando de Soto was the first European in Tennessee, he didn't settle the territory. The Frenchman General La Salle was the first to establish a permanent fort in the area in 1682.

It would be over 100 years before the first residential settlement was established. In 1769, William Bean built a cabin near the Watauga River.

Partially opened purple and yellow flower against a black background
Purple iris flower, one of two official state flowers of Tennessee

There are two state flowers

Tennessee doesn't just have two state birds, it also has two state flowers. The iris is the official state-cultivated flower. In particular, the purple variety is considered the state's official symbol.

The state also has an official wildflower. That honor goes to the passion flower. This flower can be found in the Tennessee wilderness and elsewhere in the southern region of the US.

It used to be home to the world's tallest treehouse

Starting in 1993, Tennessee native Horace Burgess started constructing what would become the world's tallest treehouse. While it was closed to visitors in 2012, tourists were still able to admire it from the ground.

Unfortunately, in 2019 the treehouse caught fire and was completely destroyed. The tragedy took less than 15 minutes, and the circumstances surrounding it are still a mystery.

Weird Facts About Tennessee

Parthenon building near a body of water, green grass, trees, and blue sky.
Centennial Park in Nashville, where you can find the Parthenon
PTHamilton/Depositphotos.com
Black steam train on railroad track, with trees and wooden water tower in background
The Dollywood Express at the Dollywood theme park in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

Dolly Parton has a theme park

One of the most interesting Tennessee facts you might not know is that Dolly Parton has a theme park in the state. Dollywood park has been open since 1986. It's located near Knoxville, Tennessee.

Dolly Parton has called Tennessee home her entire life. Her roots inspired her to build the park and showcase her family's local heritage.

Josephine Myrtle Corbin was born here

You've likely never heard of Josephine Myrtle Corbin. She was a sideshow performer who was born in Tennessee in 1868.

Josephine was born with a rare condition that caused her to have two pelvises and four legs. She traveled all over the US with family who attempted to monetize her peculiar anatomy.

Kingston was a short-lived capital

Kingston is the second-oldest city in Tennessee, the oldest being Jonesborough. It was also briefly the state capital. For one day, Kingston was the seat of Tennessee's government.

Unfortunately, this fact isn't as humorous as it might seem. The Cherokee agreed to give up their land if the state capital was moved to the land Kingston was built on. Kingston was made capital for a day before being moved again.

A gold statue holding a winged goddess, a serpent, and a shield
Located in Centennial Park in Nashville, a replica of the Athena statue in Athens

Nashville is the "Athens of the South"

Nashville has earned multiple nicknames, but most of them are related to its music industry. Its moniker "Athens of the South" is a little less obvious.

The nickname can be traced back to the 1800s. At the time, Nashville was the first city in the southern US to establish multiple universities and academies. This made it an academic haven, much like Athens was in ancient Greece.

It has more caves than anywhere else

Tennessee is, among other things, the cave capital of the United States. According to surveyors, there are at least 10 thousand caves above and below ground in the state.

That number is higher than any other state's. In fact, around 20% of all the currently-known caves are found in Tennessee. Some are open to visitors, while others are considered too dangerous.

Historical Facts About Tennessee

karenfoleyphotography/Depositphotos.com
Two-story, older motel with balcony and two cars parked in front, cloudy sky
National Civil Rights Museum, located in Memphis where MLK was assassinated

There were seven Native American tribes here

Though today there are no recognized Native American tribes in Tennessee, that doesn't mean they hadn't lived here. The state originally had a thriving indigenous population.

When it was first settled by Europeans, there were seven tribes that called the Tennessee territory home. These tribes were the Muscogee (Creek), Yuchi, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Cherokee, Shawnee, and Seneca.

1930 had the hottest temperature

Tennessee has generally mild temperatures thanks to its geographic location. It's not far enough south to have extreme heat, but it's not very far north either.

Typically the temperature range in the state stays within the 40-degree to 85-degree range, with some variations depending on location. The hottest temperature on record was 113 degrees in 1930.

The Civil Rights Movement made history here

Some of the most important Tennessee history facts have to do with more recent history. For example, the state's involvement in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s was notable.

In 1959, African-American students organized a sit-in protest. Many who participated were arrested, but despite that, the protest remained one of the most peaceful and well-organized.

Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated while in Tennessee

Martin Luther King, Jr. was a pivotal figure in the Civil Rights Movement. He organized protests promoting desegregation, labor rights, and equal voting rights.

Unfortunately, while in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1968, King was assassinated. He was only 39 at the time. He was in Memphis to organize a labor march that was to be conducted a few days later.

The Lost Sea is a record holder

Near Sweetwater, Tennessee, you'll find the Craighead Caverns. This cave system is home to the largest underground lake in the country and the second-largest in the world.

As of now, scientists have been able to determine that the Lost Sea is at least 4.5 acres. However, that is just the visible portion. Its actual size could be much larger.

Cool Facts About Tennessee

Green grass and trees against buildings and city skyline under a cloudy sky
Knoxville Tennessee, one of the cities where Mountain Dew was first sold

The state is almost half farmland

Agriculture is an important part of Tennessee's economy. Over $80 billion of the state's revenue is generated yearly by this industry.

Farms also take up a large portion of the state's territory. Over 77 thousand farms are situated on nearly 11 million acres of land. In other words, 40% of Tennessee is farmland.

It's where Mountain Dew was invented

Mountain Dew is a popular soft drink all over the USA, but it has its roots in Tennessee. The original formula that would evolve into the modern-day version of the drink was invented in the 1940s by Barney and Ally Hartman.

The Hartmans were beverage bottlers from Tennessee. Once they perfected their formula, they began selling their new invention in Knoxville and Johnson City, Tennessee.

The state is landlocked

If you look at a map, you'll be able to guess a few facts about the state of Tennessee. One of them is that it's completely landlocked.

To be landlocked, a territory can't have any coastal borders, but rivers and lakes are allowed. In the US, there are 27 landlocked states. Tennessee is one of them.

There are eight state borders

Not only is Tennessee landlocked, but it's also tied with Missouri for having the most state borders. Both states share eight state lines and have been dubbed the most "neighborly" states.

Tennessee is bordered by Kentucky, Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Missouri. Since Tennessee and Missouri are "neighbors," they both share the neighboring states of Kentucky and Arkansas.

Body of water, multiple-sized buildings, blue sky
Cotton candy was invented by a dentist from Nashville, Tennessee, William Morrison

Thank Tennessee for cotton candy

Since its invention in 1897, cotton candy has been a favorite treat at fairs, carnivals, and other special events. Yet, did you know it was invented in Tennessee?

William Morrison was a Nashville dentist who invented cotton candy and the cotton candy machine. He worked with John Wharton, a candy maker, to perfect the process for the 1908 World's Fair.

Important Facts About Tennessee

Body of water under a bridge against buildings, trees and a pink sunset sky
Arkansas, where Hattie Caraway of Bakerville, Tennessee, was the first female senator

The first female senator was a Tennessean

Hattie Caraway was the first woman ever elected to the US Senate. Though she was elected to represent Arkansas, that's not where she was originally from.

Caraway was born in Bakerville, Tennessee, in 1878. By 1931 when she began her first term in office, she no longer called the state home.

It was once under water

The earth is billions of years old and has undergone massive geographic changes during that time. Much of the land you're familiar with didn't exist, at least not how it does today.

Tennessee was once under water. Geologists have found evidence to support that parts of middle Tennessee were about 100 feet below ocean level during the Ordovician period.

There was Union and Confederacy support

As a southern state, Tennessee was an important territory during the American Civil War. While it was part of the Confederacy between 1861 and 1865, support for secession wasn't universal.

Certain areas of the state supported the Union. East Tennessee was largely sympathetic toward the north, and many soldiers from there fought against the Confederate army.

Tennessee was British before it was a state

Some people assume that Britain's presence in the US ended with the original 13 colonies. However, that's not the case. British explorers settled many other territories in the new world.

Tennessee is an example of a previously British territory that wasn't part of the original colonies. However, there were fewer English settlements in the Tennessee territory as it was considered potentially less fruitful.

Large brown brick building, tower clock, US flag, black lightposts
The Tennessee Promise provides scholarships to aspiring college students

The Tennessee Promise program helps guarantee education

The Tennessee Promise is a scholarship program that started in 2015. It was created to help aspiring college students continue their education after high school.

Though the program is still relatively new, it's shown promising results every year since it was first instated. Student enrollment has increased, and a majority of program participants go on to get their associate's degrees.

In Summary

What did you think about this list? I bet you had no idea that cotton candy and Mountain Dew were invented in Tennessee!

Whether you're a history buff or a music fan, there's something to love about Tennessee. If you thought this list was interesting, you're in luck. There are hundreds of facts about the state still out there for you to learn.

This article was edited by Henry Grahame.

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Written by Gabrielle T

ggtraveler1213 WRITER Gabrielle loves all things travel and culture. She is originally from the USA, but she has lived in Italy for over a decade. She's always ready to pack her bags, grab her passport, and head out on an adventure!


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