Tennessee’s Hidden Treasures: Beyond the Beaten Path

Upward view of Ruby Falls with flowing water

When we talk about visiting the Southern United States, Tennessee is frequently a hot topic. Famous for its musical heritage, the Volunteer State boasts destinations such as Nashville and Memphis, which draw millions of tourists every year. However, if you’re looking to truly immerse yourself in the heart and soul of this state, there are numerous unique places in Tennessee waiting to be discovered. Plus, if you’re in the mood for a different kind of stay, there are a plethora of unique places to stay in Tennessee that add a cherry on top to your travel experience.

Unique Places to Visit in Tennessee

Ruby Falls

One standout attraction is Ruby Falls, nestled deep within Lookout Mountain near Chattanooga. Ruby Falls is not only an underground wonder but also the tallest and deepest underground waterfall accessible to the public in the entire United States. Visitors can embark on a guided tour that takes them through the captivating caverns of Lookout Mountain, with Ruby Falls as the pièce de résistance.

Exploring Ruby Falls:

  • Ruby Falls is an underground waterfall, plunging 145 feet below ground.
  • Visitors can access the falls through guided tours that provide insights into the geological wonders of Lookout Mountain.
  • The guided tour culminates with a mesmerizing light show at the falls, enhancing the natural beauty of this unique attraction.
  • Expect to marvel at stunning rock formations, underground streams, and a one-of-a-kind experience that combines education and entertainment.

Tennessee offers a wealth of unique places to stay and explore, with Ruby Falls standing out as a must-visit attraction deep within Lookout Mountain. Whether you’re drawn to underground wonders, historic charm, or luxurious treehouses, Tennessee has something to offer every traveler seeking an unforgettable experience.

Lost Sea Adventure

Among these remarkable destinations, Ruby Falls and the Lost Sea Adventure stand out as must-visit attractions that provide both educational and memorable experiences.

  • Ruby Falls: Located deep within Lookout Mountain near Chattanooga, Ruby Falls is an exceptional geological wonder. It is not only the tallest but also the deepest underground waterfall accessible to the public in the United States. Visitors can embark on a guided tour that takes them through the mesmerizing caverns of Lookout Mountain, with Ruby Falls as the highlight. The tour culminates with a captivating light show at the falls, enhancing the natural beauty of this unique attraction. This experience provides a fascinating educational opportunity to learn about the geological processes that led to the formation of this stunning underground wonder.
  • Lost Sea Adventure: Sweetwater, Tennessee, is home to America’s largest underground lake known as the Lost Sea. This remarkable destination offers visitors the chance to take a boat tour on the still waters of this vast underground lake. The highlight of this adventure is the opportunity to witness rare and ancient formations called anthodites, often referred to as “cave flowers.” These delicate, crystalline structures add to the enchanting ambiance of the underground world. The Lost Sea Adventure not only allows for a unique stay but also provides an educational experience by showcasing the remarkable geological formations and history of the region.

Both destinations offer educational experiences that showcase the natural wonders and geological history of the state. Whether you’re drawn to the depths of Lookout Mountain or the serene waters of the Lost Sea, Tennessee’s unique places provide unforgettable opportunities for adventure and learning.

Bell Witch Cave

Dark interior photo of Bell Witch Cave

Nestled in Adams, Tennessee, the Bell Witch Cave is a place of mystery and intrigue. The cave is famous for its association with the Bell Witch, a legendary and malevolent spirit known for tormenting the Bell family in the early 19th century. Visitors can embark on a guided tour that takes them deep into the cave, where the eerie atmosphere and chilling stories come to life. Whether you’re a paranormal enthusiast or simply curious about the supernatural, this cave tour offers a unique and spine-tingling experience.

Highlights of Bell Witch Cave:

  • Folklore and History: The Bell Witch legend is deeply rooted in American folklore, and the cave serves as a tangible link to this haunting tale. Visitors can delve into the history and eerie stories surrounding the Bell Witch and the Bell family’s encounters with the supernatural.
  • Guided Tours: Knowledgeable guides lead visitors through the cave, sharing the stories and legends associated with the Bell Witch. The cave’s dark, labyrinthine passages create an immersive experience that transports guests back in time.
  • Paranormal Intrigue: For those with a fascination for the paranormal, the Bell Witch Cave offers a chance to explore the unexplained and potentially encounter supernatural phenomena. It’s an opportunity to delve into the mysterious and unexplained.

This destination not only offers a spine-tingling exploration of the supernatural but also an educational journey into American folklore and history. Whether you seek thrills or historical insights, the Bell Witch Cave is a unique and unforgettable destination in Tennessee.

Cummins Falls State Park

Nestled near Cookeville, this state park is a hidden gem offering a picturesque 75-foot waterfall, making it one of the most photogenic spots in the entire state. The highlight of a visit to Cummins Falls State Park is the chance to take a scenic hike that leads you to the waterfall, and once you arrive, you can enjoy a refreshing swim in the gorge.

Cummins Falls State Park Overview:

  • Natural Beauty: Cummins Falls is the centerpiece of this state park, and it’s a sight to behold. The waterfall’s cascading waters create a stunning visual display, making it a favorite among photographers and nature enthusiasts. The lush surrounding landscape adds to the park’s natural beauty.
  • Hiking Adventure: Cummins Falls State Park boasts a network of hiking trails that cater to various levels of hikers. The most popular trail leads to the waterfall itself, offering incredible views of the falls along the way. It’s a moderate hike that provides an opportunity to appreciate the park’s flora and fauna.
  • Swimming Experience: What sets Cummins Falls apart is the unique chance to take a refreshing swim in the gorge. After your hike, you can cool off in the clear waters of the plunge pool beneath the falls, creating an unforgettable and immersive experience with nature.

Cummins Falls State Park is a testament to the natural beauty that Tennessee has to offer, providing a perfect blend of outdoor adventure and unique stays in the state. Whether you’re an avid hiker, a photographer, or simply seeking a memorable experience in the great outdoors, Cummins Falls State Park is a must-visit destination that exemplifies the unique charm of Tennessee. So, don’t miss the opportunity to explore this photogenic spot and enjoy a refreshing swim in the gorge during your visit.

Rock City Gardens

Rock City Gardens scenic view from a distance with tourists

Perched atop Lookout Mountain, just a few miles from Chattanooga, Rock City Gardens offers visitors a panoramic view that spans seven states. This attraction is renowned not only for its breathtaking vistas but also for its ancient rock formations, lush gardens, and fairytale-themed pathways.

Overview of Rock City Gardens:

  • See Seven States: One of the highlights of Rock City Gardens is the vantage point from which visitors claim they can see seven states: Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama. While this claim might be more folklore than fact, the view is undeniably awe-inspiring.
  • Enchanted Trail: As visitors wander along the 4,100-foot Enchanted Trail, they are treated to a visual feast of massive ancient rock formations, picturesque gardens filled with over 400 species of native plants, and charming sculptures.
  • Fairyland Caverns and Mother Goose Village: Rock City isn’t just about the views and rock formations. As you explore further, you’ll come across the Fairyland Caverns which showcase scenes from beloved fairy tales and nursery rhymes, illuminated in vibrant and glowing colors.
  • Seasonal Events: Rock City Gardens hosts various events throughout the year, including the Enchanted Garden of Lights during the Christmas season, offering visitors a chance to see the gardens illuminated in thousands of twinkling lights.

Rock City Gardens combines natural wonder with whimsical charm, making it a must-visit for families, nature lovers, and anyone seeking a blend of natural beauty and enchantment. If you’re touring Tennessee, especially the Chattanooga area, make sure to carve out time for this captivating attraction.

Unique Places to Stay in Tennessee

Treehouse Grove at Norton Creek

Treehouse Grove at Norton Creek from above in the forest

This enchanting destination fulfills the dream of staying in a treehouse, providing a fantasy-like lodging experience that’s unlike any other. Each treehouse at the Treehouse Grove boasts its own distinctive design and theme, ensuring that your stay is whimsical and unforgettable.

Treehouse Grove at Norton Creek Overview:

  • Enchanting Accommodations: The Treehouse Grove is a collection of beautifully crafted treehouses nestled in the lush woodlands of Gatlinburg. These treehouses are a testament to the artistry and creativity that have gone into their design, with each one offering a unique and enchanting experience. From rustic charm to modern luxury, there’s a treehouse to suit every preference.
  • Themed Retreats: What sets the Treehouse Grove apart is its attention to detail. Each treehouse is thoughtfully themed, creating a sense of wonder and adventure for guests. Whether you’re seeking a romantic getaway, a family adventure, or a tranquil retreat, you’ll find a treehouse that resonates with your desires.
  • Natural Beauty: Beyond the treehouse accommodations, the surrounding natural beauty of Gatlinburg adds to the allure of the Treehouse Grove. Guests can wake up to the sounds of birdsong and the rustling of leaves in the gentle mountain breeze, creating a serene and peaceful environment.

Staying at the Treehouse Grove at Norton Creek in Gatlinburg is more than just accommodation; it’s an immersive and magical experience. Whether you’re a nature lover, a romantic at heart, or simply seeking a break from the ordinary, these treehouses provide a unique and unforgettable stay in the heart of Tennessee. So, if you’ve ever dreamed of staying in a treehouse, the Treehouse Grove at Norton Creek is the perfect destination to turn that dream into reality.

Whitestone Country Inn

This charming bed and breakfast is nestled on the picturesque shores of Watts Bar Lake, and it’s designed to resemble a New England village. With its scenic beauty and thoughtful design, Whitestone Country Inn offers guests a serene and memorable getaway.

Whitestone Country Inn Overview:

  • New England Village Aesthetic: Whitestone Country Inn’s architecture and ambiance transport guests to a New England village, complete with cobblestone paths, charming cottages, and a peaceful atmosphere. This unique design element sets it apart from typical accommodations in Tennessee, creating a distinct and inviting environment.
  • Breathtaking Lake Views: One of the highlights of staying at Whitestone Country Inn is the opportunity to enjoy breathtaking views of Watts Bar Lake. The serene waters and lush surroundings create a tranquil setting for relaxation and outdoor activities such as fishing, kayaking, and hiking.
  • Chapel of the Good Shepherd: Another unique feature of this inn is the Chapel of the Good Shepherd. This beautiful sanctuary provides a tranquil space for reflection and contemplation, making it a popular choice for weddings and events. It adds a touch of serenity and spirituality to the overall experience at Whitestone.

Whether you’re seeking a romantic escape, a peaceful retreat, or a unique venue for a special occasion, Whitestone Country Inn offers a one-of-a-kind experience in Tennessee. With its New England-inspired design, stunning lake views, and the serenity of the Chapel of the Good Shepherd, it’s an ideal destination for those looking to unwind and connect with nature and history in a unique setting.

The Salt & Pepper Shaker Museum Inn

Salt & Pepper Shaker Museum Inn exterior photo

Not only can you explore a museum housing an impressive collection of over 20,000 sets of salt and pepper shakers, but you can also spend the night in themed rooms that pay homage to these iconic kitchen collectibles. The highlight of this extraordinary destination is that each room is uniquely themed after a different set of shakers, providing guests with a one-of-a-kind and immersive experience.

The Salt & Pepper Shaker Museum Inn Overview:

  • Museum Exploration: The Salt & Pepper Shaker Museum is the heart of this unique destination. It’s a treasure trove of culinary history, featuring an extensive and diverse collection of shakers from various time periods and cultures. Visitors have the opportunity to learn about the fascinating history and cultural significance of these everyday kitchen items.
  • Themed Rooms: What truly sets The Salt & Pepper Shaker Museum Inn apart is its themed rooms. Each guest room is meticulously designed to reflect a specific set of shakers from the museum’s collection. This attention to detail creates a whimsical and immersive experience, where guests can sleep among the shaker-inspired decor.
  • Unique Stay: Whether you’re a collector, history enthusiast, or simply looking for a quirky and memorable place to stay, this inn offers a truly unique and educational experience. It’s a perfect blend of art, history, and lodging that appeals to a wide range of interests.

The Salt & Pepper Shaker Museum Inn in Gatlinburg is a testament to the creativity and diversity of unique places to stay in Tennessee. It offers a fascinating journey into the world of salt and pepper shakers while providing guests with an unforgettable and thematic overnight experience. So, if you’re seeking a one-of-a-kind stay that combines art, history, and comfort, this inn should be at the top of your list of unique places to visit in Tennessee.


While the allure of Nashville’s country tunes and Memphis’s bluesy notes is undeniable, the state of Tennessee has far more to offer for those willing to venture a little off the conventional trail. From unique places to visit that boast natural wonders and historical significance, to unique places to stay that provide an experience in and of themselves, Tennessee is a treasure trove waiting to be explored.


Are these unique places in Tennessee family-friendly?

Yes, most of these spots cater to families. However, it’s always a good idea to check any age restrictions or advisories, especially for activities like cave tours.

When’s the best time to visit these unique places?

Tennessee enjoys a moderate climate, making spring and fall the most pleasant times to visit. However, if you’re seeking a winter wonderland or a summer retreat, Tennessee has unique offerings all year round.

Are reservations needed for the unique places to stay in Tennessee?

Absolutely! Some of these lodgings, especially the treehouses and themed inns, can be booked months in advance. It’s recommended to plan your stay ahead of time.

Are there accessibility options available at these destinations?

Many of these places do offer accessibility options for visitors. It’s best to contact the destinations directly or visit their official websites to get detailed information.

Are pets allowed at these unique places in Tennessee?

While some places might be pet-friendly, others might have strict no-pet policies. Always check in advance if you’re planning to bring your furry friend.

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