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Tennessee is state of wonder! Home to Elvis, the blues and president Andrew Jackson this state knows how to rock. With the Appalachian Mountains running in the east and Cumberland Plateau in the middle of the state makes for some excellent hiking and exploring. And if you're looking for the heart of country music Nashville is the place to be.
Tennessee borders eight other states: Kentucky and Virginia to the north; North Carolina to the east; Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi on the south; Arkansas and Missouri on the Mississippi River to the west. Tennessee ties Missouri as the state bordering the most other states. The state is trisected by the Tennessee River. The highest point in the state is Clingmans Dome at 2,025 metres. Clingmans Dome, which lies on Tennessee's eastern border, is the highest point on the Appalachian Trail. The state line between Tennessee and North Carolina crosses the summit. The lowest point is the Mississippi River at the Mississippi state line (The lowest point in Memphis, nearby, is at 59 metres. The geographical center of the state is located in Murfreesboro. The state of Tennessee is geographically and legally divided into three Grand Divisions: East Tennessee, Middle Tennessee, and West Tennessee. The state constitution allows no more than two justices of the five-member Tennessee Supreme Court to be from one Grand Division and a similar rule applies to certain commissions and boards. Tennessee features six principal physiographic regions: the Blue Ridge, the Appalachian Ridge and Valley Region, the Cumberland Plateau, the Highland Rim, the Nashville Basin, and the Gulf Coastal Plain. Tennessee is home to the most caves in the United States, with over 8,350 caves registered to date.
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The Great Smoky Mountains National Park celebrated its 75th Anniversary in 2009. Over 9 million people visit the park each year, making it the most visited park in the United States. There are 78 historic buildings in the Park, which is open year round. Spanning the borders of North Carolina and Tennessee, the Park is a popular destination for hikers. The Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There is a lot to do and see in the park. The Appalachian Trail is a 2,175 miles (3,500 kilometres) long hiking trail with a section in The Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The park is home to 1,500 black bears who can often been seen in open areas such as Catalooche Valley and Cades Cove. Deer, wild turkeys and foxes are found at Cades Cove. Over 10,000 species have been identified as living in the Park, with the expectation that another 90,000 remain to be found.
Most of the state has a humid subtropical climate, with the exception of some of the higher elevations in the Appalachians, which are classified as having a mountain temperate climate or a humid continental climate due to cooler temperatures. The Gulf of Mexico is the dominant factor in the climate of Tennessee, with winds from the south being responsible for most of the state's annual precipitation. Generally, the state has hot summers and mild to cool winters with generous precipitation throughout the year. On average the state receives 1,300 mm of precipitation annually. Snowfall ranges from 13 centimetres in West Tennessee to over 41 centimetres in the higher mountains in East Tennessee.
Summers in the state are generally hot and humid, with most of the state averaging a high of around 32 °C during the summer months. Winters tend to be mild to cool, increasing in coolness at higher elevations. Generally, for areas outside the highest mountains, the average overnight lows are near freezing for most of the state. The highest recorded temperature is 45 °C at Perryville on August 9, 1930 while the lowest recorded temperature is -36 °C at Mountain City on December 30, 1917.
While the state is far enough from the coast to avoid any direct impact from a hurricane, the location of the state makes it likely to be impacted from the remnants of tropical cyclones which weaken over land and can cause significant rainfall, such as Tropical Storm Chris in 1982. The state averages around 50 days of thunderstorms per year. Tornadoes are possible throughout the state, with West and Middle Tennessee the most vulnerable. Occasionally, strong or violent tornadoes occur. On average, the state has 15 tornadoes per year. Tornadoes in Tennessee can be severe, and Tennessee leads the nation in the percentage of total tornadoes which have fatalities. Winter storms are an occasional problem, although ice storms are a more likely occurrence. Fog is a persistent problem in parts of the state, especially in much of the Smoky Mountains.
Amtrak service in Tennessee is limited to the City of New Orleans service stopping in Memphis and Newbern.
Interstate 40 criss-crosses the state from west to east, connecting Memphis, Nashville, Knoxville and the Smoky Mountain Region. Interstate 55 is entirely situated in Memphis. Interstate 155 crosses from Missouri into northwest Tennessee, ending in Dyersburg. Interstate 24 enters from Kentucky near Clarksville, passes through Nashville and ends in Chattanooga (but not before briefly dipping into Georgia for about three miles). Interstate 65 runs through Nashville in its trek from Kentucky to Alabama. Interstate 75, coming from Kentucky, links Knoxville with Chattanooga before heading into Georgia. Interstate 81 starts at Interstate 40 just east of Knoxville and heads northeast to Bristol before moving into Virginia. In the Kingsport area, Interstate 26 runs south from Interstate 81 into North Carolina (towards Asheville), while Interstate 181 heads toward Kingsport and the Virginia state line.
Greyhound offers service throughout Tennessee. Megabus offers service to Memphis (from Chicago, Champaign-Urbana, St. Louis, Atlanta, Birmingham, Dallas, and Little Rock), to Nashville (from Atlanta), to Chattanooga (from Atlanta), and to Knoxville (from Washington, D.C., Christiansburg and Atlanta).
Unfortunately there is no option for rail travel to the central or eastern parts of the state. However, Amtrak runs the fabled "City of New Orleans" line through Memphis and Newbern. This is certainly worth considering if you are planning to visit those areas, especially if you are heading along the Mississippi River. Also, the city of Nashville operates a commuter rail from the suburbs to the downtown area.
Many international rental companies have a wide selection of rental cars and these include Hertz, Avis, Dollar, Thrifty, Enterprise, Budget and Alamo/National. Most companies will require you are at least 25 years of age, although younger people might be able to rent cars at slightly higher rates and with some insurance differences as well. A national driver's license is usually enough, but an additional international one is recommended. Also note that it usually costs more to include lots of other extra things. For example extra drivers, GPS, the first full tank, SLI (Supplemental Liability Insurance), PAI (Personal Accident Insurance, usually covered already at home), road assistance/service plan, and drop-off costs for one-way rentals.
If you want to book a car, it is recommended that you book your car before arriving in the USA. This is almost always (much) cheaper compared to just showing up. Also, try and book with a so-called 'broker', which usually works together with a few or many car rental companies and can offer the best deal. Some examples include Holidayautos, Holidaycars and Sunny Cars. Some of the cheapest deals to book from Europe, includes Drive-USA, which also has a German version.
For more information and tips about renting cars and campers, additional costs, insurance, traffic rules, scenic routes and getting maps and fuel it is advised to check the USA Getting Around section.
Tennessee has a number of National Scenic Byways which offer a great way to explore the state crossing beautiful landscapes. Mostly, there are lots of national parks, state parks or monuments along the way and it's generally a better alternative than the faster but boring Interstate Highways.
Check Greyhound for options.
It is becoming increasingly rare to locate truly authentic "Southern" cuisine in places other than a privately owned family kitchen table, but the state still offers some truly wonderful regional fare.
In Memphis, missing Rendezvous, host to American presidents and prime ministers, would be a sin.
There are dozens of hotel and motel chains, ranging from budget to top end. Allthough they are not the most charming accommodations, they usually have a very decent midrange service with good rooms and are generally good value. At least you know what to expect and in some cases they are either the only or the best option in the area. Some of them include:
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