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Fun and Interesting Places to Visit in Tennessee

1. Casey Jones Home and Railroad Museum at Casey Jones Village. Located in Jackson, in western Tennessee, this (small) fee-based attraction is a must-visit for railroad and popular culture enthusiasts. It features the original Jackson home of John Luther "Casey" Jones, a highly-respected railroad engineer who saved the lives of all his passengers and crew in a fateful railroad accident that took his life in April, 1900, and whose life and story became immortalized in song. Next to the museum, which is dedicated to his life and the lives of all railroad workers, visitors will find three rail cars and an old, original, steam engine -- where you can ring the bell like Casey. Besides visiting the house and museum, Casey Jones Village also includes a restaurant, a farm (and farmer's market during summer months), a historic chapel, and miniature golf. While in the area, railroad buffs should also visit the Nashville, Chattanooga and St. Louise Railway Passenger depot and Museum, on the National Register of Historic Buildings, and restored to include a working scale model railroad with more than 500 feet of track, as well as an old dining car and two old cabooses -- all open to the public.

2. Grotto Falls. Located in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in eastern Tennessee, this 25-foot waterfalls is reached via a 2.6 mile roundtrip trail is a fairly easy one and begins at the Trillium Gap Trailhead, off of the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. You'll hike through an old growth forest before reaching the waterfall. One of the cool features of Grotto Falls is that you can walk behind it, which is quite refreshing when hiking in the summer months. After visiting the falls, you can continue another two miles to reach the summit of Brushy Mountain... or hike for another 5.6 miles and the summit of Mount LeConte, which is the third highest peak in the park, thigh highest in Tennessee, and the highest mount peak with a lodge in the eastern U.S. While there, you might also visit the most popular waterfall in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Rainbow Falls, which, with an 80-foot drop, is the highest one in the park, and named for the rainbow that appears in the mist on most sunny afternoons.

3. Hiwassee River Rail Adventure. Departs from the historic Louisville & Nashville (L&N) Depot and Museum in Etowah, Tennessee, about 60 miles northeast of Chattanooga. Start at the two-story Victorian-style building on the National Register of Historic Places that features unique woodwork details and a decorative staircase -- and was the first building built in the town -- before boarding a bus that will take you to the train. The 50-mile round trip, which takes about 3-1/2 hours, goes up through the beautiful lower Hiwassee River Gorge in the Cherokee National Forest to the top of the famous "Hiwassee Loop," over a bridge 62 feet above the tracks, where the tracks cross over themselves as they corkscrew up the mountain. Rail enthusiasts can embark on a full-day (8-hour), 94-mile roundtrip adventure by buying tickets to continue on through Turtletown and Ducktown to the former (copper) mining town of Copperhill (and now a quaint tourist town), at which there is a 90-minute lunch break.

4. Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park. Located in western Tennessee, just outside of Millington, about 13 miles north of Memphis, and situated along the Mississippi River, this 12,539-acre park contains two lakes (Poplar Tree Lake and Lake Piersol), and offers recreational activities for everyone... including birding, fishing, boating, hiking, biking, and horseback-riding. Along the swampy banks, you'll find mature Bald Cypress and Tupelo Swamp trees, as well as large oaks, American beech, hickory, and sweet gum trees atop the gorgeous Chickasaw Bluffs -- where most of the facilities are located. Deer, turkey, otter, beaver, foxes, bobcats, and hundreds of songbirds, shorebirds, and birds of prey (including the American Bald Eagle) can be seen throughout the park. Besides a 49-site campground (with water, electric hookups), there are six two-bedroom cabins in the woods near the short of Poplar Tree Lake. More than 20 miles of trails and bikers should consider the 5-mile paved Bicycle Trail while hikers love the 8-mile Chickasaw Bluff Trail (and the shorter 3.5-mile Woodland Trail). Finally, one of the largest disc golf courses is also part of the park, a 36-hole course divided into two 18-hole courses.

5. Nathan Bedford Forrest State Park. Located in northwestern Tennessee, just north of the town of Eva, about 90 miles west of Nashville, on Kentucky Lake and the Tennessee River, this 2,650-acre park is home to the Tennessee River Folklife Interpretative Center and Museum, which sits high on a prominent landmark and scenic overlook, Pilot Knob, and features the life ways and customs of the people on the Tennessee river, including musseling, crafts, and commercial fishing. The park, which was established in the 1920s by the Works Progress Administration, a Depression-era work recovery program, is noted for great fishing, boating, swimming, camping, and hiking. Fish include smallmouth, largemouth, and striped bass, as well as sauger, crappie, bream, and catfish. Hikers can find more than 20 miles of trails. RVers can find 37 sites with electric and water at Happy Hollow Campground, but the part also includes 7 cabins, 1 rustic (and renovated 1930s-era) cabin on a secluded ridge, and a primitive camp site for tenting. The park is known for a controversial figure in southern history, General Nathan Bedford Forrest, a noted Confederate cavalry leader.

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