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Let’s talk Tennessee

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postedJune 28, 2018
Tennessee is a treasure trove of travel experiences—ideal for groups—and Courier touched base with NTA members in four Tennessee towns. From urban chic to rural retreat, here’s what you can find in the Volunteer State.


Answers from Kristen Combs, director of communications and social strategies, Visit Knoxville

Tell us why Knoxville appeals to tour operators and their clients.
We are a very visitor-friendly city, full of Southern hospitality. Motorcoach groups especially find our destination easy to reach, as interstates 40 and 75 intersect here, and we are not far from Interstate 81. This makes it convenient to include Knoxville for multi-stop tours.

What are three of your marquee attractions?

  1. Zoo Knoxville is known as the red panda capital of the world, and the zoo recently unveiled their Gibbon Trails and Langur Landing to round out the Asian Trek exhibit that opened in 2017.
  2. The Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame is the only museum of its kind, dedicated solely to the sport of women’s basketball.
  3. ljams Nature Center in South Knoxville protects 300 acres of wildlife habitat and features watersport options and more than 10 miles of trails.

Tell us about any cool annual events.
USA Cycling is returning June 21–24, and this year the event will include three national championship races: Professional Road, Individual Time Trial and Criterium. The latter, which is a series of laps on a closed circuit, is new this year.

What advice would you give tour operators in regard to packaging your destination?
Our services at Visit Knoxville are truly a one-stop shop. We can customize packages to cater to a variety of ages and interests. Step-on guides, hotel accommodations and restaurant reservations can all be arranged through our staff.

For more information, go to or contact Heather Fawver.

Jackson TN music
Live music is a staple in Jackson (Photo by


Answers from Lori Nunnery, Jackson Tennessee CVB

What makes Jackson a great place for tour operators to package?
We are located halfway between Memphis and Nashville on Interstate 40, in the heart of the American Music Triangle. Jackson is where country music connected with the blues, and the sound of rockabilly was heard around the world.

Tell us about three top attractions in the area.

  1. Hard Rock Cafe founder and Jackson native, Isaac Tigrett, opened the first Hard Rock Cafe in the United States in the local Old Hickory Mall, which was owned at the time by his mother. Bring your group here to get an authentic Hard Rock Cafe Jackson T-shirt.
  2. Drive 20 minutes to Brownsville and check out the Flagg Grove School at the West Tennessee Heritage Center. Have you ever heard of Nutbush, Tennessee? Tina Turner’s childhood school here is available for group tours.
  3. If your group is a music-loving one (and we assume it is), allow us to connect you with one of the many live music events. We gather all the music venues’ events in our weekly Music Newsletter.

What’s a unique activity that you offer?
If your guests are interested in horticulture, the University of Tennessee AgResearch Centers hosts their Summer Celebration every July. Their calendar rocks with activities for groups.

What advice do you have for tour operators?
Jackson serves as a great hub and spoke for building your itinerary; check out our itinerary builder, where we’ve identified all the assets in Jackson and rural West Tennessee.

To get more details, visit or contact Lori Nunnery.

Chattanooga TN train
Chattanooga Choo Choo Complex (Photo by CC Flickr/DebMomOf3:


Answers from Shelda Rees, CTP, director of tourism, Chattanooga CVB

Give us a quick description of what makes Chattanooga special.
Chattanooga is fortunate to be known as the “Scenic City of the South,” a blend of our beautiful surrounding mountains and ridges with the Tennessee River flowing right through our vibrant downtown. We have a wonderful combination of natural attractions and one-of-a-kind man-made ones. And the last 15 years have seen a transformation of downtown.

What are three top attractions?

  1. The Chattanooga Choo Choo Complex hosts thousands of visitors each year, and with more than $25 million in renovations, the terminal station is embracing a new generation of travelers.
  2. The world’s largest freshwater aquarium, the Tennessee Aquarium is located in downtown Chattanooga, along with its sister building next door, Ocean Journey, and the new IMAX 3D Laser Theater across the street.
  3. Lookout Mountain and its famous attractions—Rock City Gardens, Ruby Falls, Incline Railway, Battle for Chattanooga Museum and the National Park’s Point Park

What advice do you give tour operators who are packaging Chattanooga?
The Chattanooga CVB has a variety of itineraries that we can help tour operators customize, such as Trains and Treasures, Discover Chattanooga, and Tennessee with a Twist. And adding free time to your group’s schedule is easy with our free electric shuttle. As a bonus, with each adult overnight stay, group members receive a free Chattanooga Bakery Moon Pie. 

To get additional details email Shelda Rees or visit

Sevierville TN mountains
Smoky Mountains near Sevierville (Photo by Sevierville Chamber of Commerce)


Answers from Amanda Marr, director of marketing and communications, Sevierville Chamber of Commerce

What makes Sevierville a must-see for groups?
Our area is absolutely gorgeous, and it offers a top-quality vacation experience with a wide variety of things to see and do at great value.

Tell us about three of those things to see at do.

  1. Tanger Outlets Sevierville has more than 100 high-end outlet stores, providing visitors with a fun day (or two) of shopping name brand stores they might not have at home.
  2. The Tennessee Museum of Aviation, the state’s official home of aviation history, is a hidden gem. Groups will enjoy seeing flyable warbird aircraft and a fine collection of memorabilia and aircraft, from World War II through the Vietnam War.
  3. Catch a ball game with the Tennessee Smokies, the AA affiliate of the Chicago Cubs. Group packages with outside dining beside the diamond are available.

Do you have a special event you can tell us about?
The 29th annual Smoky Mountain Winterfest will run Nov. 5 through Feb. 28, 2019, and will feature millions of twinkling lights up and down the parkway.

What advice do you give tour operators?
Sevierville and the surrounding area offer ample opportunities for themed packaging, whether it’s a bucket-list tour filled with outdoor adventures or a Girlfriends’ Getaway shopping trip with fashion consultant makeovers, visits to unique stores and sipping along the Rocky Top Wine Trail. 

For more information, go to or contact Tony Funderburg of the Sevierville CVB.

Top photo: Knoxville skyline
Photo by Visit Knoxville