From roll-up-your-sleeves BBQ mastery to a thriving kick-up-you-heels music scene, Nashville and Memphis might just be America’s tastiest under-the-radar dance party.
Often overlooked for Florida, South Carolina and other coastal states, landlocked Tennessee has largely remained a drive-thru state for Canadians racing up and down the I-75. A hundred million yearly visitors know better though, still ranking Tennessee in the top 10 of the most visited U.S. destinations annually. So, what gives? What exactly are Canadians missing? Well, plenty.
But first, getting there.
Delta Air Lines to Nashville and Memphis
If you’re thinking road trip, prepare for almost sixteen (mostly uninspiring) hours from Toronto. But, with airfares as low as they are, the less than four hours from Toronto’s Pearson International Airport, by way of Atlanta flying Delta, is a lot more civilized.
Not only does Delta provide excellent connections through their Georgia hub, their network covers both Nashville and Memphis, allowing you to land into one and return from the other, for an affordable price. Even better is the upgrade option to Delta's Comfort+®.
But it isn’t just an affordable flight. Ranked as one of Fast Company’s ‘Most Innovative Companies Worldwide’, Delta Air Lines has become an industry leader in getting customer service right. From in-flight Wi-Fi and cutting-edge tracking technology making lost luggage a thing of the past, to an exceptional on-time performance record making them one of the most reliable American carriers, Delta is a pleasure to fly.
Benefits of Flying Delta Comfort+®
The flights here may be short but they’re a great way to sample the enhanced services Delta has on offer when choosing Delta Comfort+®. Planning a bigger trip? Try Delta Comfort+® on long-haul flights to Europe, Asia, and beyond.
Delta Comfort+® passengers receive the following upgrades from Economy Class:
Spacious Seat: enjoy up to 3 extra inches of legroom on flights within the U.S., and up to 4 extra inches on international routes. Every inch counts!
Dedicated Overhead Luggage Space: no more fighting for carry-on baggage space overhead, even if you’re the last onboard. The bin above your seat is yours – guaranteed.
Priority Boarding: not that you’ll need it to secure luggage room, but if you want to be the first to settle in for your flight, enjoy Delta’s Sky Priority boarding.
Complementary Bar Service & Upgraded Snacks: start your trip with an alcoholic beverage of your choice, it's on the house in Comfort+®!
Now that you've settled in, unwind with Delta’s complete library of new and classic movies, HBO, SHOWTIME, music and games, all available on your seat-back screen, or stream it all to your personal device. Delta's onboard entertainment is offered free of charge throughout the aircraft.
As a founding member of global airline alliance, SkyTeam, point can be collected through Delta’s frequent flyer loyalty program, SkyMiles®, and redeemed through all 19 SkyTeam partners, including Air France, KLM, and others.
Alright, buckle up! First stop: Nashville.
Think the glamour and neon lights of Lower Broadway are a thing of the past? Think again. Or ask Grammy Award winner, Jack White, who chose to establish his indie record label and performance venue in Tennessee’s state capital and largest city, Nashville.
Musicians view a trip to Nashville as a pilgrimage, and rightfully so. What Hollywood is to actors, Nashville is to players, especially country music fans. Legends Willie Nelson, George Jones and Johnny Cash have all spent their formative years playing the bars, writing and recording here, and each have a museum dedicated to their experience.
Nashville’s glorious musical past can be celebrated in the Country Music Hall of Fame, Grand Ole Opry, Rockabilly Hall of Fame and other honky-tonk relics, but it’s also moving forward as one of America’s fastest-growing cities, boasting a great new music scene, a low cost of living, vibrant universities and promising job opportunities.
And with its many new gains, some cool, up-and-coming neighbourhoods have emerged. The Gulch, Hillsboro Village and East Nashville have become home to innovative restaurants, chill coffee houses, unique boutiques and refreshing craft breweries, and all deserve a stroll through.
Like your pro sports? Catch the Tennessee Titans of the NFL or the Nashville Predators of the NHL. Come for the down-home cooking? While it’s exceptional, let’s save that for your next stop: Memphis. Grab a rental car!
Welcome to the BBQ capital of the world! Although Kansas City, Texas and the Carolinas may have a bone to pick with this sentiment, only Memphis holds the annual World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest (May), serving 100,000 hungry visitors.
The art of barbecue, Memphis-style, begins with quality local pork and centres around ribs, although beef and chicken are readily available too. Then, it’s all about seasoning. ‘Dry’ ribs are rubbed in salt and spices before cooking, while ‘wet’ ribs are slathered in secret-recipe sauces before, during and after being slow cooked to perfection in an open pit. Try both.
And if you leave Memphis with that unforgettable flavour etched on your palate, know that many of Memphis’ BBQ restaurants can ship their goods overnight, with FedEx’s Memphis hub conveniently nearby.
If you can peel yourself away from the restaurants, your next stop should be Beale Street, the birthplace of blues. As musically inclined as Nashville is, Memphis could easily give it a run for its money. Visit the Rock n’ Roll Museum and Sun Records, where Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison, Elvis Presley and many others cut their many classic records. And speaking of Elvis, no visit to Memphis is complete without a stop at Graceland.
For those looking to explore more than just musical history, head a few blocks south of Beale St. to the National Civil Rights Museum. Strategically set across from the Lorraine Motel, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated in 1968, the sobering museum’s graphic exhibits depict the struggles of America’s ongoing Civil Rights movement.
Other than that, catch the relocated Vancouver NBA franchise, the Memphis Grizzlies, and hit the road - there’s much more to see throughout the state.
Travel Tennessee: beyond Nashville and Memphis
In many ways, this is still your grandma’s Tennessee. Beyond the city limits, fertile farmland folds out to the edge of the Appalachian Mountains in the east and the mighty Mississippi River in the west. Quaint counties slow it down like their southern drawl, keeping it as real as it’s always been.
Dolly Parton fans can visit Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, while drinking fans can tour the Jack Daniel’s Distillery in bourbon-famous Lynchburg, an otherwise ‘dry county’ to this day – believe it or not. Further, cities like Knoxville, Chattanooga and Bristol all dish out great slices of Americana and deserve a visit.
Tennessee’s humid, sub-tropical climate makes it a perfect year-round destination. Its mild winters are manageable and summer highs rarely exceed 32C, with August through October being the driest. Although not technically in Tornado Alley, the state experiences 15 tornadoes per year on average (leading the U.S.), most occurring in the late summer months.
With 54 State Parks and Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee’s most visited national park, nature is never far away. Hike the Appalachian Trail, camp in pristine forests and fish for lunker largemouth bass in the picturesque, tree stump and lotus covered, Reelfoot Lake.
Keep it outside for one of North America’s most anticipated annual music festivals, Bonnaroo. A Manchester, Tennessee, mainstay since 2002, the June event showcases the biggest names in the world of rock, hip hop, electronic music, blues, jazz, country and bluegrass, not to mention a comedy tent, graffiti artists, a gigantic Slip ‘N Slide, and more.