Look, we are not here to set you up and say that there is only one awesome city to visit in all of the great Volunteer State, and that if you do not make the right choice for this Tennessee vacation you are going to have wasted all those hard earned vacation days you saved up. We are just saying that when it comes to visiting two badass cities of the south, there are some factors to consider for each and every particular traveler.
For instance, are you more blues or rock and roll? More hot chicken or smoky barbeque? Ready to gaze upon the weirdness of a pyramid superstore or sing yourself hoarse after six consecutive nights of karaoke? While both Nashville and Memphis offer numerous options for cultural experiences, nightlife, and dining and entertainment, we will break down four factors to consider that may sway your taste one way or the other and help you choose the right Tennessee vacation for you:
Factor 1: Cultural Experiences
While both cities are characterized by their infamous culture of music and good eats, Nashville and Memphis also offer cultural experiences perfect for those looking to immerse themselves in Southern history. In Nashville, you can take one day or several to discover the city’s Civil War attractions, including the 30-acre Belle Meade plantation, Fort Negley, or a driving tour of the location of the Battle of Nashville. If you are someone who enjoys learning about the Civil Rights Movement, Memphis is famous for its role in Civil Rights history, including the immense and prestigious National Civil Rights Museum, which even includes in its complex the Lorraine Motel where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. And if you want to immerse yourself not just in the historical culture, but also the current vibrance of either city, consider booking a vacation rental in Nashville or Memphis to truly get a feel for the city lifestyle.
Factor 2: Food
This is what you really came for on your vacation, right? Okay, so here is the thing: both cities offer a plethora(understatement) of insanely delicious food choices. So be reassured, you really cannot go wrong. Either way, you are going to find yourself amidst an incredible offering of real deal Southern comfort food. So, how do you pick? Nashville is known for its speciality of hot chicken, while Memphis is, like, the barbeque capital. In fact, Memphis is host to the World Championship of BBQ every year, so you know they know what they are doing. And as for Nashville, they were listed among Zagat’s “30 Most Exciting Food Cities in America.”
Factor 3: Music
Anyone who is even considering visiting Nashville is probably doing so to take in the music scene, right? Nashville is quite literally Music City, and it lives up to its name as a city characterized by county music, honky tonks, massive music venues (more on the Grand Ole Opry below), and music museums like the Country Music Hall of Fame and Musicians Hall of Fame. If you are looking for a Tennessee vacation chock full of nights spent with cold beers and endless opportunities to hear live music, Nashville will sing to your soul and never disappoint (especially if you spend your evenings carousing up and down the Honky Tonk Highway).
And while Nashville might be known as the epicenter of all things country music, Memphis is quite literally called the birthplace of rock n’ roll. So, if Garth Brooks is not quite your thing, indulge in the offerings of Beale Street, also known as “Home of the Blues.” Like the Honky Tonk Highway, Beale Street is packed with bars featuring blues-inspired live music that will give any tourist a true taste of Memphis culture.
Factor 4: Attractions
Whether you are planning a family vacation to Tennessee, a couples getaway, or a road trip with friends, having a lot of great activity options is key to well, the whole package. While both cities are destinations for attractions like museums (like Nashville’s Frist Center for Visual Arts or Memphis’s quirky Pink Palace) and zoos (Memphis is home to one of only four zoos in the nation with pandas), they also offer sightseeing or experiences that cannot be duplicated. For instance, Nashville may be Music City, but Memphis is the home of Elvis Presley’s famed estate, Graceland. And if you are trying to cross weird U.S. attractions off your bucket list, a trip to Memphis’ Bass Pro Pyramid is truly a sight to behold. On the other hand, if pyramids (or fishing, for that matter) make you snooze, Nashville hosts a full scale replica of the Parthenon in their own Centennial Park (like, why?). And of course, Nashville is home to what is arguably one of the most iconic attractions in America, the Grand Ole Opry.
So, will it be Nashville or Memphis for your Tennessee vacation? With the promise of amazing food, cultural activities galore, cannot-miss attractions, and the heartbeat of classic music, both cities offer amazing opportunities for anyone hoping to explore the South.