The Fourth of July marks the midpoint of an important period of the American summer: road trip season. While there are many things to think about before packing the car, your destination should be the most important decision you make.
Although there are many worthy destinations across the U.S., one stands above the rest. West Tennessee offers history, family fun and incredible natural beauty in a convenient location that is easily accessed via three interstate highways. As a Memphis native, I feel qualified to give you the can’t-miss stops on the western side of the Volunteer State.
Formed during the 1812 New Madrid earthquake that actually caused the Mississippi River to flow backward for several hours, Reelfoot Lake is a nature lover’s destination. The indigenous bald cypress trees lend their branches to nesting pairs of bald eagles while the trees’ gnarled roots spot the surface of the lake. The lake is home to multiple nature conservatories and is also known for its bass fishing.
The Memphis Zoo, which was ranked “#1 Zoo in the U.S.” by TripAdvisor.com in 2008, is nestled in beautiful Overton Park in Midtown Memphis. The zoo not only features a renowned big cat exhibit and a nationally recognized breeding program, but it is also one of only four U.S. zoos to have a giant panda exhibit.
The Memphis music scene
From Graceland to Beale Street to Stax Records, Memphis is a blues, rock and soul music lover’s paradise. Visitors can stop by the original Sun Studios building to see where B.B. King, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis, Def Leppard, U2 and countless others recorded some of their biggest hits. Beale Street comes alive at night with the sound of live blues music flowing out of the district’s many bars.
Located in the Lorraine Motel where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968, this museum offers not only a biographical history of King, but also deftly chronicles the civil rights movement.
Positioned on the banks of the Tennessee River about two hours away from Memphis, Shiloh National Military Park memorializes one of the bloodiest battles of the American Civil War.
Sitting a short monorail trip across from downtown, Mud Island River Park offers a fun way to learn about the Mississippi River. Exhibits inside chronicle the human history of the river, from early settlement to the modern day. Outside Visitors can walk the 2,000 foot replica of the Mississippi, which was designed with Army Corps of Engineers survey charts to recreate the river’s path from Cairo, Illinois, to the Gulf of Mexico.Andrew Berry