First of all you must focus on the fact that Tennessee is about 550 miles wide from the two furthest points, and those "must see" attractions would depend upon whether you are renting a car and how willing you are to cover the distance in between. If you are flying in to Nashville for instance you would have to go half the distance of the state to see some things, then double back in the opposite direction to whatever else you've planned. If Music as well as scenery are important to you then I'd advise starting in Memphis for a couple of days, then eastward to Nashville for a similar visit , continuing down to Chattanooga for the history and scenic vistas, back to the northeast to the Great Smoky Natl' Park region, flying out of Knoxville. You could even arrange your last stop to be south of Chattanooga which would be pretty close to Atlanta's major airport hub. It's true that flying in and out of two different locations might be more expensive, but you will cover the four regions of the state. Should you decide to keep the trip within one half of the state or the other, then with some exceptions it's basically mountains in the east and music attractions in the west. Destination Experts from the four cities and the GSMNP can elaborate on local details.
Thank you for the info - we don't mind travelling the distance and will definitely follow you advise
You're welcome. Have a fantastic trip!
I see you posted in the Crossville, TN section of the TN thread. We've been frequent visitors to TN and just spent 4 days in Crossville. We chose that area because we were able to use a timeshare condo for free during that time. While we enjoyed our stay, this area of TN has fewer attractions such as mountains, sightseeing, restaurants etc. than other sections of TN. If you were considering making Crossville your base, I'd suggest you consider a different area. We greatly enjoyed the Nashville area, Chattanooga, Memphis and other areas of TN, as TNHighroad suggested.
Since nobody has touched on this point, I will. The weather can vary during that time of year. It will be cold (usually less than 7 degrees Celsius most of the time) and there are chances of snow. Depending on the area you travel to you could have absolutely no snow or 5-6 inches (most prevalent in the Smoky Mountains region). Crossville is more of a retirement and family community with not as many attractions as other areas. Memphis is a good place for BBQ and music. Nashville has the Grand Ole Opry for country music. Knoxville is mostly football, shopping, and food since it is a college town. Just an hour or so up the road is Gatlinburg/Sevierville/Pigeon Forge. There is a theme park up there called Dollywood that will be celebrating what they call 'Smoky Mountain Christmas'. It is a bunch of shows and music. The rides will, of course, be shut down if the temperature is too low due to mechanical hazards. But it is honestly just luck of the draw with the weather in winter. I would plan your vacation a little closer to the time so that you can see how the weather is going to affect your travel.
Also, if you are going to be staying in Crossville, Gatliburg is a 3 hour drive. There is the Homestead area that has a museum next to the Elementary School. The Playhouse has some good plays, as well. Nashville is just a couple hours away, too. So you could go to the Grand Ole Opry and only have to drive for 4 hours round trip.