By Alli Hill
There’s more to vacationing in Tennessee than the Great Smoky Mountains, and the state’s abundance of state parks prove it. You don’t have to spend a fortune to enjoy a family getaway, especially when state parks have just about everything you need on-site. From entertainment to activities to education and more, a few days enjoying the great outdoors might change the way you vacation forever.
Located about 40 miles east of Memphis, Fort Pillow State Historic Park is a gem among state parks. Created to preserve the area’s importance as a Civil War historic site, visitors can spend the day exploring the well-preserved breastworks and reconstructed inner fort. There are several artifacts on display in the park, as well as museum tours that will tell you everything you need to know about the area. It’s also a prime birdwatching spot, offering wildlife viewing opportunities and camping areas.
You can explore the former home of “Roots” author Alex Haley. This museum pays tribute to the life and achievements of Haley, along with the movement he created in American culture. There are several items on exhibit, as well as a gift shop and a brief documentary.
Grab the best burger in town at Kissell’s Kitchen, a down-home family eatery that’s dishing out comfort food and friendly service. They also specialize in fish chicken, barbecue, and their raved-about barbecue redneck egg roll. Kissell’s is open for all three meals, so there’s never a bad time to visit.
If burgers ain’t your thing, stop by the Hen House for deliciously golden fried chicken. You’ll find a little bit o’ everything here, including country fixings, country fried steak, and daily specials. It’s true Tennessee flavor, plain and simple.
Get to know the local area better with a trip to Lauderdale County Museum. Situated in the historic Sugar Hill Mansion built in 1842, this museum is free for the public to enjoy as they learn more about the history of Lauderdale County.
There are several sites along the western border of Tennessee that make up the Great River Road Trail, including the Riverside Drive Welcome Center and Beale Street Landing in Memphis. These sites (and others) are found along the shores of the Mississippi River and bear historical significance to the state. The Welcome Center features bronze statues of Elvis and BB King, perfect for an Instagram-worthy photo op.
Open for hunting and exploring, the Chickasaw National Wildlife Refuge offers prime viewing for Tennessee wildlife. Ideal for birdwatching, you may also catch glimpses of raccoon, whitetail deer, snakes, turtles, and squirrels.