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New Reasons to Revisit Tennessee’s Iconic Attractions

Tennessee’s most iconic destinations have given groups a compelling reason to return in 2016. Several expansions are complete or nearly complete at the most popular attractions across the state.

The Jack Daniel Distillery in Lynchburg is kicking tours up a notch with a completed expansion in July, when guests will be able to sample the world’s most popular whiskey in a transformed barrelhouse.

Elvis’ Graceland is set to open a 450-room resort with specialty suites, restaurants and a theater. The Guest House at Graceland is one of the most anticipated openings in Memphis.

Nashville’s Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum opened itself up to more music genres with the addition of the Grammy Museum Gallery in March. The highly interactive gallery takes groups behind the scenes of the music industry.

The renovation of the Chattanooga Choo Choo will be complete this year with new restaurants and entertainment venues catering to both hotel guests and the surrounding neighborhood.

Not to be outdone by other icons, legend Dolly Parton constructed the world’s fastest wooden coaster at her park in Pigeon Forge, which is sure to remain Tennessee’s most popular attraction.

Jack Daniel Distillery Sampling House


Lynchburg’s Jack Daniel Distillery turns 150 this year and is celebrating by transforming Barrel House 1-14 into a sampling space where visitors can enjoy their smooth Tennessee whiskey. The sample house opens in July.

“It’s absolutely stunning,” said Steve May, director of the Jack Daniel guest experience. “You walk in through rows of barrels on the front end, which opens into two beautiful sampling rooms behind glass walls where guests can sit down and enjoy.”

The distillery has already outgrown several visitor centers and is maxing out its current space. Tours have skyrocketed since the dry county gave the distillery special permission to offer samples; last year, Lynchburg’s population of 500 welcomed 283,000 visitors for tours.

In addition to samples, tours include visits to Jack Daniel’s original office, the limestone cave spring from which the distillery gets its water and stops to see the steps that go into making a bottle of whiskey: fermentation, charcoal-mellowing, barreling and bottling.

Because the distillery owns much of the town, the Jack Daniel experience spills over onto Main Street. The unofficial tour includes a meal at Miss Mary Bobo’s, where Jack Daniel liked to eat, and a stop at the Lynchburg Hardware and General Store, which sells memorabilia.

With the number of visitors growing each year, several more renovations and improvements are in store, but the rustic distillery, encased by the Tennessee hills, is determined to remain true to its roots.

“We’re never going to become some sort of tourist trap,” May said. “Very little has changed here, and we’re using the same buildings and same equipment. We’re just producing a good bit more than Jack did.”

Guest House at Graceland


Graceland is now taking reservations for its 450-room resort-style hotel slated to open October 27. It’s the largest addition to Graceland since public tours began in 1982.

The Guest House at Graceland is a must for groups that plan to stay in Memphis during their pilgrimage to Elvis Presley’s mansion and grounds.

The star-studded, four-day opening celebration in October is booked, but there’s always the King’s birthday in January and other big events throughout the year.

When Heartbreak Hotel started showing its age several years ago, planners decided they needed to channel the King’s style for a larger, more modern design. Think Las Vegas meets Memphis — a Southern Colonial exterior gives way to bold colors and jungle prints inside.

Priscilla Presley took the helm for the hotel’s 20 specialty suites, which draw their inspiration from the upstairs rooms of Elvis’ iconic mansion, where guests still aren’t allowed to wander.

The Guest House also includes a 500-seat theater for live events and films, two restaurants and a large outdoor event space adjacent to the pool. The large number of guest rooms and meeting rooms makes it a much better fit for groups than the Heartbreak Hotel, which maxed out with 116 rooms.

Keith Hess, vice president and managing director of the hotel, said he’s most excited about the amount of entertainment that will go on at the Guest House. It’s no longer just a place to stay, but an extension of the Graceland tour.

“There will be something going on all the time,” Hess said. “Elvis trivia nights in the lounge, Elvis movies in the theater, themed movies out on the lawn, croquet and afternoon tea in the lobby.”