Each region is known for its' distinctive musical heritage: Bluegrass (Eastern), Country-western (Central), and Blues (Western).
Native Tennesseans speak in the dialect of the American South. This dialect changes slightly as you cross through each region, and will be especially pronounced in rural areas. Also, be aware that there are noticeable differences in pronunciation according to the education and background of the speaker; College graduates and high school drop-outs will typically employ distinctive accents and vocabulary.
Generally speaking, it is accepted that people in the South speak more slowly and carefully than those from the North. In particular, visitors from larger cities will have to adjust to the different pace of speech if they visit Tennessee's smaller mountain towns; speaking quickly and bluntly can be perceived as inconsiderate and may gather a negative response.
Interstate 40 criss-crosses the state from west to east, connecting Memphis, Nashville, Knoxville and the Smoky Mountain Region. Interstate 55 is entirely situated in Memphis. Interstate 155 crosses from Missouri into northwest Tennessee, ending in Dyersburg. Interstate 24 enters from Kentucky near Clarksville, passes through Nashville and ends in Chattanooga (but not before briefly dipping into Georgia for about three miles). Interstate 65 runs through Nashville in its trek from Kentucky to Alabama. Interstate 75, coming from Kentucky, links Knoxville with Chattanooga before heading into Georgia. Interstate 81 starts at Interstate 40 just east of Knoxville and heads northeast to Bristol before moving into Virginia. In the Kingsport area, Interstate 26 runs south from Interstate 81 into North Carolina (towards Asheville), while Interstate 181 heads toward Kingsport and the Virginia state line.
There are several airports in the state. Memphis International Airport is a hub for Northwest Airlines and is served by several other airlines. Nashville International Airport is also served by many other airlines. There is air service at smaller airports at Maryville (Knoxville), Chattanooga and Bristol. Southern Tennessee is easily accessible to the Huntsville, AL, airport.
As in most American states, automobiles are the primary form of travel. In larger cities you will find public bus systems, and Greyhound buses are an option for travel in between cities. There are also major airports in all large cities (Nashville, Memphis, Knoxville, Chattanooga, and the Tri-Cities) and many smaller airports scattered across the state.
Unfortunately there is no option for rail travel to the central or eastern parts of the state. However, Amtrak runs the fabled "City of New Orleans" line through Memphis and Newbern. This is certainly worth considering if you are planning to visit those areas, especially if you are heading along the Mississippi River. Also, the city of Nashville operates a commuter rail from the suburbs to the downtown area.
It is becoming increasingly rare to locate truly authentic "Southern" cuisine in places other than a privately owned family kitchen table, but the state still offers some truly wonderful regional fare.
In Knoxville, try Litton's Restaurant in the Fountain City area. Truly some of the best burgers that can be found anywhere in the States, their patties have a robust and well balanced flavor that is almost sweet. All baked goods are prepared fresh daily in-store by a team of bakers who arrive to prepare the day's goodies before first light. The Tuesday lunch special is fried chicken, broccoli casserole, and banana pudding. Their red velvet cake is simply the best, and their "dinner plate" chocolate chip and sugar cookies (literally the size of small dinner plates) are not to be missed. 2803 Essary Drive NE
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a World Heritage Biosphere Reserve and draws millions of visitors from around the region and the world annually. Covering nearly 1,000 square miles it is home to temperate rainforests and some of the rarest and most unique plant life in North America. The park currently suffers from high levels of air pollution due to surrounding cities such as Knoxville and Sevierville as well as the numerous coal-fired power plants of the Tennessee Valley Authority. Traffic congestion is fairly severe within the Park's Cades Cove "loop," as many people stop to take in the vistas of the sprawling valley and its many deer and bears that freely roam the area. If you plan to go, car pool if you can.
To the west is Arkansas, home of former President Bill Clinton (who chose Tennessee Senator Al Gore as his vice presidential running mate) and Hot Springs National Park. Across from northwest Tennessee is Missouri, where you'll find Branson, a music mecca similar to Nashville (but nowhere near as large).
To the north is the Bluegrass State of Kentucky. The Kentucky Derby, Mammoth Cave National Park and Corvette Museum are located here. Virginia is across Tennessee's northeast corner. Here you'll find the Blue Ridge Mountains and Shenandoah National Park.
To the east is North Carolina, where you'll find Chimney Rock, Biltmore Estate and Grandfather Mountain.
Three states border Tennessee to the south. Mississippi lies south of Memphis and boasts several riverboat casinos. Alabama has the Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ava Maria Grotto in Cullman and Birmingham, home of American Idol winners Ruben Studdard and Taylor Hicks and finalist Bo Bice. Georgia is across the border from Chattanooga. Located here are Rock City, the historic village of Helen, and the vibrant city of Atlanta.