Tennessee is actually three states according to Tennesseeans. There is the flatland region that is part of the Mississippi River basin that is West Tennessee. This is where you'll find Memphis. There is Middle Tennessee with it's plateaus and where you have the state capitol of Nashville. And then finally you have the beautiful Appalachian region of East Tennessee that has Knoxville and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. That's where I am now.
This is what I now think of as home even though I've been living in Southern California for the past 18 years. I moved to Tennessee with my family right as I was starting high school. This is where I graduated and where I went to college. Most of my friends live here and I have some family members still living there. And if I'm going to be from somewhere and call it home, East Tennessee seems like a pretty good place.
The biggest attraction in East Tennessee is The Great Smoky Mountains and surrounding area. The national park is over 500,000 acres with about half in Tennessee and the other half in North Carolina. There is a wide array of trees and plant life and a large number of different animals. History is a large focal point of the park as this was a site of the early American settlers as well as many Indian tribes. Recreational activities include hiking, camping, fishing, and many other things.
One of the biggest attractions are the towns of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. Most of the tourists stay in these towns. There is a plethora of shopping opportunities of all kinds ranging from souvenir shops to antique stores to outlet malls. Several amusement attractions are located in this area, the most notable being Dollywood, the country flavored Disney-type attraction found by country music legend Dolly Parton. Also, much like Branson, Mo., there are a number of theaters where you can find family entertainment shows. With all of the things to do here it's no wonder so many tourists flock to the Great Smokies each year.
The place where I'm staying is on the quieter side of the park. I'm in Maryville, which is halfway between Knoxville and the National Park. Maryville was a pretty quaint little place when we moved there in the mid-60s. Now it has built up and has much upscale shopping and dining. This is also where the Knoxville airport is located. From my mother's house it takes about twenty minutes to get to the National Park entrance. The town is centrally located and has good quality living. And there are some pretty nice people there as well.
If you are considering a vacation and you've never visited East Tennessee, no matter what your interests are, you will probably find something to suit you here. I encourage you to check it out and consider visiting. It's a relatively easy driving distance for over half of the U.S. population and flying there is very convenient. So why don't you'all come on and stay a bit. The biscuits and gravy are gonna be ready soon.
If you've visited East Tennessee, how'd you like it? When vacationing what do you prefer-- the splendors of nature or the shopping and civilized amusements? What's your favorite National Park? Are you going to take a vacation this year and if so, where?