From places near Tennessee's Smoky Mountains to its worlds of underground natural phenomena, the state has unusual sightseeing options to visit. Mother Nature's exhibits are rivaled by Tennessee's one-of-a-kind man-made spectacles that reflect its history and the power of imagination to capture a time long past.
Encounter a Prehistoric Spectacle
Dinosaur Park at Bluff City simulates a Jurassic Park-like experience for visitors, but without the rampaging predators. The outdoor display has 19 life-size prehistoric animal replicas exhibited beneath leafy canopies. Among the creatures you'll encounter are a Tyrannosaurus rex, Triceratops and Pteranodon, all handcrafted by the park owner. Pick up a map at the entrance for self-guided tours and to learn more about the creatures celebrated. For a hands-on experience, stop at the fossil dig site. Visit the gift shop for dinosaur souvenirs. The park is open daily, but be sure to check ahead for winter hours. Admission is by donation.
Ply the Lost Sea
Discover a world 140 feet below the earth's surface. The Lost Sea Adventure at Sweetwater lets you experience America's largest underground lake. The four-acre body of water is a Registered National Natural Landmark surrounded by stunning geological cavern formations. The 75-minute tours begin with a short hike to the cavern bottom, where you board a glass-bottom boat to ply the waters through the caves. Back on the surface, plan time to enjoy Old Sweetwater Village. The village includes an old-fashioned general store, ice cream parlor, gem mine, glassblower and a cafe serving sandwiches and barbecue. The attraction is open daily except on Christmas.
Visit a Bullet-Ridden Civil War House
Scars of the Civil War remain in plain sight in Franklin. The city is home to the Carter House, where 1,000 bullet holes remain visible at the home and farm office. The property bears the distinction of having the most bullet holes of any Civil War era building still standing. Built in 1830, the home was caught in the crossfire of the November 1864 Battle of Franklin. Admission to the historic site includes a map for self-guided tours of the home, grounds and outbuildings. Guided house tours lasting one hour are also available as are guided battlefield tours. The museum store sells a selection of historical souvenirs related to the pivotal battle.
See a Firefly Show
Smoky Mountains National Park is the site of one of nature's most unusual shows. From late May to mid-June, campers at the park can witness a synchronized light display put on by one of the park's 19 firefly species. The spectacle involves fireflies flashing in unison -- a mating ritual. To witness the phenomenon, campers must obtain a parking pass at Sugarlands Visitor Center located in Elkmont, 2 miles south of Gatlinburg along U.S. Highway 441. From the Visitor Center parking lot, a trolley shuttles people to the firefly site for a minimal fee during evening hours. Expect a short walk to the site from the trolley drop-off point, and allow three to six hours to witness the display.