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Tennessee is home to some of the best automotive museums, events, and driving roads in the country. Browse our guide below for a collection of activities in Tennessee perfect for every car enthusiast and gearhead.
Automotive Museums and Attractions
Located in Nashville, the Lane Motor Museum features some of the most unique and unusual cars around. In fact, it is one of the few museums in America to specialize in European cars. Approximately 150 cars and motorcycles not typically seen in the U.S. include: microcars, amphibious cars, competition cars, alternative fuel vehicles, prototypes, and military vehicles. There are several one-of-one vehicles on display, as well as some fan favorites like the Lotus and Fiat exhibits. Quick Tip: Admission ranges from $3 to $12, with children ages 5 and younger admitted free, making it a great family excursion.
If you love cars and you love movies, be sure to stop at this hidden gem. Rusty’s TV and Movie Car Museum in Jackson features over fifty vehicles, some the actual cars used in movies, as well as various TV and movie memorabilia. See cars from "Fast and Furious," "Back to the Future," "Transformers," "Batman," "Ghostbusters," "Scooby Doo," and more. Quick Tip: Located right off Route 40, it is the perfect place to stop and enjoy if you are traveling across the state.
City Garage Car Museum in Greeneville has a topnotch, diverse collection of cars ranging from a 1914 Ford Model T to a 1981 DeLorean. In addition to the numerous unique automobiles, also on display are a variety of classic signs and gasoline pumps as well as assorted sections like NASCAR and even a mock Texaco Service Station. The museum is located in the original City Garage building, which was built in the 1940s and housed a Plymouth-Dodge dealership for many years.
Airworthy "Warbirds" are the foundation of the 50,000 sq ft facility which makes up the Tennessee Museum of Aviation located on the Gatlinburg Pigeon Forge Airport (GKT) in Sevierville. This unique location helps to bring aviation history to life as vintage aircraft are sometimes seen performing unscheduled flight demonstrations. Check out the extensive exhibits which contain artifacts tracing aviation and military history, uniforms, aircraft models, and hundreds of aviation memorabilia. Within the main hanger, you’ll see aircraft engines, cockpits, military vehicles, and magnificently restored vintage and rare “Warbirds,” including two P-47 Thunderbolts and a Douglas A1-H Skyraider complete with battle scars received from its service during the Vietnam War. The Tennessee Museum of Aviation is a must-see for gearheads or those interested in the history of flight.
A tour through the Hollywood Star Cars Museum is a trip through some of the most famous movies and TV shows of the last 50 years. The museum features the best Hollywood movie & TV cars in recreated settings displayed with sound, lights, and action and signage giving you the fascinating background of each. Along with two dozen "Fast and Furious" vehicles, you can find an extensive assortment of cars from films including Marvel’s "Avengers," "James Bond," "Transformers," "Smokey and the Bandit," "Ford v Ferrari," "Gone in 60 Seconds" and more.
Elvis loved cars and the Presley Motors Automobile Museum, located within the legendary Graceland in Memphis, displays some of his favorites. Highlights of this curated collection include his Pink Cadillac, a 1975 Dino Ferrari, a 1973 Stutz Blackhawk and more. Stroll through the exhibit and enjoy displays of Elvis' motorcycles, go-carts, boats, and other fun toys he owned and used. Quick Tip: Access to the Presley Motor’s Museum is included in your Graceland admission ticket.
Found in the heart of Nashville, discover this historic four-block complex once the site of Marathon Motor Works. Marathon first started producing cars in 1907 and utilized the buildings of present-day Marathon Village to manufacture their vehicles until 1914, at which point the company couldn’t keep up with overwhelming demand. As the first cars entirely manufactured in the South, Marathon made thousands of vehicles in their Nashville factory, though only as few as nine of these cars still exist in the world. Today visitors can see five of those remaining Marathon cars on display. You can also explore the facility and enjoy a number of the shops like Jack Daniel’s General Store, Antique Archeology (owned and operated by "American Pickers" host Mike Wolfe, boutiques, jewelry shops, distilleries and more.
Visit the Edge Motor Museum, Memphis’ only dedicated car museum, featuring more than a dozen iconic American sports cars. Marvel at the exhibit that features cars from post-war U.S. to the 1970s and beyond. The museum curates each vehicle based on the historical and cultural story it tells. Not only are features of each car shared, but also what was happening in the world when the vehicle was built. Learn the stories behind some of the most well-known cars of the world at Edge Motor Museum. Quick Tip: “One the Edge” Cars and Coffee events are held often outside the museum, so check out their Facebook page to learn more.
A part of the world-class educational museum located in Union City, the Discovery Park of America’s Transportation Gallery is a showcase for interesting and exciting vehicles from the Park’s collection. This gallery is frequently updated as different vehicles, automotive accessories, and parts are loaned for temporary display. A favorite of the exhibit is the 2007 Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS Budweiser No. 8 stock car driven by Dale Earnhardt Jr. during his final season with Budweiser. After a stroll through the Transportation Gallery, check out some of Discovery Park’s other great exhibits, from dinosaurs to a 20,000-gallon aquarium.
Annual & Monthly Car Events
Visit the Bristol Motor Speedway, a world-renowned racing venue to watch NASCAR, NHRA and more. Race season starts in April and goes through October, with a variety of events including dirt-track racing, street car takeovers, drag racing, and featuring popular races like the Food City 300, Bass Pro Shops Night Race and Food City Dirt Race.
Now held at the Nashville Superspeedway in Lebanon, Nashville Cars and Coffee is one of the biggest gatherings of cars and enthusiasts in the state. A free-to-attend “Shine n’ Show,” this event occurs the first Saturday of every month from 8-11 a.m. and features a number of vendors with food, refreshments, car care supplies, and merchandise. With hundreds of cars from classic to exotic and muscle to JDM, you’ll be sure to spot a few of your favorites.
Hang out with like-minded enthusiasts on the third Saturday of every month at Columbia Cars and Coffee. Features a showcase of new and antique cars, coffee, food, live music, and unbeatable small-town vibes. This event is located at the corner of East 7th and Woodland Street in the heart of Columbia Motor Alley.
Hosted by Gateway Classic Cars located in Smyrna, cruise into and check out the assembly of collectible cars at Nashville Caffeine and Chrome which occurs on the last Saturday of every month. Coffee and pastries are offered, along with free admission from 9 a.m. to noon. There is also a museum full of classic, exotic, and muscle cars on site.
Sequatchie Valley Scenic Byway Cruising Tour - Dunlap
Bring your classic vehicle or your love of classic cars to downtown Dunlap every second Saturday April through December. Each event has a different theme like Fabulous Fords, Mopar Madness, Cruising the Main Street, Women 'N' Wheels and more. The event takes place 4-7 p.m. rain or shine.
Each Spring, a stampede of Mustangs brings fans and owners from all around the country to the Smoky Mountains to celebrate the beloved Ford muscle car. Ponies in the Smokies features driving, drifting and drag racing events at Smokies Stadium, cruises, and the incredible car show held in the 108,000 square-foot Sevierville Convention Center showcasing the countless Mustangs that participate, vendors, and special displays. A truly special event that Mustang enthusiasts and all car fans will surely enjoy.
With more than 500 cars and over 100 vendors every year, the 46th annual Corvette Expo in the Smokies is the place to be for Corvette fans and car enthusiasts. Featuring a Park ‘N’ Show, swap meet, awards show, and a special “Corvette’s Cruise the Dragon” driving event at the LeConte Center.
The ultimate playground for car enthusiasts which brings together drivers and fans from across the nation for an action-packed day of on/off-track experiences, Slush Motorsports Festival features drag and roll racing, drifting, hot laps, a car show and more. Also featuring a burnout pit, ride-alongs, and two-step competition, the festival will take place at the Nashville Superspeedway in Lebanon. Driver and general admission tickets can be purchased online ahead of time. Quick Tip: If you are planning on registering as a driver, please see the general rules which involve various safety requirements for your vehicle and age restrictions.
Join hundreds of automotive enthusiasts in Pigeon Forge for the annual Spring Rod Run. The spectacular 3-day event features some of the best hot rods and classic muscle cars. It returns to its original location at the LeConte Center in Pigeon Forge with even more show cars, vendors, and entertainment. Show opens each day at 9 a.m. and admission is $15 (kids 12 and under are free).
Visit Memphis for the annual Memphis International Car Show. Enjoy vehicle test drives, see various pre-production cars, meet product experts from the manufacturers, and check out hundreds of new cars, trucks, SUVs, and more. Located at the Renasant Convention Center, you can also visit Beale Street, the National Civil Rights Museum, Sun Studio, Shelby Farms Park, Central BBQ and other great Memphis attractions while you’re there.
An impressive assortment of highly modified cars lowered so drastically that they sit just inches above the ground – known in the car community as being “slammed” – will be on display this spring. Slammedenuff is a 2-day automotive event which features some of the best stanced rides around, along with various vendors. This year, the national show will be making a stop at the Farm Bureau Expo Center in Lebanon bringing you an upperclassmen showcase and outdoor car meet.
See the nearly 2,000 street rods, customs, muscle cars, and more than 600 exhibitors and swappers at Chilhowee Park & Exposition Center in Knoxville as the National Street Rod Association presents its Annual Street Rod Nationals South. Admission is $19 for adults and $6 for children 6-12 years old.
A car show which accompanies the Heritage Day activities in Granville, the Heritage Day Antique Car Show includes over 50 award categories. There is also an Antique Tractor and Engine Show as well. While in Granville, be sure to discover the T.B. Sutton General Store, Antique Car Museum and more of the quaint and charming small town. This is an annual event.
Cruise into Cheekwood Estate & Gardens and stroll among impeccably maintained classic cars from the early to mid-20th century during the dazzling Exposition of Elegance weekend-long event. Enjoy the sounds of a barbershop quartet, grab a drink from bar stations and savor tasty fare from local food trucks. With hands-on activities for the kids and full access to the fantastic gardens and trails of Cheekwood, you can bring the whole family for the perfect Father’s Day Weekend June 17-18, 2023. Tickets must be reserved online in advance.
Coming to the Clarksville Speedway and Fairgrounds on June 25, 2023, Tuner Fest is a one-day music and motorsports experience. Featuring a multi-genre music festival, food trucks, a car/truck/moto showcase, drifting and burnout competitions, a two-step competition, ride-a-longs, and much more, this event will be sure to please the biggest tuner fans and automotive enthusiasts. General admission tickets are available for purchase, so come out to Clarksville and catch all the action and tire smoke at Tuner Fest Tennessee.
The NTT Indycar Series returns to Nashville with the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix, taking place Aug. 4-6, 2023. The streets of downtown come alive with the sounds of music, food and racing, all spun into an experience you just have to be here to feel. At 2.17 miles long, the track winds through the streets of Music City, past Nissan Stadium (home of the Tennessee Titans), and even over the Korean War Veterans Memorial Bridge, making this the first professional race to cross a body of water. And, with over 100,000 fans expected this year, the 2023 Grand Prix will be one you don’t want to miss. Quick Tip: See the Music City Grand Prix website for a track map, event schedule and to purchase your tickets.
Open to all Jeep enthusiasts and Jeep Clubs throughout the nation, the annual Smoky Mountain Jeep Invasion Aug. 24-26, 2023 is one of the largest Show and Shine competitions and expos in the country for all leading Jeep parts and their accessory vendors. Jeeps of all varieties, including Wrangler, JT, JL, JK, TJ, and YJ as well as XJs and WJs, will be in attendance. The show is located at the LeConte Center, and admission can be purchased each day at the door. Get ready to see lift kits, mud tires and light bars fill the streets.
Fall is a great time to visit and race in Tennessee. The Chattanooga Motorcar Festival is a three-day automobile celebration Oct. 13-15, 2023 that includes three days of vintage racing on an exciting street course, a Sunday juried Concours d’Elegance, Mecum Auctions, Road Rally, marque displays and many more family-friendly activities. Tickets will be available for purchase soon.
Scenic Drives in Tennessee
Featuring 318 curves on the legendary 11-mile road, the Tail of the Dragon is well-known as one of the best driving roads in the world. Thousands of car and motorcycle enthusiasts flock to the Dragon, also designated as US 129, throughout the spring, summer and fall to take in the spectacular sights and drive the top-tier road.
Nearby the Tail of the Dragon, the Cherohala Skyway is quickly becoming a similarly top-tier destination, with its nearly 60 miles of breathtaking scenic mountain highway. Designated a National Scenic Byway, this road offers sprawling views of the Great Smoky Mountains and crosses through the Cherokee National Forest. Drop by the Cherohala Skyway Visitor Center in Tellico Plains prior to the drive and grab free maps, check on Skyway driving conditions and more.
The 444-mile Natchez Trace Parkway commemorates the ancient trail used by animals and people that connected portions of the Mississippi River to the salt licks in central Tennessee. Offering great views with great driving roads, the northern part of the original Trace travels through Middle Tennessee from Nashville to the Alabama state line.
Also designated a National Scenic Byway, Great River Road Byway passes through portions of 10river-bordering states. This byway takes you through some of the most scenic stretches of the Lower Mississippi Valley. You'll see jagged Chickasaw bluffs, the forested Fort Pillow State Park and Reelfoot Lake State Park. The Great River Road Byway passes along several lakes, small scenic towns and Memphis.
Off-Roading Parks and Locations
Note: Before starting on these trails, the posted trail difficulty is subjective and largely depends on off-road driving experience and rig set-up.
Set on a 500-acre expanse of land in the mountains of South Pittsburg, the Adventure Off-Road Park is a premiere location for off-roading vehicles, ATVs, dirt bikes and more. Coupled with dense wooded landscape, this off-roader’s paradise features more than 120 trails, each marked with a difficulty level, that you can attempt in your vehicle. Explore easy dirt trails for beginners and extreme natural rock trails for seasoned off-roaders. In addition to the trails, Adventure Off-Road Park also offers space for camping and a RV campground. Quick Tip: Check out their events throughout the year, like off-road races and festivals; spectators are welcome.
Windrock Park is 72,000 acres of off-road excitement located in Oliver Springs. Open all year-round, the trails accommodate all types of vehicles from ATVs, SxS (side-by-sides), dirt bikes, mountain bikes, Jeeps/4x4s, buggies and trucks. Also on site is the Windrock Grill (serves burgers and drinks), a full-service campground, shooting range, gasoline filling station, vehicle washing station and general store, where SxS rental is available. There are events and festivals happening at the park throughout the year too, so check out the event calendar for a full look. Quick Tip: To use the trails, be sure to pick up a land-use permit when you arrive; permits are per person.
Open Saturdays and Sundays, visit Wooly’s Off-Road Park in Lynnville for a great off-roading experience. Offering mostly rocks with some mud, the trails are moderately difficult but have bypasses if needed. Only an hour or so outside Nashville, Wooly’s is the perfect place to bring your off-road vehicle and spend the day. Admission to the trails is $20 per person (passengers under 10 ride free).
A 6.2-mile trail within the Prentice Cooper State Forest near Chattanooga, Haley Road is popular for off-road driving. Once one of the logging roads inside the State Forest, you can start at either end as travel is allowed in both directions. With numerous sections that are labeled as moderately difficult, there are bypasses available if needed. Along with a creek crossing, there’s also climbs with rock ledges, mud and more. Quick Tip: Haley Road is closed annually Dec. 20 until March 16.