The launch this spring of non-stop transatlantic flights will open up Tennessee to UK visitors like never before. Peter Ellegard explores the Volunteer State's appeal
Tennessee is set to enjoy a huge boost from British Airways’ new flights from London to Nashville. The service, which will operate from Heathrow’s Terminal 5 five days a week using a Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner, coincides with the Brand USA 2018 MegaFam.
The fam will see 100 UK and Irish agents come together in Nashville for the finale event after travelling across the U.S. on seven different itineraries. The agents will then fly back on the inaugural eastbound flight on May 4.
Prior to that, a Tennessee UK sales mission will include three receptions for agents, in Glasgow (April 24), Manchester (April 25) and London (April 26).
The UK is already Nashville’s biggest overseas market and the new non-stop service is expected to boost UK visitor numbers by 36% this year and a further 18% in 2019, with the total predicted to double that of 2016 by 2025 – providing a fillip for the rest of the state as well.
Music is the main attraction for many UK visitors to Tennessee. The state rocks from its western border with Arkansas, formed by the meandering Mississippi, to the Appalachian Mountains bordering North Carolina in the east. Take your pick from blues to country and a host of other music genres.
Nashville sits in the middle and its famous music joints include the Grand Ole Opry (opry.com), featuring up to eight acts in each performance, and the Ryman Auditorium (ryman.com), known as the ‘Mother Church of Country Music’ and regarded as the birthplace of bluegrass. The city’s Music Row district also incorporates the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum and Nashville’s new Plaza Mariachi Music City (plazamariachi.com), 10 minutes from downtown, features shops, eateries and Latin-infused entertainment and culture.
Memphis, in the far south-western corner of Tennessee, has Beale Street (bealestreet.com) for music lovers. Designated the ‘Home of Blues’ by an Act of Congress, this historic district encompasses more than two dozen clubs, cafes and restaurants along the famous stretch and adjacent roads, with live music mostly licensed until 03.00 but it can stay open as late as 05.00.
Elvis Presley’s Graceland (graceland.com) mansion in Memphis remains a strong draw for his global legion of fans, who can stay at the 450-room Guest House at Graceland (guesthousegraceland.com), which features themed suites and a live performance theatre.
In eastern Tennessee, subterranean concert series Bluegrass Underground has a new home in The Caverns (thecaverns.com), within the base of Monteagle Mountain and 45 minutes from Chattanooga.
“The exciting news for Nashville is the new British Airways service. We are thrilled to be hosting the Brand USA MegaFam finale - agents can expect lots of live music!” Laurel Bennett, Tourism Sales VP, Nashville CVC
This summer will see the launch of Tennessee Music Pathway, an initiative that will link many music-centred attractions, both in small towns and big cities, throughout the state.
It follows on from the successful Tennessee Whiskey Trail (tnwhiskeytrail.com), spanning 30 distilleries state-wide and launched last June, and the Tennessee Civil War Trails, with routes linking sites and events highlighted by interpretive markers. Tennessee landmarks also feature on the new US Civil Rights Trail that launched in January across 14 states. They include the Lorraine Motel where Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated and the National Civil Rights Museum, both in Memphis.
There’s plenty more for visitors to enjoy in Tennessee – whether it is more entertainment they crave, discovering nature’s wonders in America’s most-visited national park, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park or exploring roads less travelled to find hidden charms.
Rail buffs can get steamed up by staying at the Chattanooga Choo Choo Historic Hotel (choochoo.com), with its Victorian Train
Car hotel rooms in downtown Chattanooga, while the Lookout Mountain Incline Railway (lookoutmountain.com) is one of America’s most spectacular rail trips.
Great Rail Journeys (greatrail.com) has a new, 14-day Tracks of the Deep South tour priced from £3,295pp that includes several Tennessee highlights, among them Chattanooga’s railroads, the Jack Daniel’s Distillery in Lynchburg and Graceland.
And for those who want to get away from it all, a drive along the Top Secret Trail takes in the stunning scenery of eastern Tennessee from Knoxville into the Upper Cumberland Plateau and Appalachian foothills, experiencing the area’s culture and sampling home cooking. Or they can lose themselves in the vast Great
Smoky Mountains park, accessed via Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge.
Where to book it
Insight Vacations sister brand Luxury Gold’s nine-day Southern Grace itinerary, taking clients from Nashville to New Orleans, costs from £3,895pp and includes return flights from London, luxury accommodation, breakfasts and some other meals.
Guests will enjoy an after-hours tour of Graceland hosted by George Klein, a long-time friend of Elvis, followed by a Southern buffet served amidst the King’s car collection. insightluxurygold.com