Tennessee might be the Volunteer State, but that doesn't mean that everyone here is willing to do things on the cheap. However, Tennessee is also home to plenty of free attractions, from its historic locales to its awe-inspiring natural escapes. You might even be able to snag a few sips of your favorite vino along the way! So, here goes, the top free things to do in Tennessee:
If you're looking for free things to do in Tennessee, staying up late pays. Along the always-buzzing Broadway street in Nashville, up-and-coming country, bluegrass and folk artists are playing their hearts out from breakfast to the wee hours of the night, with only a few select watering holes ever charging a cover. At Robert's Western World, you can even catch musicians who played on some of Johnny Cash's old albums on selected nights - and despite their age, these guys still know how to rock the house.
Prefer the fresh air to a honky-tonk? From May through August, visitors and locals hit the streets every Thursday evening to enjoy Dancin' in the District, a great Nashville tradition that's perfect for all of the warm nights this city experiences.
Got a penchant for the pursuits of the mind? You can have your brain fun and eat it, too with Tennessee's plethora of intellectual freebies. The Center for Southern Folklore in Memphis rovides exhibits that explore the art and music of the state's Appalachian roots, as well as several photography displays that shine a light back on the historic artists themselves. After a wonderful afternoon of exploring Tennessee culture, you can head over to the onsite cafe to enjoy some delectable peach cobbler, Southern greens (done vegetarian-style) or a piping hot cup of joe. This lovely cultural node is located in the heart of Memphis, and is open weekdays until 5 p.m. and on Saturdays until 6.
History is always in the making at Antique Archaeology, one of the antique shops that sells many of the infamous items bought on the hit TV show "American Pickers." Housed in the old Marathon Motor Works car factory in Nashville, this shop may not be an official museum, but its range of memorabilia, from a pair of copper-red buffalo-skin gloves to giant frog posters from anatomy class.
From the Smoky Mountains to the Appalachian Plateau, Tennessee's gorgeous gorges, valliant valleys and beautiful basins ignite even the most bona fide city slickers. Encompassing a little more than 500,000 acres, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (easily accessible from Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and Sevierville) is full of ancient ridges and mountain heritage. While all guests will need to buy a one-time pass for the park, all byways, trails and vistas are free for viewing. With some of the planet's highest diversity in terms of flora and fauna, don't be surprised if you happen to see a deer, elk or bear during your crampon-clad excursions.
Not much of a hiker? You can see Tennessee's awesome nature by way of rock or river - climbing and rafting in this state are tops. Thrill-seekers can take on the Oben Wild and Scenic River - yes, the name is appropriate - to enjoy whitewater rafting, canoeing and kayaking that ranges from Class II to Class IV rapids. The river's valley is also home to some of the state's most challenging (and climb-worthy) formations, which are known for being particularly "steep;" meaning you'll be hanging a little backwards to get over these cliffs. With more than 350 different routes to choose from, you'll have plenty of enough routes to tickle your itch for sandstone or granite.
Bipedalism is at its finest on the Murfreesboro Greenway System, where mountain bikers and road cyclists can enjoy the immense greenery along the many miles of paved roadways. While hitting the asphault, you'll pass by babbling rivers, the Stones River National Battlefield and plenty of wildlife. You honestly couldn't pick a better spot for two wheels.
It wouldn't be a Tennessee vacation without a visit to a winery or a distillery, and luckily, there's a number of options that are free! In the town of Sevierville, a small villa in east Tennessee, you'll find Apple Barn Winery. This quaint winery is located along the gorgeous banks of the Little Pigeon River, and is well-known for its high-quality standards. All wines here are made in small batches so that the local fruit can be added in when it is at its peak of taste. Best of all, the vineyard always offers free tastings, so you can sample the literal fruits of the vineyard's labor, regardless of your vacation budget.
Looking for some delicious, yet affordable vino in the southwest? Head to Jackson, where you'll find Century Farm Winery. Despite this vineyard producing vino that won a 2012 Wines of the South Award, Century Farm provides plenty of free tastings of its best vintages so everyone can feel free to sample the semi-sweet, fruity and dry varieties to their heart's content. If you're lucky, you may even plan your visit during a free evening concert. During the summer months, the winery offers performances free of charge every Saturday, which usually run from 7 to 10 p.m.