Let this “Map-Guide” Lead You to Lovely New Places

It's National Travel and Tourism Week, and the theme is "Travel Matters." We suggest you visit National Geographic's Tennessee River Valley Map-Guide, a web site dedicated to the best places to see, stay and eat in the region.

Most families who reside in the Tennessee River Valley also work and play nearby, yet some are unaware of the many recreational, cultural and historical opportunities located on or near the river.

“Sometimes people get in a recreational rut,” said Julie Graham, manager of National Geographic’s new Tennessee River Valley online map-guide. “We all have an innate fondness for the familiar, but a visit to the new Tennessee River Valley Geotourism site can open up a world of new adventures in the Valley.” 

Now in its sixth year and enhanced with new features, the map-guide is a partnership among TVA, National Geographic and a host of tourism partners, such as the Middle East Tennessee Tourism Council and the Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association. Designed as an online travel guide to the places most respected and recommended by locals (and who better to know?), the guide is a tool to help natives and tourists alike discover natural and cultural attractions, including events, outdoor activities, eateries, lodging and more. You can even find Trip Plans that connect sites that have a specific interest in common, such as music, food, waterfalls, birding or beer. And it’s free.

“Considering that the Tennessee River flows through seven states and boasts thousands ofmiles of shoreline, just getting the initial sites identified and posted on the map-guide was a tall order,” said Tiffany Foster, senior project manager for TVA Natural Resources. “It’s exciting to watch as the number of site recommendations grows and more travelers become devotees of the map-guide.”

How to Get Started

In any given week, thousands of visitors click on the site to locate information that has been curated by locals and vetted by professionals. You can begin by selecting “Places to Go”, “Things to Do” or “Where to Stay”. Searches can be narrowed or expanded based on desired locations or interests. Whether you want to hike to a pristine waterfall, enjoy a theatrical production, paddle a new cove, take in a museum or check out one of the many food festivals in the Valley, you’ll find all the information you need to get it done and have fun.

One of the most entertaining ways to use the site is to click on a category, such as “Things to Do” and then tap “See All.” This produces pages of more than 1,100 entries throughout the Valley’s seven states, so viewers can quickly see what attractions are nearby, as well as those that call for a longer road trip. You just might be surprised by what you find, even if you’re a native. “I can’t tell you how often people say, ‘I had no idea that the Jesse Owens Museum or those eagle watching cruises or that daylily festival were all so close to where I live in the Valley,’” said Graham. 

A unique selection that is rarely seen on other travel sites is “Action Items” — opportunities for travelers to pair recreation with volunteering. Three examples include: 

  • Sunset Gap, a community center located in scenic Cosby, Tennessee, that has been serving folks in the area since the early 1900s. Families, groups or individuals are invited to schedule time with this group as they repair homes for the individuals in need.
  • To the West, Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area has miles of trails and shoreline to maintain, so volunteer conservation efforts are listed and are always appreciated
  • Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful is the perfect action item for those who live near the water and want to have a hand in keeping it clean.

Share Your Own Recommendations

You can help other travelers along the way by nominating places, events or experiences that are not yet on the map-guide. Both locals and visitors who are knowledgeable about the region are encouraged to share their favorite places to visit or things to do. Simply go to the TRVGeotourism homepage and look for “Nominate a Place ” in the footer of the page. Nominations are reviewed by an editor before being posted.

 The site has information on signing up for a monthly newsletter and following the map-guide on social media channels. Travelers will find attractions that will scratch a travel itch, and perhaps leaving a helpful comment on the site will encourage others to travel the Valley and become better acquainted with the river and its people.