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Festivals in Tennessee
Blues, Indie, Jazz & Country in the Volunteer State
There’s nothing quite like the music of Tennessee. Although the days of Hank Williams and Johnny Cash are over, the exclusive sounds of the Tennessee music scenes are preserved through museums, local artists, and music festivals happening throughout the year.
Fans of country, jazz, and rock can head to the Volunteer State for famed festivals like Bonnaroo, the Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion, and the CMA Music Festival in Nashville. Musicians are encouraged to attend the Tennessee Guitar Festival in Murfreesboro for workshops and masterclasses, while others may flock the streets of Memphis at the Beale Street Music Festival.
Music fans may even enjoy the Appalachian air during outdoor festivals such as the Riverbend Festival along the Tennessee River in Chattanooga, and the Rhythm & Blooms Fest – happening each spring in Knoxville.
Visiting Tennessee during the rare time a music festival is not on deck? Check out other commemorations to Tennessee music like Graceland and Dollywood. Of course a visit to Music City is in order, so be sure to visit the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum and see the Grand Ole Opry during your time in Nashville.
Beale Street in Memphis
Celebrate Memphis in May at Tom Lee Park
Established in 1977, the Beale Street Music Festival kicks off the annual Memphis in May, month-long spring celebration in downtown Memphis. A three-day celebration of Beale Street’s musical heritage, this Tennessee music festival is held at Tom Lee Park during the first weekend in May.
The Beale Street Music Festival attracts 100,000 music lovers to southwestern Tennessee each year, and more than 60 musical acts perform on four stages neighboring the Mississippi River, which is why this festival is dubbed the “Mardi Gras of the mid-south.”
Along with famed musical acts, the Beale Street Music Festival is accompanied by the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest, Sunset Symphony, and International Week – one awesome month of celebration. Explore more music heritage at nearby Graceland.
Blue Ridge Festivals
Events in Appalachian Tennessee
Many Volunteer State cities found within the Blue Ridge Mountains region and Tennessee River Valley host year-round festivals within their scenic surroundings.
Annual celebrations are easy to find in Tennessee towns like Newport, Sevierville, Townsend, and more.
If you’re visiting the Blue Ridge area in the spring, plenty of festivities await. Celebrated at Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, the Festival of Nations is held in late March, and features world-wide food and performances.
More food and music can be found at Dollywood in late May for the Barbeque & Bluegrass Festival. Attention athletes, the Gatlinburg Gateway Triathlon is held in Gatlinburg in early May, the GFA Fit for Duty 5k Walk/Run takes place in late March, and the World Autism Awareness Day Walk-a-thon is set in Knoxville in early April.
Summer means its vacation time, and also time to party in eastern Tennessee. Visit Dollywood for Kidsfest from late June to late July – followed by Dollywood Nights until late August.
Fourth of July festivals are held throughout Smoky Mountain country, including the Patriot Festival in Pigeon Forge, and the Old Fashioned Fourth of July Celebration in Etowah. For music fans, the Smoky Mountains Songwriters Festival is held in Gatlinburg in August, followed by the Linsdale Bluegrass Festival in Delano.
Fall brings the Gospel and Harvest Celebration to Dollywood in early October, along with Oktoberfest at Ober in Gatlinburg starting in late September. Ripley’s Annual Fright Nights are held from early October through Halloween in Gatlinburg, along with the Autumn Gold Festival in Coker Creek and Pumpkin Town Festival in Vonore.
If you’re heading to eastern Tennessee for the holidays, don’t miss Pigeon Forge festivals like the Smoky Mountain Christmas Festival and the Trolley Tour of Lights – or Gatlinburg events like the Fantasy of Lights Christmas Parade and Christmas on Ice.
Other holiday celebrations include the Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Holiday Show in Gatlinburg, Small Town Christmas in Sweetwater, and the Candy Cane Parade in Knoxville.
Bonnaroo Music Festival
Watch Live Performances at the Bonnaroo Music Festival
Make your way to a 700-acre farm about 40 miles northwest of Chattanooga for the Bonnaroo Music Festival. This annual event takes place in Manchester every year and attracts thousands of music enthusiasts, film buffs, and artists for a four-day event. It’s a grand celebration of several different types of music, including folk, indie, hip hop, alternative, jazz, and electronica.
Attendees are treated to 150 performances across 10 stages during the event. Make your way to Great Stage Park to see live comedy performances, a mini film festival, artwork for display and for sale, and a variety of acts throughout the event.
Bristol Music History
The Birthplace of Country Music Then & Now
The northern Tennessee town of Bristol has had an incredible influence on country and folk music. Ignited by the Bristol Sessions of 1927, Bristol’s impact on the southern sound was rewarded by U.S. Congress in 1998 with the title, “Birthplace of Country Music.”
Former stomping grounds of such Appalachian icons as Jimmy Rodgers and the Carter Family – the most famous of which is wife of Johnny Cash, June Carter – Bristol encourages visitors to have a look around. Get a picture with the Grand Guitar along West State Street, or attend the annual Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion.
Happening each September in downtown Bristol, the Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion is a three-day festival allowing Tennessee attendees to pay tribute to their country roots. The festival hosts over 50 bands each year, taking up four Bristol blocks.
Fill your stomach with southern fare, and ears with classic country, and rest up at the Best Western hotel in Johnson City – just a 25-minute drive from Bristol. You'll feel great knowing you've spent time in the "Birthplace of Country Music" – Bristol, Tennessee.
CMA Music Festival
Watch Country Music Stars at the CMA Music Festival
Head to downtown Nashville for the four-day celebration of all things country presented by the Country Music Association. This is one of the most well-known country music festivals in the country and takes place at Riverfront Park, Bridgestone Arena, and LP Field over the four-day celebration. The event has become a tradition for many country music fans since 1972 and attracts more than a quarter of a million attendees to the Nashville metropolitan area every summer. While you’re there, you can visit several legendary landmarks that tell the story of country music history in Nashville and beyond. Be sure to visit the Grand Ole Opry, Country Music Hal of Fame & Museum, and the Ryman Auditorium for a tour.
Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion
Commemorating Tennessee’s Music Heritage
Where better to celebrate Tennessee’s musical heritage than the spot that started in all?
Bristol is known as the birthplace of country music, and celebrates this fact with the annual Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion music festival. Established in 2001, the BRRR attracts close to 50,000 attendees to northern Tennessee each year.
Every September, the Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion is held in historic downtown Bristol on multiple stages both outdoors and in bars and restaurants – totaling four blocks of action.
The main drag for this three-day festival is along State Street, the former location of the famed Bristol Sessions – or very early recordings of legends such as Jimmie Rodgers, Ernest Stoneman, and the Carter Family.
The Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion begins in mid-September, and has featured headliners like Dr. Dog, the Steep Canyon Rangers, and Robert Early Keen – plus dozens of other performing musicians. Along with the music festival, BRRR features a 5K road-race, a two-mile fun walk, a chili cook-off, workshops, and children’s activities. Bristol is located just 25 miles northeast of Johnson City.
Rhythm ‘n Blooms Fest
Watch Rhythm N’ Blooms Fest in Downtown Knoxville
Fans of American roots music can attend the Rhythm N’ Blooms Fest in downtown Knoxville. This springtime festival is held at several locations around Knoxville, including the Square Room, the Bill Lyons Stage, and the Knoxville Botanical Garden & Arboretum. The event attracts hundreds of music lovers every year and is part of the Dogwood Arts Festival.
Plan on spending your days enjoying a lineup of country music, folk, bluegrass, rock, jazz, and blues music during the event. Attendees also have the chance to attend autograph sessions with their favorite musicians and artists, sign up for workshops, and enjoy great food and shopping throughout the event.
Catch Waterfront Performances at the Riverbed Festival
Make the most of your summertime excursion to Tennessee by spending a few days at the Riverbend Festival. This annual event is held in June and spans eight nights and nine days. The fun and excitement takes place in Chattanooga and you can explore other attractions around the Chattanooga Riverfront. You can watch more than 100 bands on six stages during the festival including performances by country music, rock, bluegrass, and jam bands.
You’ll be joining more than 600,000 people along the 21st Century Waterfront and the banks of the Tennessee River for this multi-day event. All five stages are set along the backdrop of the Tennessee River at Ross’s Landing. Be sure to bring a blanket for comfortable seating in front of the Coca Cola Stage.
Tennessee Guitar Festival
Brush Up Your Skills at the Tennessee Guitar Festival
Enjoy a concert or join a masterclass at this popular Tennessee festival. Two of the best guitarists in the country lead classes for enthusiasts and pros during this event. Spend your days enjoying classes and the evenings at a concert. This event is held at the Middle Tennessee State University School of Music and has been attracting music enthusiasts for over a decade.
This event takes place in late spring and includes a competition event for spectators. Whether you want to improve your guitar-playing skills or watch some fun competitions, this is a must-do activity when vesting Murfreesboro during the spring months.