Tennessee Tourism

Join correspondent Tom Wilmer for a visit with Mark Ezell, Tennessee Commissioner of Tourist Development. As an enticing inducement to stimulate travelers to experience not only the allures of Nashville but the myriad outdoor experiences around the state, 10,000 $250 airline vouchers are up for grabs as an integral part of the state’s “Tennessee on Me” tourism initiative.

Come along and join Ezell as he shares the incredible litany of things to do and see across the state, from city experiences including Memphis, Chattanooga, and of course Nashville, to an incredible array of outdoor activities.


Join the journey to explore the past and present of Oakridge, Tennessee—the town that was dubbed Secret City as more than 75,000 workers settled in during WWII to develop the nuclear bomb. We’ll then stop in for a visit at Los Alamos National Labs, New Mexico (dubbed Atomic City) also formed in total secrecy during WWII to develop the first nuclear bomb.

Both towns continue high-tech research for the Department of Energy, including environmental issues, 3-D printing and much more. Not far from Los Alamos is White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico where the first plutonium bomb was detonated at Trinity Site in July 1945. Adjacent is White Sands National Park with the world’s largest array of white sand dunes where we visit with park rangers about cool things to do.

Thomas Wilmer

 Join correspondent Tom Wilmer reporting from Chickamauga National Military Park at Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia for a conversation with U.S. National Park Ranger Lee White. Specializing in the human aspects of the Civil War soldiers, Ranger White shares insights about what they ate, the clothes and boots they wore, the diseases that killed them by the thousands, and their emotional state of being as documented in their poignant letters home. 

Visit Franklin

Join correspondent Tom Wilmer in Leiper’s Fork, Tennessee where he visits with two artists, Lisa Fox and David Arms who own galleries in the heart of uptown Leiper’s Fork. The rural community is less than 40 miles from Nashville, but it’s a world apart.

The Art of Leiper’s Fork is the ninth in a series showcasing the Nashville’s Big Back Yard economic initiative—a showcase of rural destinations along the Natchez Trace National Parkway from Leiper’s Fork, down along the Parkway route to Northern Alabama’s Shoals Region.

Thomas Wilmer

In the latter decades of the 19th Century, new towns and villages sprung up across Tennessee. Some of the settlers were U.S. citizens relocating from the eastern seaboard, along with European immigrants, all in pursuit of opportunity. Land in rural Tennessee was easily accessible by riverboat, trains and wagons.

German Catholics established the town of Loretto in 1870. Before long Loretto was served by stage and railway. The economy bustled with lumber mills and downtown retail establishments. The Loretto Milling Company opened in 1895 to serve the needs of farmers with feed and fuel and the business is still thriving 125 years later.

But, following WWII the local economy and employment started an inexorable decline when the new U.S. Route 43 bypassed the town.

Today, thanks to visionary, risk-taking young people like Mandy and Eric McClaren a new breed is leading Loretto’s economic renaissance. They opened a coffee house in a renovated derelict 1930s commercial building. Even though the McClaren's opened their doors just days before COVID-19 threw them a curve ball, this past fall they started work on a soon to open brewery. Join correspondent Tom Wilmer in Loretto at Mandy and Eric’s Lo-Town Brew to learn the rest of the story.

This show is the sixth in a multi-part series showcasing Nashville’s Big Back Yard--an economic and tourism initiative encompassing a natural watershed region that wends through the Natchez Trace National Parkway in Tennessee’s southwest quarter down to the Shoals Region in Northern Alabama.

Thomas Wilmer

One of Nashville’s coolest destinations is just nine miles from the heart of downtown. Warner Park encompasses 3,100 acres of forests and open fields, featuring nationally-recognized jogging trails, biking and equestrian trails, a legendary steeplechase and a nature center.

Oak Ridge National Labs

In the depths of World War II, top-secret labs were staffed around the clock to create a nuclear bomb. Oak Ridge in Tennessee, dubbed 'Secret City,' was built from scratch in a matter of months and became home to 75,000 Manhattan Project scientists and support personnel, including thousands of women. 

Thomas Wilmer

Reelfoot Lake State Park, located in the northwest corner of Tennessee, is a unique wildlife haven. Tennessee State Parks naturalist David Haggard shares the inside scoop about things to do and see on and around the lake. We’ll then join Michael Hayes, owner of Blue Bank Resort, who shares his family’s multi-generational history of living and working on the lake since the 1880s.

Thomas Wilmer

Come along with correspondent Tom Wilmer as he explores current facets of Memphis, Tenneesee.

Thomas Wilmer

Correspondent Tom Wilmer reports from Memphis, Tennessee, where he visits the Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum with John Doyle, director of the Smithsonian Institution’s first permanent exhibit outside of Washington D.C.

Thomas Wilmer

Correspondent Tom Wilmer visits with Thomas Crosby, CEO of Pal’s restaurant chain, at the firm’s first diner in Kingsport, Tennessee. Today there are 29 Pal’s throughout northeast Tennessee and southwestern Virginia. Crosby shares insights into Pal’s corporate model, via which he says employees earn a living wage. Annual employee retention at Pal’s is approximately 76 percent—while the national fast food industry annual turnover is close to 100 percent.


In this Journeys episode, Sparta, Tennessee-based Olympic freestyle kayaker Eric Jackson talks with correspondent Tom Wilmer about his extreme kayaking passion and simultaneously owning a multimillion-dollar kayak manufacturing company. Rangers at two of Tennessee’s most popular state parks, Fall Creek Falls and Standing Stone, share insights about the diverse year-round activities. And Dave Sergio, co-founder of Sparta's Calfkiller Brewery, shares his passion for crafting unique brews, followed by a conversation about Tennessee wines with Barbara DelMonaco, owner of DelMonaco Winery & Vineyards in Baxter, Tennessee.

Thomas Wilmer

Correspondent Tom Wilmer continues his reporting from the Upper Cumberland region of Tennessee. 

Thomas Wilmer

Correspondent Tom Wilmer reports from Cookeville, Tennessee, situated in an area of the state known fondly as Upper Cumberland.

PBS affiliate WCTE

Correspondent Tom Wilmer visits with Becky Magura, CEO of PBS affiliate WCTE in the Appalachian town of Cookeville in central Tennessee.

Thomas Wilmer

Join correspondent Tom Wilmer  as he reports from Pall Mall, Tennessee. There he visits with World War I U.S. Army hero Sergeant Alvin York’s daughter, 85 year-old Betsy Ross York-Lowery, and great-granddaughter, Deborah York, at the family’s farmhouse. A pacifist, York reluctantly went to war and wound up one of America’s most highly decorated heroes.

Visit Kingsport Tennessee

Correspondent Tom Wilmer visits with Jamie Cyphers, the great-great-granddaughter of Kingsport, Tennessee moonshiner Charles “Old Man" Bishop, who reportedly first concocted Long Island Iced Tea back in the 1920s.

Wilmer also stops in for a visit with two Kingsport professional bartenders, Shane Winegar and Randy Ashens, who challenged New York mix-masters to a competition to determine which region makes the best Long Island Iced Tea, irrespective of origin.

Thomas Wilmer

Correspondent Tom Wilmer reports from eastern Tennessee, where he explores Roan Mountain and Rocky Fork State Parks. He then visits with innkeepers at the state’s oldest inn in historic Jonesborough, and discovers how community engagement drives business at Jiggy Rays Pizza Parlor in the Appalachian village of Elizabethton.

Thomas Wilmer

Country music leapt from the front porches of Appalachia to the living rooms of the world back in 1927. 

The Victor Talking Machine Company’s producer Ralph Peer came to Bristol, Tennessee in the summer of 1927 to record regional Appalachian balladeers, gospel singers, blues artists—performers like Jimmy Rodgers and the Carter Family. Peer’s 1927 Bristol Sessions also introduced the royalty system to the music industry.

Country Music Hall of Fame entry
Thomas Wilmer

The Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, Tennessee is the Mother Ship where the entire history of country music from the 1800's to present is showcased and revered in the 360,000 square-foot multi-story facility.

Tennessee Safari Park

Tennessee Safari Park receives 200,000 visitors annually. It’s a family affair in more ways than one, as owner John Conley’s grandfather birthed the park in 1958. What started with a monkey ordered from Sears has grown to include a lexicon of wild, exotic animals from African warthogs to Giraffe, Bison, and White Bearded Wildebeests. Join John Conley as he shares his passion for the family run Safari Park, located on the Music Highway route between Memphis and Nashville, Tennessee.

Tina Turner's old one room school house, and adjacent home of blues legend Sleepy John Estes
Thomas Wilmer

Come along for a stop-off along the Music Highway in Brownsville, midway between Nashville and Memphis, Tennessee. We’ll visit with the town's first elected African-American Mayor, Bill Rawls. Sonia Outlaw-Clark Executive Director of the West Tennessee Delta Heritage Center takes us on a walking tour of the Tina Turner Museum, and adjacent, fabled bluesman, Sleepy John Estes’s cottage where he was rediscovered in the 1970s.  

Patrick Martin (left) with Tom Wilmer at his newest Nashville Bar-B-Que joint in downtown Nashville
Joe McGhee

Patrick Martin founded Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint in Nashville, Tennessee ten years ago. His cooking is such the rave around here that there are now four Nashville locations in addition to eateries in West Virginia and Kentucky. There are ribs, chicken and catfish at Martin's, but the pride of Patrick’s culinary talents is centered around his live-fire bar-b-que’d pulled West Tennessee whole hog, slow cooked in the pit for 24 hours.

Wesley Keegan Tailgate Beer
Tailgate Beer

Wesley Keegan distributes a wide array of craft beers around the state of Tennessee, while the overseas market is clamoring for his brews to the point that they are rationed and sold only by the single can in England.

Join correspondent Tom Wilmer for a visit at Tailgate Brewery in Nashville with owner Wesley Keegan. Tailgate averages 30 beers on tap, and rolls out at least two new beers every week.

Join correspondent Tom Wilmer in Nashville, Tennessee at the Black Abbey Brewing Company for a visit with founder, Carl Meier as he share’s the brewery’s signature beers, and connection with 16th Century Martin Luther, his wife Catherine, and modern day Frothy Monkey coffee.

Austin Smith & Tom Wilmer talk hot chicken
Joe McGhee

It’s hot chicken, big brews, and frozen craft-cocktails at Party Fowl in Nashville, Tennessee

At Party Fowl restaurant in Nashville Tennessee, hot is an understatement, as they have refined the art of serving “Nashville Hot” southern fried chicken to a fine art. 

Fat Bottom Brewing warehouse
Thomas Wilmer

Ben Bredesen, owner and founder of Fat Bottom Brewing in East Nashville Tennessee, turned in his high-tech employment badge and decided to follow his passion for crafting beer, and he’s never looked back.

Correspondent Tom Wilmer visits with Ben Bredesen at his brewery where he talks passionately about Fat Bottom’s litany of beers. 

Front facade Ryman Auditorium
Thomas Wilmer

Join Lisaann Dupont, PR and Digital Media Manager at the legendary Ryman Auditorium. Revered as the “Mother Church” of country music, the Ryman has been an anchor of the Nashville music scene for more than a century.

The Grand Ole Opry moved in to the Ryman in 1943 where it broadcast shows weekly across the airwaves every Saturday on WSM 650 AM radio.

Thomas Wilmer

National Park Ranger Lee White specializes in the human aspects of the Civil War soldiers, what they ate, the clothes and boots they wore, the diseases that killed them by the thousands, and their emotional state of being as documented in their poignant letters home.

Thomas Wilmer

Correspondent Tom Wilmer reports from Chattanooga. Come along and join the conversation with passionate music lover, Mary Howard Ade. She moved here from New York City to work as the Chattanooga Convention & Visitors Bureau’s full-time Music Marketing Manager

Live music has been an integral ingredient in the cultural fabric of Chattanooga since the founding of the riverfront town in 1839. Bessie Smith, born in Chattanooga in 1892, was fondly nicknamed "Empress of the Blues" and became America’s #1 blues performer throughout the 1920s and 30s.