As Waylon Jennings once said, "Country music isn't a guitar, it isn't a banjo, it isn't a melody, it isn't a lyric. It's a feeling." That feeling can be felt in more places than one in America. As the lyrics mirror the culture, the culture of our cities and states also helps shape the songs themselves too. Immerse yourself in what it means to be country and check out these travel destinations all country music fans have to visit.
1. Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
The Great Smoky Mountains are reason enough to visit this area. However, if you travel about 15 miles south from those peaks, you'll also find Dollywood, a theme park dedicated to the life of the one and only Dolly Parton. Now including roller coasters, a water park, and a variety of live entertainment, you'll never be bored. Opened in 1986, Dolly Parton also hosts "The Great American Country Show" during summer, featuring a 40-minute live show with six country singers backed by a six-piece band and, if you're lucky, a performance from the Grammy-winning artist, Parton herself.
2. Branson, Missouri
Branson gained its prominence in the 1980s when country singers Loretta Lynn and Waylon Jennings performed in the city. However, its big break came in 1991 when 60 Minutes aired a segment on how musically inclined the city was. Today, Branson hosts over 100 shows and concerts, bringing nearly 8 million tourists annually. Some of their most popular shows include the original "Presley's Country Jubilee" and "A Country Legacy – Fountains of Country" show featuring 36,000 gallons of "dancing" water.
3. Nashville, Tennessee
Of course, we couldn't leave out the Country Music Capital of the World. Nashville is home to the infamous Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, the annual four-day CMA music festival, and the Grand Ole Opry, just to name a few. At the museum are displays of every single gold and platinum country record, Elvis Presley's 1960 gold Cadillac, and a tour of the historic Studio B. About a mile from there, you can also visit Lower Broadway, brimming with country music bars and live music everywhere you turn.
4. Dyess, Arkansas
If there's one place that will always hold a place on our list and in our hearts, it's Dyess. Here, you can visit the childhood home of Johnny Cash, where he moved when he was just 3 years old. Opened in 2014, the house is now refurbished and furnished just like it was when the Cash family lived there. Dyess also includes tons of other historical gems you can visit, especially paying tribute to the music that Cash made over his lifetime.
5. Memphis, Tennessee
Being the home of another country music legend, Elvis Presley, we couldn't help but mention Memphis. Today, you can visit Presley's mansion and 14-acre estate where they have guided tours and memorabilia from the singer. Also known as Graceland, you can find exhibits like Presley's custom jet that has gold-plated seatbelts and suede chairs, 33 of his treasured vehicles, personal videos, and of course the famous costumes that he would wear in performances.
6. Winchester, Virginia
At the age of 16, Virginia Patterson Hensley moved to Winchester, Virginia, with her mother and two half-siblings. Not sounding familiar? How about the Patsy Cline? She lived in the new house on South Kent Street until 21, when she moved out and continued her iconic career. Many tenants lived in the house over the years but eventually the non-profit organization, Celebrating Patsy Cline, acquired the house. The organization was able to track down some of her possessions and today the house is open to the public for tours. While you're in Winchester, you can also go and visit the WINV-AM radio station where Cline began her career and the drugstore where she worked as a "soda jerk".
7. Owensboro, Kentucky
Home to Bluegrass and its roots, Owensboro is the ideal place to sink your teeth into country music history. The Bluegrass Hall of Fame and Museum welcomes one and all to explore its attractions, teaching visitors about bluegrass sounds, rhythms, and the famous musicians behind them. Plus, you can hit one of their live concerts while you're there too. You can fit it in as a short day trip while you're visiting Nashville but if you want the full experience, we recommend staying for the Friday After 5 Concerts Series.
8. Hurricane Mills, Tennessee
Lovers of Loretta Lynn, this one's for you. Home to the Loretta Lynn Ranch, you can visit for an in-depth look at her life and the legacy she left behind. The ranch chronicles her life, including the home she owned before her passing and her previous home before that. The first floor of the previous home is open to tours, and the ranch also has an RV Park, a replica of the log cabin she grew up in, and a handful of museums. Covering over 18,000 square feet, the Coal Miner's Daughter Museum displays her tour bus, personal vehicles, and memorabilia. You can also pop over to the Fan and Doll Museum, displaying the massive amount of dolls she owned and gifts fans sent her.
9. Cheyenne, Wyoming
For our modern country music fans, Cheyenne is one of the most influential in terms of Western influence on the genre. They host Cheyenne Frontier Days every summer with lineups including Blake Shelton, Eric Church, and Maren Morris. If you can't score tickets, they also have tons of other shows around the grounds, all included with general admission. You've probably heard the popular topic of Cheyenne in country favorites like George Strait's "I Can Still Make Cheyenne" and Garth Brooks's "The Beaches of Cheyenne."
10. Meridian, Mississippi
Last but definitely not least, we have to include the birthplace of the "Father of Country Music" himself, Jimmie Rodgers. Though his career only spanned about 6 years (1927-1933), he set the precedent for almost all country music singers and the genre itself. He told stories of heartbreak and travel through his lyrics incorporating yodeling, which earned him the nickname "Blue Yodeler." Today, the city pays tribute to Rodgers with the Jimmie Rodgers Festival and Museum. The museum is designed after an old train depot and features some of his personal memorabilia and instruments. On the other hand, the festival puts on live music performances, a talent show, a parade, and a wreath-laying ceremony paying tribute to the legend and icon.
Regardless of where you choose to visit (if not all 10!), there are plenty of places across the country to see the influence that country music has. From the great plains to the icy peaks, country music and its lyrics cover a lot. And no matter where you are, there will always be a country road that can take you home.