The NFL is once again making its way over to London this October, bringing with it some all-American cheer, excellent teams and plenty of entertainment. The Tennessee Titans will be one of the teams visiting this year, facing off against the Baltimore Ravens at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in north London. Tennessee may be known as the home of Country Music, but there’s plenty to keep the avid sports lover entertained too, from thrilling car races to high octane ice hockey.
With pro basketball, golf and college football, Memphis is a great place to start your Tennessee adventure. AutoZone is often considered one of the best baseball parks to catch the minor leagues, so start your day here with a picnic (or their famed barbecue nachos) before catching the Memphis Redbirds in action.
Meanwhile, the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies play their matches at FedExForum in Downtown Memphis in the evenings. The University of Memphis men’s team, the MemphisTigers, also plays here if you’re looking for a match on a bit of a smaller scale. The arena is right by the historic Beale Street, so follow the fans after and celebrate in one of the many restaurants and bars (including sports bars, if your itch for the day isn’t fully scratched). If it’s quality live blues bands and a bowl of gator gumbo you’re after, be sure to take your post match hype to the Rum Boogie Cafe.
Start the next morning by catching some golf at the FedEx St. Jude Classic, where there’s a PGA tournament every June at the beautiful TPC Southwind private club in Shelby County. Alternatively, play a round yourself at the Tunica National golf course or Mirimichi.
The drive from Memphis to Nashville is a beautiful and simple one, staying on Route 40 for around three hours until you reach the famous Parthenon in Centennial Park. If time is on your side, make a slight detour at the Loveless Cafe for a plate of it’s famous biscuits, country ham and red-eye gravy; or if you’re really hungry opt for a pit-cooked pulled BBQ platter with eggs. Whatever you choose, be sure to call ahead to book a table; this place is very popular, and for good reason.
While some of the big sporting events that take place here are relatively new, having been established within the last two decades, they still play a big part in city life. The NFL Tennessee Titans (American football), NHL Nashville Predators (ice hockey) and Nashville Soccer Club (Tennessee’s Major League Soccer Club) all play here. There are plenty of other teams and sports to catch beyond the major pro teams as well, like the minor league baseball team Nashville Sounds, and Belmont and Tennessee State universities, both of which have Division I-level athletics.
Check out the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame and Museum on Broadway, chronicling Tennessee’s sporting history while you’re here, as well as the many sports bars. Clyde’s Ping Pong Bar and the Corner Pub are two of the top destinations for sports fans in Nashville — just be sure to leave some time to check out the Honky Tonks, too. For a real musical treat, call in at Robert’s Western World on Broadway on an evening that the Chris Cosello Trio is playing, before seeing in the morning hours at Tootsies.
After a couple of days in Nashville, it’s time for another drive further east along Route 40, taking just under three hours this time, to Knoxville. It’s a College Football town and game days here are legendary, fizzing with energy and expectation. It’s also home to the Knoxville Ice Bears, the four-time-champion hockey team of the Southern Professional Hockey League. Catch them on the ice at Knoxville Civic Coliseum, ideally after a sensational sourdough pizza from A Dopo.
Knoxville is home to the Hard Knox Roller Derby, East Tennessee’s first all-women flat track roller derby league. Watch these athletes go hell for leather as they hustle their opponents around the roller rink, often in amazing costumes and make up, all for $15 on the door.
Women’s basketball has also made a name for itself here and there’s the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame to check out. After soaking up the Knoxville sports scene, drive out to the nearby Great Smoky Mountains, where you’ll find great hiking routes as well as adrenaline activities like zip lining.
For the final stop on this itinerary, drive east once more to Bristol (roughly a 90-minute drive away). Here there’s the NASCAR race at Bristol Motor Speedway where you can catch a thrilling car race around what’s been dubbed the world’s fastest half mile. Established in 1961, this short high-banked track has a long history of drama and entertainment, hosting the kinds of furious races that have led to its reputation as one of the biggest spectacles on the NASCAR circuit.
Away from the thunder of the race track, seek some contrasting serenity at Steele Creek Park. Twenty-four miles of walking, biking, and hiking trails await, as well as fishing, paddleboarding and golfing opportunities all against the mighty backdrop of the Appalacians.
Whatever your sports passion, and whether you’re an avid spectator or keen to participate in the hooping, Hail Marys and home runs yourself, Tennessee has got you covered.
For more information and to start planning your next trip to the United States, visit visittheusa.co.uk