11 of the trippiest places to stay in Tennessee
In addition to being the first national park partially paid for with federal funds and the most visited national park in the United States, the Great Smoky Mountains is also home to the former logging town of Elkmont. Once an Appalachian Club vacation community, the company began selling land to hunting and fishing enthusiasts in 1910. Eventually, it became a place for the hoity toity to socialize until 1992 when the National Park Service refused to renew the cottage owner’s’ lifetime leases. By 2001, the whole town of Elkmont was abandoned.
Campers who stay right down the gravel road at Elkmont Campground can explore the decayed remains of the Wonderland Club Hotel, the Appalachian Clubhouse, and the rest of the ghost town littered with dead leaves and spooky Deliverance-style cabins just thirsty for some sacrificial rituals.
There’s people who like Christmas, and then there’s people who like Christmas all year round. But I’m not talking about folks who leave lights strung along the porch to make next year’s decorating ‘that much easier’ – I’m talking full blown boughs of holly and sleigh bells, a plethora of Christmas trees, jolly Santas sweating their asses off in July, and wreaths every-goddamn-where you look in a Bavarian-style, Smoky Mountain inn.
It’s as if the Christmas spirit has possessed everyone there to spin their heads around violently while projectile vomiting eggnog, poinsettias, and candy canes.
Sitting 18 miles west of Knoxville, the little town of Oak Ridge was chosen by the federal government in 1942 as a site for developing materials for the Manhattan Project due to its low population, easy access by highway and rail, and affordable land. To uphold secrecy, the United States Army Corps of Engineers began carving out 60,000 acres, nailing eviction notices to many residents’ doors and fencing in the whole town. And, of course, keeping true with the whole do-as-you’re-told-and-keep-your-mouth-fucking-shut cliche, workers assigned to the project were also kept in the dark. Sure, they knew they were working with uranium, but most hadn’t a clue what uranium even was. That is, until August 6, 1945, when radio broadcasts announced The Atomic Bomb having been dropped on Hiroshima, Japan.
Today, certain parts of Oak Ridge appear to be frozen in the 1940s as remnants of a town once scattered with billboards warning “SILENCE MEANS SECURITY” or “WHAT YOU SEE HERE, WHAT YOU DO HERE, WHAT YOU HEAR HERE – WHEN YOU LEAVE HERE, LET IT STAY HERE,” making the real mystery being why M. Night Shyamalan has yet to overrun the town with a film crew.
Thought to have been the inspiration for The Blair Witch Project, Adams in northern Tennessee is home to the legendary Bell Witch folklore, citing the only recorded case in US history of an entity-on-human murder in the early 19th century.
If camping in Adams interests you, it’s important to remember to bring plenty of witch repellent as well as tissues so you don’t get snot all over the camera as you wait for your inevitable demise. Just be warned — Andrew Jackson, having been intrigued by the story at the time, went to visit the Bell family but bailed along the way, too freaked out to finish the trip.
Believe it or not, that’s not a retro UFO on the side of Signal Mountain in Chattanooga — it’s actually a retro house with a drop-down airplane door leading to the interior of a place straight out of the Jetsons, designed to just look like a retro UFO. Speculation claims that the original owners once had a stuffed panther coffee table, but as it’s private property nestled on a hairpin turn, speculating may be all you can do for now. That is, unless the house goes up for auction again where you, too, can live that vintage intergalactic lifestyle.
In the 1930s, following a weekend hunting trip in Arkansas, General Manager of The Peabody was sippin’ some Jack Daniel’s with a friend when they decided to throw some live duck decoys in The Peabody fountain because why the hell not? One thing led to another, and soon the former circus-animal trainer-turned-Duckmaster was teaching five North American Mallards the Peabody Duck Mark, which is still performed daily. Ducks strutting down a red carpet and splashing in the lobby’s travertine marble fountain? What more could you want from a hotel?
Having once been a breeding ground for train cars and railway tracks for the Southern Railway line, the Chattanooga Terminal Station was converted to a hotel in 1974 where folks could rent old victorian sleeper cars and pretend to be jerked around on clackety tracks while they smear Tennessee Toe Jam on toast. Oh, Chattanooga — won’t you choo-choo me home?
8. Heartbreak Hotel
This ‘50s-inspired hotel in Memphis celebrates The King in all his glory with lots of burning red, a jungle room den, retro decorated Gold & Platinum Suites, and, of course, a little less conversation with a lot more action.
9. Prancing Poet
Whether it’s boogying under a shiny disco ball, getting ready in the Purple Haze bathroom, hanging out with Mushroom People, exploring the eco-friendly Green Dragon tavern, or being in the company of a bunch of welcoming hippies on one of North America’s oldest intentional communities, there’s really nothing about this hostel at The Farm that’s isn’t trippy — and totally fucking awesome.
This Chattanooga building once served as a hospital for the Union Army before it was destroyed by a fire in 1867 and reconstructed as a 10-story, Georgian architectural hotel in 1926. However, Room 311 didn’t get the memo to lose the grim and grisly vibe. In this particular room, you’ll see anything from a face in the mirror to a spirit lounging on the bed, making it one of the most famous haunts in Chattanooga.
Legend says that a woman was brutally murdered by a man in that very room. So if you happen to be a male guest, you may want to consider an upgrade to Room 312.
But let’s be honest — it’s only trippy because you’re sweating profusely in a tent two hours into an acid trip delusionally thinking you’re jamming to Earth, Wind & Fire.
Best Travel Credit Cards
Top offers from our partners
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
80,000 bonus points
The Platinum Card®
75,000 bonus points
American Express® Gold Card
60,000 bonus points