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Tuning into Tennessee

With its New South mix of music, food and revitalized waterfronts, Tennessee is practically tailor-made for fun on and off the shoreline.

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Mud Island, Tennessee, at sunset.
Mud Island at sunset.

Courtesy Memphis Convention & Visitors Bureau

Unlike its country neighbor to the north — we’re talking to you, Nashville — this southwest Tennessee city has a rock ‘n’ roll heart. Its history is defined by the Mississippi River and the soulful culture that developed along its banks as a result of the rousing ideas and customs from countless travelers. Today, Memphis radiates a mojo that’s part old school four-bar blues, part New South glitz and 100-percent all its own.

You can’t miss Beale Street Landing, at the foot of the one-and-only street of the same name. (You know, where the blues come alive every night at places like B.B. King’s, Black Diamond and Rum Boogie Café?) The landing is currently taking shape along the Mississippi as part of the city’s riverfront development project, which will eventually connect Tom Lee Park, Cobblestone Landing, a river overlook and pathways for joggers, walkers and cyclists.

When it’s complete, the landing will also serve as a docking facility for local and visiting excursion vessels, including the show-stopping American Queen. What better way to visit this great river city than on an overnight cruise of the Heartland’s historic waterways?

Tie up at Mud Island Marina, about 1,500 feet up the Wolf River close to downtown Memphis (see УVisit nearbyФ below for more about Mud Island). This marina welcomes vessels up to 135 feet and has non-ethanol gas and diesel, electric, pump-out, restrooms with showers, WiFi, a store and restaurant.

About 10 miles downriver, Riverside Park Marina is off the main channel on McKeller Lake. It offers the similar amenities to Mud Island Marina, along with boat and prop repairs, and transporting.

Mark your calendar for June 15, the date of the 32nd annual Outdoors Inc. Canoe and Kayak Race, the largest such race in the Southeast. Paddler magazine named it the УBest Race in America,Ф and it attracts more than 500 participants to a 5K course down the Mississippi River. It’s a short, fast race, but there are plenty of exhibitions, lessons and other family-friendly activities throughout the day.

The Black Keys, ZZ Top, Sheryl Crow, Alice in Chains and the Roots are some of the 60-plus artists scheduled to perform at the 2013 Beale Street Music Festival. The three-day party kicks off May 3 at Tom Lee Park along the banks of the Mississippi.

Visit nearby Mud Island, actually a peninsula, just a little over a mile removed from downtown. The naturally stunning park is accessible by the Memphis Suspension Railway (a monorail), by foot (via a footbridge on top of the monorail) or by ferry, and is home to a river museum, scale model of the Lower Mississippi, amphitheater, and canoe, kayak, paddleboat and mountain bike rentals.

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