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Magazine Online    The Authority On African-American Conventions, Incentives, & Leisure Travel

KNOXVILLE

For large meeting groups, the 500,000-sq. ft. Knoxville Convention Center offers 250,000 sq. ft. of flexible space, 120,000 sq. ft. of exhibit space, a 471-seat lecture hall and a 27,000-sq. ft. ballroom. At the Beck Cultural Exchange Center, where admission is free, visitors can see exhibits highlighting the African-American heritage of East Tennessee. Another Black heritage attraction (and a can't-miss photo op) is the 13-ft. bronze statue of Alex Haley in Morningside Park.

Volunteer Landing, on the banks of the Tennessee River, is a favorite hangout for shopping, dining and entertainment. Another riverfront attraction, the Ijams Nature Center, features a boardwalk and walking trails in woodland setting.

Places to explore the area's past include the East Tennessee History Center; James White's Fort, the city's first pioneer structure; Blount Mansion, home to Tennessee Gov. William Blount, a signer of the U.S. Constitution; the Ramsey House Plantation; and the Frank H. McClung Museum, Smithsonian affiliate that houses archeological exhibits from the Tennessee Valley Region.

Knoxville's Tennessee Theatre has a truly eclectic design, with Spanish Moorish -style architecture, Czechoslovakian crystal chandeliers, Italian terrazzo floors, and Asian-inspired carpet and draperies. Two more notable cultural attractions are the Knoxville Museum of Art and the Emporium Center for Arts & Culture.

MEMPHIS

The 350,000-sq. ft. Memphis Cook Convention Center is the city's largest event venue, with, 190,000 sq. ft. of exhibit space, 31 meeting rooms, a 2,100-seat performing arts center and a 28,000-sq. ft. ballroom. There are upwards of 20,000 area hotel rooms, including more than 3,800 downtown rooms.

Memphis' signature visitor attraction is the historic Beale Street entertainment district. The area encompasses such sites as W. C. Handy Performing Arts Park, First Baptist Church Beale Street - the city's oldest African-American congregation - the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, National Civil Rights Museum and the Smithsonian Rock 'n' Soul Museum. It also includes the Burkle Estate, the site of an Underground Railroad stop, and Tom Lee Park, home to the Memphis in May festival and named for the local Black resident who, despite being unable to swim, saved 32 drowning people in a 1925 steamer accident on the Mississippi.

The Pink Palace Museum, the 36,500-sq. ft. home of Piggly Wiggly supermarkets founder Clarence Saunders, now houses historical and scientific exhibits, a planetarium and IMAX Theater. Of course, the city's most popular home-turned-museum is Graceland, where scores of visitors flock to see the mansion, the Chapel in the Woods and the Elvis Presley Automobile Museum.

Mississippi Riverfront attractions include Mud Island River Park, which contains a museum, Riverwalk, monorail and amphitheater, and the Ornamental Metal Museum at Schering-Plough Smithy, the city's only working blacksmith shop.

Peabody Place is a popular downtown shopping, dining and entertainment district, while other top shopping haunts include Summer Avenue, Midtown and the historic Schwab's department store on Beale Street.

For those traveling with kids, the Memphis Zoo in Overton Park, the Lichterman Nature Center and the Children's Museum of Memphis - which houses exhibits on science, health, math and art - offer plenty for the youngsters to see and do.

NASHVILLE

Groups looking for a large meeting space in the downtown area of Music City can check out the Nashville Convention Center, which offers a 118,675-sq. ft. divisible exhibit hall, an 11,000-sq. ft. ballroom and more than 13,000-sq. ft. of pre-function space. The building is connected to both the Sommet Center sports and entertainment arena and the Renaissance Nashville Hotel, which also have meeting space.

But the city's official convention center is dwarfed by the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center Nashville, considered to be the largest non-gaming hotel property in the continental United States. This sprawling facility contains 2,881 guestrooms, 600,000 sq. ft. of meeting and exhibit space and six ballrooms.

The metro Nashville area offers nearly 33,000 guestrooms.

The first permanent building constructed for the higher education of Africa- Americans is found at Nashville's Fisk University. Along with Jubilee Hall, whose construction was paid for by the 19th century international tours of legendary Fisk Jubilee Singers, other campus landmarks include the Little Theatre, which was originally built as a Union Army hospital during the Civil War and the Aaron Douglas Gallery.

Nashville also is home to three other historically Black institutions of higher learning: Tennessee State University, Meharry Medical College and American Baptist College. Other local Black heritage sites include Fort Negley - which African-American workers built and where African-Americans soldiers fought for the Union in the Battle of Nashville - and Hadley Park, created in 1912 as what is thought to be the first U.S. public park for Black citizens. The new $17 million, 70,000-sq. ft. African American Museum of Music, Art and Culture is slated to open later in 2009.

One of Nashville's best known architectural landmarks is the Parthenon, only exact replica of the ancient Greek temple. The building houses the 42-ft.-tall Athena Parthenos, which is the largest indoor statue in the Western Hemisphere.


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