Best Small Towns In Tennessee

Exploring The Best Small Towns In Tennessee: Uncover The Hidden Gems

Best Small Towns In Tennessee

Sometimes, the non-stop energy of city life has us all aching for a tranquil getaway. We totally understand that feeling and have discovered that Tennessee is a treasure trove of charming small towns.

Through our explorations, we’ve put together this guide to unveil these hidden gems, rich with historical wonders and breathtaking natural surroundings. Brace yourself for an unforgettable journey through the Volunteer State!

Key Takeaways

  • Tennessee has many charming small towns with unique attractions, like the Salt and Pepper Shaker Museum in Gatlinburg and the largest natural habitat refuge for endangered elephants in Hohenwald.
  • Historic towns like Jonesborough and Pulaski offer rich history, including stories from the oldest town in Tennessee and sites significant to Civil War history.
  • Outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy activities in places like Fall Creek Falls State Park, with its highest waterfall in the eastern U.S., or explore Great Smoky Mountains National Park, America’s most visited national park.
  • Cultural experiences abound at venues such as Dollywood for theme park fun and live music entertainment or at the International Storytelling Center where captivating tales come to life during festivals.

The Charm of Small Towns in Tennessee

A vibrant and bustling main street in Franklin, Tennessee, lined with colorful buildings and local shops.

Discover the unique charm of small towns in Tennessee – from the picturesque streets of Gatlinburg to the rich history of Jonesborough and the quaint beauty of Franklin. Each town offers a distinct blend of Southern hospitality, scenic views, and captivating local culture that captures the essence of Tennessee’s small-town allure.


Gatlinburg grabs your attention with its natural beauty and unique attractions. Nestled in the Great Smoky Mountains, this town offers breathtaking views and a cozy mountain town vibe.

We especially love exploring the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which is right at Gatlinburg’s doorstep. It’s perfect for hiking, seeing wildlife, and taking in the scenic beauty.

The Salt and Pepper Shaker Museum surprises visitors with its quirky charm—one of those hidden gems that you won’t find anywhere else in America. For those seeking adventure or just a peaceful retreat into nature, Gatlinburg delivers both along with local shops and eateries that give you a taste of Southern hospitality.

Plus, being close to Pigeon Forge means there’s always something exciting nearby, like Dollywood!


Jonesborough grabs your attention with its deep-rooted history and charm. It stands as Tennessee’s oldest town, filled with stories from days gone by. You’ll find it nestled in the mountains, offering a peaceful getaway from the hustle and bustle of bigger cities.

We love strolling through its well-preserved downtown area, where historic buildings line Main Street, inviting us to explore more.

The International Storytelling Center here is a real highlight, especially during the National Storytelling Festival. This event brings tales from around the world right to Tennessee’s doorstep.

Imagine spending an afternoon wrapped up in captivating stories! Plus, Jonesborough isn’t just about listening – it’s about stepping back into a simpler time while enjoying all the modern comforts you could want.

With friendly faces everywhere and unique shops dotting Main Street, this small town invites us all for a visit we won’t quickly forget.


Franklin invites us with its rich Civil War history and charming downtown. We stroll through streets lined with historic homes, boutiques, and cafes. The Lotz House stands as a testament to the town’s past, showing us the impact of the Civil War right in Franklin.

Live music fills the air in local venues, creating a vibrant scene for us to enjoy. We find unique shops offering everything from handmade goods to antiques. Franklin feels like stepping back in time but with all the comforts of today.


Nestled in the rolling hills of Tennessee, Paris boasts a tranquil ambiance with its scenic beauty and rich history. Known for the captivating Eiffel Tower replica, this charming town offers a serene getaway with its picturesque Paris Landing State Park, perfect for leisurely strolls and birdwatching.

Visitors can immerse themselves in local culture at the International Storytelling Center and discover hidden gems like the unique Little River Railroad Museum.

Surrounded by natural wonders such as the Cherokee National Forest and Natchez Trace Parkway, Paris provides an idyllic setting for outdoor enthusiasts to explore hiking trails and enjoy breathtaking views.


Dayton, known for the historic Scopes Monkey Trial, is a charming town with captivating historical significance. Visiting the Rhea County Courthouse allows you to step back in time and learn about this landmark trial.

The breathtaking beauty of the Tennessee River offers an array of outdoor activities like boating, fishing, and picnicking by the water’s edge. A must-visit is Bryan College where its peaceful campus provides an excellent spot for a leisurely stroll while enjoying picturesque views.


Nestled in the heart of Lewis County, Hohenwald offers a peaceful retreat with its lush greenery and serene ambiance. This small town, known for its vibrant arts scene, beckons with unique craft shops and local galleries showcasing the talents of Tennessee artists.

Visitors can immerse themselves in nature at The Elephant Sanctuary, the nation’s largest natural habitat refuge for endangered elephants. Here in Hohenwald, one can also explore intriguing historical sites such as the Meriwether Lewis Monument and Park, paying homage to the renowned explorer’s final resting place.

In addition to these attractions, individuals interested in outdoor activities will find solace amidst the rolling hills and winding rivers while hiking along lush trails or partaking in fishing adventures.


Lynchburg, a picturesque small town in Moore County, is home to the renowned Jack Daniel’s Distillery. The distillery offers exciting tours where you can explore the history and art of crafting Tennessee whiskey.

While here, don’t miss out on tasting some authentic southern BBQ at Miss Mary Bobo’s Boarding House, known for its rich heritage and mouthwatering dishes.

Explore Lynchburg’s charming town square with its quaint shops and friendly locals. Don’t forget to visit the Lynchburg Hardware and General Store to experience a slice of Americana.

Off-The-Beaten-Path Towns to Explore

A group of friends explore the vibrant streets of Bell Buckle, capturing their adventure in a lively cityscape photo.

Discover hidden gems like Bell Buckle, Collierville, and Cookeville that offer unique charm and rich history—these off-the-beaten-path towns will surprise and delight you with their distinct character.

Ready to uncover Tennessee’s best-kept secrets?.

Bell Buckle

Nestled in rural Tennessee, Bell Buckle boasts well-preserved Victorian architecture and a rich historical ambiance. This small town is famous for its welcoming community and annual events, such as the Webb School Art and Craft Fair and the RC Cola & MoonPie Festival.

Visitors can wander through charming streets lined with quaint shops, sample delectable Southern cuisine at local eateries, or immerse themselves in the town’s cultural heritage at venues like the Bell Buckle Cafe or the Bell Buckle Chamber of Commerce.

Beyond its nostalgic allure, Bell Buckle offers a tranquil escape from bustling city life, inviting travelers to savor leisurely strolls along tree-shaded trails while admiring scenic vistas of Tennessee’s countryside.


Collierville, a gem in Tennessee, charms with its small-town allure. The historic town boasts tree-lined streets and a quaint downtown, making it perfect for leisurely strolls. This town is home to the Morton Museum of Collierville History that showcases its rich heritage.

Furthermore, visitors can indulge in delectable treats at charming local bakeries and explore boutiques offering unique finds. Collierville also hosts community events like the annual Fair on the Square, drawing locals and tourists alike.

This picturesque town in Tennessee offers a serene escape with its Southern hospitality and captivating surroundings. Notably, Collierville’s dedication to preserving its history adds an enriching layer to any visit.


Cookeville, located in Putnam County, is a charming small town nestled in the rolling hills of Tennessee. With its vibrant arts scene and outdoor recreational opportunities, Cookeville beckons travelers seeking a blend of relaxation and adventure.

Visitors can explore Cummins Falls State Park to marvel at its cascading waterfalls or immerse themselves in the local culture at the Appalachian Center for Craft. The historic downtown area offers quaint shops and eateries that showcase the town’s rich heritage while providing a warm welcome to all who visit.

With its proximity to natural beauty, including Burgess Falls State Park and Center Hill Lake, Cookeville offers an ideal escape for nature enthusiasts. Those exploring this gem will find hiking trails that lead to stunning panoramic views and ample opportunities for boating and fishing on the lake.


Pulaski, a small town in Tennessee, offers a rich historical experience.. The town is renowned for its Civil War history and the nearby site of the Battle of Sulphur Creek Trestle.

Pulaski also holds significance as the birthplace of the Ku Klux Klan. This hidden gem hosts events like the “Giles Old-Fashioned Christmas” and boasts charming antique shops to explore.

Moreover, its picturesque downtown area provides a quaint setting for leisurely strolls and discovering local treasures.


Dandridge, a captivating small town in Tennessee, offers a tranquil escape with its picturesque landscapes and historic charm. Situated near the Great Smoky Mountains and Douglas Lake, this town beckons nature enthusiasts and history buffs alike.

The town’s well-preserved architecture is a testament to its rich heritage, while outdoor activities like fishing, boating, and hiking provide endless opportunities for adventure. Dandridge serves as an ideal retreat for those seeking serene surroundings amidst unspoiled natural beauty.

In Dandridge, visitors can explore historic sites such as the Bush Beans Visitors Center or embark on scenic drives along the nearby Cades Cove loop road. Additionally, unique experiences await at locations like the Forbidden Caverns or during seasonal events like the Scots-Irish Festival.


Townsend, nestled in the peaceful Smoky Mountains, is a haven for nature lovers. With its tranquil rivers and lush forests, it offers a serene escape from the hustle and bustle. The Tuckaleechee Caverns, one of Townsend’s hidden gems, makes for an intriguing underground adventure.

It’s also situated near the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Little River Railroad and Lumber Company Museum, offering ample opportunities to explore history and natural beauty.

This charming town is surrounded by picturesque scenery that invites visitors to take leisurely strolls or enjoy outdoor activities such as hiking or biking. At night, revel under enchanting starlit skies in this quiet oasis away from city life.

Activities and Attractions in Small Town Tennessee

Explore the captivating beauty of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, filled with lush forests and diverse wildlife. Delve into the rich cultural tapestry at places like Dollywood, World-Famous Grand Ole Opry, and the International Storytelling Center.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountains National Park welcomes you with its lush forests, diverse wildlife, and over 800 miles of hiking trails to explore. The park boasts stunning mountain views, historic buildings, and a rich cultural history.

As the most visited national park in the U.S., it beckons with opportunities for outdoor adventures like camping, fishing, and horseback riding. Here, visitors can witness the awe-inspiring sight of synchronous fireflies during their annual mating display in late spring or early summer – an experience unlike any other in North America.

Don’t miss out on exploring Cades Cove’s scenic valley or discovering Clingmans Dome’s panoramic views from the highest point in Tennessee.

Bush Beans Visitors Center

Welcome to the Bush Beans Visitors Center, where you can dive into the fascinating world of one of America’s favorite pantry staples. Stroll through interactive exhibits detailing the history and production of Bush’s Best Beans, and even learn about the company’s iconic marketing campaigns.

Discover how this humble legume became a staple in American households, and gain insight into the family behind the brand that has been producing beans for over 100 years.

At the center, marvel at a replica of A.J. Bush’s general store where it all began back in 1897 in Chestnut Hill, Tennessee. Take a tour to witness firsthand how these beloved beans are canned using state-of-the-art technology right here in beautiful East Tennessee.

Fall Creek Falls State Park

Fall Creek Falls State Park boasts the highest waterfall in the eastern United States, plunging at a breathtaking 256 feet. Nestled within the rolling hills of Tennessee, this natural wonder offers hiking trails that wind through lush forests and lead to captivating overlooks, providing a perfect setting for nature enthusiasts.

The park also presents various activities like swimming, birdwatching, and zip-lining for those seeking adventure amidst serene surroundings. With its mesmerizing vistas and diverse recreational offerings, Fall Creek Falls State Park stands as a hidden gem waiting to be discovered by travelers seeking tranquility and natural beauty.

International Storytelling Center

The International Storytelling Center, located in Jonesborough, Tennessee, is a captivating destination for those seeking the magic of oral storytelling. The center hosts the annual National Storytelling Festival and showcases the cultural significance of storytelling through live performances and interactive exhibits.

Visitors can immerse themselves in the art of storytelling from around the world, gaining insight into different traditions and perspectives. With its mission to celebrate the power of stories to connect people across generations and cultures, this center offers an enriching experience for those who appreciate the spoken word.

At this renowned venue in Tennessee’s small town, guests can witness master storytellers weave tales that transport listeners to diverse settings and eras—crafting experiences that engage all ages with enchanting narratives.

Milky Way Farms

Nestled in Pulaski, Tennessee, Milky Way Farms is a historical treasure with breathtaking landscapes and rich heritage. This sprawling estate encompasses over 1,500 acres and was once the home of Frank Mars, founder of the iconic Mars candy company.

Visitors can explore the stunning Georgian-style mansion, stroll through lush gardens, and enjoy scenic views across the property. History buffs will be captivated by the stories of thoroughbred racehorses that once roamed these grounds, as well as the connection to legendary horse Seabiscuit – a true hidden gem waiting to be explored.

Leveraging its storied past, Milky Way Farms hosts events throughout the year showcasing its equestrian legacy while also offering tours for those eager to delve into its fascinating history.

Museum of Appalachia

Nestled in Norris, Tennessee, the Museum of Appalachia showcases the rich history and culture of the region with over 250,000 artifacts. Its unique collection includes pioneer buildings, folk art, musical instruments, and agricultural tools.

Visitors can explore traditional Appalachian dwellings and learn about the daily lives of early settlers through engaging exhibits that highlight the area’s heritage.

The museum hosts various events throughout the year, including music festivals celebrating Appalachian culture. It also offers workshops on traditional crafts like weaving and blacksmithing.


Dollywood, located in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, is a renowned theme park that offers a blend of thrilling rides and live entertainment. It showcases the rich heritage and culture of the Smoky Mountains region while providing an enjoyable experience for all ages.

The park features award-winning roller coasters like the Thunderhead and Lightning Rod, along with traditional crafts demonstrations by local artisans – giving you a taste of Appalachian craftsmanship.

With its multiple music shows and festivals throughout the year, Dollywood highlights the vibrant musical traditions deeply rooted in Tennessee’s cultural tapestry.

Moreover, Dollywood’s Splash Country water park caters to those seeking aquatic adventures with its exhilarating water slides and lazy river. Additionally, visitors can relish Southern comfort cuisine at various dining spots within the park or explore shops offering unique handcrafted souvenirs.

World-Famous Grand Ole Opry

World-Famous Grand Ole Opry, located in Nashville, has been showcasing top country music talent since 1925. As a renowned live entertainment show, it has hosted legendary performers such as Johnny Cash and Dolly Parton.

With its star-studded concerts and captivating atmosphere, the Grand Ole Opry promises an unforgettable experience.

The Grand Ole Opry continues to attract music enthusiasts with its vibrant performances and historic significance. Hosting both classic and modern country artists, this iconic venue offers a memorable glimpse into Tennessee’s rich musical heritage.

Hidden Gems: Best Kept Secrets in Small Town Tennessee

Embark on an adventure at Discovery Park of America, offering captivating exhibits and interactive experiences for all ages. Immerse yourself in the charm of Savannah, Tennessee, with its rich history and picturesque riverfront views.

Adventure Awaits at Discovery Park of America

Get ready for an unforgettable adventure at Discovery Park of America, one of the best-kept secrets in small town Tennessee. With over 50 acres of exploration and excitement, this hidden gem offers a unique blend of history, science, art, and entertainment.

From touring a replica Native American settlement to admiring vintage military vehicles at the Military Gallery, there’s something for everyone to discover. Plus, don’t miss out on their special events and hands-on exhibits that bring learning to life – making it an ideal destination for curious travelers looking to immerse themselves in fascinating local culture.

Uncover captivating stories at Discovery Park of America through its diverse exhibits spanning natural history, regional heritage, and interactive displays that will pique your curiosity.

Whether you’re interested in agriculture or space exploration, this engaging attraction promises a memorable journey filled with educational experiences that resonate with all ages.

A Day in Savannah, Tennessee

Spend a day in Savannah, Tennessee, a charming town rich in history and natural beauty. Start with a visit to the Cherry Mansion, an antebellum home offering intriguing insights into Civil War history.

Walk along the picturesque riverfront or take a leisurely stroll through historic downtown, where quaint shops and cozy cafes await. Discover the area’s natural wonders at Pickwick Landing State Park, boasting scenic trails and serene picnic spots by the lake.

Indulge in mouthwatering southern cuisine at one of the local eateries while soaking up Savannah’s relaxed small-town atmosphere.

Explore treasures of Civil War history at Cherry Mansion. Take in the charm of downtown with its inviting shops and cafes.

Planning Your Trip: Where to Stay in Small Town Tennessee

Find charming lodging options in historic buildings, cozy bed and breakfasts, and quaint boutique hotels. Enjoy local flavors at family-owned restaurants featuring traditional southern cuisine.

Explore the towns on foot or rent a bike to immerse yourself in their unique charms.

Hotels and Accommodations

When planning your trip to explore the quieter and smaller towns of Tennessee, it’s essential to consider the range of accommodations available. From cozy bed and breakfast inns nestled in picturesque valleys to charming boutique hotels with historic charm, there are diverse options catering to every preference and budget.

Many accommodations offer unique experiences, such as staying in restored Victorian homes or rustic cabins with breathtaking mountain views. Key amenities include complimentary breakfasts featuring locally sourced ingredients and convenient access to the region’s attractions.

For those seeking a more immersive experience, quaint cottages and lodges provide an authentic taste of small-town living while being just a stone’s throw away from hidden gems waiting to be discovered.

Dining Options

Many small towns in Tennessee offer charming local eateries with delicious Southern cuisine. From cozy cafes serving up homemade biscuits and gravy to family-owned barbecue joints dishing out slow-smoked ribs, there’s something for every taste bud.

Don’t miss the chance to savor a slice of homemade pie at a quaint diner or indulge in farm-to-table dishes featuring fresh ingredients from the surrounding countryside. Additionally, exploring these small town dining options allows us to support local businesses and experience the authentic flavors of Tennessee.

When planning our trip, we can discover unique dining establishments that reflect the rich culinary heritage of Tennessee. Whether it’s sampling regional specialties like Nashville hot chicken or indulging in sweet tea on a front porch overlooking rolling hills, these dining experiences are an essential part of immersing ourselves in the local culture.

Getting Around

We can easily get around the small towns in Tennessee by renting a car or using our own vehicle. The state has well-maintained roads and highways, making it convenient for us to navigate from one town to another.

Additionally, some towns offer bicycle rentals or have pedestrian-friendly areas, allowing us to explore at a leisurely pace. Public transportation options such as buses and shuttles are also available in certain areas, providing an alternative means of getting around.

Overall, the transportation infrastructure makes it simple for us to move between these charming small towns and discover their unique attractions without any hassle.

Best Small Towns In Tennessee Conclusion

After exploring the best small towns in Tennessee, it’s clear that the state offers a treasure trove of hidden gems waiting to be discovered. From historic architecture to natural wonders, each town has its own unique charm and appeal.

Whether it’s quaint Bell Buckle or adventurous Gatlinburg, these small towns provide an escape from the hustle and bustle of big cities. With picturesque landscapes and captivating attractions, Tennessee’s small towns are definitely worth a visit for anyone seeking an authentic and memorable experience.

So pack your bags and get ready to uncover the fascinating hidden gems nestled within Tennessee’s charming small towns!

Best Small Towns In Tennessee FAQs

1. What makes Gatlinburg, Tennessee a hidden gem?

Gatlinburg is nestled in the heart of the Great Smoky Mountains, offering breathtaking views and unique attractions like the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center. It’s a place where adventure meets tranquility.

2. Can you tell me about a historical site in Greeneville, TN?

Yes! Greeneville is home to the Andrew Johnson National Historic Site, celebrating the life of President Andrew Johnson. This town in Greene County offers a deep dive into American history.

3. Are there any natural wonders near Chattanooga?

Absolutely! Chattanooga sits close to Lookout Mountain and the Unicoi Mountain Range, providing stunning scenery and outdoor activities. Don’t miss visiting the Tennessee Aquarium for an underwater adventure.

4. What’s special about Tellico and its surroundings?

Tellico boasts amazing landscapes with its proximity to natural treasures like David Crockett Birthplace State Park… A perfect spot for those who love exploring outdoors while soaking up some history.

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