River rushing by the Old Mill in Pigeon Forge.

7 Cutest Small Towns in Tennessee

Located in the Southern US, Tennessee is a landlocked state that has a topography that ranges from lakes and forests to hills, valleys, and mountains. Best known for Nashville and the county music scene, Tennessee also offers many quaint towns brimming with southern charm, natural beauty, and recreational opportunities. Whether you are passing through this state on the way to the Grand Ole Opry, the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, and Johnny Cash's house, or live in Tennessee, take some time to explore all that these cute small towns have to offer.

Pigeon Forge

View of historic Old Mill District in the tourist area of Pigeon Forge Tennessee on a sunny autumn day.
Old Mill District in the tourist area of Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Image credit littlenySTOCK via Shutterstock

Situated in the eastern portion of the state, this Smoky Mountain town is best known as being the home of Dollywood, singer Dolly Parton's Appalachian-themed park. The visually pleasing town is also known for the Smoky Mountain Opry and Dolly Parton's Dixie Stampede. In addition to various country music-inspired attractions, Pigeon Forge also features a multitude of activities for the more adventurous, such as Paula Deen's Lumberjack Feud Show and Adventure Park, SpeedZone Fun Park, SkyFly: Soar America, and Pigeon Forge Snow, where guests can play in the snow all year round. History lovers will not want to miss the Alacatraz East Crime Museum.

When it comes to nature, this cute mountain town does not disappoint. Rent a raft, kayak, or canoe and explore the Pigeon River, or spend a day or two traversing through the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. You can also bring a tent, RV, or camper and immerse yourself in nature during your stay.


T.B. Sutton General Store in Granville, Tennessee
T.B. Sutton General Store in Granville. Image credit https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:T.B._Sutton_General_Store.jpg

Located on the banks of the Cumberland River, small-yet-charming Granville offers visitors a unique Tennessee experience no matter what time of year you visit. Once a thriving riverboat town, Granville has gone through many changes over the years to become the quaint tourist destination that it is today. Whether you are just passing through this middle Tennessee town or are spending a few days there, do not miss the comprehensive Granville Museum, which features a pictorial tour of a small farming and riverboat town, as well as a glimpse into the area's military history. The Farm to Your Table Agricultural Museum tells the story of the state's dairy farms and showcases a historic horse-drawn carriage.

Nature lovers will want to spend some time at Granville Veteran's Park, situated on the Cumberland River. You can also rent a boat and pass a warm summer day on the water. Explore local nature at the Wildwood Resort & Marina. Rent a cabin, or a room in the waterfront lodge, or spend a night or two in a unique floating cottage.


Busy street in Summer time with tourist and cars in Gatlinburg, Tennessee
Busy downtown Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Image credit Miro Vrlik Photography via Shutterstock

Nestled in the Great Smoky Mountains in eastern Tennessee not far from Pigeon Forge, eye-catching Gatlinburg delights visitors with a variety of outdoor recreational, historic, and thrilling adventure opportunities. You can access the famed Smoky Mountains National Park from Gatlinburg, which beckons nature lovers to explore sweeping views, local wildlife, and breathtaking waterfalls. Outdoor adventurers can also ride the Ober Gatlinburg Aerial Tram, walk across the longest pedestrian sky bridge in the country, go whitewater rafting and soar through the forest on a zipline while visiting this small town. Gatlinburg is also home to world-class golfing and fishing opportunities and 800 miles of walking trails. 

If you are looking for things to do with your family, check out Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies, the Gatlinburg Space Needle, and the Gatlinburg Pinball Museum. The Gatlinburg Skylift Park offers visitors the chance to explore the Smoky Mountains from 140 feet high on a cable bridge. You can also ride the SkyLift chairs for a seated experience.


A lone woman and her dog can be seen looking into a closed business, in an otherwise bustling tourist town during the coronavirus, Jonesborough, Tennessee
Downtown Jonesborough, Tennessee. Image credit Dee Browning via Shutterstock

For a vacation in a quaint Tennessee mountain town, you cannot go wrong with Jonesborough. Situated in the Appalachian Mountains in the northeast section of the state, Jonesborough is overflowing with history, heritage, and natural beauty. Known as Tennessee's oldest town, Jonesborough is home to several must-see museums and historic sites, such as the Chuckey Railroad Depot Museum and the International Storytelling Center. The Chester Inn State Historic Site and Museum gives visitors a thorough look into the town's history, from the 1700s to the present time.

If spending time outdoors is more your thing, visit the Vines Farm Park, which offers local scenic views and miles of green trails, or Mill Spring Park. The town's Wetlands Water Park offers a water slide, a lazy river, a zero-depth wading pool, and other opportunities for family fun.


Looking down from the trail at the flowing partially frozen Richland creek in the pocket wilderness in Dayton Tennessee in wintertime
Wilderness in Dayton Tennessee in wintertime.

If your travels take you through middle Tennessee, make a stop in Dayton, which is about 40 minutes north of the bustling city of Chattanooga. Situated in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains, this small town is filled with both historic and outdoor attractions. If you are a history buff, spend time exploring the Rhea County Courthouse, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, featuring eye-catching Romanesque Revival-style architecture. The courthouse also includes the Scopes Trial Museum.

Dayton's Centennial Park, located downtown, is the ideal place for a picnic lunch, while Pendergrass Park is known for its playground. Get some exercise on Point Park's 1.9-mile walking track, which treats walkers to plenty of local natural beauty.

Leiper's Fork

Willow trees on Leiper's Fork Road near Nashville, Tennesee.
Willow trees on Leiper's Fork Road.

Located just outside of the busy town of Franklin, quaint Leiper's Fork offers the best of both worlds. This charming village boasts southern charm, outdoor recreation, and unique shopping opportunities. Take a behind-the-scenes tour at the Leiper's Fork Distillery, an artisan distillery known for its small-batch whiskey production. During your visit, enjoy whiskey samples and buy a souvenir in the onsite shop.

Art lovers will not want to miss the Leiper's Creek Gallery, located in the heart of the village, and featuring an eclectic collection of paintings, sculptures, and other types of artwork. Relax on the gallery's front porch or warm up around the fire pit on cool nights.


Drug store, Lynchburg Hardware and General Store, Jack Daniels and Barrel shop in the traditional commercial block close to the Jack Daniels Distillery.
Hardware and General Store and Jack Daniels and Barrel shop close to the Jack Daniels Distillery, Lynchburg. Image credit Paul McKinnon via Shutterstock

Known for being home to the world-famous Jack Daniels Distillery, surrounding charming Lynchburg are gently rolling hills and horse and cattle farms. Whether you want to go antique shopping, take in local nature, or sample local whiskey, you will find it in this cute southern town.

Jack Daniels Distillery tours are free, although there is a small fee for samples. The distillery hosts several events throughout the year, such as the annual World Championship Barbecue Competition in October. Shop for treats such as homemade candy, vintage items, gifts, and even motorcycle gear in Lynchburg's historic downtown. The Lynchburg Hardware and General Store have unique Jack Daniel's keepsakes and memorabilia.

No matter what time of year you visit Tennessee, you will find a welcoming small town to spend quality time in. From quaint mountain towns to 18th and 19th-century historic sites, you will find it all in this southern state.

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