Downtown patio in Jonesborough, Tennessee. Image credit Dee Browning via Shutterstock

8 Coolest Towns in Tennessee for a Summer Vacation in 2024

Tennessee is a state that bridges the gap between the forest and mountains of the east and the Great Plains to the west. Because of this unique spot in America's geography, there are numerous cool and unique corners to explore, whether it is the rolling hills of the Smoky Mountains or the scenic countryside to the western edge along the mighty Mississippi River. Also known for its whiskey, music scene, and other quintessentially American cultural icons, Tennessee holds something for everyone traveling within its borders.

Explore eight of Tennessee's coolest small towns for a summer vacation in 2024, where you can truly experience "The Volunteer State" for yourself.


Downtown street in Lynchburg, Tennessee.
Downtown street in Lynchburg, Tennessee.

Lynchburg has a big claim to fame: it's home to the Jack Daniel's Distillery, one of the most well-known whiskey producers in the world. The distillery offers regular tours where you can learn about the history of Jack Daniel's and see the whiskey-making process in action. Although Lynchburg has a smallish population of less than 7,000, its association with Jack Daniel's draws visitors year-round, making it a lively spot for a summer visit. Be sure to book your tour well in advance. There are other top-notch alcoholic beverages produced in town, like wines produced at the Lynchburg Winery.

Beyond distilleries and wineries, Lynchburg has a charming town square with shops selling local crafts and souvenirs, along with a few cafes and eateries. If you are looking for outdoor activities outside of town, like hiking and fishing, the expansive, lake and forest-filled Tims Ford State Park is a short drive south.

Leipers Fork

Grocery and restaurant at Leipers Fork in Tennessee.
Grocery and restaurant at Leipers Fork, Tennessee. Image credit 4kclips via

Leipers Fork is located in the hills of Williamson County, just about 30 miles from downtown Nashville. This small town has gained a reputation as a haven for artists and musicians, partially thanks to its proximity to Nashville, a major city that is well-known for its music scene, particularly country music. But, if you are looking to get away from the crowds but still want a similar vibe, Leipers Fork is the place to be, with quaint yet lively venues like Fox & Locke in the center of town.

Leipers Fork is also worth a visit for its picturesque countryside, with rolling hills and horse farms providing a tranquil backdrop wherever you may be in the area. While in town, check out the Leiper's Fork Distillery tour.


'Downtown Sweet' coffee shop, Jonesborough, Tennessee.
Downtown Sweet coffee shop, Jonesborough, Tennessee. Image credit Nolichuckyjake via Shutterstock

Jonesborough is Tennessee's oldest town, being originally founded in 1779, almost two decades before the state of Tennessee itself was established. This deep history is evident in the beautifully preserved historic district downtown, with buildings like The Chester Inn dating all the way back to the year 1797. You will be greeted with brick sidewalks, vintage storefronts, and more charming bed-and-breakfast inns. The town is famous for the National Storytelling Festival, held every October, drawing storytellers and audiences from around the world, just to name a few.

In the summer, explore the International Storytelling Center or find out what is currently going on in town at the Jonesborough Visitors Center. Outdoor activities abound in the outskirts of town too, with trails for hiking in the nearby parks and Nolichucky River for kayaking and tubing.


The main street in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.
The main street in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Image credit Dawid S Swierczek via Shutterstock

Gatlinburg is conveniently a gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, one of the most visited national parks in the United States, and for good reason. This region contain some of the highest peaks in the eastern United States and an extremely unique and diverse array of plant and animal life.

The town of Gatlinburg itself is a place where visitors can enjoy a wide range of activities, from hiking and wildlife spotting in the national park to exploring the bustling strip of shops, restaurants, and attractions. It is known for its observation spaces like the Gatlinburg Space Needle and SkyLift Park, offering breathtaking views of the Smokies. There is also the Ober Gatlinburg amusement park, where visitors can ride the Aerial Tramway, go ice skating, and even enjoy summer tubing.


St. Francis of Assisi (Townsend, Tennessee) - church on the Little River
Tubing on the Little River, by St. Francis of Assisi church, Townsend, Tennessee. Image credit Nheyob, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Townsend, often called the "Peaceful Side of the Smokies," is a tranquil town of 550 residents on the edge of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Unlike its busier neighbor, Gatlinburg, Townsend offers a quieter escape with easy access to the park's natural beauty. First, check out the Townsend Visitor Center to learn about the area's history and find information on all the local attractions. Nearby, Cades Cove, one of the most popular spots in the national park, offers a scenic loop drive with opportunities to see wildlife and historic buildings.

The Little River runs through the town, providing access to activities such as tubing, fishing, and kayaking. Townsend is also home to the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center, where visitors can find out more about the region's unique Appalachian culture through displays and live events that are held throughout the year.

Tellico Plains

View along the town square in Tellico Plains, Tennessee, United States.
Town square in Tellico Plains, Tennessee. Image credit Brian Stansberry, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Tellico Plains is seated in the rolling hills of southeastern Tennessee, serving as a gateway to the Cherokee National Forest and the scenic Cherohala Skyway. It is a favorite among outdoor adventurers, with easy access to stunning parks and a huge variety of things to do within them.

Drive the Cherohala Skyway, a 43-mile scenic highway that winds through the national forest, offering breathtaking views and numerous trailheads for hiking. Bald River Falls, a spectacular waterfall along the Cherohala Skyway, is a must-see attraction in the summer to bring your camera to.

In town, Tellico Plains has many great amenities, including places to eat like the Tellico Plains Bakery, known for its homemade pastries. Curious about the history of this small town? You should visit the Charles Hall Museum to learn about this region's past and its connections to the Cherokee Nation.


The charming town of Rogersville, Tennessee.
The charming town of Rogersville, Tennessee. Image credit Dee Browning via

Rogersville, in northeast Tennessee, is one of the state's oldest towns, having been founded in 1775. The town features a historic district with buildings dating back to the late 1700s and early 1800s. You can explore this historic architecture on Rogersville's West Main Street. Here, you can find the Hale Springs Inn. Established in 1824, it is a historic hotel where notable figures like Andrew Jackson and President James K. Polk once stayed. The Hawkins County Courthouse is another landmark worth visiting, being the oldest original courthouse still in use in Tennessee.

For your summer vacation, as an alternative to staying at a hotel or inn in town, the Windy Rivers Campground is just north of town and sits on the banks of the beautiful Holston River.

Bell Buckle

Garden in front of the Bell Buckle Banquet Hall and Theatre in Bell Buckle, Tennessee, United States.
Garden in front of the Bell Buckle Banquet Hall and Theatre in Bell Buckle, Tennessee. Image credit Brian Stansberry, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Bell Buckle, is a small town in Bedford County that is known as a hub for antique collectors and lovers of Southern charm. Find antiques at one of several antique shops this small town is home to, like Hilltop Antiques or Everybody's Antiques And More, to name a few.

Each summer in June, Bell Buckle hosts the RC Cola and MoonPie Festival, a whimsical celebration of two classic Southern treats. The festival features a parade, live music, and a variety of family-friendly activities. Bell Buckle also hosts numerous craft fairs and art shows throughout the year, attracting travelers from across the state. Also in town is the historic train depot. Dating back to the late 19th century, this landmark offers visitors in-depth info into Bell Buckle's railway past.

Besides the festivities in town, the nearby Normandy Lake is a popular spot in the summer for boating, fishing, and hiking.

Chill Out in Tennessee This Summer

Each of these Tennessee towns offers something unique, from the musical energy of Leipers Fork to the peaceful surroundings of Townsend. Whether you are planning a family vacation or a solo retreat, Tennessee's picturesque towns have something to suit every traveler. Explore historic sites in Rogersville, savor a glass of whiskey in Lynchburg, or take in the breathtaking views along the Cherohala Skyway. As you plan your summer vacation for 2024, consider these eight towns for an unforgettable experience filled with local culture, outdoor fun, and welcoming communities.

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