Morristown, Tennessee, USA: Historic district of Morristown, settled in 1787 and incorporated in 1855, was reconstructed after a flooding in 1962. Editorial credit: Dee Browning /

8 Must-See Historic Towns in Tennessee

Volunteer yourself for a much-needed exploration of the Volunteer State of Tennessee. The state earned its moniker because of the large number of war volunteers during the War of 1812, the Mexican-American War, and the American Civil War. But nowadays, Tennessee is more renowned for being the birthplace of country music and of world-famous whiskeys like Jack Daniels. Most importantly, the many must-see historic towns of Tennessee embody the state’s soaring and roaring spirits. On your journey, you will find distillery-owning towns like Lynchburg and strange towns with unique quirks like Pigeon Forge and Columbia. Either way, these must-see historic towns of Tennessee will keep your spirits high while you down a drink of fine spirits.


Historical district of Morristown, Tennessee.
Historical district of Morristown, Tennessee. Editorial credit: Dee Browning /

A short drive from the Great Smoky Mountains, Morristown is mainly known for its natural and outdoor attractions. Admittedly, it is exciting to boat on the Cherokee and Douglas Lakes and brave the trails of Panther Creek Park. But there are also many intriguing historical amenities to give you a great appreciation of human nature. The 1907 Brewing Company, for example, is Hamblen County’s first taproom and brewery that still provides craft brews and cider to the new generation. The Crockett Tavern Museum is a homage to Davy Crockett's livelihood and the frontier history he shaped. In addition, the Nathanael Greene Museum honors a few Revolutionary War heroes, while the General Longstreet Museum commemorates Confederate General James Longstreet during the Civil War.


Jonesborough, TN, USA: Main street adorned with colorful Thanksgiving displays featuring cornstalks, chrysanthemums, pumpkins, and hay bales in this historic town.
Jonesborough, TN, USA: Main Street during Thanksgiving. Editorial credit: Nolichuckyjake /

About 17 minutes from Johnson City, Jonesborough is “Tennessee’s Oldest Town.” It is best known for being the Storytelling Capital of the World, where admirers of the theatrical arts flock to see performances at the Jonesborough Repertory Theatre. Lover of tales and travails will most certainly enjoy attending the International Storytelling Festival on the first weekend of October. There, storytellers from all over America under the acclaimed Teller-in-Residence program gather to enthrall audiences into strange new worlds. For lodgings, look no further than to the Blair-Moore House, the Franklin House, and Jonesborough Bed & Breakfast.


Sunset view of Dayton, Tennessee, with mountains in the background.

Sunset view of Dayton, Tennessee, with mountains in the background.

On Richland Creek near the Tennessee River, the town of Dayton serves as a gateway to the Laurel Snow National Area. Located about 36 miles from Chattanooga, visitors can admire numerous historical attractions, such as the Rhea County Courthouse. There, the infamous Scopes Trial of 1925 was held, in which John T. Scopes, a high school science teacher, was found guilty of teaching evolution. In addition, the Scopes Trial Play and Festival is conducted every July to commemorate the odd scene. For visitors who are interested in other amenities outside history, consider picking bouquets at Lorenzen Flower Farm or bass fishing in Lake Chickamauga. If you want to spend a few days in Dayton, then seek accommodations at the PB Lodge.


Front entrance of the Giles County courthouse, constructed in 1909, in Pulaski, Tennessee, USA.
The Giles County courthouse in Pulaski, Tennessee, USA. Editorial credit: JNix /

Pulaski, about 30 miles from Columbia, beats lively and merrily at the heart of Tennessee. The sublime Giles County Courthouse stands as the tallest structure in town and the most architecturally aesthetic courthouse in the state. The Sam Davis Home and Museum, honoring Confederate hero Sam Davis, illustrates the American Civil War that blazed in the area. Meanwhile, visitors can enjoy a tour of the Milky Way Farm. The farm was founded by famous candy bar inventor Frank Mars, and much like the worldwide Milky Way and Mars candy bars, the Milky Way Farm is as alluring from the outside as it is awesome from the inside. Lastly, the Giles Hotel Inn & Suites will cater to your daily necessities.


Main entrance of the Jack Daniel's Distillery Visitor Center in Lynchburg, Tennessee, United States.
The Jack Daniel's Distillery Visitor Center in Lynchburg, Tennessee, United States. Editorial credit: Daniele Novati /

The town of Lynchburg is the birthplace and headquarters of the world-famous Jack Daniels Distillery. Only about 74 miles from Nashville, do not miss a chance to sample a Jack Daniels from the site of its origins. Similarly, you can also learn about the history of the world-famous whiskey company and its founding father, Jasper “Jack” Newton Daniels. Outside of the distillery, the Tims Ford State Park promotes many wildlife wonders and explorations for those eager for a walk. Visitors might also be interested in exploring the Lynchburg Old Jail Museum and the Beechcraft Heritage Museum. Lastly, you can always attend the Lynchburg Music Fest. Remember to book a room at The Homestead, The Cats Meow, or Mulberry House.


Aerial view of Columbia, Tennessee, during spring.

Aerial view of Columbia, Tennessee, during spring.

When you hear the name “Columbia,” you might imagine British Columbia in Canada or “Colombia” as in the one in South America. But the town of Columbia in Tennessee is quite different from either. For example, the town proclaims itself to be the “mule capital of the world” or simply “Muletown.” Indeed, people celebrate Mule Day every April. The folks also gather in the Mulehouse to listen to some unique Appalachian music. Visitors might be interested in touring the Presidential Residence of James K. Polk, now converted into a museum that explores the 11th US President’s life and accomplishments. So consider exploring this charming small town along the Duck River and about 44 miles from Bell Buckle. Be the first to find a suitable room at Richland Inn of Columbia, Forest Gully Farms, or Candlewood Suites.

Pigeon Forge

Aerial view of Pigeon Forge and Sevierville, Tennessee, captured by a drone.

Aerial view of Pigeon Forge and Sevierville, Tennessee, captured by a drone.

Visitors might assume the main attractions of Pigeon Forge are either “pigeons” or “forges.” Or a strange mix of the two. But in reality, Pigeon Forge is famous for being the home of Dollywood, Dolly Parton’s Appalachian-themed Park. Dollywood is comprised of rides, a water park, and a museum dedicated to showcasing Dolly Parton’s costumes and memorabilia during her country singer career. Outside of Dollywood are many more theme park attractions that will engage you. From the Titanic Museum Attraction and a Hollywood Wax Museum to WonderWorks, a science-focused theme park that will entertain and inform, there are many wondrous amenities to behold. Moreover, there are innumerable ziplines around the town ready to carry you through the air. Do consider staying at the Dollywood DreamMore Resort & Spa.


Historical section of Sweetwater, Tennessee, USA.
Historical section of Sweetwater, Tennessee, USA. Editorial credit: Dee Browning /

Water tastes the sweetest when it is pure. And the town of Sweetwater is a pure delight for all. Halfway between Chattanooga and Knoxville, Sweetwater welcomes travelers through the historic Sweetwater Depot and Visitor Center. Sweetwater is known for promoting the Lost Sea Adventure, a fun experience of spelunking and rafting in the largest underground lake in the US called the Lost Sea. Across the Lost Sea, the Tsali Notch Vineyard is Tennessee’s largest muscadine vineyard and one of the first producers of grapes in the state. The Sweetwater Heritage Museum exhibits the town's background, while the Craighead Caverns State Park further provides access to the Lost Sea and other historic caverns. If you need lodgings, look to Rodeway Inn or Remedies Inn for tranquility.

Discover Tennessee's Timeless Towns

In this verdant land named after the Cherokee word “Tanasi,” meaning “meeting place," "wind river," or "river of the great bend," there are many must-see historic towns that will give you a tremendous admiration for the men and women who shaped the state and the country. Even though major cities like Memphis, Nashville, and Knoxville are unique locales to venture into, Tennessee’s small towns should not be missed along the way. There is no shortage of historic charms and natural marvels in the Volunteer State. See history come to life in the many towns that call Tennessee a meeting place for the ages.

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