Aerial view of Tennessee's oldest town, Jonesborough. Jonesborough was founded in 1779 and it was the capital for the failed 14th State of the US, known as the State of Franklin.

9 Best Small Towns To Visit In Tennessee

Tennessee's small towns brim with Southern charm, with tight-knit communities filled with authentic hospitality, feeling home is easy as it gets. All wholesome and calming vibes can be found in these small towns, from the idyllic scenery of mountain tops with flowing rivers and waterfalls to well-preserved historical architecture and theme parks. Whether looking for a relaxing escape in nature or an adventure-thrilling vacation, these small towns are getaway-worthy and offer something for every interest.


Lynchburg Hardware and General Store, Jack Daniels and Barrel shop in the traditional commercial block close to the Jack Daniels Distillery.
Lynchburg Hardware and General Store, Jack Daniels and Barrel shop.

The little town's claim to fame is the Jack Daniels distillery, with free tours and whiskey sampling for visitors that draws in thousands of state-local tourists annually. This charming old-fashioned town of one traffic light is on the National Register of Historic Places, but also a highly productive one too. The Highlights of your visit to Lynchburg include Miss Mary Bobo's Boarding House restaurant, Moore County Old Jail Museum, Lynchburg Winery, and satisfying the sweet tooth with the stop at Lynchburg Cake and Candy Company.


Aerial view of Tennessee's oldest town, Jonesborough and its courthouse.
Aerial view of Tennessee's oldest town, Jonesborough and its courthouse.

Known as Tennessee's oldest town, Jonesborough is in Washington County and was founded in 1779, before Tennessee was even a state. Jonesborough is home to the International Storytelling Center and proudly hosts the renowned National Storytelling Festival each October, making it the storytelling capital of the world. Jonesborough is also considered a vital center of the abolitionist movement during the American Civil War. The city is rich with heritage and well-preserved historic buildings that take you back to the seventies, such as The Chester Inn State Historic Site & Museum and Chuckey Depot Museum. 


View from the Cades Cove Scenic Loop Trail, a popular destination in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park near Gatlinburg, Tennessee.
Cades Cove Scenic Loop Trail, in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park near Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

Tucked along the Great Smoky Mountains, Gatlinburg is a gateway to one of America's most visited and stunning tourist attractions, The Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It's the perfect mountain getaway that inspires feelings as if you were staying in a fairytale town from imagination. Downtown Gatlinburg offers Stunning vistas from the Gatlinburg SkyLift Park and the Space Needle. The Star attraction is Anakeesta, a mountaintop adventure park; start with a gondola ride to the mountains entering a world of mountain discovery from Dueling zipline rides, romantic 16-bridge Treetop Skywalk, rail runner mountain coaster with a variety of dining choices, and cute shops. This small town also offers exciting indoor activities like Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies.

Pigeon Forge

Drone, aerial, angled view of main strip, attractions, and mountains in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
Drone aerial view of Pigeon Forge.

Located outside Gatlinburg and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the charming town of Pigeon Forge, home to a 150-acre amusement park Dollywood, which is Dolly Parton's Appalachian-themed park. Dollywood puts the cute town on the map as a primary tourist destination with thrilling entertainment for all ages boasting more than 40 rides, delicious eateries, and hosting many festivals throughout the year as; Dollywood's Splash Country, Dollywood's Food & Flower Festival, Harvest Festival, and Dollywood's Smoky Mountain Christmas festival. However, the fun doesn't end here, as there's more to Pigeon Forge than just Dollywood; cool places in the town include the Titanic Museum, and the Instagramable WonderWorks amusement park is shaped as an upside-down house. 


Aerial view city of Townsend in Tennessee next to the Smoky Mountains
Aerial view city of Townsend in Tennessee next to the Smoky Mountains.

Nicknamed "The Peaceful Side of the Smokies," with a population of fewer than 600 residents, founded in 1900 as a logging town by a railroad company. The town is filled with historic sites, eateries, and museums, pass by the Little River Railroad & Lumber Museum and learn about Townsend's history. A highlight attraction in Townsend is the Tuckaleechee Caverns' the most significant and highest-rated cave east of the Mississippi River; the cavern is also home to the tallest underground waterfall in the eastern United States, known as "Silver Falls." For some outdoor fun Tube down River Rat, a cascading river, and soak up gorgeous mountain views. The charming town is also a gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains and The Cades Cove scenic drive.


Clover Street in Granville, Tennessee, USA.
Clover Street in Granville, Tennessee, USA.

A hidden riverfront gem Nicknamed "Tennessee's Mayberry Town," the Cordell Hull Lake surrounds Granville on three sides. The charming town is home to two National Register of Historic Sites, Carverdale Farms and T.B. Sutton General Store. The Granville Museum is the first museum in Granville, highlighting the town's history during world war I. Enjoy kayaking or canoeing in the Wildwood Resort & Marina for outdoor fun. We must remember the festivals hosted yearly: Heritage Day, Granville's scarecrow festival, and Country Christmas Festival. Other attractions are Granville Whiskey Decanter Museum, Whistle Stop Saloon, I Love Lucy Museum, Sutton Homestead, and Pioneer Village.


Rhea County Courthouse; Dayton Tennessee.
Rhea County Courthouse; Dayton Tennessee. 

North of the busy city of Chattanooga is a mixed suburban and rural town of Dayton famous for hosting The Scopes Trial, a historic legal case. Recognized among fishers as "The #1 Bass fishing destination in the US," there is never a bad time to hit the waters in Dayton. The small welcoming community has a historic downtown with well-preserved historical museums and courthouses like the Rhea County Courthouse, with mixed Romanian and Italian architecture. There is always something for those outdoor lovers, such as The Pocket Wilderness, the top hiking destination with mini waterfalls and picturesque trails, Blue Water Resort Marina for a unique fishing and camping experience, and Ponds & Plants, a combo of botanical gardens and a local zoo. 


Log cabin marks the site of Grinder’s Stand where Meriwether Lewis died while traveling on the Natchez Trace.
Log cabin marks the site of Grinder’s Stand. 

Hohenwald is a town in Lewis County, home to The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee, one of the country's largest natural habitat refuges. Hohenwald also holds one of the three award-winning wineries of Lewis County, The Natchez Hills Vineyard, a perfect destination for a romantic overnight date. Despite being a small town, it offers big delights like Oktober Heritage Festival, Summer Block Parties, and the locally famous Oak Grove Fish Fry. Also, don't miss Meriwether Lewis Site to learn about the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

Tellico Plains

Posing for a selfie in front of Bald River Falls on the Tennessee side of the Cherohala Skyway. The Skyway also extends east into North Carolina.
Waterfall in Tellico Plains with tourists. 

Tellico Plains is a town in Monroe County, Tennessee. With a population of under 1000, the vintage mountain town is a gateway to Cherohala Skyway and the Cherokee National Forest, offering various outdoor fun such as fishing, camping, hiking, and a scenic drive away. Another of Tellico Plains' natural beauty is The Tellico River and Bald River Falls, a picturesque cascading waterfall that gives a different vibe each season. This charming small town is ideal for nature lovers and those looking for a quieter pace of life. Downtown Tellico holds The Charles Hall Museum, another popular spot among tourists persevering the regional and Appalachian history with more than 6000 unique historical items collected.


Tennessee's towns offer plenty of enjoyment, affordability, and natural beauty, one of the best all-in-one destinations to enjoy a small-town vibe. Whether looking to zone out into mother nature's fascinating scenes of waterfalls and panoramic vistas or trying to learn more about the history of your country, Tennesse is a road trip you can't miss. Add these small towns to your bucket list and experience the US at its finest. 

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