A pickup truck travels toward the camera on the Tennessee side of State Street in the separated cities of Bristol, Tennessee (l), and Bristol, Virginia (r).

Tennessee's 7 Most Underrated Towns to visit in 2024

It is easy to find a good time while traveling in the Volunteer State. Too easy, in fact. Whether one finds themselves in East, Middle, or West Tennessee, the optimal choice for a vacation can be overshadowed by the tourism highlights of every surrounding town. Escape to the most unique destinations that get lost in the noise of tourism advertising. Pack a bag, load the car, bring the dog: there’s so much more of Tennessee left to discover.


State Street in downtown Bristol, Tennessee.
State Street in downtown Bristol, Tennessee. Image credit: Appalachian Centrist via Wikimedia Commons.

Speed along to Bristol, a town located east of Boone Lake and west of South Holston Lake, which was recognized by the US Congress in 1998 as the official “Birthplace of Country Music.” Party in two places at once on State Street, where the border between Tennessee and Virginia bisects Bristol’s Historic Downtown. Get swallowed up by the beautiful Bristol Caverns. Walk along paved paths through an underground river that was carved between 200-400 million years ago. Hit the brakes upon reaching Bristol Motor Speedway, which has been showcasing NASCAR races since 1961. If the Speedway fails to quench your need for speed, try the Bristol Dragway, known locally as Thunder Valley for its stomach-rattling acoustics.

Mt. Juliet

Mt. Juliet City Hall on Mt. Juliet Rd.
Mt. Juliet City Hall on Mt. Juliet Rd. in Tennessee, By MtJulietEditor96 - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Join the party in Mt. Juliet, a charming town nestled between the J. Percy Priest Reservoir to the south and the Cumberland River to the north. Mt. Juliet draws visitors for its shopping opportunities, boasting the largest mercantile complex between Nashville and Knoxville. However, the town has so much more to offer beneath the surface. Discover a French treasure at Gargoyles. As their website attests: “From hand-carved antique desks, beds, and armoires to pottery bowls, wine bottles, and apple baskets, all our treasures are beautifully unique.” Score a piece of the finest Polish pottery outside of Poland’s own museums at Music City Polish Pottery. Do not leave town without tasting the highest echelons of barbecue at the Candied Rib Company restaurant.


Caboose Park in downtown Tullahoma.
Caboose Park in downtown Tullahoma.

The sky is no longer the limit in Tullahoma, a town that has been a haven for aviators and space enthusiasts for decades. Visit the University of Tennessee Space Institute for a glimpse into the great beyond. Plummet back down to Earth with the help of Skydive Tennessee. Venture 3.5 miles to Short Springs, a 420-acre natural area where the breathtaking Machine Falls trail awaits. Tullahoma, situated northwest of Woods Reservoir and south of the expansive Normandy Lake, ensures natural beauty is never far away. Normandy’s thin tendrils reach into town, convenient for those unable to venture too far from their hotel. Experience the taste of George Dickel spirits at its source with a tour of Cascade Hollow Distilling Company.


Columbia, Tennessee town square.
Columbia, Tennessee town square. Image credit Flickr user jdj150, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Welcome to a town of stunning architecture. Columbia is home to several large historic estates, now inhabited by celebrities. Country star Jason Aldean is the latest, with a sprawling 120-acre property featuring a palace at its heart. Travel back to the early 19th century at the President James K. Polk Home and Museum. The West 7th Street building, completed in 1816, is the only remaining private residence of Polk. Don’t leave town without sampling a pint or two from Bad Idea Brewing.


Fall season in Cookeville, Tennessee.
Fall season in Cookeville, Tennessee.

Plan a trip to the curiously wonderful Cookeville around an auction at the Cookeville Antique Mall. The mall itself is a sight to behold, even without a special event. Enjoy a morning jog on the stunning trails at Cane Creek Park. Don’t leave without a bottle of Salted Caramel whiskey from the Maddux Place location of Tennessee Legend Distillery and some Root Beer from Red Silo Brewing. For those seeking something stronger, try a pint of The Wild Corgi brown ale. Spend your last night at Crawdaddy’s, indulging in as many appetizers as they’ll allow.


The intersection of Main Street and Depot Street in downtown Greeneville, Tennessee
The intersection of Main Street and Depot Street in downtown Greeneville, Tennessee, By AppalachianCentrist - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, File:Main & Depot Intersection - Greeneville.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

Flee to historic Greeneville, north of the Nolichucky River, blessed with a plethora of charming creeks. Try not to get too revved up at the City Garage Car Museum, where you can find a 1969 Excalibur, a 1936 Auburn Boattail Speedster, a 1981 DeLorean Gullwing, and the car Sterling Marlin won the 1994 Daytona 500 with—all under one roof. Plan your visit around a show at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center, showcasing regional and traveling talent. Stay at the General Morgan Inn, a historic property defining southern hospitality since 1884. The lot previously hosted the DeWoody Tavern, built in the early 1790s.


Picture of a row of houses in Germantown neighborhood of Nashville, Tennessee
Picture of a row of houses in Germantown neighborhood of Nashville, Tennessee

Germantown is famous for its Oktoberfest celebrations each fall. Venture into the surreal at Memorial Park, where the Crystal Shrine Grotto awaits. This unique site houses the only man-made crystal cave in the world, along with several awe-inspiring pieces by Mexican artist Dionicio Rodriguez. There’s never a shortage of interesting jogging routes, as Germantown boasts over 800 acres of public land across 31 parks and special facilities. Stop by the renowned fine dining destination Limelight from 4:30-5:30 for Neighborhood Hour deals on drinks and dishes, offering a general epicurean heaven-experience.

Real travelers respect the lands they explore. Please remember to remove all trash from national, state, and municipal parks. Report sightings of invasive plant and animal species to eddmaps.org. Keep an eye out for Japanese Honeysuckle, the red fire ant, and Chinese lespedeza. Consider supporting Native American businesses whenever possible. Before the arrival of Europeans to Tennessee, the Chickasaw nation roamed the state’s western lands, while the Cherokee nation inhabited southeastern Tennessee and northeastern Georgia.

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