The old mill in Gatlinburg, Tennessee and a duck on the surface of the water.

The Best Small Towns in Tennessee to Chill Out In 2024

The “Home of Country Music,” Tennesee, is a haven for musicians, as well as plentiful outdoor attractions that draw in tourists from around the globe. The state's natural beauty and historical significance always makes for an eye-opening, peaceful escape. These small towns have something unique to offer in each for those who want a calm and chill atmosphere, in addition to more adventurous excursions. From the lively activities at Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg to the historic charm of Jonesborough and the serene beauty of Spencer and Monterey, each town presents its own distinct chill vibes. Take a trip to these seven wonderful locations and learn why Tennessee is a worthwhile place to explore.

Pigeon Forge

Old Mill in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Image credit eakkarat rangram via
Old Mill in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Image credit eakkarat rangram via

Family time comes naturally to Pigeon Forge, with a population of 6,342! Dollywood, recognized as one of the world’s best theme parks, is renowned for its award-winning shows, rides, and special events. Each season brings a new festival to celebrate. Entertainers and artists worldwide visit Dollywood each spring during the Festival of Nations. Barbeque & Bluegrass carries the park into summer with mouth-watering meals and free celebrity concerts throughout the park.

Don't miss the biggest and most photographed attraction in Pigeon Forge: the world-famous Hollywood Wax Museum. This unique museum allows guests to get up close and personal with A-listers and take fun photos.

Everyone can enjoy reasonably priced daytime and evening entertainment at Pigeon Forge's The Island. As one of the newest and most unique shopping, dining, and entertainment complexes in Pigeon Forge, The Island caters to all ages and occasions, whether on a family vacation or away with friends. The island is home to Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville restaurant, the Margaritaville Island Hotel, and Paula Deen's Family Kitchen.


Downtown Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Image credit Kosoff via
Downtown Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Image credit Kosoff via

Although it has a wide array of captivating attractions, Gatlinburg possesses a population of only 3,750. Visit the popular Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies, where you can marvel at 12-foot sharks, giant sea turtles, thousands of exotic sea creatures, and more. Visitors can touch jellyfish and stingrays and enjoy interactive hourly dives and feeding shows.

Visit Gatlin’s Mini Golf, which features two 18-hole outdoor miniature golf courses. Each hole tells a story about the history of Gatlinburg, making the experience both entertaining and informative. Arcadia, the region’s largest family entertainment center, has over 100 popular arcade games, video games, and bowling. This establishment is situated conveniently near the Gatlinburg Space Needle and promises a memorable adventure.


Aerial view of Tennessee's oldest town, Jonesborough.
Aerial view of Tennessee's oldest town, Jonesborough.

Jonesborough is a quiet town with a big personality. This small town is home to 6,669 residents but despite its small size, offers countless outdoor activities and attractions. Around downtown is Persimmon Ridge Park, an open park perfect for many activities, from walking the dog and hiking to playing baseball, biking, or enjoying a game of disc golf.

Wetlands Water Park provides a cool escape from the sun on a hot day. Just a short drive from downtown, this attraction has areas for everyone to chill out in, such as a large pool, waterslides, a lazy river, and more.

Brights Zoo is close to the downtown area for wildlife exploration. This venue is dedicated to supporting the welfare of animals and features a diverse group of birds, mammals, and reptiles. Brights Zoo is actively involved in conservation efforts to protect endangered species, making it a meaningful place for people of all ages to visit.


View of Garner Lake in Lakeland, TN.
View of Garner Lake in Lakeland, TN.

Lakeland is a terrific spot to visit with a more rural feel. 14,186 people live in the town, which maintains its modesty and comfort. Experience relaxation at the Delta Blues Winery, a picturesque vineyard and winery. It is open Tuesday through Sunday for wine tastings, wine by the glass, and wine by the bottle, accompanied by live music on a grassy amphitheater.

The tree-lined course at Stonebridge Golf Club challenges golfers of all ability levels. The course's well-placed obstacles deliver a challenging but enjoyable game of golf.

To get outside, the International Harvester Managerial Park is large, granting rolling hills, a five-acre fishing lake, "The LAMP" Amphitheatre, and practical amenities. There are also 2.8 miles of mountain biking, hiking, and walking trails surrounding the lake and through wooded areas!


First United Methodist Church in Lexington, Tennessee. Image credit: Brent Moore via
First United Methodist Church in Lexington, Tennessee. Image credit: Brent Moore via

Lexington is perfectly situated midway between Memphis and Nashville, guaranteeing a myriad of things to do despite its small-town status of 7,999 residents. For starters, Beech River Watershed Lakes provide the necessary surface area and shoreline for recreational activities.

Just a short drive away is Natchez Trace State Park. The park's hiking trails range from one-half mile up to nearly five miles and include a longer overnight trail. The trails wind through the forest and fields and along lakeshores and streams of Natchez Park. This park even has a restaurant to stop at while on a calm stroll.

History buffs will enjoy exploring this Civil War site, Parker's Crossroads Battlefield, which includes a museum and a battlefield tour. For visitor's convenience, the park is well-maintained and provides detailed information about the Battle of Parker's Crossroads.


The beautiful Fall Creek Falls waterfall in Spencer, Tennessee.
The beautiful Fall Creek Falls waterfall in Spencer, Tennessee.

The amount of nature in the small town of Spencer attracts many visitors. This tiny town, sitting at 1,564, is proof that small towns are often underrated. While in Spencer, visit Fall Creek Falls State Park, a gem of the area, which is equipped with cascading waterfalls, walkable bridges, and easy trails suitable for all ages, making it a fitting place for a day of exploration and adventure.

Nearby, Piney Creek Falls is another natural wonder worth visiting, displaying breathtaking views. The Dead Zero Shooting Park is a great shooting attraction for visitors intrigued by shooting sports. This facility calls visitors worldwide and provides a safe, fun, and family-friendly environment. Regardless of experience level, Dead Zero is a fascinating place to visit.


View of East Commercial Ave in Monterey, Tennessee
View of East Commercial Ave in Monterey, Tennessee

"Where the hilltops kiss the sky,” Monterey is located conveniently between Nashville and Knoxville.

One of the town's highlights is the Bee Rock Overlook, situated on a cliff that supplies visitors with an up-close view of the lush landscape below. The trails leading to the overlook are open to hikers of all ages for a simple yet tiring outdoor adventure.

From May through October, the Monterey Farmers Market is the place to go for those wanting the freshest vegetables and local produce. By supporting local farmers, visitors can shop for bountiful food during the season's peak. Top-notch music and events are brought to the Upper Cumberland region by the community-minded Old Gray Event Center and Amphitheater. It shows guests a range of acts and performances only five minutes from Monterey's downtown.

When considering a destination that appeals to a wide range of interests, Tennessee should be at the top of everyone's itinerary for 2024. No matter where in the blues and country state, the inviting Nashville music scene, the breathtaking Smoky Mountains, and the unpretentious small towns assure a notable time. The state is a vibrant and laid-back choice for any traveler, thanks to its abundance of outdoor activities and friendly Southern hospitality. Visit Tennessee in 2024 and engage in various chill activities that will create unforgettable memories.

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