Tennessee is an unforgettable destination, housing the music-loving city of Nashville, the Great Smoky Mountains, a subrange of the Appalachian Mountains, and an endless selection of outdoor adventures, tranquil lakes, and charming small towns. Tennessee boasts some of the best recreational destinations in the United States, whether you find yourself drawn to hiking trails, waterfalls, scenic roads, or camping areas.
While you might find yourself entranced by the excitement of the great outdoors, the small towns scattered throughout the state also offer beautiful and enchanting main streets, featuring unique attractions such as museums, art spots, and historic buildings. When planning your trip to the state, consider these beautiful towns and their bustling main streets.
Titled the "Storytelling Capital of the World," Jonesborough is a historical and artistic town, ideal for a day well spent antique-shopping, on historical wanderings, distillery touring, and more. The town hosts the Storytelling Festival every October, featuring streets lined with tents and the telling of hundreds of stories of all different genres.
It is also Tennessee's oldest town, established in 1779, and the main street is truly a trip into the past. Immerse yourself in the town's depth and heritage by taking a walking tour, or enjoy its beauty on your own, traversing through the different shops and restaurants at your leisure.
Tennessee Hills Distillery is a great place to grab refreshments, offering tours and tastings of hand-crafted spirits. The Chester Inn State Historic Site is another unique and charming spot to explore, having hosted Presidents Andrew Jackson, Andrew Johnson, and James K. Polk.
One of the best small towns for a weekend escape, Columbia is just south of Nashville and houses a rich history alongside a number of charming pre-Civil War houses. The Historic Elm Springs is a brick house, built in 1837 in the Greek Revival style, and the mansion grounds are available for tours, weddings, and events.
For a taste of American history, pay a visit to the President James K. Polk Home & Museum, which is the only surviving residence of the past president apart from the White House. The Columbia Town Square also hosts plenty of adventure, featuring the town's iconic courthouse, plenty of antique shops, such as Bleu 32, tasteful restaurants, and a brewery. A short drive outside of town, you will find St. John's Episcopal Church, which is open to the public for tours and boasts beautiful 19th-century architecture.
Paris is one of the most underrated small towns in Tennessee, and also the oldest incorporated town in West Tennessee. The Paris Winery is a beautiful spot, featuring Venetian-style architecture which you can admire while you sip upon your choice of 26 varieties of wine. Paris Landing State Park is a great place to enjoy the great outdoors, taking in the scenic views of Kentucky Lake, where you can boat, swim, and camp.
The historic downtown area houses the state's oldest judicial building, the 1897 Richardsonian Romanesque Henry County Courthouse, though the oldest building in the town is the Grace Episcopal Church, built in 1895. You will also find the fantastical 70-foot-tall replica of the Eiffel Tower in Eiffel Tower Park, surrounded by boutiques, French-inspired restaurants, and antique stores to explore.
Greeneville is one of the coolest towns in Tennessee for a summer vacation, boasting scenic views of the Appalachian Mountains, plenty of historic sites, and great hiking spots in the Cherokee National Forest. The town earns a spot in history, featuring one of Tennessee's oldest churches, St. James Episcopal Church, built in 1850. Greeneville was once home to Andrew Johnson, the 17th President of the United States, who you can learn about at Andrew Johnson National Historic Site.
The General Morgan Inn is a cozy spot to stay, situated in the heart of the town's historic district. While wandering through the quaint streets, stop and enjoy a show at Capitol Theatre, whether it is live music, a comedy skit, or a community event. Join a walking tour of the downtown area and learn all about the town's history, including a deep dive into stories of the Civil War and visit sites where it occurred.
Sewanee is Tennessee's best-kept secret, a small town with a lively community, beautiful sights, and a rich history. The downtown area houses an abundance of historic buildings, alongside a variety of locally owned shops and restaurants, perfect for an afternoon stroll.
Stop by Friday Nights in the Park, where there is live music and plenty of tasty food stops, ideal for a relaxing evening well spent. For an educational visit, stop by the University of the South and St. Andrew’s-Sewanee School, which hosts events, lectures, and exhibits catered to the public. The town also boasts 65 miles of hiking and biking trails, such as the Bridal Veil Falls Trail and the Shakerag Hollow Trail, where you can find Instagram-worthy wildflowers in the spring months.
Bristol, Tennessee, shares its name with Bristol, Virginia, which it directly borders, though it offers its own attractions. The downtown area earns the name "State Street" as it is divided between Tennessee and Virginia. Wander the lines between the two states, paying a visit to locally owned boutiques and restaurants, as well as the charming Bristol Hotel.
The town is over 150 years old, and many consider it the "birthplace of country music," as Ralph Peer produced the very first country music recordings on the main street in 1927. The arts and entertainment district continues to grow, housing the Border Bash, Art in Public Places, and the PUSH! Film Festival. For a taste of history, stop by the historic Bristol Train Station, the Paramount Center for the Arts, or the Veterans War Memorial in Cumberland Park.
Erwin sits near the Nolichucky River and within Cherokee National Forest, boasting plenty of outdoor adventure, whether you enjoy white water rafting, mountain biking, or horseback riding. Delve into the town's history at Unicoi County Heritage Museum, housing exhibits that share a glimpse into the town's past.
Aside from its picturesque outdoor landscape and interesting stories, Erwin boasts a full downtown area, lined with a plethora of dining and shopping opportunities. Grab a cup of joe at one of the many local coffee shops, watch the performing arts at The Gathering Place, or take a peek at some hand-crafted pottery at Valley Beautiful Antique Mall.
Gatlinburg is a mountain town in eastern Tennessee as it sits in the heart of the Great Smoky Mountains. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a wonderful spot for hiking, picnicking, and taking in the scenic views of Cades Cove Loop and Abrams Falls. Enjoy the scenery of the area, hiking, mountain biking, or kayaking through the area, or take an elevator ride to the top of the Gatlinburg Space Needle, which offers a panoramic view of the area 400 feet in the air.
Catch a live performance at Sweet Fanny Adams Theater or enjoy a ghost tour through the downtown streets. If you are in search of refreshments, join the Top Rated Wine and Shine Walking Tour. Alongside antique stores, boutiques, and restaurants, you will find tourist and souvenir shops to remember your trip to the stunning mountainscape.
Tennessee is the place to be, and these small towns boast the most exciting and beautiful main streets. Explore the diversity of each town, taking in the breathtaking landscapes, scenic views, and bustling downtown areas, featuring unique shops and boutiques, tasteful restaurants, and a plethora of museums, galleries, and performing arts theaters. You will also find historical spots, inviting you to discover the rich depths of each town, alongside the state itself.