Overlooking the historic district of Morristown,Tennessee.

8 Most Underrated Towns In Tennessee To Take A Trip To

From the Great Smoky Mountains and country music to mouthwatering barbecue, Tennessee has earned its spot among the most exciting states in America. But there is more to the charming Southern destination than what the headlines say, and you can only discover it by physically being there. While large cities like Memphis and Nashville steal the spotlight, you have to venture off the main highways and into the backcountry to experience the heart and soul of The Volunteer State.

Tennessee’s countryside is dotted with little hidden gems that embody the true charm of the state. Furthermore, their easy-going way of life and endless outdoor adventures present the perfect setting for an unforgettable getaway. The next time you are on a Southern itinerary, uncover the most underrated towns in Tennessee you should visit.


Downtown, Gatlinburg, Tennessee.
Downtown, Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

This adorable alpine village in eastern Tennessee delights with gorgeous natural surroundings and is best known as a getaway to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. As the state’s crowning jewel, the national park draws at least 12 million visitors annually from around the globe to enjoy its rich history, sheer beauty, and diverse wildlife. But there is enough to go around in Gatlinburg, no matter the season. Tourists can never get enough of the Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, especially when visiting with kids. The world-class facility houses more than 10,000 awesome marine species, including sharks, rays, giant turtles, and penguins, thrilling guests with once-in-a-lifetime animal encounters. 

During the winter season, visitors gravitate towards downtown's Gatlinburg SkyPark. This adrenaline-inducing cable car lifts you to a 1,800-foot altitude, where you can savor spectacular vistas of the Smokies before ending at Ober Mountain, a prime spot for skiers and snowboarders. For those with a penchant for the mysterious, spooky, and supernatural, a haunted tour of the Victorian-style Mysterious Mansion is sure to get your heart throbbing.


CSX railroad tracks and old depot in Tullahoma, Tennessee, United States.
CSX railroad tracks and old depot in Tullahoma, Tennessee, United States. Image credit Brian Stansberry, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Home to about 21,000 residents, Tullahoma boasts a bustling aviation heritage and craft brewery scene but has something for everyone. Beechcraft Heritage Museum is among its most popular attractions. It is an aviation museum with unique exhibits chronicling the history of the Beech Aircraft Corporation. Enthusiasts can admire class aircraft and plane models dating back to the 1920s.

Tullahoma's open spaces don’t disappoint, and outdoor explorers will be drawn to the Short Springs State Natural Area. Here, you’ll find a tranquil atmosphere with scenic nature trails that expose you to multiple waterfalls, including Adams Falls and Machine Falls. For art lovers, there is a unique collection of exhibits worth examining at Tullahoma Fine Arts Center. The facility displays regional fine arts in a stunning Italianate building, with cute handcrafted gifts and souvenirs. Meanwhile, your visit won’t be complete without sampling local craft beer, and you can head to the Ole Shed Brewing Taproom for a taste of the town’s finest creations. 


Historical district of Greeneville, Tennessee, General Morgan Inn, first a railroad hotel built in 1887 as the Grand Central
The historical district of Greeneville, Tennessee. Image credit Dee Browning via Shutterstock.com

Not to be confused with the other 35 destinations in America of the same name, Greeneville, Tennessee, harbors an abundance of the country’s history as the state’s second oldest town. It was named after a Revolutionary War hero, Nathanael Greene, and is home to the 17th US president, Andrew Johnson. You can explore Johnson's legacy in depth at the Andrew Johnson National Historic Site, with an opportunity to visit his two homes, burial site, and tailor shop. But for a look into the past of the region, you can visit Greeneville Greene County History Museum, which houses artifacts from the Civil War era.

If you fancy classic cars, City Garage Car Museum has an impressive collection of vintage vehicles and antique automobiles you can admire. Later on, you can pop into its on-site old-fashioned diner for a quick meal. But those more inclined to the arts can catch a moving live performance at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center.


The town office of Erwin, Tennessee.
The town office of Erwin, Tennessee.

Erwin’s quirky history features the infamous public execution of an elephant in the state after poor Mary killed her handler. But the town has outlived this notorious public spectacle and, today, delights visitors with infinite river adventures. Unsurprisingly, several local outfitters take guests on riveting whitewater rafting tours along the French Broad and Lower Nolichucky Rivers, such as Blue Ridge Paddling and Wahoo’s Adventures Nolichucky Outpost. The town is a nature lover’s playground, thanks to numerous outdoor spots, including the Chestoa Recreation Area and Rock Creek Recreation Area.

Hikers can choose between the Erwin Linear Trail and the Appalachian Trail to explore Tennessee’s spectacular backcountry. But history buffs have a nice surprise waiting for them, too. At Unicoi County Heritage Players, you can admire a century-old building with antique exhibits, such as Cash Pottery and Blue Ridge.


View of the green bridge over Douglas Lake in Dandridge, Tennessee.
Green bridge over Douglas Lake in Dandridge, Tennessee. Image credit Melinda Fawver via Shutterstock

One of the oldest towns in Tennessee, Dandridge is the only American town to be named after the spouse of the first president, Martha Dandridge Washington. One of the first stops you can make in the town is the Dandridge Visitors Center, the right place to learn about the town and plan your itinerary. For some bit of historical background, you can also check out Bush’s Visitor Center. This small and adorable museum offers a glimpse into the history of the famous Bush family business, founded in 1897 by AJ Bush.

Dandridge is surrounded by picturesque natural landscapes from its location in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. It also sits along the shores of Douglas Lake, a reservoir on the French Broad River that draws almost 1.7 million guests annually to enjoy recreational opportunities like camping, boating, and fishing. Douglas Lake also hosts Lighthouse Pointe Marina, where you can hire a boat for adventure on the water.


Overlooking the historic district of Morristown, Tennessee
Downtown Morristown, Tennessee.

Morristown strikes an impressive balance between small-town charm and big-city amenities. The cozy community, which lies along the lush Appalachian Mountains valley, is home to the sprawling Panther Creek State Park. This beautiful nature space offers diverse recreational opportunities, from mountain biking and hiking to boating and fishing in the Cherokee Reservoir. Meanwhile, Cherokee Park presents a more family-friendly alternative, where locals and visitors converge for lakeside camping, picnicking, hiking on picturesque walking trails, and wildlife viewing. 

There are a few historical landmarks to check out in Morristown, highlighted by the 19th-century Rose Center Museum, which also doubles up as the town’s maiden public high school. The venue serves to preserve the region’s creative heritage through art exhibits, lessons, and other activities. Alternatively, you can step further back in history at the Crockett Tavern Museum to uncover the craze associated with the 1790s John Crockett Tavern. 


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

Bearing the tag "the oldest town in Tennessee," Jonesborough is a rich tapestry of the history and culture of the state. Exploring the quaint downtown, you’ll encounter not-so-hidden gems like the Chester Inn State Historic Site and Museum. The museum is housed in Jonesborough’s oldest commercial structure and tells the story of the town since its founding in 1779. You can uncover more history at the Heritage Alliance, which seeks to preserve the cultural, historical, and architectural heritage of the region.

To those who would rather explore the outdoors, you can take advantage of fun opportunities at Persimmon Ridge Park. Spanning over 130 acres, the site is a recreation hub with miles of biking and hiking trails, baseball fields, a playground, and a disc golf venue.  After a long day of adventure, you can stop by Tennessee Hills Distillery to relax and unwind with a refreshing glass of the finest craft spirit in the state.


A street and cars parked in Downtown Paris, Tennessee
A street in Downtown Paris, Tennessee.

Tennessee, too, has a "Paris'' within its borders, even if it’s a far cry from the glitz and glamor of the famous French capital. Despite this, there is one uncanny similarity between the two Paris that draws visitors to this tiny town in Henry County. In the Eiffel Tower Park, you will encounter the legendary Eiffel Tower, only that this is a replica of the actual landmark in Paris, France, dwarfing it in the scale of 1:20. Besides offering a cute photo op, the surrounding grounds boast a family-friendly atmosphere with facilities like tennis courts.

Another whimsical attraction to check out is the World’s Largest Fish Fry, a long-held local tradition that sees up to 5 tons of catfish getting cooked. Additionally, tourists enjoy the Paris Henry County Heritage Center, which preserves local heritage through interactive exhibits. For the outdoorsy traveler, Westfalia Farms, sitting in the rolling hills of Paris, boasts a serene setting that allows you to appreciate the town’s natural landscapes. Besides enjoying the scenery, you can interact with adorable farm animals like horses and free-range chickens.

There are so many adorable sides to Tennessee that make it an enticing travel destination for road-trippers and vacationers in the South. Whether searching for a rich historical experience, craving unique cultural encounters, or looking forward to adrenaline-filled outdoor adventures, the small towns in Tennessee have it all and then some.


More in Travel