Tennessee is packed with beautiful cities, delightful small towns, and captivating scenery. From the Appalachian Mountains in the east to the Mississippi River in the west, this is a state that’s been blessed with natural beauty and charm. Although the cities hold their attractions, newcomers to the state would do well not to overlook the delights of Tennessee’s backwaters. With their historic centers, their old-time traditions, and their blissfully relaxed way of life, Tennessee’s rural centers are more than a match for the big city thrills of Nashville or Memphis. If you’re looking to escape the hustle and bustle, take a look at our pick of the ten best rural places to live in Tennessee.
If you like a town to come steeped in history, you’ll struggle to find one that suits the brief better than Jonesborough. The town holds the distinction of being the oldest in Tennessee. In fact, it was conceived a full 17 years before Tennessee was officially recognized as part of the union. As you’d expect, the town is packed with historic buildings and sites. The beautiful Chester Inn, which was built in 1797, is arguably one of the most famous. Today, Jonesborough attracts legions of tourists thanks to its historic status, not to mention its famous ‘Heritage Days’ and annual National Storytelling Festival. Despite the influx, it’s managed to retain its relaxed, laid-back vibe and quiet charm.
Tucked away on the North Carolina border in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is Cosby, a place that fits the brief of a mountain town to a tee. It’s small, it’s relaxed, and it oozes old-world charm from every pore. Needless to say, its sublime location near the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Foothills Parkway brings a lot of tourism into the area. But despite the multiple motels, cabins, and restaurants scattered around, it still retains its mountain town-like culture and environment. If you dream of escaping the city for the delights of the country, Cosby might be your perfect town.
Smithville might be just 45 minutes east of Nashville, but it feels a world away from the lights and the noise of the city. The only time this little town feels busy is during the Smithville Fiddler’s Jamboree, an annual event that’s been held every 4th of July weekend since 1972. Over 100,000 people descend on the town every year to enjoy the bluegrass tradition. Considering the town’s cozy charm and idyllic location, it’s little wonder that some of them decide to stick around.
Sewanee might be tiny, but what it lacks in size it more than makes up for in natural beauty. The town is surrounded by some of the most picture-perfect natural scenery in Tennessee. The fall foliage, in particular, is enough to make your heart skip a beat. Despite its rural location, the town still manages to pack plenty in, including dozens of shops, bars, and restaurants, a university, and a good handful of museums and cultural attractions.
Once upon a time, Greeneville was the capital of the short-lived State of Franklin. It can also claim to be where President Andrew Johnson began his political career and spent most of his adult life. Today, the little town still resounds with history. It’s not short on culture, either – the annual Greene County Fair has been going since 1870, and today, it’s known as one of the best events of its kind in Tennessee. It’s even been honored with the Tennessee Association of Fairs highest award, the “Champion of Champions” fair trophy. If you’re looking for a town surrounded by natural beauty and packed with charm, Greeneville might well be your perfect match.
5. Tellico Plains
Tellico Plains is a charming, antiquated town in Southeastern Tennessee that’s best known as the ‘gateway to the Cherokee National Forest.’ Thanks to its location in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains, the town is blessed with stunning scenery stretching as far as the eye can see. Fishing, boating, swimming, camping, and hiking are all on offer, making it the ideal getaway for nature lovers looking to enjoy the simple life.
Only In Your State has named Lynchburg as one of the eleven loveliest rural small towns in Tennessee. It’s not the only one who’s been left enthralled by the town’s delights. Country Living has also named it to its list of the 15 best small towns in Tennessee. So, what’s the secret to its success? Maybe it’s the fact it’s home to Jack Daniel’s Tennessee whiskey. Maybe it’s the fact Davy Crocket and Little Richard were both born and raised here. Maybe it’s the mystery surrounding its name (some say it was named after an early settler named Tom Lynch; others claim it was named after the infamous vigilante ‘Judge Lynch.’ Still others claim it was named after Lynchburg in Virginia. The truth of the matter is that no one knows, but everyone seems to have a lot of fun speculating). Perhaps it’s just the beauty of its location in the hills of Moore Country. Either way, there’s no denying that Lynchburg is a stunning place.
Entering Granville is like stepping back in time. The historic integrity of the tiny town has been perfectly preserved, lending a delightfully old-world charm to the place that’s perfectly complemented by the many festivals and events held throughout the year. It may be tiny (only a few hundred people are lucky enough to call it home) but as it turns out, the best things really do come in small packages.
Drive around half an hour north of Jackson and you’ll stumble on Humboldt, the charming home of the 80-year-old West Tennessee Strawberry Festival and 101 other small-town delights. Despite its proximity to Jackson, Humboldt is the epitome of laid-back, rural living. It may have plenty of shopping and sporting opportunities, music events, and movie nights, but this is a town that’s all about celebrating the authentic rural traditions of Tennessee. It’s small, it’s charming and it’s a dream come true for anyone looking to exchange the rat race for the country.
Townsend is known as the “Peaceful Side of the Smokies,” a name it earned thanks to its reputation as the low key gateway to the Great Smoky mountains. Named by The Culture Trip as one of the ten most beautiful towns in Tennessee, this peaceful, picturesque town is heaven for outdoor lovers. Thanks to the sublime natural scenery that surrounds it, Townsend offers numerous opportunities for hiking, fishing, swimming, camping, and other outdoor pursuits. There’s also plenty of recreational activities, shopping, and festivals to keep residents entertained.