Top 14 Small Cities In Tennessee / Another List Jackson Didn’t Make

Tennessee has long captured the imagination of people everywhere. With Nashville, the music capital of the world, and Memphis, home of Elvis and Graceland, there is no shortage of interesting and fun things to do. But there’s more to Tennessee than the large, bustling cities; much more.

There’s a much quieter side. There are charming small towns sprinkled throughout the state. These top 14 small cities in Tennessee will charm you, excite you and give you happy, warm memories to last a lifetime.

The listing comes from citiesjournal

Tellico Plains

14. Tellico Plains

This little rural community is tucked into the Appalachian Mountain foothills in the southeastern portion of the state. According to City Data it has a population of just 890. It is surrounded by Cherokee National Forest which means that the view is absolutely beautiful. Its rolling farmlands and picturesque mountain view, weathered barns and family farms give it an old fashioned, down home feel.

The Tennessee Tourism Development offers an abundance of outdoor activities in Tellico Plains. With camping, swimming, boating, hunting, hiking, picnicking, biking and fishing, there is always something to do. Backpackers can explore the wilderness of the Cherokee National Forest.

Deeper into the forest, the Bald River Falls cascades almost 100 feet. Take a walk around the falls and stop for a picnic, or watch it from your vehicle on the road. The view is spectacular.

There are still vestiges of Appalachian mountain tradition that is still apparent and walking through this small town takes you back to a simpler time. Tennessee Vacations shows that there is an abundance of things to do there.
There are several community activities that take place in Tellico Plains, including the Coker Creek Gold Festival. It is an old timey celebration with fun for the entire family.

Tellico Plains has an interesting and varied past. The Tellico Plains website explains that the town has gone by several names including Teliquo, Great Tellico, Great Terriquo, Talliquah, Talico, Tallequah and Talikwa. On July 4, 1911, the name changes stopped and the town was incorporated as Tellico Plains.

Native Americans inhabited the area for thousands of years. Historians believe that in the mid 1500s Hernando De Soto, the Spanish explorer, traveled the Great War Path that led into the town that is now Tellico Plains. Later, European colonists came to the area to trade with the Cherokee. Eventually settlers made their way from the Carolinas over the mountains.

While the Cherokee accepted some of the settlers, they fought with others over rights to the land. The 1700s saw little of the Cherokee traditions and lifestyle. They had mostly taken on the ways of the settlers and abandoned their traditional way of life.

There is always something to do in Tellico Plains. Young, old, man, woman, there is something to capture everyone’s sense of wonder.

13. Dayton


Located in Rhea County, and the county seat, Dayton is a small town with a lot of charm. The United States Census shows that Dayton has a population of 7,313. Approximately 97 percent of the 6.4 square mile town is urban. But that doesn’t detract from its small town charm. Sometimes getting away to an urban setting is just what the doctor ordered. And this is a great little getaway!

According to the Dayton, Tennessee website, the little town was originally known as Smith’s Crossroads, settled sometime around 1820. In 1877, it became Dayton, named after Dayton, Ohio. In 1903, it became incorporated.

Dayton’s historical claim to fame is that it is where the Scopes Trial was held in 1925. For a period of time, the town was flooded with journalists from the world over. William Jennings Bryan was the prosecutor in the case and the defense counsel for John T. Scopes was Clarence Darrow.

This case is considered a landmark case to allow evolution to be taught in American schools. Every year the town celebrates the event with a Scopes Trial Play and Festival.

The wealth of parks, ball fields, soccer fields, walking tracks, sports parks and tennis courts at various points throughout Dayton ensure that there is always something to do. The Main Street Dayton Chamber of Commerce proudly reveals the town’s rich nightlife, shopping and dining in Downtown Dayton.

The Main Street Spring Fling is an annual event usually held in April, combining entertain, music, vendor and food booths that takes place up and down Market Street as well as inside the various merchant locations.

Another popular event is the Strawberry Festival and Strawberry Festival Parade that are sponsored by the Dayton Chamber of Commerce. Typically held in May, it includes a festival Pageant and many vendor’s booths, food and contests. People from all over converge on the city to attend and participate in the festival.

There is also abundant shopping and fine dining so you can have the city experience with a small town feel. When you want to get away from it all without getting completely away from it all, try Dayton, Tennessee.

12. Townsend


Photo credit: Eoin McNamee / Flickr

This is a very small town with a big reputation. The Townsend website dubs this small rural town as “the peaceful side of the Smokies.” And peaceful it is. It is a sleepy little scenic village that is adjacent to the Little River region of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Cades Cove. With just 450 citizens, according to City Data, it is a lovely place to get away from it all.

Townsend is a great travel spot with lots to do whether you are an outdoors enthusiast, a crafty sort or prefer to shop till you drop. Even without being in such close proximity to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Townsend has a lot to offer.

Once called Tuckaleechee Cove, a name given by the Cherokees meaning “peaceful valley,” it wasn’t inhabited by white settlers until the late 1700s. Over the years it held its own as a peaceful valley, true to its name.

It did experience a short span of time as a bustling lumber town. However, in the 1930s, when the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was established, Townsend returned to the peaceful little town it once was.

Townsend website sheds a little light on this town’s interesting history. In 1900, Colonel W.B. Townsend, from Pennsylvania purchased about 86,000 acres of land in what was then Tuckaleechee. He hoped to cash in on the virgin forests and the booming lumber industry in the area.

He did quite well in this venture and his success significantly contributed to the area’s dramatic deforestation. He then gave his name to the town. By the 1930s, though, when the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was formed, almost two thirds of the trees in the area had been cut down.

There are several affordable restaurants and diners in town as well as local businesses. However, there isn’t a great deal of shopping and no night life in the area. The town’s draw comes from its association to the park but it also has the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center and the Little River Railroad and Lumber Company Museum.

KOA Campgrounds calls it a ‘tranquil place to visit.’ It is simply a great place to go if you want to relax and get away from it all.

11. Jonesborough


If you are a history buff then this little town is for you. With a population of 5,138, according to City Data, it is one of the larger small towns on the list but it bears the distinction of being Tennessee’s oldest town. Historic Jonesborough says that the town was founded before Tennessee was even a state – some 17 years before – in 1779. It was under North Carolina’s jurisdiction at that time.

Jonesborough got its name from Willie Jones, a North Carolina legislator who was a key supporter in the state’s expansion west, over the Appalachian Mountains. For a brief time, the town was called Jonesboro, but eventually the name was changed back to the spelling it bore originally.

Jonesborough is a great tourist draw mainly because it is Tennessee’s oldest town. It also puts forth great effort in its historic preservation. It is home to the Chester Inn that is still standing in downtown Jonesborough. It was built in 1797.

The Jonesborough website offers some activity ideas when visiting. The International Storytelling Center is located in Jonesborough. It is also where the National Storytelling Festival is held each year on the first full weekend in October. The festival centers on the Appalachian tradition of storytelling.

This cultural event has been attracting tourists to the area for more than 35 years. They come from all over the world to experience the storytellers set up in tents or on stages all about town. In fact, the Historic Jonesborough website calls Jonesborough “The Storytelling Capital of the World.”

Walking down the incredibly well preserved Main Street is like stepping back into another time, somewhere around the 18th century. Every step along the way tells a part of the story of the town and of the state. There are so many engrossing stories from history in Jonesborough that is makes the perfect family vacation spot.

There are several restaurants in the town. They all have a certain period feel to them. The abundant local shops offer unusual and unique gifts and keepsakes. There are several historic inns as well as bed and breakfasts that are available. Even the lodging is rich with history. Jonesborough is a wonderful little town that blends relaxation with history. You’ll be glad you visited.

10. Paris


If you’ve always wanted to go to Paris but thought it was just too far, think again. You can visit this Paris without even crossing the ocean! What’s more, it even has its own Eiffel Tower. Located in Henry County, Paris is a small town northwest of Nashville.

Its Eiffel Tower is only 60 feet tall, not nearly as tall as the Eiffel Tower in France, but it does pose as a very suitable replica. Paris, Tennessee also carries the distinction of being home of the World’s Biggest Fish Fry, according to the Paris, Tennessee website.

In 1823, Paris was the first town in West Tennessee to become incorporated. This put it ahead of Memphis and Lexington in getting incorporated. Paris Tennessee was indeed named after Paris, France. More specifically, it was names in honor of Marquis de Lafayette.

Paris also has a rich Civil War history. There were battles but the town still stands beautiful. Sulphur Well became an accidental attraction when it was inadvertently discovered. While digging to find a large salt bed in the Chickasaw reservation, an artesian well was struck.

This area eventually became a resort. People from all over came to the well to drink the water because they believed it has certain health benefits. During the yellow fever epidemic in 1837, the Sulphur Well was a haven for many seeking relief and help.

According to the Paris, Tennessee Chamber of Commerce website, the Sulphur Well was covered in 1944 by the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Kentucky Lake. This lake became the largest man-made lake in the United States. It is the second largest man-made lake in the world.

The world’s biggest fish fry also takes place in Paris. Visit Tennessee says it is this little town’s claim to fame and a premier festival in Tennessee, drawing thousands of visitors into Paris and the surrounding areas during the last week of April.

While there is shopping and dining in Paris, the real draw to the town is its historical offerings and interesting landmarks. You can take in the sights and get your picture taken at the Paris, Tennessee Eiffel Tower. What a fun memory to make for your family.

9. Ripley


Ripley, Tennessee in Lauderdale County has a population of 8,385 according to City Data. It is mostly an urban setting but there are some rural areas.

Ripley got its name from War of 1812 General, Eleazer Wheelock Ripley. It was founded in 1818 and became the Lauderdale County seat. In 1861 the Confederate States Army built a fort in the county, naming it after General Gideon J. Pillow. The Union Army took control of the fort in 1864.

Scout Me offers a wide variety of attractions and things to do in Ripley. The Alex Haley House and Museum, once called the Palmer House, is where Alex Haley spent his younger years. It was during these formative years where he heard stories about his family’s history, including Kunta Kinte. Those experiences let him to author a book “Roots.” The Fort Pillow State Park is another popular attraction.

Ripley is also situated very close to nearby attractions like Chickasaw National Wildlife Refuge where visitors can get up close to wildlife. City Town Info shows that there visitors can also enjoy the Lower Hatchie National Wildlife Refuge and Six Flags St. Louis is also nearby. Ripley is also home to the Harvest Days celebration and the Tomato Festival each year.

Visitors who prefer a shopping vacation can go to the many shops in Ripley or visit the Ripley Plaza Shopping Center. There are many great restaurants in Ripley that cater to a variety of tastes and preferences.

There is always something to do in Ripley, whether you are taking a stroll or taking in the history. You can stay at one of the hotels or quaint inns, or choose a bed and breakfast to really get the full Ripley experience. This is a great hub if you are looking for a home base while traveling to nearby cities. It is quiet and low key with few distractions.

8. Bell Buckle

Bell Buckle

A tiny town in Bedford County, Tennessee, Bell Buckle has sweet southern charm and a fun attitude. The United States Census places its population at 502 citizens.

The actual origin of the town’s name is not known for certain, but there is a legend about how the name came to be. The first white man to travel to the area found carvings that were shaped like a cowbell and a buckle. These drawings were on a tree next to a creek.

The white man interpreted the drawings to be a warning that the Indians had put there to let the white men know that their animals were encroaching on their lands. The creek came to be called Bell Buckle Creek. Later, when the town was established in 1852 by A.D. Fugitt, a local merchant, it assumed the name as well.

Now this town has several claims to fame, including being a thriving community focused on the arts and the home of the prestigious The Webb School, a famous preparatory academy.

Bell Buckle is the perfect vacation spot with its charming downtown district, interesting, unique and diverse shops and assorted eateries. There are antique shops and little stores where you will find one of a kind gifts. You can also check out the Bell Buckle Antique and Craft Mall when the shopping bug hits you.

Every year the R.C. and Moon Pie Festival is celebrated in Bell Buckle. There are many activities including dancing, bluegrass music and a parade. There are various vendors selling crafts and food. But it’s the heart of the people that really stands out.

An Examiner article described the town’s efforts to aid Tennessee flood victims in 2010. Every visitor was asked to donate $1 to the cause. If you miss the festival, you can always duck into the Bell Buckle Café and check out some new musical talent while enjoying your lunch or dinner.

Bell Buckle is a great destination for a quick weekend getaway, or for an extended vacation. It is close to several other larger cities so it makes an ideal ‘home base’ for travelers who want to get away from it all – but not too far.

7. Franklin


City Data says that the population of this city is 66,280, which is a little larger than the other cities on this list. However, the main focus for this list is Downtown Franklin which does have a much smaller population. Located in Williamson County, the Visit Williamson website offers visitors some great ideas for exploring the town and enjoying the sights.

There is something for everyone in Franklin. You can choose to stay in a rustic lodge, a charming bed and breakfast, a gorgeous inn or a nice hotel. The choice is yours. Franklin is the perfect blend of history that has been very carefully preserved and modern attractions that are sure to delight.

There are quite a few restaurants in Franklin so you can enjoy some good ole down home southern cooking or some great, smoky barbecue.

There are so many things to do in Franklin. You can visit a plantation home like The Carter House, Lotz House and The Carnton Plantation. The Carnton Plantation became the largest field hospital for Confederates after the Battle of Franklin. There is also a museum there as well.

Abram Maury, Jr. founded Franklin in October 1799. He named the town after Benjamin Franklin. During the Civil War, the Battle of Franklin was fought in November 1864. Nearly 10,000 were wounded, killed, captured or missing.

Fourty-four buildings were turned into field hospitals in response to the large number of wounded. Two of the homes, the Carnton home and the Carter home are still standing today.

Leiper’s Fork is another must see when you are in Franklin. It is a historic village, friendly and charming. You can shop some of the unique shops or visit an art gallery. Stop and get a bit to eat at a real southern diner.
Franklin, Tennessee is a place to bring the family, kick back and relax.

It is large enough that you can find plenty to do if you desire yet small enough to be low key and quiet. Explore some historical sites, go shopping, have a great southern meal, or do it all.

6. Greeneville


Greeneville, Tennessee has a very colorful history to share. It is located in Greene County, Tennessee and is the county seat. Greeneville was named in honor of Nathanael Greene, a Revolutionary War hero and founded in 1783. According to the Greeneville website, it also has the distinction of being the only Greeneville in the United States.

While there are many Greenvilles, there are none with that extra ‘e.’ It is also the second oldest town in Tennessee. In the 18th century, Greeneville was the capital of the State of Franklin.

The 17th president of the United States, Andrew Johnson, spent a good part of his life in Greeneville. He left an apprenticeship in Raleigh and came to Greeneville. When he heard that the tailor was about to retire, he decided to stay. Johnson bought the tailor shop, married Eliza McCardle, a local girl and settled down.

It was in Greeneville that Johnson began his political career climb. He was first elected to the Greeneville City Council, then elected mayor. Later he became part of the Tennessee state legislature and continued to climb the political ladder until it landed him in the white house.

Davy Crockett also grew up in Greeneville. You can visit the Davy Crockett Birthplace State Park Site. This 105 acre park is a memorial to the legendary Davy Crockett. There are 88 campsites, some with hook ups, some with water and electric and some with no hook up (for tents).

If you are looking for a real Tennessee adventure, then camping in the park could be just what the doctor ordered. You can also enjoy hiking, fishing and picnicking right there in the park.

When traveling to Greeneville, there are many things to do. Travel Advisor shows plenty of golfing, tons of outdoor activities like biking, hiking and camping and sightseeing at the many historical sites. Of course you can always just put your feet up and relax.

5. Lebanon


The county seat of Wilson County, Tennessee, Lebanon is a small city situated less than 30 miles outside of Nashville. In fact, it is part of the Nashville Metropolitan Statistical Area. With a population of 27,710, according to City Data, Lebanon is large enough to be able to offer lots to do but small enough to allow you to get away from the busyness of big city life.

Often called ‘Cedar City’ by local Lebanon residents because of the many cedar trees in the area, the Lebanon website cites that the town was incorporated in 1801. Cumberland University resides in Lebanon. Cumberland is a private, small four year liberal arts college. The Adams Fine Art Gallery is housed there and is a popular attraction for tourists.

The Nashville Zoo is nearby and so is the Country Music Hall of Fame. Lebanon also has several visual arts centers and performing arts centers as well as a water park. The Ryman Center has various events going on all the time. You can check their website for information on current or upcoming shows or exhibits. If you are looking for cultural entertainment, Lebanon delivers.

One advantage to Lebanon’s large yet small size is that it has many great restaurants that offer a wide variety of cuisine. The Mill at Lebanon shows off a rich night life so adults can enjoy some grown up time. Then they can visit parks and other attractions with the kids during the day.

The Wilson County Fair is another popular attraction. It typically comes in August and draws large crowds with its rides, exhibits, fairway and food. In the off season, the fairgrounds host many different activities. The grown-ups can get in some golf at one of the public courses.

There are also plenty of hotels, inns and bed and breakfasts so visitors can choose their accommodations while enjoying all that the city has to offer. Bring the family, bring your partner or come alone. If you are looking for a vacation spot that keeps you close enough to the action but far enough way that you can relax, Lebanon, Tennessee is the place.

4. Rogersville


Home to Tennessee’s second oldest courthouse, the Hawkins County Courthouse, as well as claiming to be the second oldest town in the state, Rogersville has a lot to crow about. Small Town Gems explains the town’s rich historical heritage.

It is the county seat of Hawkins County, Tennessee and none other than the grandparents of Davy Crockett settled the town in 1775. It is named for its founder, Joseph Rogers. The United States Census puts Rogersville’s population at 4,397.

Colonel Thomas Amis built a fort at Big Creek in 1780. It was situated on the outskirts of what is now Rogersville. Amis erected several buildings in the town including a blacksmith shop, a store and a distillery. Rogersville was also the seat of county government in the State of Franklin in 1785.

Rogersville is also home to the Hale Springs Inn. Located on a major route for travel, namely by stage coach, the inn hosted many well-known historical figures including United States Presidents Andrew Johnson, Andrew Jackson and James K. Polk. It was built in 1824 and was the oldest inn in Tennessee that had been continuously operated until it closed briefly in 1980 and underwent restoration.

Visitors can enjoy the festivities of the regular events that Rogersville hosts each year. Rogersville Heritage describes the Fourth of July celebration is a local favorite as well as Heritage Days which takes place in mid-October.

The Shakespeare and Friends Renaissance Faire takes place in June and the Rogersville Holiday Festival features a yule log ceremony and a holiday tour of historic homes around the town.

There is so much to do in this little town. The Town of Rogersville is full of interesting and fun activities including tours of historic sites, museums and exploring the countryside. Stroll down Main Street with its post-colonial architecture or visit a museum. Of course, you can always just sit and enjoy the beautiful view of the countryside.

3. Dandridge


The quaint little town of Dandridge is located in Jefferson County, Tennessee and is part of the Morristown, Tennessee Metropolitan Statistical Area. According to City Data, the town has a population of 2,849.
The Dandridge website reveals the town’s enthralling history.

European American settlers began arriving in Dandridge in 1783. Long before that, the Native Americans had enjoyed living on the land. The town became the county seat of the newly formed Jefferson County in 1793. The name Dandridge comes from Martha Dandridge Washington, President George Washington’s wife.

Dandridge also hosted a skirmish in 1863, during the American Civil War. James Longstreet, a Confederate General and Ambrose Burnside, a Union General both sought to take control of Knoxville. Longstreet emerged victorious. The accommodations for weary travelers are abundant and varied.

Between hotels, condos, bed and breakfasts and even a mountain cabin, there is an option for everyone. The more adventurous can even opt to go to one of the campgrounds and camp outdoors under the stars.

Diners in Dandridge have a lot to choose from. With all the different types of cuisine and dining options, they can go casual, opt for something formal or find a happy medium somewhere in between. There are well known chain restaurants but also plenty of local fare so you can find exactly what you are craving.

There are several events that occur in Dandridge throughout the year. The Dandridge website lists several entertainment options for visitors. The Shakin’ the Lake is a downtown event that occurs in July. At the Douglas Lake shores you can enjoy dining, boating and shopping. It ends with a fireworks display that night. The Scots-Irish Festival occurs in September.

This cultural event includes music, food, vendors and exhibits. It is an old time type festival and it takes place in the history rich downtown Dandridge. Christmas in Dandridge is an extended affair. It kicks off on the first Saturday in December. There are many events including downtown dining, candlelight shopping and tours of homes.

Dandridge also has a lot to offer when it comes to outdoor activities. There’s camping, skiing, swimming, boating, fishing and golfing. Explore the reservoir or just come enjoy the great outdoors! There is something for everyone.

2. Pigeon Forge

Pigeon Forge

This is a small town with a huge tourist draw. This resort city is in Sevier County, Tennessee. According to City Data, the population is 5,988. It is in a great location, just about five miles from the Great Smoky Mountains National park. It is also home to Dollywood and Dollywood’s Splash Country.

Isaac Love built an iron forge at some point in 1820 along the Little Pigeon River, according to the Pigeon Forge city website. It was near the area that is now Old Mill. Cherokee Indians had used the valley for hunting for hundreds of years.

There was a Cherokee foot path called the Indian Gap Trail. It started in North Carolina, crossing the Great Smokies and passing directly through Pigeon Forge. It met at a junction with the Great Indian Warpath.

It was the Indian Warpath trail that brought the first European settlers to Pigeon Forge in the early 18th century. In 1785, the Treaty of Dumplin Creek was signed by the Cherokee. It ceded much of their land, what is now Sevier County, to the United States.

Pigeon Forge has some of the best shopping in the area. Tennessee Vacation guides visitors through the wonderful and varied attractions as well as unique shopping experiences in the city. There are more than 399 boutiques, stores and outlets there so what you are looking for is bound to be there. From toys to furniture to tools to clothing, it is in Pigeon Forge.

Visitors can go white water rafting in the Great Smoky Mountains. You can also explore the wonders of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Play miniature golf or visit one of the breathtaking parks. There are also many cultural events and shows that you definitely do not want to miss! And of course there’s Dollywood. You certainly don’t want to miss that!

This is the great get away. While Pigeon Forge is somewhat of a tourist spot, and Trip Advisor attests to that, you can still escape the city and find little pockets of peace and quiet.

1. Gatlinburg


Number one on the list is Gatlinburg, Tennessee because it has everything you could want in a vacation spot. Whether you want to relax in a hot tub in your hotel room or stay in a peaceful mountain cabin or put yourself in the middle of it all with a hotel on the main drag, Gatlinburg has you covered.

This popular mountain resort city is near Pigeon Forge, located in Sevier County, Tennessee. With a population of 4,047, according to the United States Census, Gatlinburg is a nice sized city when you are looking for a fun vacation and a quaint small town when you are looking for a quiet get away. Nestled amongst several mountain ranges, it has amazing views no matter where you look.

The Great Indian Warpath that had been used by Cherokee hunters for centuries ran through Gatlinburg. According to the Gatlinburg website, many American and European fur trappers and hunters likely traveled this trail, passing through Gatlinburg.

But William Ogle decided to make Gatlinburg his home. When Ogle passed away in 1803, his widow moved herself and their children to Virginia where she had family. Sometime later, she returned with her brother, daughter and son in law. They built a home in Gatlinburg and the cabin is still standing today.

Radford Gatlin set up a post office in his general store in 1856. It was his name that gave the town its name of Gatlinburg. In 1900 Andrew Jackson Huff built a saw mill and brought the lumber industry to the town. The locals used it to supplement their incomes while at the same time tourists started wandering in.

Visitors who want to enjoy the Great Smokies can find plenty of biking, hiking and camping. Visit My Smokies describes not only the beauty of the area, but also the abundant opportunities to enjoy nature at its finest.
Virtual Tourist lists so many things to do in Gatlinburg that it would take you weeks to do and see everything that the town has to offer.

It is impossible to even name them all. The main drag is alive with shops, museums, restaurants and so much more. Yet you can move out to one of the cabins in the mountains and get away from it all. Gatlinburg is truly unique in that you can have the best of both worlds whenever you want it.

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