20 Cities In Tennessee

- This post may contain affiliate links. Read our disclosure.

Tennessee offers rural beauty combined with urban convenience. The landlocked US state in the country’s south has a population of around 6,829 million. It stretches from the spectacular Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina to the borders of the Mississippi River. Tennessee is well known for its eclectic music scene. Nashville is the capital of the state and is the heart of the country music scene, while Memphis is the home of the blues, soul, and rock ‘n’ roll. If you love music, you will be in your element.

The state has a rich history and a heritage that is predominantly Native American. The Civil Rights movement was also prevalent in the 1950s and 1960s, with Martin Luther King Jr hosting rallies and protests in Memphis, where he was assassinated. Everywhere you go, there are reminders of the past, enriching your knowledge of this interesting state.

Tennessee has four seasons but the summer can be hot and humid while winters are cold, and there can be snow. The best times to visit are spring and autumn when there aren’t extreme temperatures but it will still be warm and pleasant for sightseeing.

There are many cities in Tennessee and it can be difficult to decide where to go, especially if your time is limited. I have rounded up what I think are the 20 best cities to visit in Tennessee. There should be something for everyone, whether your interest is in history, music, or outdoor activities.

Cities In Tennessee

The 20 Best Cities In Tennessee

1- Nashville

Nashville Downtown City Skyline
Nashville is one of the major cities in Tennessee that you won’t want to miss.

Nashville, the capital of Tennessee, was founded in 1779 and is a country music lover’s dream destination.

Here you will find the famous Grand Ole Opry, where you can hear the country’s best country and bluegrass music.

You will see country legends and rising stars who take the stage for a two-hour show.

The show is also broadcast on the radio and is the longest-running radio show in the world.

It is also worth seeing a show at the Ryman Auditorium, home to the Grand Ole Opry.

You can take a tour backstage, where you will learn how the Ryman Auditorium influenced country music.

Don’t miss going to the Country Music Hall of Fame, where you will find two and a half million artefacts relating to country music history.

Sing Me Back Home: A Journey Through Country Music is the museum’s central exhibition.

If you love country music, you can immerse yourself in history and learn more about your favourite stars.

If you want to get a taste of Nashville before deciding which sites to spend more time at, get a ticket for the hop-on-and-off bus.

It stops at places like the Ryman Auditorium, the Music City Walk Of Fame, and the First Art Museum.

For a break from music, visit Centennial Park, where you will see the stunning Parthenon, a replica of the ancient Greek temple in Athens.

Inside the Parthenon, there is the magnificent 42-foot-tall gold-leaf statue of Athena.

It is the tallest indoor artistic work in the Western Hemisphere.

Nashville is a place for foodies.

Meat and three diners and fiery fried chicken are the highlights as is grilled pimento mac ‘n’ cheese.

Farm-to-table food is everywhere.

2- Memphis

Aerial View Of Downtown Memphis
Memphis is one of the largest cities in Tennessee and a must-visit, especially if you’re an Elvis fan.

Memphis is in southwest Tennessee on the Mississippi River and is the hub of blues, soul, and rock ‘n’ roll.

Like Nashville, many attractions are connected to music and you can explore this history by joining a Memphis city tour with an optional riverboat cruise.

You mustn’t miss the iconic Beale Street, where music pours out of the restaurants and bars and the Beale Street Flippers perform their amazing acrobatics down the centre of the street.

Visit the legendary BB King’s Blues Club, where music plays day and night and delicious Southern food like fried catfish, greens, Memphis-style ribs, and pulled pork are served.

Go to the Rum Boogie Cafe, where the fun starts early with live music, a delicious Cajun menu, and one of the best rum menus in the state.

For music fans, visit the iconic Sun Studios, where Elvis Presley, BB King, and Johnny Cash recorded their legendary albums.

Graceland is a must for Elvis fans. Skip the lines and book your tickets here.

He purchased Graceland in 1957 and, while his career took him all over the USA, he always called Graceland his home.

It has been preserved in its original decor and is a step back in time.

You will see his fantastic collection of gold and platinum records, legendary jumpsuits, cars, and even aeroplanes.

The most moving part of the tour is the Memorial Garden, where Elvis is buried alongside his family members.

Memphis is a great food place, offering spectacular barbecued dishes.

Brunch is a big deal in the city, so booking is always best.

It is now easy to be vegan in Memphis as many plant-based restaurants have cropped up.

The food focuses on Southern specialities without meat, such as hot cauliflower wings and carrot dogs.

Sun Studios is at 706 Union Avenue, Memphis 38103. Graceland is at 3734 Elvis Presley Blvd Memphis 38116.

3- Knoxville

Knoxville, Tennessee At Night
Knoxville is one of the best cities in Tennessee to visit at night.

Knoxville is in the eastern part of Tennessee on the Tennessee River and has plenty to offer year-round.

There is a mix of nature, outdoor activities, and cultural attractions.

Visit The Museum of East Tennessee History, which holds the key to the past.

Learn about the people and the events that shaped the city through interactive exhibits.

Civil War artefacts are on show as well as regional art.

James White’s Fort is the birthplace of Knoxville in Downtown Knoxville.

It is Knoxville’s first home built by the revolutionary war captain, James White, in 1786.

It was originally a two-story log cabin, which expanded to include a courtyard and gardens.

It is open to the public as a Historic Home Museum.

If you are visiting Knoxville, take a day out of the city and visit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which is just an hour away.

The park offers wooded trails with stunning waterfalls, strenuous climbs, and scenic drives.

The Museum Of East Tennessee History is at 601 S, Gay Street, Knoxville 37902. James White Fort is at 205 East Hill Avenue, Knoxville 37915. Explore Knoxville by downloading this scavenger hunt.

4- Chattanooga

Distant aerial view of Chattanooga, Tennessee, USA
Chattanooga may not be one of the biggest cities in Tennessee but it has plenty of attractions to keep you busy.

Chattanooga is close to the beautiful Appalachian Mountains in the state’s southeast.

It lies on the Tennessee River and is a city with scenic beauty and a revitalised riverfront.

It is famous for the spectacular Ruby Falls, the largest underground waterfall in the US.

The cascading waterfalls total 145 feet (44 metres) in Lookout Mountain and is well worth visiting; if you are fearless, you can zip line here.

If you have children, visit The Creative Discovery Museum, where there are activities galore, including art, music, and a water-themed zone called Riverplay.

Chattanooga is famous for its connections with the railroads.

It is close to the world’s steepest incline railway, the Lookout Mountain Incline Railway.

Stop by the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum, where you can delve deeply into the history of the railroad dating back to the beginning of the 20th century.

You can ride on a vintage train and some trips offering dinner.

The Creative Discovery Museum is at 321 Chestnut Street, Chattanooga 37402. The Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum is at 4119 Cromwell Rd, Chattanooga 37421.

Top tours:

5- Gatlinburg

Aerial Wide-Angle View Of The Main Road
Gatlinburg is one of the best cities to live in Tennessee.

Gatlinburg is a town in eastern Tennessee known to be the gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

It is beautiful, with 2900 miles (4667 km)of streams and cascading waterfalls.

Over 90 historic structures in the park, such as houses, barns, churches, and schools, have been preserved or rehabilitated.

Many attractions in Gatlinburg offer amazing views of the park, such as the 407-foot (124 metres) Space Needle Observation Tower and the Sky Lift.

This 2.1 mile (3.3 km) aerial cable car travels from Downtown Gatlinburg to the amusement park and ski resort.

If you want to do something unique, visit the Salt & Pepper Shaker Museum, where over 20,000 different salt and pepper shakers are on display.

Film and car fans can visit the Hollywood Star Cars Museum, home to over 60 cars used in movies, such as the Batmobile from the 1960s Batman series.

The Salt & Pepper Shaker Museum is at 461 Brookside Village Way, Gatlinburg 37738. Hollywood Star Cars Museum is at 914 Parkway Gatlinburg 37738. A popular tour is the Ghost and Haunted Tour of Gatlinburg.

6- Pigeon Forge

Pigeon Forge aerial view
Pigeon Forge is one of the most popular tourist towns in Tennessee.

Pigeon Forge is a mountain town in eastern Tennessee famous for Dollywood, Dolly Parton’s famous theme park where you can enjoy rides and shows and visit the museum to see Dolly Parton’s costumes and other memorabilia.

You will find plenty of entertainment in Pigeon Forge such as Dolly Parton’s Stampede Dinner Show, The Comedy Barn, The Titamic Museum and The Impossibilities Magic Show.

The Grand Majestic Theatre is home to four shows, Soul of Motown, Hit Parade, Hazard Hoedown, and The Magic of Terry Evanswood.

If you have children, they will love Wonderworld Pigeon Forge.

It is in an enormous upside-down building and combines a science fair, amusement park, and museum.

Over 150 activities include roller coaster simulators and black lights rope courses.

Dollywood is at 2700 Dollywood Parks Blvd. Pigeon Forge 37863. Wonderworld Pigeon Forge is at 100 Music Road, Pigeon Forge 37863. A more grown-up attraction is to join a Moonshine and Wine Tour.

7- Sevierville

Aerial view of Sevierville
Here’s what you’ll see when you visit Sevierville, one of Tennessee’s smaller cities.

Sevierville is close to The Great Smoky Mountains National Park in eastern Tennessee.

In the city, you will find a statue of Dolly Parton made of bronze and life-size.

It portrays Dolly Parton as a young woman, casually strumming her guitar.

The statue was unveiled in 1987, just after Dollywood was opened, and is outside the courthouse.

It attracts many die-hard country music fans.

Another attraction in Sevierville is The Tennessee Museum of Aviation, where you can see two rare P-47 Thunderbolts, among other vintage aircraft.

If you enjoy a glass or two of wine, visit Hillside Winery, where you can enjoy Italian wines and bubbles.

Free tastings are on offer.

The Tennessee Museum Of Aviation is at 135 Air Museum Way, Sevierville 37862.

8- Murfreesboro

Murfreesboro has many links with American Civil War history.

The Stones River Battlefield was the scene of an 1862 Civil War battle fought by 81,000 soldiers to control middle Tennessee.

It sits next to Stones River Cemetery, where over 6,000 Union soldiers are buried.

Oaklands Mansion is worth a visit.

It symbolises wealth and prosperity in pre-Civil War middle Tennessee.

It is now a museum with furnishings, artwork, and personal items from that time.

It has a beautiful arboretum and garden.

If you want to discover what life was like in rural Tennessee from the 1830s to the 1930s, historic Cannonsburgh should be part of your itinerary.

A village has been reconstructed with buildings such as a school, a wedding chapel, a doctor’s office, a gristmill, and a general store.

Oaklands Museum is at 9000 Manney Ave. Murfreesboro 37130. Cannonsburgh Village us at 3125 Front Street Murfreesboro 37129.

9- Johnson City

Johnson City In Tennessee On Map
Johnson is one of the lesser-known cities in Tennessee on the map.

Johnson City is in the east of Tennessee. If you enjoy outdoor activities, you will love it here.

In Winged Deer Park, you can go boating and play disc golf.

In Buffalo Mountain Park, you can hike.Several well-maintained trails lead you to magnificent views of the Tennessee Valley.

Close to Johnson City, you will find Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park, which is a former Cherokee site that hosts a replica of the 18th century Fort Watauga.

If you want to stay in the city, there are shops, breweries, and museums to visit.

Visit the Reece Museum, a historical and contemporary museum focusing on Appalachia.

The Gray Fossil Site and Museum is Northwest of the city, an active Miocene-era excavation site with mastodon fossils.

The Reece Museum is at 363 Stout Dr Johnson City, 37614. The Gray Fossil Site & Museum is at 1212 Suncrest Dr Gray 37615.

10- Jackson

Jackson is 70 miles (112 km) east of Memphis and is the regional centre of trade for Western Tennessee.

There are good museums in Jackson, including the Casey Jones Home and Museum.

He was a locomotive engineer who became a folk hero when he lost his life trying to save the lives of his passengers in a railroad crash in 1900.

The best thing about making Jackson your base is that it is a short drive from many state parks, including Shiloh National Military Park, Realfoot Lake, Chickshaw State Park, and Natchez Trace State Park.

All have beautiful scenery and rustic trails.

The Casey Jones Home and Museum is at 30 Casey Jones Ln Jackson 36305.

Top Tours

11- Clarksville

Aerial view of Clarksville
Clarksville is one of the lovely cities in Tennessee to visit.

Clarksville is a historic town that played an essential part in the Civil War.

Military struggles over the important Cumberland River transportation system continued until nearly the end of the war.

You can walk following the meandering Cumberland River and learn about the river’s history at the As The River Flows Museum.

The Customs House Museum is also worth visiting.

Here you will learn about local history and view art exhibits and model trains.

Northeast of the city is the Dunbar Cave State Park.

It features Native American cave art and you can tour the caves.

As The River Flows Museum is at 640 N Riverside Dr, Clarksville 37040. The Customs House Museum is at 2005 2nd St Clarksville 37040. Download this scavenger hunt for a fun way to explore the city’s top spots.

12- Lynchburg

Lynchburg is southeast of Nashville and is known as the birthplace of the famous Tennessee whisky, Jack Daniels.

This is the only place it is produced, and many visitors come from far and wide to tour the distillery and to taste the whisky.

The strange thing is that the Jack Daniels Distillery is in a dry county.

However, the law allows the whisky production site to be sampled there and to be purchased.

However, although you can sip the whisky on-site, you can’t at the restaurant across the road.

Jack Daniels Distillery is at 133 Lynchburg Hwy Lynchburg 37352. Book your distillery bus tour and whiskey-tasting adventure here.

13- Franklin

Franklin is just south of Nashville, another site connected to the Civil War, particularly the 1864 Battle of Franklin.

There are two important sites to visit while you are in Franklin.

The first is Centre House Carnton Plantation which includes the McGavock Cemetery that holds the remains of the Confederate soldiers killed in the battle.

Also visit Lotz House at the epicentre of The Battle of Franklin.

Here you will discover how a German immigrant, Lotz, and his family survived the battle while the war raged outside their house.

You will also see a large collection of 19th-century furniture in the house.

Main Street in Downtown Franklin is full of galleries, antique shops and restored Victorian buildings, so is worth a visit.

The Natchez Trace Parkway, a 444-mile (9714.5 km) road, passes through Franklin following the Old Natchez Trace used by Native Americans, European settlers and slave traders.

You can see a beautiful sunrise here if you get up early enough.

Lotz House is at 1111 Columbia Ave Franklin 37064.

14- Bristol

Although Nashville is considered the world’s country music capital, Bristol is the birthplace of country music.

Jimmie Rodgers and Carter Family were first recorded here in 1927. Jimmie Rodgers is widely regarded as the father of country music.

Don’t miss going to the Birthplace of Country Music Museum to learn more about the origins of country music.

It is worth going to the Bristol Caverns on the border between Tennessee and Virginia.

Back in the frontier days, the Native Americans used this underground river to attack the settlers before disappearing back underground.

They are now paved and well-lit, but they will give you an idea of what they were like back then.

The Birthplace of Country Music is at 416 State St A Bristol 37620

15- Oak Ridge

If you are interested in the history of World War II, Oak Ridge is the place to visit.

The city is about 25 miles south of Knoxville and one of the places where materials for the atomic bomb were produced.

Visit the Manhattan Project National Historical Park to learn more about it and the people involved.

It is also possible to visit the K – 25 History Centre, which honours the amazing men and women who helped construct and operate the K – 25 enrichment complex.

  • The Manhattan Project is at 461 W Outer Dr Oak Ridge 37830
  • The K – 25 History Centre is at 652 Enrichment St Oak Ridge 37380

16- Manchester

Manchester is halfway between Nashville and Chattanooga and is famous for the Bonnaroo music festival.

Each year, the music festival occurs at Bonnaroo Farm and lasts four days.

Shows are on all day and evening and some fans camp overnight.

Artists from all manner of genres perform at this festival. You can listen to country, blues, jazz, rock, hip-hop and more.

There is a cinema, a silent disco, a comedy club and theatre performers.

If you’re not in town during the festival, there are other things you can do in Manchester.

If you enjoy a glass or two of wine, visit the Bears Creek Winery for tours and tastings.

They have an extensive wine list ranging from full-bodied reds, dry whites, sweet wines, and fruit wines.

17- McMinnville

If you are looking for a quieter experience, head to McMinnville, known as the world’s nursery capital.

It has over 300 nurseries in and around the city.

The Downtown area has had a makeover and here you can find restaurants, antique shops, and boutiques.

McMinnville is an excellent base if you want to explore nearby natural attractions.

The Cumberland Caverns & Rock Island State Park are close by.

Cumberland Caverns is the largest show cave in Tennessee and offers cave adventures.

If you like waterfalls, you will be in your element here. At Rock Island State Park, you can hike, go boating, fish, and swim. 

Cumberland Caverns is at 1437 Cumberland Caverns Rd Mcminnville. Rock Island State Park is at 82 Beach Road Rock Island.

18- Centerville

Centerville is just an hour southwest of Nashville and is surrounded by rivers, farms, and forests.

The town’s claim to fame is that it is the birthplace of Grand Ole Opry legend Minnie Pearl.

She was a comedian and appeared at the Grand Ole Opry for 50 years and on the television show Hee Haw.

Every Saturday, the town records a 90-minute country music variety show called Grinder’s Switch Hour which is worth going to for great music and lots of laughs.

Close to Centerville is Johnny Cash’s retreat and you can visit it.

It is now called The Storytellers Museum and here you can learn more about the man behind the music.

In The Car Shed, you can see some of his cars, including the lavish Johnny Paycheck Cadillac.

Grinders Switch Centre is at 405 W Public Square Centerville 37033. The Storytellers Museum is at 9676 Old Highway 46 Bon Aqua 37025.

19- Cleveland

Cleveland has a history buried in the Civil War.

Visit the Fort Hill Cemetery, where both Confederate and Union soldiers are buried.

Wander around Downtown Cleveland, where Victorian houses and churches were built before the Civil War.

Here you can shop and enjoy a drink and a meal.

Cleveland is a good base if you enjoy the outdoors.

Walk along the Cleveland/Bradley County Greenway, a 3.94-mile (6.34 km) long public greenway walking path stretching from Mouse Creek to the Hiwassee River, where you can enjoy water activities.

Visit the Red Clay Historic Park, which brings to life the removal of the Cherokee during the 19th century.

It is the site of their last capital and you can learn about them, enjoy a hike and have a picnic.

Red Clay Historic Park is at 1140 Red Clay Park Rd SW Cleveland 37311.

20- Columbia

Columbia is 46 miles (74 km) south of Nashville and is steeped in history. Columbia Square is home to more than 90 Victorian buildings.

You can take a walking tour around the cobbled streets to learn more about the part Columbia played in the history of the US.

Don’t miss visiting Historic Elm Springs, built in 1837 and almost destroyed during the Civil War.

A new multi-million museum was recently built on the property and houses the Confederate Museum.

If you are in Columbia at the end of March, you can enjoy the 6-day Mule Day Festival.

There is square dancing, a mule-driving contest, a horse show, a crafts festival, and a flea market. Traditional Appalachian food and music are featured.

Historic Elm Springs is at 740 Mooresfield Pike, Columbia 38401.

Previous article20 Things To Do In Ames
Next article20 Things To Do In Des Moines
cropped irena nieslony.jpg
Irena Nieslony was born in Windsor, England but now lives on the island of Crete, Greece, in a small village called Modi near the city of Chania. She has visited 32 countries in Europe, North and South America, Asia, and Africa. Her favourite country is Tanzania as she loves wildlife and was lucky enough to see ‘The Big Five”. She also loves Egypt, as ancient history intrigues her, the southern states of the US and the cities of Memphis, Nashville, and New Orleans for music. She has a B.A. Honours degree in English and Drama from Westfield College, University of London. She has been writing for over 13 years and has 13 novels, 7 short stories and thousands of articles published.