Tennessee is famous for lots of things.
The state gave us Davy Crockett, Andrew Jackson, Peyton Manning and Kenny Chesney.
It has the home of country music in Nashville and some of the best barbecue in the nation in Memphis.
East Tennessee has the Great Smoky Mountains, a region so beautiful even Ronnie Milsap capitalized on its wonder.
If you journey to the great Volunteer state, you’ll find a lot of metropolitan areas and tourist attractions, but there’s also a bunch of smaller towns off the beaten path that are worth your time.
Whether you’re exploring the falls in Dayton, touring the Jack Daniel’s distillery in Lynchburg or traveling the mountains in Gatlinburg, there’s something on this list for everyone.
Jack Daniel’s proudly proclaims its product is made in a town with only one stoplight and it’s the truth. Lynchburg has just over 6,000 residents. It’s also located in a dry county, and the only place it’s legal to buy alcohol is in the distillery’s gift shop. It’s still illegal to taste any of it while you’re still in the county limits.
Dayton is best known for the Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925, when the American Civil Liberties Union paid science teacher John Scopes to contest the Butler Act, which made it illegal to teach evolution in public schools. It became a national media circus and it has colored the town’s history ever since.
What’s less known is the town’s natural beauty. There’s lots of municipal parks and hiking trails tucked away in the hills to explore, not to mention the town’s charming downtown district.
Gatlinburg is a mountain resort town located next to the Smoky Mountains in eastern Tennessee. Whether you want to go skiing in the winter or hiking in the summer, the town acts as a gateway into the mountain landscape. Full of tourists with few locals, it’s the perfect Tennessee town for anyone who’s looking for an adventure but just passing through.
One of the bigger towns on this list, Franklin is about 20 miles south of Nashville. It still maintains its small-town charm, especially during Christmas, when the downtown storefronts are lit up. The Franklin Theatre plays hosts to movies, music and live events, and the premieres for Friday Night Lights and Elizabethtown were held there.
Founded in 1779 — 17 years before Tennessee became a state — Jonesborough is Tennessee’s oldest town and the county seat of Washington County. The town’s historical significance draws several tour tourists every year. The annual Jonesborough Days Parade celebrates the town’s history.
Thousands of miles away from France, Paris, Tenn. is situated 86 miles northwest of Nashville and has a population of roughly 10,000 people — about 223 times less than the population of the capital of France. This Paris has a small replica statue of the Eiffel Tower and is home to “The World’s Biggest Fish Fry”, a yearly event that occurs every April.
With a population of just over 1,000, and a total area of 2.4 square miles, Pikeville remains the county seat of Bledsoe County. It was also home to a former governor and state senator. You’ll pass through if you’re on the way to Chattanooga on U.S. Route 127, but the historic John Bridgman House is worth checking out to see one of the oldest dwellings in the town.
8. Tellico Plains
Located in eastern Tennessee with a population of 880, Tellico Plains is known as “The Little Town with the Big Back Yard” and boasts a vast array of hiking and nature trails from which to choose. It occupies the former Cherokee town of Great Tellico.
Townsend is another entrance into the Smoky Mountains, but is known as a more laid-back spot. It’s home to the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center and also boasts an extensive history with the lumber and train industries. You can see a lot of the trains and lumber yard artifacts at the Little River Railroad and Lumber Company Museum.
Situated in northeast Tennessee, Greeneville is best known as the town where Andrew Jackson began his political career, but it’s also home to one of the best county fairs in the state. The Greene County Fair has received multiple awards and has been held every year since 1870.
Lebanon is located in Middle Tennessee and is known for the many cedar trees that crowd the area. In addition to the cedars, the town’s county fair routinely draws in hundreds of thousands of people a year. If you’re a fan of Cracker Barrel, thank Lebanon — the popular restaurant chain was founded there by Dan Evins in 1969.
4. Leipers Fork
Leipers Fork is a unincorporated rural village in Williamson County located along the Natchez Trace in Middle Tennessee. The Natchez Trace was an important trail for early settlers back in the day. Now, it’s home to woodworking shops, antique stores and real estate offices.
The town that Davy Crockett’s grandparents built, Rogersville was settled in 1775 and is the second-oldest town in the state. It’s located in northeast Tennessee. The town has been home to several news publications and it celebrates its heritage every year with Heritage Days. If you like Renaissance Fairs, there’s one every June, too.
Ripley is located in extreme western Tennessee, close to Mississippi and Arkansas. It’s also close to attractions like Six Flags St. Louis or the Lower Hatchie National Wildlife Refuge, so Ripley is a perfect hub to stay in if you want to be close to main attractions on a road trip.
1. Bell Buckle
At 500 inhabitants and an area of 0.58 square miles, Bell Buckle is the smallest town in Tennessee. It’s known for the Victorian homes that line its downtown streets and its two yearly festivals celebrating RC Cola and Moon Pie.