The 11 BEST Places to Live in Tennessee [2023]

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Tennessee, known as the Volunteer State, has a population of approximately 6.9 million people. With thousands of individuals and families relocating to the state annually, Tennessee offers a plethora of things to do and experience. From outdoor recreation to historic sites, there’s something for everyone in this beautiful state.

Tennessee is an ideal place for young professionals and young families, with no state income tax and a diverse blend of urban and rural living. The state’s thriving economy, excellent education system, and vibrant culture make it an attractive destination for people looking to settle down.

Outdoor recreation is abundant in Tennessee, featuring picturesque mountains, lakes, and rivers. It has excellent hiking trails, including the Appalachian Trail, which passes through Tennessee. There are also several state parks throughout the state, offering opportunities for camping, fishing, and other outdoor activities.

The state is also home to numerous historic sites, museums, and cultural institutions, ensuring that residents and visitors can experience the rich history of the area. There are several historic sites, including the Hermitage, which was the home of President Andrew Jackson, and the Belle Meade Historic Site and Winery, a historic mansion that dates back to the mid-19th century. Last but not least, Tennessee is known for its thriving music scene, which includes country, blues, and rock and roll.

With all Tennessee has to offer, it’s no wonder it’s home to many of the fastest-growing cities in America. In this post, you’ll discover some of Tennessee’s best places to live.

Overview of Tennessee

The state’s capital and largest city is Nashville, where you’ll find world-class music, a thriving healthcare and education industry, great food, and a top-notch cost of living. The state’s largest city is Memphis, home to Elvis Presley, the blues, and an iconic riverfront. Although the state is best known for its great music, it also has a thriving healthcare, tourism, and agricultural industries.

The state is divided into three regions based on the topography, climate, and cultural history. East Tennessee is the most rural area of the state and is home to some of the oldest mountains in the world. Middle Tennessee contains the state capital, Nashville, and is where most of the state’s industries are based. West Tennessee is home to Memphis, the Mississippi River, and the site of the first land battle of the Civil War.

Nashville – Music City

Nashville is the capital of Tennessee and is known as the “Music City” due to its thriving music scene. The city has a population of around 700,000 people and is situated on the Cumberland River. Nashville is consistently ranked as one of the best cities to live in the United States, thanks to its low cost of living, excellent schools, and abundance of cultural and recreational opportunities. It’s also home to prestigious institutions like Vanderbilt University and sports teams like the Tennessee Titans. 

There are plenty of things to do in Nashville, including visiting the Parthenon, a full-scale replica of the original Parthenon in Athens, Greece. Other popular attractions include Centennial Park, which is home to the iconic Musicians Hall of Fame, and the Grand Ole Opry, which is a legendary venue that has hosted some of the biggest names in country music. There are also some great outdoor activities. The hiking and walking trails around Nashville are a great way to get outdoors.

No article would be complete about Nashville unless we mentioned music. This is, after all, where numerous stars got their start, including Taylor Swift, Bon Jovi, Michael Buble, and Kings of Leon. This is especially known as the home of country music, so if you’re checking out Nashville as a place to live be sure to visit the Country Music Hall of Fame. Even after moving, the museum has a lot for families. First, there is the Taylor Swift Education Center, which the museum boasts as being home to their “award-winning educational programs.” It has everything from educational programs to toddlers to after-school programs for teens. Second, the museum galleries have exhibits where you can learn about many of the musicians that called Nashville home. There are also events, including songwriting workshops, for the musically-inclined members of your family.

Nashville boasts a comparatively low crime rate, and single-family homes run around $335,000. The cost of living in Nashville is slightly higher than the national average, but it is one of the best places to live, with a vibrant culture and all the exciting that comes with living in a city with a rich heritage.

Pigeon Forge – Home of the Smoky Mountains

Nestled in the mountains of East Tennessee, Pigeon Forge offers a picturesque setting and a small town atmosphere. With a population of around 6,000, this mountain town is an ideal location for those seeking a quieter lifestyle. It’s known for its family-friendly attractions, including Dollywood, a theme park owned by country music legend Dolly Parton. Other popular attractions in Pigeon Forge include zipline tours, the Titanic Museum Attraction. 

The town’s proximity to the Smoky Mountains offers endless opportunities for outdoor adventures. Hiking enthusiasts can explore the diverse array of trails, ranging from easy strolls to challenging treks. The Smokies are also home to picturesque waterfalls, breathtaking vistas, and abundant wildlife. For those who prefer cycling, the Cades Cove Loop Road runs a scenic 11 miles and is perfect for mountain biking or leisurely rides. 

Water sports aficionados can indulge in kayaking or white-water rafting down the Pigeon River, surrounded by stunning mountain landscapes, or opt for a more tranquil experience by fishing in one of the area’s numerous streams and rivers. Finally, adventure junkies can test their skills and conquer their fears at one of the many rock climbing sites or zipline courses available, offering exhilarating bird’s-eye views of the lush mountain terrain. 

Pigeon Forge truly serves as an outdoor playground for all skill levels and interests. It’s also a lovely little town for people looking for the quiet life with some great scenery. Pigeon Forge has a low crime rate and a median home price of around $260,000, making it an affordable option for families and retirees.

Knoxville – The Heart of East Tennessee

Knoxville is the third-largest city in Tennessee, with a population of around 187,000. The city boasts a diverse demographic, making it a melting pot of various cultures and traditions. Knoxville holds its own among the major cities in the region, offering its residents and visitors a unique blend of urban amenities and natural beauty.

There is no shortage of things to do in Knoxville, catering to a wide range of interests and preferences. The city is home to Zoo Knoxville, a beloved attraction featuring various animal exhibits and conservation programs. For those who appreciate art and culture, the vibrant Arts District showcases local talent and hosts numerous events throughout the year.

Despite being one of the larger cities in Tennessee, Knoxville also boasts some serious outdoor spaces. Check out Admiral Farragut Park for some disc golf or fishing or one of their 7 dog parks to take pooch for a run. Nature enthusiasts can enjoy the outdoors at Ijams Nature Center, which offers walking trails, wildlife habitats, and educational programs. There’s a thriving rock climbing scene in Knoxville too, with indoor gyms like the Onsight Rock Gym and also outdoor spaces like the rock climbing on Ijams Crag.

Knoxville’s crime rate is generally lower than the national average. The median home price in Knoxville is approximately $250,000. The overall cost of living in Knoxville is also relatively affordable, with the city’s cost of living index being below the national average, as reported by Overall, Knoxville offers a high quality of life, making it an attractive destination for individuals and families alike.

Memphis – Home of the Blues

Located in West Tennessee, Memphis is one of the state’s largest cities, with a population of over 650,000. The city’s rich history and vibrant culture make it an attractive destination for those seeking urban living.

Memphis is known for its music scene, featuring live music venues, festivals, and a lively downtown area. Beale Street, in particular, is famous for its blues clubs and restaurants. And those clubs have some seriously good eating. King’s Palace Cafe is a small and cozy little club with great blues and great food. Be sure to check out their award-winning Gumbo, Southern Catfish, or Voo Doo Chicken Breast.

The crime rate in Memphis is higher than the national average, but the city is working to improve public safety. The median home price is around $165,000, and the cost of living in Memphis is lower than the national average, making it an attractive option for those on a budget.

Chattanooga – The Scenic City

Chattanooga, situated along the Tennessee River, has a population of around 180,000 and is one of the most scenic places to live in Tennessee. One interesting fact about the city is that the inventor of the tow truck lived here, and today you can visit the International Towing Museum to learn about over 100 years of tow trucks.

There is no shortage of things to do here either. Begin your adventure at the Tennessee Aquarium, where you can explore fascinating exhibits showcasing marine life and aquatic animals from rivers, oceans, and even the depths of the sea. History buffs can delve into the past at the Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park, a significant Civil War site that provides insights into the region’s storied past. You can also go ice skating, visit one of their numerous parks, or go for a tasting at a winery or distillery.

For those seeking outdoor thrills, Lookout Mountain gives you plenty of opportunities for hiking, rock climbing, and taking in breathtaking panoramic views, including the famous Ruby Falls, an underground waterfall that mesmerizes visitors with its colorful display.

Lastly, take a leisurely stroll along the Walnut Street Bridge, a pedestrian walkway that spans the Tennessee River and offers stunning views of the city’s skyline, especially when illuminated at night. Chattanooga’s unique blend of natural beauty, history, and urban charm ensures a memorable experience for all who visit this enchanting Southern city.

Chattanooga boasts a lower crime rate than many other cities of similar size, making it a safe place to live. The median home price in Chattanooga is currently around $220,000, making it an affordable option for those looking to buy a home. And the overall cost of living in Chattanooga is also lower than the national average, making it an attractive option for those looking to relocate.

Franklin – The City of Charm

Franklin, a Nashville suburb located in Williamson County, is a small city with a population of around 80,000. This charming town is known for its excellent public schools, which is part of the reason many families choose to call it home. As a Nashville suburb, Franklin offers residents the opportunity to enjoy all the amenities of a larger city while still living in a smaller, more tight-knit community.

Start your adventure by exploring the historic downtown district, where you’ll find beautifully preserved antebellum homes, such as the Carnton Plantation and the Lotz House, both of which played significant roles in the Civil War. Immerse yourself in the local arts scene at the Franklin Theatre, a lovingly restored 1937 movie house that now hosts live performances and films.

For outdoor enthusiasts, enjoy a leisurely stroll through the scenic trails of Pinkerton Park or embark on a picturesque bike ride along the Natchez Trace Parkway. You can enjoy a variety of outdoor activities, like hiking and bird watching, at Timberland Park, or even go paddle boarding with your dog!

Finally, indulge in some retail therapy at the Factory at Franklin, a unique shopping and dining destination housed in a former stove factory, offering an eclectic mix of boutiques, eateries, and entertainment. We also love their farmer’s market, full of local and fresh produce and cheese. Local artisans bring their crafts to the market, giving you a chance to pick up a piece of Tennessee for yourself.

Franklin has a relatively low crime rate, making it a safe community for families. The median home price in the area is around $460,000, and the cost of living is slightly above the national average.

Gatlinburg – A Popular Tourist Destination

Gatlinburg is considered one of the best towns to visit in the US, located in East Tennessee at the doorstep of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. With its beautiful scenery and outdoor activities, Gatlinburg has a population of around 4,000, but attracts millions of visitors every year.

Gatlinburg offers a wide range of activities for residents and visitors alike. First, be sure to explore the breathtaking beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, hiking along scenic trails or taking a scenic drive to experience the stunning vistas.

For thrill-seekers, Gatlinburg is home to numerous attractions like Ober Gatlinburg, where you can enjoy skiing, snowboarding, or riding the aerial tramway, and Anakeesta, an outdoor family adventure park with ziplining and tree canopy walks.

Those who prefer a more laid-back experience can stroll through the charming downtown area, visiting unique shops, galleries, and restaurants, or indulge in a tasting tour at one of the local wineries, breweries, or moonshine distilleries. There are also plenty of attractions, including Ripley’s Aquarium, Hollywood Wax Museum, and the Guinness World Records Museum.

Lastly, don’t miss the chance to immerse yourself in Gatlinburg’s rich cultural heritage at the historic Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community, where you can witness local artisans creating one-of-a-kind pieces using traditional methods.

The crime rate in Gatlinburg is relatively low, and the median home price is around $300,000. The cost of living in this mountain town is slightly higher than the national average, but it’s worth it for such a beautiful place to call home.

Johnson City – ‘Little chicago’

Johnson City, home to East Tennessee State University, boasts a population of around 67,000. Its ties to bootlegging during Prohibition earned it the nickname ‘Little Chicago’. Today, this vibrant town is known for its excellent school district, making it an attractive option for families.

There are plenty of things to do in Johnson City, including exploring the natural beauty of the area, visiting historical sites, and enjoying the local culture. Take in the enchanting beauty of the nearby Cherokee National Forest or take a stroll through the tranquil Willow Springs Park. History buffs will enjoy a trip to the Tipton-Haynes State Historic Site, where they can delve into the region’s rich past. For a more urban experience, visitors can meander through the revitalized downtown area, filled with unique shops, restaurants, and cultural attractions.

According to government sources, the crime rate in Johnson City is lower than the national average, making it a safe place to live. The median home price in the area is around $200,000, which is slightly lower than the national average, and the cost of living is also below average. These statistics make Johnson City an attractive option for those looking for an affordable place to live in Tennessee.

Murfreesboro – One of America’s Fastest-Growing Cities

Murfreesboro, with a population of over 150,000, is the home of Middle Tennessee State University. It’s located in Rutherford County, and is the county seat and largest city.

Murfreesboro offers a variety of attractions and activities for residents and visitors alike. One popular destination is the Stones River National Battlefield, which played a significant role in the Civil War. The city also offers several parks and greenways, including Barfield Crescent Park, a 430-acre park with trails, a playground, and a wilderness station. For those interested in history and culture, the Discovery Center at Murfree Spring offers exhibits and programs on local history and science.

Murfreesboro has a relatively low crime rate compared to other cities in Tennessee. According to recent data, the city’s crime rate is lower than the national average. The median home price in Murfreesboro is around $300,000, and the cost of living is slightly lower than the national average.

Oak Ridge – Former Manhattan Project Site

Oak Ridge, a suburb of Knoxville, has a population of roughly 30,000. It’s famous for being the site of the Manhattan Project and is located about 25 miles from Knoxville. 

There are plenty of interesting things to do in Oak Ridge. One of the top attractions is the American Museum of Science and Energy, which features exhibits on nuclear energy and the history of Oak Ridge. Additionally, Oak Ridge is home to several parks and outdoor recreation areas, including Haw Ridge Park and the Oak Ridge Greenways, which offer hiking and biking trails, as well as opportunities for fishing and kayaking.

Oak Ridge has a relatively low crime rate compared to other cities of similar size in Tennessee. The median home price in Oak Ridge is $184,900, according to Zillow, which is slightly lower than the median home price for the Knoxville Metropolitan Statistical Area as a whole. The cost of living in Oak Ridge is also relatively low compared to the national average.

Collierville – Historic Charm and Great Schools

Collierville, an affluent suburb if Memphis in West Tennessee, is home to around 50,000 residents. Known for its historic district and excellent school system, this town is an attractive option for families seeking a high quality of life. There are many reasons Collierville is becoming a popular place for people to relocate to.

You can explore the charming Historic Town Square, which offers a variety of local boutiques, restaurants, and the Morton Museum of Collierville History. Families can have a fun day at Suggs Park, enjoying the playground and splash pad, or visit Urban Air Adventure and Trampoline Park for some high-flying excitement. Additionally, guests can partake in a friendly competition with a round of bowling at Funquest Bowling or indulge in live music on the town square during special events. WC Johnson Park is also a local favorite and a great place to spend a relaxed day with the family.

According to Redfin, the median home price in Collierville is around $450,000. The crime rate is relatively low and the cost of living is higher than the national average, but residents enjoy the high quality of life and amenities that come with living in an affluent suburb.

The Bottom Line

Whether you want to live in a big city or a small town, there is a perfect place for you in Tennessee. The Volunteer State is a great place to live, work, retire, and raise a family, offering low cost of living and mild climate.

Its cities are growing and are great places to start a career, while its small towns have the charm of an old-fashioned lifestyle. With so many great places to choose from, it’s hard to decide where to live in Tennessee.