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8 of the Most Hospitable Small Towns in Tennessee

by Staff

In Tennessee, hospitality isn’t just a courtesy; it’s a way of life. Whether it’s sharing a meal, a story, or just a moment of your time, the people here have a genuine interest in making everyone feel at home. The small towns, each brimming with unique charm and character, are the epitome of this welcoming spirit. They offer a blend of history, culture, and natural beauty that you’d be hard-pressed to find anywhere else. From the historic streets of Jonesborough, with its storytelling heritage, to the artistic enclave of Leiper’s Fork, where music and art flourish amidst the rolling hills, Tennessee’s towns are treasures waiting to be explored.

Jonesborough

Street view in Jonesborough, Tennessee, USA. Editorial credit: Dee Browning / Shutterstock.com

Jonesborough, Tennessee’s oldest town, is steeped in history and charm. Known for its well-preserved Main Street lined with historic buildings, antique shops, and local eateries, Jonesborough offers a glimpse into the past. The town is famous for the National Storytelling Festival, attracting visitors from all over to celebrate the art of storytelling. For accommodation, the Jonesborough Bed & Breakfast offers a cozy stay in a beautifully restored 19th-century home, providing a perfect blend of history and comfort.

Jonesborough’s storytelling culture is complemented by its vibrant community events, including seasonal festivals and weekly farmers markets. The Chester Inn State Historic Site and Museum offers an insight into the town’s rich history, while nearby trails and parks provide outdoor enthusiasts with ample opportunities for exploration. Staying at the Jonesborough Bed & Breakfast, guests can enjoy a homemade southern breakfast before setting out to explore the natural beauty and historical depth of Tennessee’s oldest town.

Leiper’s Fork

Grocery and restaurant at Leipers Fork in Tennessee
Grocery and restaurant at Leipers Fork in Tennessee, via 4kclips / Shutterstock.com

Leiper’s Fork is a hidden gem nestled in the rolling hills of Middle Tennessee. This small, unincorporated rural village in Williamson County is known for its artistic community, boutique shops, and galleries that showcase local talent. The village’s main street, dotted with historic buildings, offers a charming setting for a leisurely stroll or a unique shopping experience. For those looking to immerse themselves in the local culture, the Leiper’s Fork Inn, operated by Pot N’ Kettle Cottages, provides a quaint and comfortable stay amidst the town’s rustic charm.

Beyond its artistic allure, Leiper’s Fork is surrounded by picturesque countryside, making it a haven for nature lovers and outdoor adventurers. The Natchez Trace Parkway, a short drive away, offers breathtaking scenic views, hiking trails, and historical sites. At the Leiper’s Fork Inn, guests can relax in a setting that feels like a home away from home, with each room decorated to reflect the area’s heritage and natural beauty. This accommodation option perfectly complements the town’s welcoming atmosphere and provides an ideal base for exploring the surrounding landscapes.

Townsend

St. Francis of Assisi church on the Little River in Townsend, Tennessee
St. Francis of Assisi church on the Little River in Townsend, Tennessee, By Nheyob – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Townsend, known as the “Peaceful Side of the Smokies,” offers a tranquil retreat in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. This small town is a gateway to the national park, providing easy access to outdoor activities such as hiking, biking, and fishing. The Townsend River Walk & Arboretum is a must-visit for nature enthusiasts, offering a serene setting along the Little River. For a rustic yet comfortable lodging experience, the Townsend Gateway Inn offers cozy accommodations with modern amenities, set against the backdrop of the majestic mountains.

The town’s commitment to preserving its natural and cultural heritage is evident in the local museums and heritage centers, which provide insights into the area’s history and the Appalachian way of life. The Cades Cove area, a short drive from Townsend, offers breathtaking landscapes and wildlife viewing opportunities. Guests at the Townsend Gateway Inn can enjoy a peaceful stay, with easy access to both the natural wonders of the Smokies and the charm of a small Tennessee town.

Bell Buckle

Garden at the Bell Buckle Banquet Hall and Theatre in Bell Buckle, Tennessee.
Garden at the Bell Buckle Banquet Hall and Theatre in Bell Buckle, Tennessee. Image creditBrian Stansberry via Wikimedia Commons

Bell Buckle, a quaint town in Bedford County, epitomizes small-town charm with its historic downtown, antique shops, and friendly locals. The town is renowned for its annual RC Cola and Moon Pie Festival, a unique event that celebrates two of the South’s favorite treats. Visitors can stay at the Bell Buckle Bed & Breakfast, a charming inn that offers a warm welcome and a glimpse into the town’s historic past.

The town’s close-knit community and picturesque setting make it a perfect destination for those seeking a slower pace of life. With its array of shops, eateries, and artisanal stores, Bell Buckle provides a delightful blend of culture, cuisine, and commerce. The Bell Buckle Bed & Breakfast, with its cozy rooms and friendly service, embodies the hospitality for which the town is known, making it an ideal spot for travelers looking to experience genuine southern hospitality.

Franklin

Memorial to the confederate solders of the American Civil War along Main Street in Franklin, Tennessee.
Memorial to the confederate solders of the American Civil War along Main Street in Franklin, Tennessee. Image credit Fotoluminate LLC via Shutterstock

Franklin, a vibrant town rich in history and culture, is located just south of Nashville. Its historic downtown area, lined with Victorian buildings, offers a wide range of shops, restaurants, and galleries. The town’s Civil War history is a significant draw, with landmarks such as the Carter House and Carnton Plantation offering guided tours that delve into the past. The Franklin Guest House, with its blend of historical charm and modern luxury, provides a comfortable and convenient base for exploring the town’s attractions.

Franklin’s calendar is filled with cultural events, music festivals, and local markets, reflecting the town’s lively community spirit. The nearby Harpeth River offers outdoor activities such as kayaking and fishing, while the town’s parks and green spaces provide serene spots for relaxation. Guests at the Franklin Guest House can enjoy the best of both worlds: the town’s rich historical and cultural offerings, combined with the peace and beauty of the Tennessee countryside.

Gatlinburg

Street view of popular tourist city of Gatlinburg, Tennessee.
Street view of popular tourist city of Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Image credit littlenySTOCK via Shutterstock.

Gatlinburg, nestled at the entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, is a bustling town known for its natural beauty and family-friendly attractions. The town offers a wide range of outdoor activities, including hiking, skiing, and white-water rafting. For those seeking a cozy retreat after a day of adventure, the Bearskin Lodge on the River provides comfortable accommodations with stunning mountain views and easy access to the park.

Gatlinburg’s vibrant downtown area is home to unique shops, restaurants, and attractions such as the Space Needle and Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies. The town’s commitment to preserving the natural environment is evident in its many parks and greenways. Staying at the Bearskin Lodge on the River, guests can enjoy modern amenities and warm hospitality, making it a perfect home base for exploring the splendors of the Smoky Mountains and the charm of Gatlinburg.

Sewanee

Aerial view of Sewanee, Tennessee, in fall.
Aerial view of Sewanee, Tennessee, in fall.

Sewanee, home to the University of the South, is a small town with a rich academic and cultural heritage. The university’s Gothic Revival architecture and the surrounding Cumberland Plateau provide a stunning backdrop for visitors. The Sewanee Inn, located on the university campus, offers upscale accommodations with easy access to hiking trails, historical sites, and cultural events.

The town’s intellectual and artistic community contributes to a vibrant cultural scene, with music performances, lectures, and art exhibitions regularly held on campus. The Sewanee Natural Bridge, a remarkable natural sandstone arch, is a must-see attraction for nature lovers. The Sewanee Inn, with its elegant rooms and top-notch amenities, provides a luxurious stay in a setting that combines natural beauty with intellectual stimulation.

Cookeville

Overlooking Cookeville, Tennessee.
Overlooking Cookeville, Tennessee.

Cookeville, situated in the Upper Cumberland region, is known for its natural beauty and outdoor recreational opportunities. The town serves as a gateway to numerous state parks, waterfalls, and lakes, making it a paradise for hikers, bikers, and nature enthusiasts. The Key West Inn, offering comfortable and affordable accommodations, is an ideal choice for travelers looking to explore the area’s natural attractions.

Cookeville’s vibrant downtown area features local shops, restaurants, and cultural venues, reflecting the town’s lively community spirit. The Cookeville Depot Museum and the Cookeville History Museum provide insights into the region’s rich history and heritage. Guests at the Key West Inn can enjoy a comfortable stay, with easy access to both the natural wonders of the Upper Cumberland region and the charm of Cookeville’s downtown area.

In Conclusion

Tennessee’s small towns offer a unique blend of hospitality, history, and natural beauty. From the historic streets of Jonesborough to the vibrant community of Franklin, each town provides a welcoming atmosphere and a chance to experience the heart and soul of the Volunteer State. Whether you’re seeking a peaceful retreat in the mountains, a cultural escape in a university town, or an adventure in the great outdoors, these eight towns offer accommodations and attractions that promise a memorable stay. Tennessee’s small towns are not just destinations; they’re gateways to experiences that embody the spirit of southern hospitality and the beauty of the American South.

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