There is a place, an almost magical place, in Tennessee where earth, sky, water, and mountains are choreographed together in perfect harmony with nature.  That wedge of land is East Tennessee, centered by Knoxville and the Cumberland and Great Smoky Mountains and then threaded together by a mélange of small towns and communities that are reminiscent of Mayberry and Aunt Bee.  East Tennessee beckons its visitors to explore old churches, stay at a country inn, rummage through antique shops, fish the sparkling lakes, or simply picnic in a meadow surrounded by nothing more than freshest of mountain breezes.

East Tennessee, quiet yet vibrant, is an all seasons destination known for its scribbled patches of color, from the pink and white of dogwoods and rhododendron of spring to the shout-out-loud of summer greenery to the stunning gold and crimson of autumn and finally to the silvered light of winter.

But in addition to the scenery, there is much to do here, with myriad adventures in the outdoors, Appalachian history, fresh food, larger-than-life back stories such as those of Davy Crockett and Oak Ridge, and legends of country music including the likes of Dolly Parton, Roy Acuff, and Chet Atkins. And for mountain crafts, this remarkably inviting region is one of the few places left where you can watch as white oak splits are made into baskets or a handmade rocking chair is honed to perfection.

Against the backdrop of the gentle blue mists of the Smokies, there is a peacefulness here that is unduplicated in this place where unspoiled wilderness meets cities and towns.  Within just one or two hours’ drive of one another are  rumbling mountain streams filled with rainbow trout and waterfalls roaring with whitewater and creating a harmony that echoes through these forested lands. It’s a snapshot of serenity, complete with the beguiling strains of Appalachian music and its distinctive Irish undertones brimming over these hills.

Come explore one or all of the East Tennessee regions, including Knoxville and the surrounding area: Anderson County (Andersonville, Clinton, Norris, Oak Ridge, Oliver Springs, Rocky Top), Blount County (Alcoa, Friendsville, Louisville, Maryville, Rockford, Townsend, Tail of the Dragon), Campbell County (Caryville, Jacksboro, Jellico, LaFollette), Claiborne County (Cumberland Gap, Harrogate, New Tazewell, Tazewell), Cocke County (Bybee, Cosby, Del Rio, Hartford, Newport, Parrottsville), Grainger (Blaine, Rutledge, Tate Springs, Clinch Mountain), Jefferson County (Baneberry, Chestnut Hill, Dandridge, Jefferson City, New Market, White Pine), Loudon County (Greenback, Lenoir City, Loudon, Philadelphia), Monroe County (Madisonville, Sweetwater, Tellico Plains, Vonore, Cherohala Skyway), Morgan County (Coalfield, Oakdale, Petros, Rugby, Sunbright, Wartburg), Hamblen County (Morristown), Sevier County (Sevierville, Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg), Scott County (Eglin, Fairview, Huntsville, Robbins, Oneida), and Union County (Luttrell, Maynardville, Plainview).

Fast Facts

  • Knoxville, the heart of East Tennessee, was settled in 1791, established in 1792, and incorporated in 1815.  This beautiful city was named after Henry Knox, who was President George Washington’s war secretary.  Tennessee gained statehood in 1796, after Knoxville was first settled.
  • Davy Crockett’s first rifle, a .48-caliber flintlock named Beautiful Betsy, is on display at the East Tennessee History Center in Knoxville. Crockett, a frontiersman and three-time Congressman, was, according to a legendary song, was born on a mountaintop in Tennessee, in the greenest state in the land of the free.  Fact is, he was born in 1786, a full ten years before Tennessee gained statehood, and in the community of Limestone, which would become Greene County.  But with its natural scenic beauty, few would dispute that Tennessee is the greenest state in the land of the free.
  • Bush’s Baked Beans in Jefferson County, still owned by the Bush family, offers free tours of its museum as well as photo opportunities with Duke, Tennessee’s most famous golden retriever.
  • A sense of nostalgia for a tin spice grater belonging to John Irwin Rice’s grandmother was the catalyst for the creation of the now world-renowned Museum of Appalachia, a collection of artifacts relating to the history and people of Appalachia.  Mark Twain’s family cabin rounds out an assortment of barns and cabins scattered across the property.
  • The historic town of Dandridge in Jefferson County, the second oldest town in Tennessee, was named for First Lady Martha Dandridge Washington to honor her. It is the only place in the United States named in her honor.
  • The city of Oak Ridge was so secret that even though it was founded in 1942, it wasn’t placed on a map until 1949.  More than 75,000 lived there at its peak in 1945.  And another fun fact is that the uranium used in Oak Ridge’s atomic energy programs, including the Manhattan Project, was mined from the heart of Africa in the Belgian Congo, now the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
  • With a herd of about two thousand cows at any given time, Sweetwater Valley Farm, the makers of artisan cheeses located between Philadelphia and Loudon, produces about five new baby calves a day. Cows are milked three times a day every eight hours, with about ten percent of the milk poured into the cheese-making process, while the remaining is shipped to Mayfield Dairy.
  • The Cherohala Skyway, a National Scenic Byway, runs 43 miles from Tellico Plains, Tennessee, to Robbinsville, North Carolina.  The Skyway connects to the Tail of the Dragon, an incredibly winding road that zigzags across 318 curves in just 11 miles.  The name Cherohala is a blend of two national forests, with “chero” from the Cherokee and “hala” from the Nantahala.
  • The Sequoyah Birthplace Museum was the birthplace of  Sequoyah, who created the Cherokee alphabet system based on symbols, concepts, and sounds, and which is especially remarkable given the fact that he never went to school and was considered illiterate.
  • Plenty of famous, almost famous, and infamous folk came from the mountains of East Tennessee, among the sampling to include actress Megan Fox from Oak Ridge, actor-director Quentin Tarantino from Knoxville, actress Polly Bergen also from Knoxville, entertainer Dolly Parton from Locust Grove near Sevierville, and James Agee, a noted Southern author also from Knoxville and who penned the classics The African Queen and A Death in the Family.

Annual Events

Dogwood Arts House and Garden Show
Knoxville, TN

Dogwood Arts Festival
Knoxville, TN

Music of the Mountains
Cosby, TN

International Biscuit Festival
Knoxville, TN

International Migratory Bird Day
Rankin Bottoms, TN

Oak Ridge, TN Dragon Boat Festival
Oak Ridge, TN

Rockin’ the Docks Music and Fireworks
May and July
Lenoir City, TN

Secret City Festival
Oak Ridge, TN

White Lightning Trail Festival
Cumberland Gap, TN

Fire on the Water
Andersonville, TN

Feast with the Beast
Knoxville, TN

Louie Bluie Festival
Caryville, TN

Knoxville Film Festival
Knoxville, TN

Tennessee Fall Homecoming
Clinton, TN

Clinch River Antique Festival
Clinton, TN

Christmas in Old Appalachia
Clinton, TN