Article Overview: Best Places to Live in Tennessee
Looking for the best places to live in Tennessee are we? Well you’ve happened upon the right place! I’ve lived in Tennessee for over a decade and know the state like the back of my hand.
While some of the best places to live in Tennessee are a bit obvious, others fall into the hidden gems category. I always say there’s a place to live in Tennessee for just about everyone.
With that being said, finding the exact right spot for isn’t always easy. And that’s where I come in!
Ready to get started? Let’s go!
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Best Places to Live in Tennessee
Table of Contents: Best Places to Live in Tennessee
Table of Contents: Best Places to Live in Tennessee
- 5 Best Large Cities in Tennessee
- 5 Best Mid-Sized Cities in Tennessee
- 5 Best Small Cities in Tennessee
- Map of Best Places to Live in Tennessee
- Summary of the Best Places to Live in Tennessee
5 Best Large Cities in Tennessee
- Population: 689,447
- Median home price: $422,000
- Average age: 34.4 years
Besides being the state capital and largest city, Nashville is one of the best places to live in Tennessee if you’re a music lover — especially country/western. After all, it’s the Country Music Capital of the World and nicknamed “Music City!” Locals are spoiled for choice when it comes to headlining acts and live music venues, but they also enjoy an abundance of parks, the Cumberland River running right through town, and catching Predators hockey games.
With the average home price being north of $400,000 and the median rent around $2,200, Nashville’s cost of living is about 15% higher than the state average. However, it’s slightly lower than the national average and more affordable than many other large cities. It’s also worth noting that the closer you live to downtown Nashville, the more expensive it will be.
The comparatively low cost of living, lack of state income tax, and vibrant startup culture draws many people to Nashville. This uptick in population, however, also means increased traffic, a rising cost of living, and overcrowding — but those trade-offs are worth it to call this vibrant city home.
- Population: 633,104
- Median home price: $148,000
- Average age: 34.2 years
Like Nashville, Memphis is paradise for music lovers, known as the “Home of the Blues” and “The Birthplace of Rock and Roll.” It’s also home to some of the best barbecue in the world, with pork and dry-rubbed ribs being the local specialty. Over 100,000 people come to town every May for the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest, held during the annual International Festival.
Memphis is generally affordable, with median home prices being under $150,000 and the average rent hovering over $1,300. Unfortunately, increased crime, poverty, and abandoned buildings are some of the challenges Memphis is currently facing. Still, it’s one of the best places to live in Tennessee for promising job prospects and quality healthcare. The Volunteer State’s second-largest city is also favorable for startups and innovative young businesses.
- Population: 190,740
- Median home price: $309,000
- Average age: 32.9 years
Knoxville, affectionately known as the Gateway to the Smokies, is the largest city in East Tennessee and the state’s third-largest. It was actually the original state capital and today, it’s known for its low cost of living, healthy job market, and lower-than-average healthcare costs. The city has a reputation for its vibrant arts scene and being particularly great for entrepreneurs, and the kind of upbeat energy that comes from being home to a flagship state school, the University of Tennessee.
With median home prices in the low $300s and an average rent of around $1,900, Knoxville is considered one of the best cities in Tennessee for affordability. Before making a beeline for Knox County, it’s important to note that limited public transportation and lack of bicycle or pedestrian paths require you to have a car.
- Population: 181,099
- Median home price: $275,000
- Average age: 36.7 years
Another East Tennessee hub, Chattanooga is known for being a haven for outdoor lovers. The Tennessee River runs right through the city, which stands as the transition point between the Appalachian Mountains and the Cumberland Gap. If you enjoy scenic views, endless outdoor activities such as rock climbing and hiking, and mild year-round weather, you’ll find Chattanooga is among the best places to live in Tennessee.
With monthly rent averaging around $1,800 and median home prices well below $300,000, Chattanooga is also one of the state’s most affordable large cities. However, higher-than-average crime rates may put a damper on thoughts about moving here, and exceptionally high pollen counts year-round can wreak havoc on seasonal allergies.
- Population: 166,722
- Median home price: $290,000
- Average age: 29 years
Clarksville is one of the oldest cities in Tennessee, established in 1785 — well before statehood. The city is home to Austin-Peay State University, as well as the state’s oldest newspaper, The Leaf-Chronicle. Nearby is the Fort Campbell military installation, so the area has a fairly even mixture of civilian and military families. It’s also consistently noted as one of the best places to live in Tennessee for young professionals looking to put down roots by the likes of Money Magazine, pointing to home prices and the average age.
With a sub-$300,000 median home price and rents averaging just under $1,400, Clarksville scores high marks for affordability and low-cost living. An abundance of parks adds to the city’s laid-back charm and suburban feel. However, know that Clarksville’s violent crime statistics exceed both the state and the national averages.
5 Best Mid-Sized Cities in Tennessee
- Population: 83,454
- Median home price: $814,000
- Average age: 37.5 years
Part of the Greater Nashville area, Franklin is about 20 miles south of the city proper. You’re close enough to the capital city to easily commute to work and enjoy many of its musical points of interest and other attractions, but far enough away to enjoy a respite from the hustle and bustle. Franklin has its own historic downtown with charming restaurants and breweries, attracting several A-list country music artists seeking a more laid-back vibe.
With rents averaging almost $2,400 and a median home price north of $800,000, Franklin is well above both national and state averages for cost of living. While it is considered one of the safest cities in Tennessee with respect to crime, it’s also one of the most vulnerable when it comes to tornadoes.
2. Johnson City
- Population: 71,046
- Median home price: $242,000
- Average age: 35.6 years
Tucked in the especially scenic eastern corner of Tennessee, Johnson City offers a rural, small-town feel. In spite of that, it’s an economic hub, home to East Tennessee State University and several major healthcare employers including the university’s medical and pharmacy colleges and local hospitals. Johnson City also has a more fun claim to fame: it’s the birthplace of the wildly popular soft drink, Mountain Dew.
Rent averages about $1,450 in Johnson City. Combined with median home prices under $250,000, it’s generally one of the most affordable Tennessee cities in terms of housing. However, Johnson City has some of the highest sales tax in both the state and nation. Professional jobs outside the healthcare sector are also somewhat limited here.
- Population: 68,205
- Median home price: $195,000
- Average age: 35.5 years
70 miles east of Memphis lies the mid-sized city of Jackson. While not nearly as large as Memphis or Nashville, Jackson also has a strong musical legacy. It’s considered the birthplace of Rockabilly, an early music style that’s essentially a hybrid of rock and country. The city was established as a railroad hub, and still boasts a thriving economy in healthcare and manufacturing today.
With a sub-$1,000 median rent and home prices averaging below $200,000, Jackson is one of the most affordable cities in Tennessee with a relatively low cost of living. On the flip side, its crime statistics are some of the highest in the nation. Lack of public transportation and non-existent nightlife may also cause you to pump the brakes on calling Jackson home.
- Population: 55,442
- Median home price: $204,000
- Average age: 44.9 years
On the banks of the Holston River, Kingsport sits near the Virginia border in northeast Tennessee, in what’s known as the Mountain Empire. It has a charming, picturesque downtown that includes several eateries, art shops, cafes, live music venues, and historic buildings. Kingsport offers an urban feel with a low cost of living, and summers that are made tolerable by the nearby mountains.
Locals can expect to pay $1,500 in rent on average. Combined with home prices averaging just over $204,000, Kingsport is one of the more affordable — and certainly more scenic — Tennessee cities to call home. If you’re someone who loves vibrant nightlife, though, your options are limited, and major cities aren’t close by.
- Population: 53,070
- Median home price: $383,000
- Average age: 33.8 years
Located within a 35-minute drive from downtown Nashville, Smyrna is a mid-sized city that walks the line between being a quiet suburb and offering an abundance of unique bars and eateries. The fast-growing community is primarily fueled by the largest Nissan Motors manufacturing plant in the United States.
Because of its job market and ideal distance from bustling Nashville, Smyrna is one of the best places to live in Tennessee for everyone from young professionals to families and retirees.
Rentals in Smyrna average around $2,100 per month, and the median home price is $383,000. The cost of living here is higher than other cities in Tennessee, but the area also has some of the lowest property tax rates. If you work in Nashville, you’ll need a car because public transit options are limited.
5 Best Small Cities in Tennessee
- Population: 34,842
- Median home price: $277,000
- Average age: 29.9 years
Regarded as the “Hub of the Upper Cumberlands,” Cookeville sits in the north-northeast part of the state. It’s noted as one of the nation’s fastest-growing micropolitan areas, which are smaller cities that serve as major economic hubs in their respective regions. Cookeville is also a college town, home of Tennessee Tech University, one of the state’s highest-ranking public institutions.
With average monthly rent of $1,600 and a median home price well below $300,000, Cookeville is one of the most affordable Tennessee cities to hang your hat. You’ll experience all four seasons here, including mild winters and summers that rarely exceed 90 degrees. As a college town, employment opportunities for professionals are somewhat limited.
- Population: 7,065
- Median home price: $205,000
- Average age: 31 years
Named after Dayton, Ohio, this southeastern Tennessee town’s claim to fame (or more accurately, notoriety) is that it was the location of the Scopes Monkey Trial, a landmark case concerning the teaching of evolution in public schools. The legacy of this trial is evident not only in the Scopes Trial Museum, but also in the name of a beloved local hotspot, the Monkey Town Brewing Company.
Monthly rent in Dayton averages around $650. With a median home price just above $200,000, Dayton is very affordable, making it one of the best places to live in Tennessee for young families. Antique shops, specialty dining, and bass fishing at Chickamauga Lake offer plenty of things to do, but high sales tax and severe storms are some of Dayton’s drawbacks.
- Population: 5,860
- Median home price: $271,000
- Average age: 45.3 years
Tennessee’s oldest town sits in the northeast corner of the state. Established in 1779, Jonesborough is home to several well-preserved historic buildings, attracting history buffs and lovers of architecture. The town is also known as the “Storytelling Capital of the World,” thanks to the International Storytelling Center, a venue that hosts the annual National Storytelling Festival each fall.
Renting in Jonesborough costs an average of around $1,300 per month. Combined with median home prices under $271,000, it’s considered affordable and well-suited for families wanting more space than what’s available in larger cities. If you’re looking for younger crowds and active nightlife, however, Jonesborough is probably not one of the best places to live in Tennessee.
- Population: 3,757
- Median home price: $187,000
- Average age: 40.8 years
German for “High Forest,” Hohenwald is situated in the central-southwest part of the state. An hour south of Nashville, Hohenwald offers a different slice of small-town Southern living than other cities in Tennessee, thanks to a few unusual places of interest. First, it’s home to The Elephant Sanctuary, the largest refuge for elephants in the nation. Who would’ve thought?! The resting place of Meriwether Lewis (of Lewis and Clark fame) is also nearby.
Hohenwald residents enjoy a low cost of living, with sub-$200,000 home prices and monthly rents averaging around $1,375. One of the challenges of living here is the low population density. If you like having neighbors close by, you’d be better off somewhere else.
- Population: 3,577
- Median home price: $492,000
- Average age: 46.5 years
Last but certainly not least is Gatlinburg. 40 miles southeast of Knoxville, Gatlinburg is directly outside one of the main entrances to Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
The town, unquestionably one of the best places to live in Tennessee for outdoor enthusiasts, is celebrated for its charm and proximity to activities including skiing, hiking, camping, river recreation, and more. Unique eateries, breweries, and historic sites are just some of the attractions that draw over 12 million visitors annually.
Its mountain town charms come with a trade-off: Gatlinburg is very small and prone to overcrowding, and many locals feel like it’s become one large tourist trap. With home prices averaging almost $500,000 and median rent of $2,500, it’s also not the most affordable place to live.
Map of Best Places to Live in Tennessee
Summary of the Best Places to Live in Tennessee
Best Small Cities to Live in Tennessee
Best Mid-Sized Cities to Live in Tennessee
- Johnson City
Best Large Cities to Live in Tennessee
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