Tennessee is a landlocked state in the U.S. South. Its capital, centrally located Nashville, is the heart of the country-music scene, with the long-running Grand Ole Opry, the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum and a legendary stretch of honky-tonks and dance halls.
Memphis, in the far southwest, is the home of Elvis Presley’s Graceland, rock-and-roll pioneering Sun Studio and the blues clubs of Beale Street.
What first comes to mind when Tennessee is mentioned? Birthplace of the blues and home of Elvis Presley? Well, you are not alone. Its musical roots is what many often associate The Volunteer State with – and the Memphis barbecue, of course – but this southern gem of a state is much more than that.
Found in the southeastern region of the United States map, Tennessee has in the recent past been considered one of the best states to live in the country. And for good reason.
If you are looking to move to a state crammed with beautiful scenery, deep-rooted cultural traditions and where the cost of living is low, Tennessee is just the place for you.
With more than 6.6 million people calling it home, this is the 17th largest state in terms of population.
The eastern side of the state seats the Great Smoky Mountains where the nation’s most visited national park is located: the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It is a dream for anyone looking for virgin hiking trails.
If farming is more your kind of thing, the western part, featuring miles of lush farmland, will appeal to you best.
But just like every other state, Tennessee has a mix of larger urban areas (Memphis and Nashville, for example) as well as many small communities that are a nice escape from the hustle and bustle of the big city.
We dug around to figure out exactly where in Tennessee is most ideal to pitch a forever tent, and here is what we came up with.
Table of Contents
With a population that is just about hitting 40,000, Brentwood is one of the most reputable addresses in The Volunteer State.
Niche.com ranked it the #1 Best Place to Live in Tennessee in 2017, and this Nashville suburb located in Williamson County was named by Money Magazine as the #21 Best Place to Live in America in 2017.
The affluent suburb is renowned for its verdure and rolling hills. If you know of any country music stars and athletes who live or own a home in Tennessee, there is a big chance they live here.
The 2017 U.S. News & World Report named Brentwood High School the 5th best high school in the state, and the town’s high schools overall have a near-perfect graduation rate of 96%.
With 13 parks in the area, including Smith Park which boasts over 400 acres of open fields, and plenty of walking trails, it promises an awful lot on the outdoor activity scene.
Brentwood, however, boasts one of the highest cost of living in the entire state, with home prices ($506,300) dwarfing those in most other towns. But many argue that the neighbourhood does deliver plenty of bang for buck, with the added bonus being its proximity to the Nashville International Airport. Source: www.nashvillesmls.com
Next up on our list of 15 best places to live in Tennessee is Franklin, a town also located in the desirable Williamson County that is home to 68,500 residents.
Median home value is significantly lower than Brentwood’s at $321,400. And while household incomes cannot come close to Brentwood’s $141,833 (triple the state average), they are not peanuts either ($85,671).
The area has been recognised nationally for its fabulous schools and an abundance of nice community opportunities.
Franklin also provides a glimpse of American history through its intense historic sites relating to the Civil War, with a much loved downtown. With over 200 eateries to choose from, you won’t find as many restaurants bunched together in a single location in Tennessee as you will in Franklin.
In 2014, Garden & Gun Magazine named Franklin their No. 1 choice for “Best Southern Town”, which speaks volumes.
Another constant feature on many best places to live in Tennessee, Germantown should be the first place you look if you are planning to live in the Memphis area.
It has a population of a couple hundred short of 40,000, and if you ask us, this town has it all going for it.
Cost of living is low, and housing is affordable ($288,500). The income is one of the highest in the state ($109,464) and crime rate is doesn’t make for a constant feature on the evening news.
The schools in Germantown have the strongest rating among the school districts out near the city, yet close enough for multiple ideal spots for a date night.
Regarded as a suburb of Memphis, Collierville is located approximately 30 miles outside the downtown area.
It boasts a population of slightly less than 48,000 who are mostly well-moneyed considering this is one of the most affluent areas anywhere near the big city, or even the state for that matter.
Families take home a staggering $110,084 on average, and when you take the cost of living into account, you can’t really help but marvel at the affordable life in the state of Tennessee as a whole.
Homes fetch at an attractive $272,800, which is just about the cost of a gorgeous three-bedroom mansion – nestled in one of the state’s most desirable areas, lest you forget.
We go back to Williamson County to a small suburb of Nashville that is home to almost 6,400 residents.
Nolensville is one of the best places to live in Tennessee, no doubt, but its small size makes it ideal for those looking for a town with a close-knit community. Little wonder it remains a hot preference for families with children – it is one of the places with the highest percentage of growing families, matter of fact.
Properties are some of the highest-priced in the state, averaging $316,200, but that is perhaps because Nolensville sits between two of the largest metro areas in Tennessee, Nashville and Murfreesboro.
There are excellent schools in the area, with a booming local economy that sees the residents take home $108,549 on average per household.
Speaking of which…
If your idea of a nice place to live is an upcoming town with an absolutely booming economy, your heart would love it in Murfreesboro, a town in Rutherford County where 118,000 people call home.
It has been recognised as a standout city in The Volunteer State, with lots of promise to offer.
The high population might have you believe this is a concrete jungle, but quite on the contrary. Murfreesboro is chock full of parks and greenways, the latter of which stretch for 12 miles, with more set to come.
The mid-size city is rich with history and historical sites, including the famous Civil War battlefield, the Stones River National Battlefield.
Nightlife in this city is bustling, and the locals often describe its music scene as that of Nashville but “without the crazy”.
As an added perk, the cost of living is enticingly attractive, with rent averaging $876 a month while properties are priced at $181,900. Single-family homes, yes. With a fair share of condos.
7. Oak Ridge
OakMelton Hill Lake, Oak Ridge, TN
You will find the idyllic town that is Oak Ridge on the east side of Tennessee in Anderson County, about 25 miles outside of Knoxville.
Oak Ridge traces its roots back to the 1940s when it was built as part of the Manhattan Project funded by the federal government. In the late 1950s, it became an independent civilian city, and as we speak, the population has grown to 29,300.
The federal government still maintains a visible presence in the area, with the Y-12 National Security Complex and Oak Ridge National Laboratory serving as major employers to the residents.
Oak Ridge has one of the lowest crime rates in the state. And with home prices averaging $149,800 (and rent $732 a month) it is not hard to see why many people are flocking to Tennessee to put down roots for good.
8. Mount Juliet
Mount Juliet is a Nashville suburb located in Wilson County, some 20 miles east of the state capital.
With a population of 28,400, this town is just the go-to place for anyone looking to start a business. It was named one of the most business-friendly cities in Tennessee by The Beacon Center, a non-profit free-market think tank.
Cost of living in Mount Juliet is average, with homes fetching at $210,400. The residents enjoy fairly high income levels which average $76,000.
The town is nested between the Cumberland River and Percy Priest Lake, a location that has earned it the nickname “The City Between the Lakes”.
9. Spring Hill
Spring Hill is a town near the city of Nashville that is located in Maury County. It has transformed from a sleepy little town into a thriving urban centre with a robust and balanced economy exploding with jobs.
There are almost 33,000 people living in Spring Hill, one of the fastest growing towns in the state.
This growth is fueled by the presence of many big-name employers who include the likes of General Motors, Ryder Logistics, Kroger, Pioneer Manufacturing, APEX Turbine Technologies, Integrity Nutraceuticals among a bunch of others.
This explains the high incomes enjoyed by residents in Spring Hill, averaging $78,588 per household.
This, coupled with nice schools in the area, makes this town an ideal place for families and anyone on the hunt for well-paying employment opportunities. And who isn’t, right?
Taylor Swift diehard fans will be privy to the fact that the pop and country sensation schooled at Hendersonville High School. The school system in this Sumner County town is right up there, alright, in case that’s a swaying factor for you as you look for a nice place to settle in The Volunteer State.
This suburb of Nashville lies on the shores of Old Hickory Lake, a section of the Cumberland River. Suffice to say there is a good deal of water activity you can enjoy here, be it swimming, fishing, skiing, boating or relaxing on the beach, with 26 miles of shoreline to talk about.
There are also numerous parks in the area, as well as natural and historic landmarks that guarantee a plethora of recreation options to keep everyone satisfied.
The Streets of Indian Lake is an entertainment complex that features over 30 restaurants and shops, meaning you don’t necessarily have to hit the big city for a little bit of fun.
If a home with a nice shot of splendid mountain views that is also within close proximity to urban amenities fits your dream description, you really can’t do better than Maryville.
This is more so considering the low cost of living in an area often considered among the best places to live in Tennessee. Maryville sits at the base of the Great Smoky Mountains, with just 20 miles separating it from the city of Knoxville.
Despite its sublime yet convenient location, median home value has managed to remain low at $189,700. If you are looking to rent instead, expect to contend with an average of $789 per month. Consider these the perks of living in Tennessee.
28,000 people call Maryville, Tennessee home, a town in Blount County whose main economy is driven by manufacturing, with Sanford Brands and DENSO a few of the major employers in the area.
Bartlett is a town in Shelby County, Memphis that came up as a way station, following which it grew into a train depot for the Memphis & Ohio Railroad.
Today, the town of more than 58,100 residents has grown into a buzzing, well-maintained community that lures everyone from families, to professionals and retirees.
The area gives you a couple of solid reasons to move here.
The low cost of living coupled with a low unemployment rate provide a nice foundation to up your quality of life. There are multiple distinct neighbourhoods to choose from, numbering about 60, which if you are like us, you would appreciate the ample number of options.
The Bartlett Station historic district is one example, a neighbourhood filled with some of the best shops, restaurants and entertainment in the area.
Located about 25 miles to the southeast of Tennessee is a town going by the name Smyrna.
Once the site of the now defunct Sewart Air Force Base, this town in Rutherford County has a healthy economy which, as many other places on this list, is largely dependent on manufacturing.
For instance, Nissan North America is one of the biggest employers in a town where incomes per household average $53,764, just about matching the national average.
While it may sound low, let’s not forget that this is a state known for its low cost of living, and this is perfectly reflected in Smyrna, despite the fact this is considered one of the best places to live in the state.
Median home value is $149,700, and workers enjoy an average commute time of just over 25 minutes.
14. Johnson City
Johnson is a town in Washington County, on the east side of Tennessee.
It is heralded as the birthplace of popular soft drink, Mountain Dew, and forms part of the Tri-Cities region, the other two being Kingsport and Bristol.
Johnson City remains one of the biggest favourites in the state, thanks to its idyllic location at the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains which you can clearly view from the comforts of your own patio.
The East Tennessee State University is based here, and this breathes a college feel into the town of 65,000 residents. Housing is affordable, with rent averaging $686 and properties priced at an average of $153,800.
Kingsport is a town in Sullivan County that is witnessing remarkable growth both in terms of livability and the social aspect (think restaurants, locals shows and so on).
It is located less than 10 miles from the Virginia state line, and the town of 53,000 people remains one of the state’s hottest tourist destinations.
It provides convenient access to 15 state parks, six lakes and five national parks, making it an outdoor lover’s dream for both visitors and locals alike.
The town’s economy is thus flanked by tourism to a large extent. However, jobs come from other prominent employers such as the Eastman Chemical Company and Wellmont Health System.
The local schools are outstanding, but the crime rate is wanting. By and large, though, Kingsport remains a popular place, especially amongst families and people looking for a decent town with a low enough cost of living.
That can be found here. Rent averages $582, and the going price for homes is $135,700.