All of Tennessee has been increasingly catching people’s attention since the start of the pandemic. When COVID began, more people were able to work remotely than ever before. That gave people from different parts of the country the flexibility to move, sometimes to lower-cost areas or places where they could get more bang for their buck in terms of housing.
Many people also realized how much they wanted an outdoor space during COVID lockdowns.
Tennessee became a popular choice because it’s an inexpensive state. There’s no state income tax, and the property taxes are modest. The state’s housing prices are significantly lower than national averages, and the location provides easy access to places throughout the southeast and midwestern parts of the country.
The winters are mild, with an abundance of outdoor activities you can participate in if you live in Tennessee too.
East Tennessee is part of the state that’s on the border with North Carolina. East Tennessee tends to have a lower cost of living than centrally located Nashville, but there are still some appealing cities and towns.
The following are some of the best places in East Tennessee to call home, especially for families.
Maryville is just a short drive from both Knoxville and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. You can reach the park, the most visited national park in the country, in around 20 minutes from Maryville.
You get a small-town charm with the proximity to the amenities of Knoxville.
Maryville is home to Maryville College, and it has an adorable downtown area. The cost of living is low, with schools that are highly-rated. The crime rate is lower in Maryville than in Tennessee on average as well.
Maryville is often rated as having the best public schools and teachers in the entire state.
Knoxville is a unique East Tennessee city, and it’s the biggest. It’s the hub of the region, and it’s home to the University of Tennessee, which goes crazy every weekend in the fall for Vol football.
Knoxville can feel at times like a small town, but it’s actually home to hundreds of thousands of residents. The mid-sized city is spread out along I-40, making it convenient to get from one area to another in this very dispersed location.
While the cost of living is a bit more than in some of the nearby small towns, it’s still low in Knoxville. The cost of living is lower than in other places in the United States and also compared to Nashville and its suburbs.
The average cost of a home and also monthly rent costs on average are significantly lower than in most other metro areas.
The population of the city is relatively young because of both college students and young families—around ¼ of the residents of Knoxville are younger than 20.
There’s a lot of diversity in Knoxville and cultural activities to enjoy.
The U.S. Department of Energy and also the Oak Ridge National Laboratory are among the largest employers in the area.
Chattanooga is often described as a big, small town. This East Tennessee city is close to Knoxville and Atlanta. Walker Cronkite once called Chattanooga the dirtiest city in America, but it’s come a long way from there.
Chattanooga, over the past two decades, has undergone a transformation. It’s a hub of technology, tourism, and outdoor activities.
The North Shore of Chattanooga is a place where you can go if you want a hip, urban experience. The North Shore has a mix of restaurants, shops, and bars along Frazier Avenue and Cherokee Boulevard.
The North Shore is home to Coolidge and Renaissance Parks.
Downtown is a vibrant area that’s home to AT&T Field and the Tennessee Aquarium.
These are just a few of the many neighborhoods, and of course, there are lots of suburbs and more traditional neighborhoods too.
Cookeville is farther west than the other cities and towns on this list. It’s at the very western edge of East Tennessee, and it’s about an hour east of Nashville.
Cookeville has a population of around 30,000, and it’s home to Tennessee Tech University.
Cookeville’s cost of living index is around 15% less than the United States average and almost 3% less than Tennessee. The median home value is a big part of this because it’s almost 23% less than the national average.
There are three state parks in a 30 to 60-minute drive, including Fall Creek Falls, Edgar Evins, and Buress Falls.
Crossville, a nearby town, is known as the Golf Capital of Tennessee.
There’s a good theater scene thanks to the presence of the Cookeville Performance Arts Center and the Backdoor Theater.
5. Oak Ridge
Oak Ridge is ranked as number two among the best places to live in the Knoxville area by Niche, and Niche also gives it an A overall for livability.
Oak Ridge is a suburb of Knoxville in Anderson County, with a population of just under 30,000.
It’s ranked among the suburbs with the best public schools in the state, and Niche says it’s number 10 on the list of the best suburbs to buy a house in Tennessee.
Finally, if you like the water, you might opt to live in Norris. Also, in Anderson County, Norris is a small town that’s close to Oak Ridge and Knoxville. Norris was initially a planned community for workers who were building the original Tennessee Valley Authority Dam.
Norris Dam State Park is more than 4,000 acres with miles of hiking trails. Norris Dam Marina has a limestone cliff, and you can rent a boat for the day or go kayaking or paddleboarding.
Norris Lake is the centerpiece of life in this town, and it goes 56 miles up the Powell River and 72 miles along the Clinch River, surrounded by the East Tennessee Mountains.
Norris is a place where you can find a relatively affordable lakefront property and enjoy tranquil living driven by a focus on the outdoors.