East Tennessee Bucket List: 10 Best Things to Do in East Tennessee

Smoky Mountain National Park in TN
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Top 10 Tourist Spots and Best Things to do in East Tennessee, USA

Symbolized by the three stars on its flag, Tennessee is divided into 3 regions.  Of all three of its regions, East Tennessee is the most beautiful and exciting.  Saturated with rich colors and the rolling mountains known as the Smokies, East Tennessee is a must-see destination for any outdoor lover.

Gatlinburg
Gatlinburg

A place where it’s great to be a Volunteer [the University of Tennessee] and everyone you meet is a friendly face, East Tennessee will feel like home the minute you step foot in it.

Most people visit East Tennessee for the lavish and breathtaking scenery, but it also home to a few world-renowned festivals and some kicking amusement parks.

Although there are hundreds, if not thousands of things do, here is a taste with the top 10 things to do in East Tennessee.

Dollywood

Gatlinburg
Gatlinburg

Founded by country singer legend and East Tennessee native, Dolly Parton, Dollywood has risen from nothing and is a major driving force of tourism in East Tennessee.  With 2.5 million annual visitors, Dollywood is a must-see destination for anyone traveling in the area.

Dollywood has pioneered the way with many unique roller coasters and amusement rides such as the Wild Eagle, Tennessee Tornado, and Fire Chaser.

Gatlinburg, TN

Gatlinburg
Gatlinburg

One of the most popular cities in Tennessee, let alone East Tennessee, is Gatlinburg.  Known as the number one camping destination in the United States, Gatlinburg is located in the heart of the Smoky Mountains.  Full of activities such as hiking, fun houses, putt putt, shops, amusement houses, and even an Aquarium, you could spend a week here and not even scratch the surface on all the things there are to do.

Smoky Mountain National Park in TN
Smoky Mountain National Park in TN

If you ever find yourself in Gatlinburg, TN, here a pro tip: make it a priority to eat at “Best Italian”! It is absolutely the best! (No pun intended)

National Storytelling Festival

You may hear “storytelling festival” and not think anything of it, but Jonesborough’s yearly storytelling festival is a world-famous event! People travel from all over the globe to hear amazing storytellers. Their stories are so good that you will feel as though you have been transported to another reality!

The tellers in the festival train their entire lives to perfect their craft and even the local university, East Tennessee State University, has a master’s degree program in storytelling, specifically designed to carry on the art of storytelling.  This is truly a can’t miss event!

Great Smoky Mountain National Park

Great Smoky Mountain National Park
Great Smoky Mountain National Park

The Great Smoky Mountain National Park is the most visited national park in all of America and for good reason! You will find some of the most amazing and awe-inspiring sights located inside of this park.  From the highest point at Clingman’s Dome to the roaring waters of Laurel Falls, the Great Smokies will create memories in you the will last a lifetime.

The Lost Sea

One of the most popular cave adventures in East Tennessee is the lost sea.  The lost sea offers walking tours of the caves as well as a boat ride atop America’s largest underground lake. Accompanied by nature trails and gem mining, the lost sea is a perfect attraction for families with children!  And if you are feeling extra adventurous, they offer private spelunking expeditions for birthday parties and church groups.

TN Valley Winery

TN Valley Winery
TN Valley Winery

Located south of Knoxville in Louden, TN, the TN Valley Winery is an excellent destination for any wine lover.  As one of the oldest family-owned wineries in America, the TN Valley Winery has acquired an impressive 800 awards for their decadent wines, according to their website.  Their wine is so popular that it has even been served at the White House!

Stop by for a tour of the facilities and free wine samples, perfect for the wine connoisseur!

Fall Fest

Fall is the most beautiful time of year to experience East Tennessee.  The leaves are changing, the air is crisp, and there are more fall festivals than you can count. You can truly capture the essence of Eastern Tennessee culture through these festivals because people from all over come together and celebrate with great food and toe-tapping music.  Make sure you wear your stretch pants because you are going to fill up to the brim with so mouth-watering southern cooking.

The Tri-Cities

Full of history and endless things to do, the Tri-Cities are among the oldest towns in Tennessee.  Comprised of Bristol, Johnson City, and Kingsport, each city has its own unique offerings.  No matter what time of year you visit these cities, there is always something going on.  From fun fest in Kingsport to the Rhythm and Roots festival in Bristol, the Tri-Cities makes for the perfect relaxing vacation destination.

Bristol Motor Speedway

Bristol Motor Speedway
Bristol Motor Speedway

Known as the last great Colosseum, racing fans travel from all over the world just to experience one of the fastest racetracks in existence.   Race day in Bristol is a huge deal and the week leading up to the races are usually filled with parades and parties, so if you are a fan of racing, you need to experience the Bristol Motor Speedway!

Nature

Laurel Falls
Laurel Falls

East Tennessee is home to some of the most beautiful destinations in the world, and as I mentioned above, it is the perfect place for any outdoorsman.  East Tennessee is scattered with amazing waterfalls, breathtaking hikes, and astounding overlooks.  With the Appalachian Trail, Great Smoky Mountains, and the Nantahala National Forest, you could live your entire life in East Tennessee and still not see all there is to see!

Check out our complete list of recommended Hotels in Tennessee via Agoda or you may also see available Airbnb properties in the city.

About the Author: Joshua Luck

Joshua Luck is a content creator and graphic designer from East Tennessee.  When he is not writing, Josh spends his time traveling, creating art, and hiking with his dog. As a travel enthusiast, he currently runs the blog, Vacation Lion which can be found at https://vacationlion.com. You can also find his blog on Facebook at @vacationlion.

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