Tennessee is the home of history, nature, a mild climate, and many types of music. While an excellent vacation destination, it is so much more. The state’s natural beauty, the amenities available, and the rural peacefulness combined with the mild temperatures make Tennessee inviting to retirees.
As retirees research retirement locations, Tennessee is often a top choice. While visiting the Volunteer State, we noticed new housing developments everywhere we went, and I learned that many people, especially retirees, are moving to Tennessee.
My inquisitive mind took over, and I began to wonder why so many people were flocking to the state and where within the state they were moving to. We met several people planning to retire within the next year during our travels and planning to move to Tennessee, so I talked with them.
I also did some research and talked with various destinations and with members of the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development who run the “Retire Tennessee” program promoting the state as an ideal place to relocate and live during the retirement years, and this is what I learned.
People are moving to Tennessee for various reasons. Some are moving for a lower cost of living, and others are moving from “liberal” states desiring a more conservative government. Many want a peaceful and tranquil atmosphere in comparison to a big city.
Tennessee is a state with zero state income or property taxes, and that is a big draw. It has the second-lowest per capita state and local tax burden behind Alaska, and Tennessee is 10.3 percent beneath the cost of living index. Retiring to Tennessee is often a significant financial plus when moving from states at the top of the scale.
Retire Tennessee Program
The “Retire Tennessee” program consists of both rural and urban communities across the state. To be included, each community must meet the state’s criteria of providing amenities needed to be considered a viable retirement destination.
The program has 20 participating communities. Other communities are also excellent places to live but are not part of the program. Let’s check out a few of the cities and towns that are popular with retirees.
1. Johnson City
Johnson City has both a country setting and a city scene to choose from. It is part of the Retire Tennessee program and is located in the northeast part of the state in the Appalachian Mountains. With access to the surrounding rivers and lakes, it is near myriad outdoor activities.
Johnson City offers easy commutes to nearby locations, affordability, and many gorgeous natural settings. The area’s natural beauty helped garner a high placement on Livability.com’s “2018 Top 100 Best Places to Live” list. Livability.com also recognized Johnson City as one of the “5 Most Affordable Cities in Tennessee.”
The city was also recognized as a medium-sized Top Adventure Town by Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine and recognized as one of “The 10 Most Diversified Metro Economies in the United States” in 2020.
Although Franklin is not in the Retire Tennessee program, it is a beautiful place to live and retire. Last month, Franklin was included in the latest MONEY Magazine “Best Places to Live” list. Franklin has been in the top ten list for several years, moving up to the number three position from eighth last year.
Located just 17 miles south of Nashville, the music scene is alive and well in Franklin. Street music, live music in many restaurants and other venues are available.
One of the fastest-growing cities in the nation, Franklin still has that small-town feel to it. The pre-civil war historic buildings along the 16-block Great American Main Street are the heart of the city.
When we visited Franklin, I was impressed with the friendly people, walkable main street, small shops, tasty restaurants, and the small-town atmosphere.
Franklin hosts a multitude of festivals throughout the year, so there is something for everyone to enjoy.
Learn more about Franklin and the Reasons To Visit America’s Favorite Quintessential Main Street.
3. Union City
Union City is located in Obion County, which is part of the Retire Tennessee program. Full of some amazing things such as the Discovery Park of America Museum, White Squirrel Winery, and world-class fishing on Reelfoot Lake.
Beautiful scenery and friendly neighbors give this city a small-town atmosphere that many desire when relocating.
Retirees who are golf lovers will relish the opportunity to live in Crossville. No matter which part of town you live in, you will be close to one of its nine pristine golf courses.
Located between Knoxville and Nashville, Crossville is considered the golf capital of Tennessee due to the number of golf courses in the town.
It’s a golfers’ paradise, but it has so much more. A playhouse serving more than 165,000 visitors each year, a historic theater on Main Street that is still active, and a restored railroad Depot and Caboose Visitor’s Center are just a few charming town highlights.
The rural area offers mountainous wildlife reserves, lakes, streams, and the Cumberland Mountain State Park.
Crossville is just a short drive to three metropolitan areas.
Sitting on the outskirts of Memphis in Shelby County, Germantown has loads of activities and is close to top-notch healthcare in Memphis.
Residents of Germantown enjoy small-town life with big-city amenities such as high-end shopping and fine dining options. Health, wellness, and fitness facilities are abundant.
Germantown boasts gorgeous parks and beautiful neighborhoods for all ages to enjoy.
Pro Tip: There are so many magnificent parks in Germantown, no home is more than one mile from a park.
Within Shelby County, Collierville is on the outskirts of Memphis. Activities galore, there is something for everyone. It has a historic downtown district similar to Franklin but on a smaller scale.
Along with the small-town atmosphere, Collierville has award-winning parks and recreation facilities and all the amenities and services of an urban area blended with Southern charm and character.
Retirees living here are close to world-class healthcare in Memphis.
If looking for more of a small-town retirement spot, consider Townsend in East Tennessee. Sitting between Knoxville and Pigeon Forge, retirees in Townsend definitely enjoy a small-town atmosphere with the mountains as a backdrop.
Townsend is close enough to Gatlinburg for fun escapades and Knoxville for shopping and healthcare is less than an hour away.
Pro Tip: Whiskey lovers take note… it hosts an excellent whiskey festival each fall.
Kentucky Lake, Tennessee’s largest lake is located in Paris. Yes, this Tennessee town is named after the city in France, and as a fun play on the town name, it has a mini-lighted Eiffel Tower replica.
There is a super cute town square, unique shops, lots of intriguing history, a scrumptious food scene, and it hosts the World’s Biggest Fish Fry every April.
You can find retirees playing pickleball, fishing, biking, playing disk golf, and more.
Paris has a regional hospital and is an hour from Jackson, Tennessee, which has a larger hospital.
Home to the University of Tennessee at Martin, the northwest Tennessee town of Martin is a delightful small town that caters to both retirees and college students.
Martin has an extremely low cost of living and is only 40 minutes from Reelfoot Lake. Residents enjoy a small regional hospital within the town, and they are about an hour from a larger hospital in Jackson.
Located in Hardin County, which is part of the Retire Tennessee initiative, Savannah sits beside the Tennessee River. If you desire to retire on the water with the sound of the river echoing in the background, this might be the perfect location.
Residents enjoy boating, hiking, fishing, and history-inspired adventures. You will find cute boutiques, museums, and of course, plenty of river fun.
The picturesque town of Savannah provides the history, natural beauty, and easy commutes of a small town but within a short drive to larger urban areas such as Jackson, Memphis, and Nashville.
11. Maury County
Listed in the “Top 10 Best Small Towns” by Southern Living and “One of the Best Places to Live” by Livability.com, Maury County has several downtowns (Columbia, Mount Pleasant, and Spring Hill) with dining, unique shopping, live music, and friendly neighbors.
Retirees enjoy the low cost of living, rolling hills, and Southern hospitality and charm in Maury County. Maury County is in the Retire Tennessee program.
Fun Fact: James K Polk, the 11th President, lived in Maury County.
12. Henderson County
Showcasing small-town charm, the towns of Lexington, Parkers Crossroads, Scotts Hill, and Sardis provide a great place to retire without the big city hassle. Henderson County participates in the Retire Tennessee program.
It boasts modest home prices, spectacular scenery, a reasonable cost of living, and numerous recreational opportunities.
Retirees living there report gorgeous sunsets over the water on the seven lakes within the county.
If you are considering relocating during retirement, look at each of these towns and others in the Retire Tennessee program. You are sure to find one that is perfect for you to enjoy and call home.
These Tennessee attractions and activities could entice you to retire to the state: