12 Things to Know Before Moving to Tennessee
12 Recommended Things to Know Before Moving to Tennessee
Are you considering calling the Volunteer State home? No doubt, Tennessee is a great place to live, work, and play. While famous as the home of country music, it has more than the Grand Ole Opry to attract residents. Find stunning scenery from the mountains to the lakes, a growing economy, and affordable living. No wonder more people are coming to enjoy the Tennessee lifestyle.
Learn more about Tennessee to see if it's the right state for you. Our guide provides an overview of what you need to know before moving to Tennessee.
The Three Tennessees
This 440-mile-long state has three distinct regions: East Tennessee, Middle Tennessee, and West Tennessee. These Grand Divisions are actually recognized in the state's constitution and represented by stars on the state flag. They represent distinct geographical and cultural regions.
The Eastern section is where you'll find the Blue Ridge mountains. It includes 30 of the state's counties and the principal city of Knoxville.
The Cumberland Plateau divides East and Middle Tennessee, as it historically was a barrier to travel in the state's early history. Middle Tennessee is a large swath of rolling hills, valleys, and fertile farmland. It includes the lower lands of the Central Basin, where Nashville is, and the Highland Rim formation.
The Tennessee River divides the Middle and Western regions. The West is primarily flat lowlands and the Mississippi River floodplain. The rich farmlands have historically been important in cotton production and agriculture. It includes Memphis
The Middle and West areas are in the Central Time Zone, while the East operates in the Eastern time zone.
Tennessee Job Market
The job market is strong, with plenty of opportunities in various industries. According to US News and World Report, the state was no. 5 in the nation for job growth in 2022. Its July 2022 unemployment rate was 4.2%, below the national average of 5.4%.
The state's economy is quite diversified, with the top three industries being healthcare, manufacturing, and retail trade. Based on the number of employees, the largest employers were FedEx, HCA Healthcare, Dolgencorp, Dollar General, and Community Health Systems.
Several auto manufacturers, such as Nissan, Bridgestone, and Mitsubishi, have national and regional headquarters in the state.
Healthcare is a booming industry in Tennessee. In fact, it is one of the top employment sectors in the state. With several large hospitals and research facilities, there are plenty of opportunities for healthcare professionals.
Many smaller community hospitals located throughout the state also provide excellent care.
The state has room for improvement in the overall quality of health care. Tennessee ranked as the 42nd healthiest state in America's Health Rankings. Access and cost are primary challenges.
That said, you can find top-notch health care in the state. Vanderbilt University Medical Center was ranked the best in the state and no. 19 in the nation by US News and World Report in 2022. It was no. 7 in adult specialties and no. 8 in pediatric specialties. Methodist Hospitals of Memphis also achieved national recognition in eight pediatric specialties.
Tennessee has an incredible amount of things to do. Let's break down the state's entertainment options by category.
Arts and Culture
You'll find plenty to do in Tennessee if you love the arts. The state is home to the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, the Frist Center for the Visual Arts, and the Chattanooga Hunter Museum of American Art.
Many smaller art galleries and museums are throughout the state. Cities like Nashville have a distinct public street art scene. The performing arts are also well represented, with theater companies, symphonies, and opera houses in most major cities.
The Appalachian mountains have a strong folk art tradition, where you'll find handcrafted pottery, paintings, and quilting.
As the birthplace of country music, it's no surprise that music is a big part of Tennessee culture. You don't get the nickname "Music City" for no reason. Nashville is the epicenter, with live music venues on almost every corner. But you can also find great live music in Memphis, Chattanooga, and Knoxville.
In Tennessee, country music fans can't miss the Country Music Hall of Fame. The Grand Ole Opry is nearly synonymous with Tennessee and is one of the longest-running radio shows. Legends like Dolly Parton, Elvis Presley, and Johnny Cash come from the state and have attractions based here.
Sports fans are right at home in Tennessee. The state is home to professional teams:
- Memphis Grizzlies, National Basketball League
- Nashville Predators, National Hockey League
- Tennessee Titans, National Football League
- Nashville Sounds, Minor League Baseball
- Nashville Soccer Club, Major League Soccer
Several college teams have a large fanbase. In particular, the University of Tennessee's football team is one of the most competitive in the nation. The Volunteers play in the SEC and have an intense rivalry with Alabama's Crimson Tide, Florida's Gators, and the Vanderbilt Commodores.
No matter what time of year it is, there's sure to be a festival going on somewhere in Tennessee. Some of the nation's top festivals take place in Tennessee. For instance:
Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester is one of the world's largest and most popular music festivals because of the big names it brings in.
CMA Music Festival in Nashville is one of the biggest country music festivals in the world. The outdoor performances are free!
Beale Street Music Festival in Memphis is a three-day event with something for everyone.
Wine Over Water Festival in Chattanooga brings over 100 wineries worldwide for a premier wine festival.
Other top attractions
Dollywood has over forty adrenaline-pumping rides in the Tennessee mountains. Owned and inspired by Dolly Parton, Dollywood is also known for its delicious Southern food.
Tour Graceland, the iconic home of rock'n'roll icon Elvis Presley. Now a museum, the 13.8-acre estate pays homage to this pop culture legend.
The Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga is one of the largest freshwater aquariums in the world. It's home to over 10,000 animals and is one of the top tourist destinations in the state.
The National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis is a must-see for anyone interested in American history. It chronicles the Civil Rights Movement from 1619 to 1968. The museum is located at the site of Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination.
Colleges and Universities
Tennessee is home to several colleges and universities. One of the more well-known schools is Vanderbilt University, nicknamed the "Southern Ivy League." The private research university was founded in the 1970s by shipping and rail magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt. US News and World Report ranked it no. 13 in the nation in 2022.
In addition, the University of Tennessee, the University of Memphis, and Belmont University are highly regarded institutions.
Families will want to know that Tennessee offers its high school graduates a free two-year education at any state community college or technical college. The student must have been a state resident for at least one year before the date of application.
Tennessee has a moderate climate, with four distinct seasons. The summers can be hot and humid, with temperatures often reaching the 90s. The winters are mild, with occasional snowfall.
Of course, the climate varies across Tennessee's three regions. The mountains will have a colder winter climate and more temperate summers. The west can have hot, humid summers and moderate winters.
Fall is the prime time in Tennessee. The mountains are known for their beautiful changes of the seasons, starting in October and peaking near mid-month.
Cost of Living
The cost of living in Tennessee is relatively low, especially compared to other states in the US. Sperling's Best Places Index assigns the national average at 100; Tennessee scored 87.6, meaning it's more affordable than the national average.
Nearly all the major expenditure categories are below the national average. Housing was particularly affordable, at 29% below the national average. Only healthcare was more expensive than the national rate, just by 1%.
Of course, your actual expenditures can vary across the state. Some cities have higher living costs; for instance, Nashville has higher housing, food, utilities, and transportation costs than Chattanooga.
Notably, the state has no personal income tax, which helps to keep living expenses down. Sales tax is slightly higher, at a statewide 7%. Jurisdictions can impose additional sales taxes for locally higher rates.
Real Estate Market
The real estate market in Tennessee has been steadily recovering since the housing crash of 2008. Like much of the nation, home prices have risen for the past few years, with some areas seeing more dramatic increases than others. Nashville, as an example, was the top growing real estate market to watch, according to Urban Land Institute in 2022.
The median home price in Tennessee during July 2022 was $297,943. Home values rose 26% over the last year. The markets with the fastest-growing sales prices were Gatlinburg (45%), Nolensville (35%), and Hendersonville (31%).
Nashville also ranked as one the hottest markets in the nation, with homes appreciating at a fast rate, although it's dropped from no. 3 to no. 10 over the prior two years.
Top Towns to Live
Tennessee has no shortage of cities, towns, and rural hamlets. Pick the lifestyle you want: a rustic mountain retreat, a lakeside home, or an urban lifestyle enriched with music and entertainment.
Looking at different factors from independent evaluators, some of the cities that frequently rank highly are:
- Brentwood, a top-rated Nashville suburb highly regarded for its public schools, low crime rate, and ample green spaces.
- Nolensville, a small town located just south of Nashville. It's been one of the fastest-growing towns in the US over the past few years and is known for its quaint downtown, good schools, and proximity to big-city amenities.
- Germantown, a historic neighborhood in Memphis that's been revitalized in recent years. It's known for its restaurants, shopping, and nightlife scene.
- Nashville, the country music capital of the world and a top destination for foodies. It's also one of the hottest real estate markets in the US.
- Murfreesboro, a city located just southeast of Nashville. It's the largest city in Rutherford County and is known for its good schools and family-friendly amenities.
Safety and Crime Rate
Tennessee is generally safe, with crime rates below the national average. The violent crime rate is 3.8 per 1,000 residents, compared to the US average of four per 1,000.
Some areas are safer than others. For instance, Brentwood, Nolensville, and Franklin are three of the safest cities in Tennessee based on Safewise data. Memphis is the most dangerous city in the state, with a violent crime rate more than double the national average.
You can't miss Tennessee barbecue when you live here. Memphis is famous for its tangy, smoky, and sweet sauce. Choose from a wet or dry-rubbed style.
Southern cooking is plentiful in Tennessee, and the cuisine keeps evolving. Nashville gave us hot chicken, a spicy dish that's become popular nationwide. Mac'n'cheese and coleslaw are other classic favorites.
Nashville ranks no. 11 in US News and World Report's best US foodie cities. It combines southern cuisine with flavors from around the world.
The other culinary claim to fame is Tennessee whiskey. Check out the Jack Daniel's Distillery, the oldest registered distillery in the United States. Or stop by George Dickel, maker of Tennessee's other well-known whiskey.
The outdoor enthusiast will enjoy visiting Tennessee's 50 state parks and 12 national forests.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited park in the US. It straddles the border between Tennessee and North Carolina. Visitors come to explore the hiking trails, waterfalls, and see wildlife.
The Appalachian Trail also runs 94 miles in the state and hugs the border with North Carolina for another 160 miles. The 2,200-mile long hiking trail spans from Maine to Georgia.
Tennessee isn't just attractive above ground. The state has over 10,000 caverns and caves, making it a spelunking destination. Ruby Falls is a popular 145-foot underground waterfall in Chattanooga. Don't miss the stunning music venue The Caverns, an underground amphitheater.
It may surprise you to think of Tennessee as a waterfront destination, but the state has hundreds of lakes, rivers, and streams. Norris Lake, Chickamauga Lake, and Douglas Lake are some of the most popular reservoirs. Three major rivers flow through the state: the Mississippi, Cumberland, and Tennessee. Together they form vital recreation (and hydropower) systems in the southeast.
Fly fishing is a popular sport in the eastern part of the state. The mountain rivers also attract tourists for whitewater, with the Pigeon and Ocoee being particularly popular.
If you're into golfing, Tennessee has many great courses. The Nashville Golf and Athletic Club was ranked the no. 1 golf course in the state by Golfweek.
Moving to Tennessee
There's a lot to love about living in Tennessee. It's excellent for outdoor lovers, foodies, and music lovers. Find a place for vibrant urban living or for those who enjoy a slower-paced lifestyle. Enjoy it all with an affordable cost of living and no income tax.
If you're considering moving to Tennessee, research to find the best city or town for your needs. Be sure to try some of the state's iconic food and drink items once you settle in!