Tennessee–the volunteer state, home of musicians, actors, and American heroes, is something of a hidden gem in the US. But don’t take this state’s understated presence and laid-back culture too seriously. Tennessee has a lot more to give its visitors and residents than might meet the eye.
If you’re planning to visit Tennessee or perhaps you’re considering a move, it’s worthwhile to check out some of the pros and cons of living in Tennessee.
The state has a bright reputation as the country music heart of the nation, a barbecue Mecca, and the state with some of the most friendly and welcoming inhabitants. Add to that, it’s located right on the line between the South and The Midwest, a special place where cultures collide and mix.
Though it’s great if you can visit the state yourself to get a taste of this lively state, we’ve created this article to help give a general picture. In the following list, we’ve laid out the pros and cons you’ll want to know before living in Tennessee. Read on for more!
#1 No Income Tax
No, you didn’t read wrong–Tennessee is one of the eight states in the union that doesn’t collect income tax. If you’re a successful business person or investor looking for a new location from which to do business, you’d be hard-pressed to beat Tennessee.
The so-called Hall tax at one time was passed to eliminate the zero income tax policy, but it is no longer in use. Now, once again, all Tennesseans are exempt from paying income tax. The political situation in the Volunteer state is very amenable to business and it has rewarded capital investments for decades. It’s truly a great state to start a small business and grow it into a name brand.
#2 Low Cost Of Living
One of the states with the lowest costs of living in the states, Tennessee currently costs its residents 12% less than other Americans. That means the cost of groceries, electricity, internet, gas, and transportation all drop in the Volunteer State. If you have a large family or lots of expenses on the side, this state can be welcoming and easy on the budget.
People who are thinking of moving to Tennessee also want to know about the cost of living. Well, there’s more good news there. Housing costs are, on average, a whopping 30% lower than the national mean. If you’re planning on a move but the cost of living in other states is unattractive, try Tennessee.
#3 Legendary Music Scene
When most people think of Tennessee, odds are they think of music. Country music, bluegrass, American roots, and the blues–those are just a few music styles and genres that grew up in Tennessee and thrive (with historic popularity today!). What’s better for a state to claim for its own than being the home of innovations in music and the arts?
Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry offers year-round concerts and shows. Memphis and Beale Street invite Tennesseans to enjoy the best Blues in the world every weekend. And nearly every small and medium-sized town from east to west boasts legendary dives and concert halls that will thrill the music lover in anyone.
#4 Natural Beauty And Parks Galore
If you’ve had the opportunity to drive through Tennessee, you’ll probably have experienced the stunning landscape from your car window. Why not stay awhile and enjoy the whole view?
Tennessee is known for its Great Smoky Mountains, its massive network of caves, and fall display of foliage rivaling New England any day. But the state is best explored by foot. Take a trek on their wide-ranging series of state trails. Or climb the Smoky Mountains themselves. Plus, Tennessee is centrally located so you’re never far from the Appalachians, Ozarks, and dozens of surrounding parks.
#5 Top-Flight Barbecue
What goes best with live music and outdoor fairs and festivals? For many people, it’s hard to beat barbecue. Though every grilling hotspot in the country has its own special flavor, Tennessee barbecue takes the cake for its unique blend of sweet and spicy.
Memphis barbecue, one of Tennessee’s BBQ Meccas, uses a dry rub preparation–one of the only places in the US to do so. This technique gives the meat a tangy, hot, and slightly sweet flavor palate. Once you have Memphis barbecue you’ll never forget it!
Where there’s barbecue there’s summer music festivals, friendly talkative people, and refreshingly open city streets. So, if you’re looking for a liberating getaway from a coastal city or a regional capital to explore, we recommend you follow the barbecue and come to TN.
#6 Hot And Sticky Summers
With every list of Tennessee upsides, there has to be something to balance it out. After all, Tennessee can’t be all fun and low-cost. There are certainly a few parts of the state that aren’t so hot.
Or rather, there are parts of the state that are TOO hot. The Tennessee summers can be brutal for just about everyone. That is unless you enjoy 100% humidity and weeks near 90-degrees. The winters are nice and temperate and rarely drop below 40 for long. But the summers are quite sticky like most southern states.
It’s not just Tennessee–the neighboring states like Arkansas, West Virginia, and Missouri all struggle with sweat-inducing Midwestern humidity. Be prepared to invest in good A/C and fans, plus lots of summer clothing, when you live in Tennessee.
#7 Booming Population Growth
In the US today, there has been a mass migration from pricy coastal towns to cheaper cities in the interior and south. Tennessee, like North Carolina and Georgia, is one of the most popular new locations for moving families. Diversity and multicultural blending are gratefully on the rise, but population density in cities is rapid too.
Companies, not only families, are moving to Tennessee too. In effect, infrastructure is being overtaxed and transportation needs state-wide overhauls. Nashville and Memphis are the most targeted cities today.
The bright side is, urbanization is bringing in a lot of wealth to the state. Remote workers can move here without sacrificing any lost connections with their companies. Tennessee might just be the best new home for you as long as you recognize the changing face (and faces) of the state.
#8 Scattered High Crime Rates In Cities
It’s important to note that crime rates aren’t rising all across the state. For the most part, it’s certain areas of Memphis and Nashville (to a degree) that are struggling to find a solution. Gun violence and gang-related incitement are the primary types of crime, but it’s not only Tennessee that has issues. Missouri to the west is also going through a heated period.
Keep in mind: crime statistics are rising in a tiny fraction of Tennessee’s communities. The state as a whole is considered very safe. We mention crime rates because, unfortunately, they are rising in very small areas across the Midwest. Tennessee is no different.
#9 Seasonal Fairs And Festivals
It’s no exaggeration to call Tennessee one of the most active scenes for music festivals and seasonal fairs. Tennesseans love to party outdoors and enjoy a unique blend of southern hospitality and midwestern friendliness.
Come to the Volunteer State for massive music festivals like Bonnaroo, Nashville fairs and block parties, almost weekly parades, and world-class country music shows. The music is in the air, from small towns to the state’s biggest cultural spots.
It’s not only music that’s celebrated, though. Enjoy Daffodil Day in Bell Buckle, or the flower festival called Trails and Trilliums in Monteagle. And don’t forget all the barbecue fests through the summer. Every weekend offers tons of fun and community.
#10 Whisky Culture
Tennessee whisky is yet another symbol for which the state has built up a legendary reputation. The state-brewed liquor competes with Irish spirits for the title of the best whisky in the world. Where else would you want to live in this nation if you’re a Jack Daniels lover?
There’s plenty of activities to indulge in to get your whisky fix. Visit the JD distillery and take a tour of the grounds. Sample local blends in hundreds of homemade distilleries across the state. When you come to TN, you’ll quickly see how seriously its whisky makers take their craft. It’s truly an inspiring thing to see!
#11 Tour Historic And Popular Musical Sites
Besides the outdoor music festivals, seasonal city get-togethers, and endless natural expanses to explore, Tennessee boasts many other historical sites.
If you’re a literature fan, come visit the hometowns of writers James Agee and Alex Haley. Not to mention the ground of the Sewanee Review, the oldest US periodical still in publication.
For music fans, Tennessee has attracted the best American musicians for generations. Visit Elvis Presley’s Graceland, or take a whole day with the family to explore Dolly Parton’s fantasyland Dollywood.
Plus, many of Tennessee’s cities are themselves legendary. Tour Franklin’s main street, Beale Street in Memphis, or any number of museums in Nashville. It’s hard to point to a spot on the Tennessee map that doesn’t have a historic area to explore.
#12 Enjoy The Stunning Autumn Foliage
When many people think of places with beautiful fall nature displays, they might think of Maine, Vermont, or somewhere in New England. That’s all for the better because the Tennessee falls are still a secret. Indeed, the autumn leaves in the Great Smoky Mountains are just as stupendous as anywhere in the country.
The Tennessee trees are so majestic in part because they’re so densely packed into the national forests. Climb up to a high point near Chattanooga and see for yourself how wonderful the foliage can be. But be quick–more and more people are catching on that Tennessee’s autumns are just as beautiful as in New England!
#13 Visit Over 9,000 Caves
From Missouri to Kentucky, and Arkansas to Tennessee, the central area of the US has long been the caving capital of the US. It’s due to a special geological combination of standing water and porous rock that Tennessee and its neighboring states boast such exquisite subterranean vistas.
Many TN caves are free to enter. But a dozen or so large cave systems charge a nominal fee to give tours for you and your family. The state does a great job keeping up these natural resources. Once you visit a Tennessee cave, you’ll never forget the sights, the sounds, and the sense of wonder it leaves you with.
#14 Free Higher Education Potential
Tennessee has one of the most remarkable free programs for sending high-school students on to their next chosen step in higher education. Called the Tennessee Promise Program, it gives high-school graduates in the state of Tennessee free tuition to a local community college.
The Promise Program is an outstanding example of the social and economic resources that Tennessee lawmakers have made available for students. It’s not an overstatement to say that the program has been a massive success. For kids who need a little help taking the initiative to follow their dreams, the program gives them the chance. While it doesn’t offer free 4-year college tuition, many kids are still extending their schooling thanks to the program.
#15 Low, Low Property Taxes
Today, Tennessee homeowners pay some of the lowest property taxes in the nation. On average, the state calculates that households pay around $1,000 yearly. That figure takes into account the extremely low costs in small rural towns, so don’t be surprised if property taxes in Memphis or Nashville are closer to $1800.
Keep in mind that the state population is skyrocketing in the cities due to a large group of transfers from large coastal cities. So property taxes are going to increase with time. Nevertheless, the market shows that home prices are increasing faster than rentals. It’s worth keeping in mind that you might rent first, then buy a house after you’ve lived in TN for a while.
#16 May Be Challenging To Join A New Friendgroup On Your Own
On the whole, Tennesseans are sociable, welcoming, and open to new residents. It’s part of the southern charm of the state that attracts so many northerners or Californians. Yet Tennessee is one state that has suffered from political polarization more than most.
The beliefs of both wings of the US political spectrum meet quite forcefully in the Volunteer State. On the one hand, it’s a great sign that TN can host such a diverse set of political ideologies in one state. Yet newcomers may find it difficult to find a social group that aligns with out-of-state political ideas. It may feel exclusionary at first, but Tennesseans with time will welcome most any new resident. The point is, it may take time.
#17 Severe Weather Is A Real Issue
Just like Tennessee summers can knock out some new residents with their humidity and unrelenting heat, severe weather is just a fact of life in Tennessee.
Thankfully, tornadoes are rare since the state lies outside the so-called “Tornado Alley.” But changing climate patterns are slowly bringing an increase–especially in late Spring. The primary weather concern is thunderstorms. Tennessee is uniquely located between the lower midwest and upper south, where fronts collide. People moving from areas without many extreme storms should be prepared to face dangerous conditions.
#18 Nuclear Power Plants Are A Common Sight
Tennessee doesn’t get in the press very often for its abundance of nuclear power reactors, but locals know that it’s common to see power plants in some towns. There are three plants in the state, all operated by TVA. They produce electricity.
Nuclear power plants aren’t dangerous in their own right, but some people thinking about living in the state should know about the plants’ presence. These nuclear sites are all well-operated and new. The plant in Spring City was the first facility to open in the US in the 21st century. Consider the risk of a failure, though slight, when deciding where to move.
#19 Get Used To A Daily Commute
The pros and cons of living in Tennessee depend on where new residents are moving from. If you live in a city like Chicago, San Francisco, or New York where cars aren’t a part of everyday life, you might find Tennessee hard to adjust to. That’s because automobiles are a major part of every driving Tennessean’s life.
If you move to the city center of one of the state’s largest cities you may not need a car. Transportation is good, but not very dependable. For the most part, you’ll need a car to travel through the state. As long as you add the cost of insurance, gas, and repairs to your expenses, then Tennessee is easy–and beautiful!–to drive.
#20 Low Unemployment Rates
Since Tennessee is becoming somewhat of a magnetic pole for families looking for a cheap but exciting urban center, the need for jobs has exploded. More jobs are available in the state now than ever before.
The state’s most abundant source of employment opportunities comes from the cities. Nashville, primarily, has positions in music, entertainment, and hospitality. Memphis too has a market for good-paying jobs. The unemployment rate today is 5.0, though pre-pandemic that figure was around 2.5, a national low.
#21 Like Pro And College Sports? Take Your Pick!
For sports fans, the Volunteer offers an embarrassment of riches. Tennessee anchors the central Appalachian area and northern part of the south, so the population of residents eager to enjoy pro and college sports joins together in the state.
The NBA’s Grizzlies, NHL’s Predators, and NFL’s Titans all call Tennessee their home. Plus, the University of Tennessee has a massive fanbase that would love to welcome a new Tennessean to their mix.
#22 Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The National Park Service ranks the Great Smoky Mountain National Park as one of the nation’s treasures and we can’t agree more. The undulating mountain ranges, endless horizon, wildflower ecosystems, and plentiful camping space make the park Tennessee’s most cherished resource.
The park isn’t the only vista to visit. Check out the Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga. There, you can see Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, and North Carolina at once. It’s truly a sight only Tennesseans can call their own.
#23 Country Music Is Literally Everywhere
Tennessee is the country music headquarters of the world. The sound of the fiddle, acoustic guitar, and straightforward vocals drift through the main street of just about any town. For country music lovers, it’s a kind of paradise. But if you plan to live in Tennessee, make sure you’re OK with Country.
Not all Tennessee is dominated by country music. But it’s safe to say that you’ll hear it more often than in any other state. It can be a blessing, or a curse if you can’t tolerate it.
#24 Big Cities, Average Salaries
The first question that any prospective transplant in this country needs to ask themselves before moving is, can I make enough money in my new home? In Tennessee, the average salary is anywhere from $51,000 in Nashville to $44,000 in the smaller city of Chattanooga. Those figures are about average nationwide but keep in mind that TN’s cost of living is exceptionally low.
If the salary is lower than you’d like, remember the wealth of job opportunities available in the big cities today. Plus, TN has large companies like FedEx, AutoZone, and Dollar General who are always hiring for good-paying jobs. Entrepreneurs may also find success in Nashville and Chattanooga, cities that recently invested in lightning-fast internet and more hotspots.
Related: Cheapest Places to Live in Tennessee
#25 Each City Has A Unique Feel And History
The last one of the pros and cons of living in Tennessee is decidedly a pro. Tennessee is a growing state with a population that’s skewing younger. As such, tens of cities and towns that were once struggling are now vital and exciting again.
Forget Nashville and Memphis for a moment. There are lots of cities with around 100,000 residents that have their own unique culture. Franklin, Knoxville, Murfreesboro, and Chattanooga all call out for attention. It would be hard to find a state with more small towns that have art, music, literature, business, and innovation within their borders.
Above, we hoped to give you a brief idea of the pros and cons of living in Tennessee. But there’s so much more behind the state. Beyond the whisky, the comfortable rural and urban living spaces, the music, and the wildlife, there’s the real Tennessee that includes all of the above.
How did we do with our rundown of Tennessee’s best and worst? See anything we missed? Let us know in the comments below.