Retirement Living Amidst the Great Smoky Mountains in Eastern Tennessee

Knoxville is a large urban city offering picturesque mountain views and a charming country feel.
Knoxville is a large urban city offering picturesque mountain views and a charming country feel.

Active adults who want to retire to the mountains may love the scenic communities in the Eastern Tennessee area. East Tennessee is a part of Appalachia. It is often called the birthplace of country music, and it is home to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. There are also some beautiful Eastern Tennessee communities in the area which are ideal for active adult retirees.


East Tennessee typically refers to the easternmost third of the state. It is the area along the Appalachian Mountains including cities like Knoxville, Chattanooga and Johnson City. Most of the counties in East Tennessee are part of the Eastern Time Zone. However, three counties (Bledsoe, Cumberland and Marion) are generally considered part of East Tennessee despite being in the Central Time Zone. While there are variances throughout the region, the Eastern Tennessee area generally offers a temperate climate with warm summers and cold, but mild winters. This mountain area is typically cooler than the rest of the state, and winters in East Tennessee do bring some snowfall.


As one of the largest cities in Appalachia, Knoxville offers many interesting shopping districts, restaurants and other attractions. The city is one of the gateways to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park and it has many attractions which celebrate Appalachian culture. Just a few places of interest include the Knoxville Museum of Art, the Museum of East Tennessee History, the William Blount Mansion, James White’s Fort, and the Knoxville Zoo. Knoxville has many art festivals throughout the year, including the 17-day Dogwood Arts Festival in April.

It is also known for its rock-and-roll scene, as well as featuring more classical performances by the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra and the Knoxville Opera Company. Brought to international fame by Glen Miller’s Chattanooga Choo Choo, Chattanooga has more to offer than a catchy song. This East Tennessee city is one of the largest cities in the state. Its location in the ridge-and-valley area between the Appalachian Mountains and Cumberland Plateau also creates impressive scenery and many opportunities for outdoor adventurers.

First-time visitors to Chattanooga won’t want to miss some of its most popular attractions. These include the Tennessee Aquarium, the Hunter Museum of American Art, the Creative Discovery Museum, and the Tennessee Riverwalk, which is a 13-mile trail along the Tennessee River. The downtown area also features many interesting attractions, such as the Chattanooga Choo Choo hotel where visitors can view the largest HO model train layout in the United States. 

East Tennessee is also home to the Tri-Cities region, which consists of Johnson City, Kingsport and Bristol. The area features beautiful scenery, small-town charm and an affordable cost of living. Johnson City is particularly known for its retail centers, including the Mall at Johnson City. In addition to its regular attractions, the Tri-Cities region is home to many festivals, such as the Little Chicago Blues Festival, the Blue Plum Festival, the Bluegrass and Sorghum Making Festival, and the Umoja Unity Festival.

Whether planning a visit or looking for a retirement destination, the Eastern Tennessee area offers many beautiful places to explore nature and embrace the Appalachian culture.

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