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Moving To Tennessee: What You Need to Know
Updated October 2022
Tennessee has it all – a low cost of living, natural beauty, amazing music and food, friendly people and a reputation for enthusiastically stepping up and taking care of business. The state earned its “Volunteer State” nickname during the 19th century, when tens of thousands of Tennesseans – including Sam Houston and David Crockett – signed up for voluntary military service.
The state has a truly inspiring history, but chances are good that you’d also like to know about everyday life here now. How’s the economy, the cost of living- can you live the good life in Tennessee without spending too much? And what cities are best for a young professional, couples with kids, established folks or retirees? Read on – Bellhop helps people move to new homes across the nation, but we have a special place in our hearts for Tennessee – we’re based here. We know this state, and can tell you it’s a wonderful place to live but (like anywhere else) it’s not perfect. This is an honest review, including pros and cons, of everything you need to know about the Great State of Tennessee.
Bellhop helps people move all over Tennessee! We provide services in:
Let’s start with some traits for which Tennessee is most famous.
Tennessee – Southern Charm and Hospitality
Tennessee‘s southern charm makes everything easy here. Locals like to keep things simple and friendly. Tennesseans are nice, offering smiles and warm welcomes as you walk through town. It’s true no matter where in the state you live. The mood tends to be upbeat here. And with a low cost of living, and a high quality of life – there’s plenty to be happy about. Sure, the summers are steamy and brutally hot, but Autumn is glorious here and the climate is described as moderate with four distinct seasons.
The Music Scene
Memphis is known as the “Home of the Blues” and the “Birthplace of Rock and Roll.” Nashville is “Music City” and the “Country Music Capital of the World.” Bristol is “The Birthplace of Country Music.” Yes, music is huge here. The industry supports 56,000+ jobs in Nashville alone. Elvis Presley, Dolly Parton, Aretha Franklin, Tina Turner, Gregg and Duane Allman, Rosanne Cash and Miley Cyrus came from here, and Chris Stapleton calls our state home.
Tennessee‘s music scene is state-wide, and runs the gamut from country to blues (as you’d expect) but you can easily find bluegrass, rock, pop, Americana, gospel, classical, jazz and pretty much anything else at local bars, restaurants, music venues, and music festivals all across the state.
Mother Nature Loves Tennessee
Tennessee runs from the Great Smoky Mountains to the east of the Mississippi River. We may be landlocked, but we have more than our share of cascading waterfalls, rolling hills, impressive mountains, waterways, and swimming holes.
The Smoky Mountains is the most visited national park in the country and is synonymous with Appalachian culture. You can enjoy hiking, mountain biking, walking, fishing, spotting wildlife, and exploring some of the prettiest terrains in the world here. The mountains are especially gorgeous in the fall – just as beautiful as Maine and Vermont. And if you are there in June, the fireflies are truly spectacular.
You can also visit the 650,000 acres of Cherokee National Forest, where you can go rafting along the Ocoee River, visit Bald River Falls, fish the rivers, and camp without crowds. Another top attraction is Sunset Rock atop Chattanooga’s Lookout Mountain, where you can see a total of four states from a single vantage point –– Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, and North Carolina.
And if you have a fondness for caves, we have about 10,000 of them. Some of our caves even have waterfalls. At 145 feet, Ruby Falls is the largest underground waterfall in the United States and we’re here to tell you it is gorgeous – even at night. Other popular attractions are the Raccoon Mountain and Tuckaleechee Caverns.
If Smoky Mountains National Park isn’t enough, you can also visit Cherokee National Forest: At 650,000 acres, you can go rafting along the Ocoee River, visit Bald River Falls, fish the rivers, and camp without crowds.
If urban parks are more your thing, then be sure to visit magnificent Centennial Park in Nashville. It is scenically beautiful and hosts many activities within its 132 acres.
Tennessee Is for Foodies
Sit right down and get a taste of our southern cooking. In Nashville, grab a plate of crispy hot fried chicken, Mouthwatering BBQ is Memphis’ claim to food fame (love that pulled pork shoulder!). And if you’re not a diehard BBQ purist, you’ll love some of Memphis’ more unusual offerings, which include BBQ pizza, spaghetti, tacos, baloney and pizza. The entire state is also famous for its catfish, cornbread, country ham, moon pies and many other dishes. Be sure to explore the farmer’s markets too.
What’s to drink? Sweet tea, craft beer and our local adult beverage – Tennessee whiskey.
Activities in Tennessee
Between all that eating and drinking, you’ll have plenty to do. Here are some well-known attractions and festivals.
Popular Sites and Theme Parks
Since both Elvis and Dolly have called Tennessee home, you can get to know them better. Graceland is the country’s third most popular attraction, receiving 600,000 visitors a year. As theme parks go, Dollywood is the country’s sixth most popular attraction. You can even watch her sing there.
Other historical sites include the Country Music Hall of Fame and the National Civil Rights Museum, dedicated to the life and legacy of Martin Luther King.
Other attractions include world-class festivals and fairs like Bonnaroo, Mountain Laurel Festival, CMA Music Festival, Daffodil Day, Trails & Trilliums, Mountain Laurel Festival, Slawburger Festival, and much more.
Plenty of Water to Cool Off
It gets hot here in Tennessee during the summer, but thankfully you have half a dozen rivers and nearly 1400 lakes. Water sports are a popular activity. Combined with all the biking and hiking and gorgeous scenery, Tennessee is a wonderful place to be outdoors.
Income and Employment
Tennessee is currently enjoying its lowest-ever unemployment rate, just under 3.4%, a few points under the national average. State-wide, the average salary is between $32,000 and $34,000, but it is quite a bit higher in the biggest cities. The average salary in Nashville is $51,000. Chattanooga is $44,000 and Memphis is $47,000. Keep in mind that the cost of living in Tennessee is also very low. We will get into this more in a minute. The fastest growth is in professional and business services and the leisure and hospitality sectors, followed by the trade, transportation, and utilities sector. So, basically, jobs are pretty easy to find here, especially in the urban areas.
We’re home to some big corporations, including
- Eastman Chemical Co.
- Dollar General
- Community Health Systems
- Cracker Barrel
- Brookdale Senior Living
- International Paper
- Envision Healthcare
- LifePoint Health
Healthcare and music are also big here, particularly in Nashville. Memphis has a thriving hospitality industry. Chattanooga is strong on tech and popular with startups. Combined with its low cost of living, the city is a hotspot for entrepreneurs. The state encourages sustainable energy businesses, innovative technology, and supports its artisan craftspeople with marketing campaigns touting “Made In Tennessee” products.
Low Cost Of Living
Tennessee’s cost of living is 15-25% below the national average, depending on where you reside in the state. It is also one of only nine states without a personal income tax. Until very recently, the state charged interest and dividends on to income derived from stocks and bonds at 6%, through what was called the Hall Tax. That was rescinded in 2021. Tennessee’s sales tax is currently 7%.
Tennesseans also enjoy access to free community college for graduates who earned their high school diploma in the state. Combined with the low cost of living and ability to roll credits into universities, you can save significant money on your education here in Tennessee. Free schools include thirteen community colleges and twenty-seven technical colleges.
Tennessee’s Real Estate Market
Tennessee does have luxury homes, but the housing market here is one of the most affordable states in the country. Rent for a one-bedroom apartment can range from $500 to $700 in many areas. Still, Nashville rent runs around $1,550 for a one-bedroom apartment, so it definitely varies depending on where you live.
The cities with the highest cost of living in Tennessee are:
- Mount Juliet
The cities with the lowest cost of living include:
- Johnson City
The same goes for home prices. State-wide, the typical home runs around $230,000. Middle Tennessee runs around $400,000.
The Best Places to Live In Tennessee
Knoxville – If you’re just starting your career, have a look at Knoxville. Known as the “happiest place to work in,” It offers affordable housing, a low cost of living, and plenty of fun things to do in the great outdoors, including boating and swimming on the Tennessee River.
Franklin is a historical town that is living in the future. If you have a career, or want one, in any of the STEM fields, this town may be your perfect home. The local government works closely with industry leaders to foster a thriving economy, and some of those STEM jobs pay exceptionally well – think NYC salaries in the six figures. And if you have kids, the schools here are amazing – with a strong focus on science and technology from kindergarten on up. By the time kids are in high-school they are programming self-driving cars. All this in a city that has a thriving downtown, beautiful historic homes, an incredibly low cost of living and is just 20 minutes from Nashville.
Johnson – is an excellent place to start a family. Houses can be relatively expensive, but rent is cheap. You will be neighbors with other people beginning their new lives, making it a great way to build a foundation. There are also tons of nature and parks, waterfalls, rivers, and mountains. The area is also a draw for history and art lovers.
Bartlett is a suburb located a mere 15 minutes from Memphis, and offers a calm, peaceful vibe with affordable housing prices, its own theater and recreation center, parks, a thriving farmers market and a great bluegrass festival. Like Franklin, Bartlett is focused on offering great opportunities to its residents, with a focus on sustainable energy and life science technologies.
Memphis – for such a famous city, Memphis has a surprisingly low cost of living, making it a great place for first home buyers. You also get good schools to boot, including colleges. It is a very active city, too. If you love rock n’ roll and the blues, it all started here. Indulge in the nightlife, festivals, restaurants and craft beers. Local faves for food include Felicia Suzanne’s (southern-style and seafood), The Four Way Soul Food Restaurant, and the Beauty Shop (eclectic southern). Be sure to visit Silky O’Sullivan’s to check out their tower-climbing, beer-drinking goats too. Yep, you read that right.
Chattanooga -calling all entrepreneurs! “Gig City” supports startups, and you can ramp up fast from a talented pool of skilled workers – especially if you are involved in the tech field. There’s plenty to do in your downtime too. For food, check out Alleia, Public House, STIR, the Big River Grille and Taco Mamacita. Grab a drink or two at the Chattanooga Whiskey Experimental Distillery, the first distillery to craft whiskey in Chattanooga in over one hundred years. Chattanooga also has a thriving nightlife and entertainment scene, with plenty of bars clubs, live music, and festivals – including the Riverbend Music Festival, Three Sisters Bluegrass Festival, and the Moon River Music Festival – just to name a few.
Education: Public Schools Private Schools, and Higher Education
For 2021, Forbes Ranks Tennessee 35th in quality school systems, and it has the 7th lowest public school spending. There is some definite room for growth. As for colleges and universities, you are in great shape. Vanderbilt University is ranked 14th by U.S. News and World Report, and the state is home to other quality schools like the University of Tennessee, the University of Memphis, Belmont University, and The University of the South, and Middle Tennessee State University.
Do you have kids? The top public and private school districts for an above-average education include:
- Kingsport Lawrence County
- Roane County
- Cumberland County
- Jefferson County
- Gibson Co SP Dist
- Dyer County
- Greene County
For public education, there are many quality schools, including:
- White Station High School
- Campus School
- Houston High School
- Germantown High School
- Middle College High School
- Hardin Valley Academy
- L&N STEM Academy
- Farragut High School
- Greeneville City Schools
For private education, some highly-rated choices include:
- St. Mary’s Episcopal School
- Lausanne Collegiate School
- The Ensworth School
- Hutchison School
- Christian Academy
What is Bad About Living in Tennessee?
Summer Heat and Other Weather Facts
What is the Year-Round weather in Tennessee?
In general, Tennessee is temperate, with mild winters and hot summers. Much like other southern states, the summer months between June and August can be brutal. You’ll be hot and sweaty and looking for air conditioning. The good news is you will get used to it, or at least we have. The warmest spots are Central Basin and Sequatchie Valley.
Tennessee can experience some cool winters and even some snow. The state averages 9 inches a year, the most falling in Eastern Tennessee. You can ski in one area of the Great Smoky Mountains.
Spring is typically warm and rainy. After the warm summers, the fall seasons average 60 degrees.
Tennessee also has occasional tornadoes during the tornado season and can get heavy thunderstorms. Other disasters include:
- Flash floods
- Winter storms
- Tropical depressions
Low Minimum Wage
Unfortunately, Tennessee‘s minimum wage is low at a $7.25/hr starting minimum wage. Still, many businesses simply ignore it and pay higher.
Gangs and Crime
What are the most dangerous places to live in Tennessee?
Unfortunately, Tennessee does have its share of crime, particularly in East Tennessee. Every prominent gang has a presence there. Still, you can avoid those more dangerous areas of town.
Some cities worth noting are:
Though the state has decent public transportation, use a car if you need to make your appointment. Traffic gets busy.
Making the Move to Tennessee
We’ve said it before, and we will say it again: Tennessee is a great state and one certainly worth calling home. If you are interested in making a jump here, don’t hesitate to give us a call. As Tennessee movers, Bellhop knows the state and looks forward to helping you become a local too. Welcome to Tennessee!
By the Bellhop Team.
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