Tennessee is home to many greats—Elvis, Memphis barbeque, country and rock and roll—but finding a place to live can be difficult if you don’t know what to look for. Which cities are safest? Are some cities more retiree-friendly than others? Whether it’s location, cost of living, or where to find the best barbeque, we’ve got you covered. Here are some of the best cities Tennessee has to offer!
Housing cost to income ratio: 3.52%
Average childcare cost to income ratio: 1.72%
Violent crime index: 54
Nonviolent crime index: 63.8
Cost of living index: 82.5
Jackson, Tennessee is known as “Hub City” to the locals for its abundance of entertainment, education, and culture. It is halfway between Memphis and Nashville, putting it in a prime position between the two big cities. Jackson is somewhat conservative politically and keeps its neighborhoods safe and happy by building community relationships. These communities are brought together by things like a year-round farmer’s market and free summer concerts at the Amp and they embrace the arts and culture with live stage performances and art galleries at the Ned R. McWherter West Tennessee Cultural Arts Center. Jackson gets about 54 inches of rain, 4 inches of snow, and 213 sunny days per year which makes for hot summers and cold winters. Healthcare is one of Jackson’s top industries, and there are 14 hospitals in the Jackson area. They also pride themself on access to education. Jackson has 1 school district with primary and secondary campuses, as well as 6 colleges and universities.
2. Johnson City-Bristol
Housing cost to income ratio: 4.64%
Average childcare cost to income ratio: 1.46%
Violent crime index: 27.2
Nonviolent crime index: 54.5
Cost of living index: 82
Johnson City and Bristol, the latter being a twin city to Bristol, Virginia on the other side of the state border, make up two of the three cities in the Tri-City area in northeastern Tennessee. This area is moderately conservative and prides itself on the organization and connections in its communities for which it was awarded the National Civic League’s All-American Award. Both cities have a climate of about 44 inches of rain, 11 inches of snow, and 200 sunny days per year. Johnson City knows how to take advantage of this lovely weather with adventures like Tweetsie Trail, a 9.5-mile trail that can be used for walking, running, hiking, and biking; and Tannery Knobs Bike Park, a skills park with trails that lead right into downtown Johnson City. Bristol brings a more historic outlook to the area with attractions like the Birthplace of Country Music Museum and the Rhythm and Roots Reunion music festival that is held every year. The Johnson City-Bristol area has 7 school districts with many campus options for all grade levels. There are also more than 10 colleges and universities spread across both cities, including East Tennessee State University in Johnson City. There are about 7 hospitals within driving distance of these two cities and Bristol is home to one of the nation’s best hospitals, the Bristol Regional Medical Center.
Housing cost to income ratio: 3.67%
Average childcare cost to income ratio: 1.01%
Violent crime index: 35.2
Nonviolent crime index: 41.2
Cost of living index: 85.6
Clarksville represents everything Southern charm. Clarksville leans conservative politically and is great for families of all ages, especially surrounding communities like Hensleytown, Fort Campbell, and Round Pond. There are 3 school districts that service the Clarksville area and 3 colleges and universities. There are also 22 hospitals in and around the city. Located at the intersection of the Red and Cumberland Rivers, Clarksville has a wide range of outdoor attractions to keep its residents entertained including hiking, hunting, rock climbing, and water sports like fishing, boating, and skiing. Their yearly climate of 51 inches of rain, 5 inches of snow, and 210 sunny days makes it easy to find days to enjoy these outdoor activities any day of the year. Clarksville is also known for its bustling downtown. Known as “The Franklin” to the locals, the main street of this city is full of locally-owned shops and restaurants with a range of cuisines.
Housing cost to income ratio: 4.91%
Average childcare cost to income ratio: 2.23%
Violent crime index: 44.9
Nonviolent crime index: 81.5
Cost of living index: 85.5
An hour outside of the Great Smoky Mountains you’ll find Knoxville, Tennessee. Knoxville’s location adds to its unique blend of Southern charm and Appalachian culture and makes for beautiful scenery in every direction. This city is somewhat politically conservative and is known for its friendly neighborhoods and community events such as music festivals(including performances by the oldest continually performing symphony orchestra in the Southeast) art festivals, and holiday celebrations. Downtown is home to many restaurants and to historical staples like Civil War museums and the World’s Fair Park. Knoxville averages about 50 inches of rain, 6 inches of snow, and 204 sunny days per year. There is 1 school district in Knoxville proper and more in the surrounding area, and the city is home to the University of Tennessee. There are also 9 hospitals in the area. Knoxville is quickly expanding, and many new residents are looking to suburbs like Farragut and Oak Ridge to be their new homes.
Housing cost to income ratio: 4.97%
Average childcare cost to income ratio: 1.31%
Violent crime index: 85.7
Nonviolent crime index: 81.1
Cost of living index: 77.5
Home to some of the most famous origin stories and overflowing with rich history, Memphis is sure to make you feel welcome. The second largest city in Tennessee, it is located on the Western border along the Mississippi River. Memphis gets an average of 54 inches of rain, 3 inches of snow, and 218 sunny days per year. This city is known for its part in the Civil Rights Movement and pays tribute to those efforts year-round with numerous museums and installations. Residents are well versed in the music legends that made their way through Memphis over the years and the hustle and bustle on Beale Street is there to prove it. Music halls, Broadway theaters, and original Beale Street shops are just some of the businesses that can be found in the heart of downtown Memphis. Sample Memphis’ famous barbecue at the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Championship, or check out one of the local restaurants around town. Memphis is surrounded by great cities such as Germantown, Collierville, and Arlington that provide a range of entertainment.
Housing cost to income ratio: 5.26%
Average childcare cost to income ratio: 1.57%
Violent crime index: 50.3
Nonviolent crime index: 83
Cost of living index: 83.8
Chattanooga sits in southeast Tennessee, along the Georgia border. There are four highways that run through Chattanooga making for convenient travel to and from the city. Known as the “Scenic City” because of its beautiful mountain ranges and ridges, Chattanooga is the perfect place for outdoor lovers to call home. This city gets an average of 51 inches of rain, 2 inches of snow, and 207 sunny days per year, and residents know how to make the most out of their ideal weather. Chattanooga’s outdoor adventures include rock climbing, mountain biking, horseback riding, hiking, and rafting, and the proximity to the Tennessee River opens up many opportunities for fishing and kayaking. Chattanooga’s riverfront plays a big role in its art and entertainment scene with the Riverwalk and Bluff View Art District providing local shops and restaurants for residents to enjoy. These areas are connected by four main bridges—the Walnut Street Bridge, the Market Street Bridge, the Olgiati Bridge, and the Veterans Memorial Bridge—that allow residents to walk rather than drive to their favorite stores. There are 19 hospitals in the Chattanooga area as well as 13 school districts so families can feel confident they will have everything they need no matter which neighborhood they live in.
Housing cost to income ratio: 5.12%
Average childcare cost to income ratio: 2.18%
Violent crime index: 54.6
Nonviolent crime index: 53.3
Cost of living index: 101.4
It is no surprise that Nashville, the state capital and largest city in Tennessee, is one of the best places to live! This moderately liberal city brings a lot to the table, whether it’s stunning scenery, exuberant nightlife, or family-friendly environments. Nashville has been dubbed “Music City” for its influence in the music industry from the Grand Ole Opry to the honky-tonks on Broadway, Nashville is full of deep history and bright futures. This area gets about 49 inches of rain, 4 inches of snow, and 208 sunny days per year which makes each season distinct and unique. Families looking to move here have 10 school districts to choose from with primary and secondary campuses and a wide variety of colleges and universities, including Vanderbilt University. There are also 24 hospitals in the area, so anyone with medical needs has many options for doctors. Nashville can be overwhelming for some, as it is a major tourist attraction for Tennessee, but there are amazing suburbs like Nolensville, Gallatin, and Hendersonville that are close enough to the city to enjoy all the benefits, but far enough outside to avoid the hustle and bustle of tourists.
This list was compiled using statistics for cost of living, average housing costs, average childcare costs, and crime indices.
Jessi Gonzalez writes on the topics of home-buying, home decor, and home-ownership for New Home Source. She has a degree from Coastal Bend College and is currently enrolled in the English degree program at Texas A&M Corpus Christi.