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7 Best Places to Retire in Tennessee



Choosing where to retire is a big decision. You’ll want to consider the cost of living and access to healthcare in addition to finding a destination that has plenty of recreational activities.

It’s no secret that Tennessee is a popular location for retirees. According to Retire Tennessee, one of the biggest draws is that there’s no state income tax or state property tax, and Tennessee also offers the eighth lowest cost of living — 10.3 percent under the U.S. average. That, combined with plenty of natural beauty, access to outdoor spaces, and a thriving arts and culture scene, and it’s easy to see why Tennessee is the choice for many retirees.

“Our lower cost of living along with no state income or pension tax, state-of-the-art healthcare, mild climate, lifestyle of music and entertainment, scenic beauty, and quality of life make it a premiere retirement destination,” said Mark Ezell, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development.

Retiring in Tennessee is so popular that the state even boasts 12 certified Retire Tennessee communities. Each of these cities and towns offers retirees the amenities and resources needed to be a premier retirement destination.

While Tennessee’s favorable climate (it’s generally mild, with four distinct seasons) is a big plus for a home base, the state also makes it easy to get out and travel. Nashville International Airport (BNA) offers direct flights all over the U.S., Canada, the Caribbean, and even Europe (there’s a direct flight to London on British Airways). Airports in Chattanooga, Knoxville, and Memphis connect residents to destinations all over the United States. Plus, Tennessee’s central location makes it an ideal place for a road trip.

With home values continuing to rise, now could be a great time to buy a home in Tennessee, according to Anna Altic of RE/MAX Homes and Estates in Nashville. “Tennessee, in general, remains among the top states in the country for home value appreciation since the pandemic,” she told us.

Let’s jump into the best places to retire in Tennessee.

Nashville

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For retirees who still want to be in the middle of the action, Nashville, the largest and most populated city in Tennessee, could be a good place to call home. People choose this city for its “solid music, arts, and dining scene, not to mention access to world-class healthcare,” according to Altic.

There are so many things to do in Nashville, making it a fantastic spot for active retirees who don’t want to slow down.

“I’m finding that the needs of the average retiree have changed quite a bit from when I started over 20 years ago.  For one thing, they are way more active and interested in being near ‘the action,’ be it the outdoors, a vibrant dining scene, or nightlife,” says Altic.

Of course, this city is known for its music, but there’s so much more to explore. Four professional sports teams call Nashville home — the Tennessee Titans, Nashville Predators, Nashville Soccer Club, and the Nashville Sounds. Nashville’s thriving culinary scene sees a continuous flow of new restaurants serving everything from sushi and tacos to cheesesteaks and Afro-fusion cuisine. Shopping, whether for locally made products or high-end designer brands, can be found at one of Nashville’s shopping malls or districts.

Just last year, Nashville was named one of the South’s best cities by Southern Living and one of the best cities in the U.S. by Travel + Leisure readers. Plus, it topped T+L’s list of the best places to live in Tennessee.

Johnson City

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As a certified Retire Tennessee community, Johnson City offers outdoor activities, performing arts, a thriving downtown, an excellent healthcare system, and a low cost of living. Retirees can get active on the Tweetsie Trail, a 9.5-mile paved walking path, or at one of the city’s 30 parks, facilities, and community centers. The Johnson City Senior Center promotes “active life through active living” for residents 50 years and older. Those who are looking for arts and culture will appreciate the Martin Center for the Arts, which hosts musicians, comedians, and Broadway shows.

Healthcare facilities like Johnson City Medical Center, which is affiliated with East Tennessee State University, and Mountain Home VA Medical Center can give retirees peace of mind, knowing that excellent care is right in their backyard.

Kingsport

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Located in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in Northeast Tennessee, Kingsport has a lot to offer for retirees. Outdoor adventures are king in this rural community. Miles and miles of outdoor walking and bike paths can be found throughout the city’s parks and on the Kingsport Greenbelt, a scenic 10-mile paved path that runs across the city.

Fort Patrick Henry Lake offers fishing and boating, while Warriors’ Path State Park will be a delight to explore with visiting grandchildren. It’s home to a Boundless Playground, which accommodates children of all mental and physical abilities.

Road trippers will be delighted to know that Kingsport is within a day’s drive of 70 percent of the U.S. population.

In addition to not having an income tax, there is no county property tax in Kingsport.

Bristol

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On the Tennessee-Virginia border lies a town that’s full of life. Bristol, Tennessee, is home to the Bristol Motor Speedway, one of NASCAR’s most iconic tracks. Just across the border in Bristol, Virginia (its sister city) is the Bristol Casino, which will become a Hard Rock Hotel & Casino later this year.

Residents have access to shopping, dining, and entertainment at The Pinnacle, an open-air shopping destination, and in the city’s active downtown, an Accredited Main Street Community.

On the practical side, Sullivan County (home to Bristol and Kingsport) offers a cost of living that’s 14.6 percent lower than the U.S. average.

Franklin

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Franklin, Tennessee, has a lot going for it. Just 20 miles south of Nashville, this historic town is known for its vibrant downtown, excellent healthcare, and scenic beauty.

Franklin was named one of the country’s top 10 suburbs to retire in by This Old House and one of the best U.S. cities to live in by livability.com in 2023.

Residents will love staying active in the area’s numerous parks and outdoor spaces. Those looking for arts and culture will enjoy catching a show at one of the city’s theaters, including Studio Tenn, The Franklin Theater, The Mockingbird Theater, and the FirstBank Amphitheater.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Downtown Franklin Historic District is a 16-block area lined with shops, restaurants, and galleries. The area aims to preserve history while supporting today’s small businesses and becoming the community’s gathering spot through its annual festivals and events.

Healthcare is one of the city’s biggest industries, with businesses like Community Health Systems, Cigna, HCA Health Care, MedSolutions, and Williamson Medical Center.

For retirees who love to travel, Franklin offers small-town living with easy access to a major airport. Nashville International Airport (BNA), which offers 585 daily flights on 22 airlines, is just over 20 miles away.

Chattanooga

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A stable economy, access to outdoor activities, a thriving downtown, and a revitalized waterfront make it easy to see why Chattanooga is a certified Retire Tennessee community. It has made multiple “Best Places to Retire” lists over the years, including being named the best place to retire in the South by Southern Living and Investopedia in 2023.

Located in Tennessee’s southeastern region, this mid-size city is full of exciting things to do for active retirees. With a robust calendar of performances and concerts at top-notch venues, including the Chattanooga Theatre Center, Chattanooga Symphony and Opera, Memorial Auditorium, and Tivoli Theater, along with plenty of restaurants and bars, Chattanooga is a haven for those looking for vibrant nightlife.

The city’s beautiful waterfront along the Tennessee River offers a 13-mile riverwalk with plenty of parks to enjoy the outdoors. The Tennessee River Gorge offers something for those looking for a bit more adventure. Biking, kayaking, camping, boating, and hiking are available in this outdoor paradise. Chattanooga is even home to the tallest underground cave waterfall in the U.S.

For retirees looking for history, arts, and culture, Chattanooga delivers. History buffs can explore Battles for Chattanooga Museum, Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park, and the 6th Calvary Museum, while art lovers will enjoy the Bluff View Art District and the Hunter Museum of American Art.

Knoxville

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Knoxville is home to the University of Tennessee, but it’s more than just a college town. It has arts, culture, outdoor recreation, shopping, sports, and so much more.

Access to excellent healthcare may be top of mind for retirees, and The University of Tennessee Medical Center, located in Knoxville, is one of the best hospitals in the state. There are 3 senior centers in the area, offering retirees a place to stay active and build community.

Knoxville is surrounded by lush greenery that’s perfect for exploring the outdoors. Hiking, fishing, and boating are popular activities in the area. Don’t miss Ijams Nature Center, a 318-acre green space that offers over 14 miles of trails, kayaking, canoeing, and a calendar of fun community events.

Knoxville also has a thriving arts scene. Numerous galleries and museums line the downtown streets. The historic Tennessee Theater is a popular venue for concerts and performances all year long, and First Friday Knoxville is a monthly celebration that combines art, music, and food for a fun community event.



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