The gateway to the Smokies has lots to offer if you’re willing to get off the beaten path. There are destinations on either side of the Tennessee River or Chickamauga Lake, including a number of state parks. Don’t miss this road trip through Tennessee’s farming communities!
Just over the border from Georgia is the town of Cleveland, which was once a part of the Cherokee Nation. It grew as a railroad town.
Visitors can learn about local history at the Museum Center at 5ive Points which has exhibits with Native American artifacts and historic photos. Sample local wines at Ocoee Winery and Morris Vineyard, which have sweet and semi-sweet varieties.
Tour the Mayfield Dairy‘s production facility that shows an informational film and brings guests behind the scenes at the bottling plant. You can see how their ice cream is made and even get a sample!
The Lost Sea, inside Craighead Caverns, is one of the area’s top attractions and is an underground lake with albino fish. They offer daily boat tours and “wild cave” tours for groups that stay overnight in the cave.
Philadelphia was the site of battles during the Civil War. Sweetwater Valley Farm is a family-run cheese operation that also supplies some of its milk product to Mayfield Dairy. They offer tours and tastings of their delicious products.
Lenoir City as founded as a railroad town around the area’s rivers and lakes. River Sports Outfitters runs kayaking excursions from Lenoir City Park. Mizell Bluffs is one of the best hikes around the lake.
The small town of Loudon is one of the entry points to Tellico Lake, a TVA dammed lake popular for fishing. Stop by the weekly Bluegrass and Catfish at Stop ‘N Shop, a gas station, restaurant, and music venue.
The state’s oldest winery, Tennessee Valley Winery, is also in this area and has live music and other events. Catch a show at the Historic Loudon Theatre and snap pictures of the mural in Veteran’s Park, home to the weekly farmers market.
In Greenback, visit the Peregrine International Museum of Scouting, which tells the history of the Boy Scouts of America from its founding by a veteran of the Boer War.
In nearby Vonore, visit the Sequoyah Birthplace Museum where the founder of the Cherokee language lived. Fort Loudoun dates back to the French and Indian War and now serves as a historic site with nature trails and costumed interpreters.
Roane County has a number of historic towns, but the most interesting is Harriman. It was established as a “utopia of temperance,” for those that object to alcohol.
It’s home to a number of shops and restaurants as well as the historic Princess Theatre, which has been restored. It now has an upstairs museum.
In neighboring Kingston, Fort Southwest Point was the outpost to the frontier, where Lewis and Clark recruited soldiers for their journey west. Today it has replicas of the buildings and a museum of artifacts.
Oak Ridge was the site of secret research that led to the creation of the atomic bombs dropped on Japan. The site is now open to tours, including visits to the X-10 Graphite Reactor and Y-12 National Security Complex.
The American Museum of Science and Energy educates visitors on the town’s science background while the Oak Ridge History Museum has information on everything else. The International Friendship Bell Peace Pavilion honors the lives lost to the bombs.
In nearby Petros, the Brushy Mountain Distillery is located at a historic prison that now has a moonshine distillery, restaurant, and museum.
My stay in Loudon County was arranged and hosted by Visit Loudon County and Laurie Rowe Communications. I was also hosted by Roane County.