So you’re off to Tennessee, eh? Or maybe you’ve just been playing around with the idea and need a little shove in the right direction. Cool, that’s why we’re here. We've scoured the hard drives of countless travel agents, the deepest parts of the Internet, and more to put together this lil’ insider's guide to moving to the great state of Tennessee. And in the end, you should have a better idea of what’s ahead—or finally get you off that metaphorical fence you’ve been sitting on.
No matter where you choose to move to in Tennessee, make sure you're covered with an affordable home insurance policy.
Tennessee at a Quick Glance
Tennessee is primarily known as The Volunteer State, because thousands of soldiers from this state played a big role in the War of 1812, especially at the Battle of New Orleans. But there’ are also a few other nicknames floating around here, too. It’s sometimes also called The Big Bend State, after the Native American name for the Tennessee River, which has a big bend in it. And finally, The Mother of Southwest Statesmen because three presidents and many other government officers have hailed from the state.
Tennessee began as the 16th of state back in 1796 and has grown to a current population of 6,782,564. About 66,580 of these people moved here in 2017 alone. By landmass, it's the 36th largest state in the country, and the 20th densest, by population.
There are plenty of reasons to move here right off the bat, especially if music is your thing. From Memphis, which is “The Birthplace of Rock 'n' Roll,” to Nashville, "The Heart of the Country Music Scene," this place out-rocks Cleveland hands-down.
Tons of huge names in music history were either born or got their start here, including blues legends Memphis Slim and John Lee Hooker, country stars Johnny Cash and Dolly Parton, and rock royalty like Jerry Lee Lewis and "The King" himself, Elvis Presley. And if it’s good enough for a king, well…
But if rock stardom isn’t your thing, you’ve got to make some spare cash someway. So let’s take a look into the local job scene to see what kind of 9-to-5 fun you could be looking at.
Job Market in Tennessee
Maybe you’re all set on a job, or maybe you've just won huge on some gas station scratchers. But if not, you’ll definitely need to pay attention here, where we talk about the local job scene and what’s hot right now.
For starters, Tennessee has a fairly low unemployment rate—just 3.4%, according the Bureau of Labor Statistics. So odds of finding work here are looking pretty good. The current minimum wage is $7.25/hour, which is the same as the federal minimum, according to minimum-wage.org.
But where’s business booming? Well, the fastest-growing fields currently include: physical therapist, medical sonographer, tax preparer, home health aid, interpreter/translator, nurse practitioner and marketer. Plenty of room for growth there. But if you’re really looking to shoot for the stars, the highest-paying jobs in the state currently are: surgeon, pediatrician, orthodontist, OB/GYN, psychiatrist, dentist and nurse anesthetist.
Boy, that medical world sure seems like the place to be. But there are plenty of opportunities here for you in whatever you want to do.
Housing in Tennessee
Now when you get here, there’s a good chance you’ll be needing a place to crash, right? Then you’re probably wondering about Tennessee’s housing market. So hop in, we’ll drive.
Well, to start, the current median home value for the state is $159,400, and that’s up 8.6% from the year before—woo-hoo! Homes listed on the market currently have a median price of $242,000. But If you're just looking to rent a house, whether temporarily or permanently, you'll be paying around $1,315/month.
And if apartment life is more your game, you’ll find options all over the board all around. In Nashville, the state's capital, you'll find one-bedrooms going for about $1,200/month, which seems to be on the higher end of the spectrum. In Knoxville, Memphis, and Chattanooga, you can expect one-bedrooms averaging between $716/month and $814/month. These are just averages, though, and you can always find something for more or less, depending on the locations.
Now, the majority of homes were actually built in the 2000s, but there’s still a lot of new construction going up all over, especially across central Tennessee, in/around Nashville. And we also saw a lot more along the eastern edge of the state, from Chattanooga to Knoxville, and on up to Johnson City. And then of course around Memphis, too, people just want to be around the action, eh?
But Tennessee isn’t just about music, there’s a lot more culture going on around here than just that. So let’s chat a bit about the people and the action that makes Tennessee so “in” right now.
Tennessee's Local Culture
Across several different websites, locals had mostly warm things to say about their home state and their fellow residents. One local said that you "won't find friendlier people anywhere" in the country. Apparently, they even wave to you as they drive by in the opposite direction. Others said that the people here are "kind and helpful" and that neighbors are likely to be very welcoming, sharing their garden rakes and baking ingredients should you ever be in need.
And speaking of friendly, they’re a bunch of Chatty Cathy’s around here—one resident warned not to greet someone unless you're prepared for a 45-minute session of some small talk. So think before you speak.
We saw such heart-warming comments from Tennesseeans that we just had to include a few more of the specifics. One local said that they were so happy with their whereabouts that they had absolutely "no desire to move." Another gushed that they were "so happy [they] chose to move here." To wrap it up, one Tennesseean beamed that their state could be summarized as having, "beautiful scenery, great people and great entertainment".
Everyone here raves about the scenery—everyone. The Great Smoky Mountains were mentioned time and time again as a must-see. Apparently they draw in people from many states to witness their beauty in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The autumn leaves are rumored to be out of this world.
But there's more to see in The Big Bend State than just mountains—you'll also find beautiful rural areas, rivers and lakes, wooded patches and more than 9,000 caves. Locals love to spend their time exploring the breathtaking spectacle of the nature all around them. Hiking and fishing are just a couple of the outdoor activities here.
You'll find lots of artsy types in The Volunteer State, that's for sure. In fact, Nashville was ranked second on the list of the "Top 10 Places for Creatives in 2018." Obviously, with such a huge music scene, you'll find most are musicians and singers, but the art scene stretches all over the place here.
Big Bend Trivia
Locals around here rave about all the art festivals that take place in their state, filled with local artists. There's also an abundance of food, wine and beer festivals, for all the foodies out there. And if you get tired of festivals, Tennessee is also home to plenty of museums and theaters of all types.
Nashville, “The Heart of the Country Music Scene," is home to the Grand Ole Opry, the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, and a ton of honky tonks and dance halls. Further west in Memphis, the "Birthplace of Rock 'n' Roll," you'll find Elvis's "Graceland" estate, which is open for tours, the famous Sun Studio (also open for tours), and several blues clubs on Beale Street.
The state also has an entire theme park dedicated to country music star Dolly Parton, called "Dollywood." The theme park offers dozens of concerts each year, including some from ol’ Dolly Parton herself, in addition to its many roller coasters and other rides.
When they're not rockin’ and stompin’ their feet, Tennesseeans are enjoying another wonder their state has to offer—the food. "Memphis-style BBQ" is a huge deal around here. It's slow-cooked and prepared to perfection. Jack Daniels is also a huge favorite among locals, and you'll find it mixed into a lot of the cooking around here, too.
Tennessee has been immortalized on the big screen several times over. Perhaps the most famous instance is Walk the Line—the biopic about the legendary Johnny Cash. The movie showcases several Tennessee locations, including Sun Studio in Memphis, where he got his start.
And on a completely different note, the campy supernatural horror film, The Evil Dead, was also filmed right in Morristown. Unfortunately, the movie’s famous cabin was pretty much destroyed in explosions during the filming, but there are some remnants of the chimney left in the woods.
Can't-Miss Tennessee Fun + Activities
Like we said, there’s a lot of stuff going on in Tennessee, all over the state. And there’s no way we could cover it all. But here are a few of the state’s biggest attractions that are well worth the time and drive:
- Ruby Falls: In Chattanooga, an underground waterfall is hidden inside a cave in Lookout Mountain. A tour here is filled with incredible views of stones and formations, and the added bonus of a waterfall lit up by multicolored lights. And it’ll never be closed because of rain, so there’s another bonus.
- Sun Studio: The recording studio that prides itself on being "The Birthplace of Rock 'n' Roll" is located right in Memphis. Musical icons Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis got their start here. The studio opened in 1950 and has produced many hit records and music stars since its inception.
- The Sunsphere: This iconic landmark in Knoxville is one of the last remaining artifacts from the great World's Fair of 1982, and this specific structure was the symbol associated with the event because of its slogan, "Energy Turns the World." Postcards and promotional material for Knoxville never stopped featuring the Sunsphere, even though the fair was only hosted once. The sphere stands at a massive 266 feet tall, or 26 stories, and is 75 feet in diameter. Though it was out of commission for decades, the observation deck was renovated and reopened to the public in 2014 and now overlooks the Knoxville Convention Center, where festivals and activities go on all the time.
- Titanic Museum: Located in Pigeon Forge, this is the second museum of its kind to feature a recreation of the doomed ocean liner of 1912. Since 2010, attendees have been able to explore re-creations of rooms based on actual Titanic blueprints, including a dining room and the oh-so-impressive grand staircase. Once you arrive, you're given a boarding pass with information about one of the real Titanic passengers, and you'll find out your fate at the end of your tour. Another attraction inside features ice water that you can touch to feel the exact frigid temperature that the poor passengers met with as the ship went down. The museum holds more than 400 artifacts from the ship.
- Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Straddling the border between Tennessee and North Carolina is a sight that residents say you'd be crazy to miss. This sprawling landscape of lush forests and wildflowers, mixed with streams, rivers, waterfalls and hiking trails, draws in people from many states. You can also head up to the observation tower to take in breathtaking views of the land from above. The Great Smoky Mountains provide a gorgeous backdrop during autumn, of course, but their beauty is not to be missed at any time of year.
Pros and Cons of Living in The Mother of Southwestern Statesmen
Now we’ve been going on and on this whole time, and it would be a total shame if you didn’t hear what real life Tennesseeans have to say about their home state—both the good, and the less good.
Pros (straight from the mouths of real-life Tennesseeans:
- No income tax: That's right, if you take up residence in The Volunteer State, there’s one less pesky deduction from your paychecks. However, the state does make up for it a bit, by having a higher sales tax rate than much of the rest of the country.
- Music scene: Sorry, we just can’t stop talking about it. But besides Memphis and Knoxville and their musical royalty, there's also United Record Pressing , which produced many famous Motown classics, including works by Michael Jackson. And for the country fans out there, you’ve got Dollywood, the Grand Ole Opry, AND the Country Music Hall of Fame. Then there’s the Tina Turner Museum, the Musicians Hall of Fame, the Historic RCA Studio B, and the Memphis Rock 'n' Soul Museum. Not to mention all the bars and halls where the up-and-comers get their start.
- Free community college: In 2014, the Tennessee Promise Program was launched, making community college tuition and fees free for recent high school grads. As of fall 2018, however, any adult without an associate's or bachelor's degree will also receive the benefit of free community college, making Tennessee the first state in the nation to offer free community college for all adults.
- Low cost of living: Tennessee was ranked the second-least expensive state to live in 2014, with a cost of living index of only 89.7. We saw earlier that rent here is extremely affordable, and combined with no state income tax and low property taxes, your wallet will stay even fuller.
Cons (as mentioned by residents):
- Landlocked: Some residents who relocated from a coastal area say they miss the ocean and beaches. Though there are many rivers, lakes and waterfalls within the state, the landlocked feeling can make some a bit homesick.
- Tornado country: Tennessee is located in something called "Tornado Alley"—which, as you can guess, is an area that features frequent, strong tornadoes. And there’s another danger zone called "Dixie Alley,"which has nearly the same number of tornadoes—but with more tornado-related injuries than its cousin. The injuries from the storms are due to a higher percentage of mobile homes in the area, with a denser population.
- Traffic: Many residents called out the horrible traffic problem around here. The population spikes in the state over the past several years have contributed to a traffic nightmare that Tennessee was not equipped to deal with when its roadways were configured. The surge in population and traffic has contributed to a rise in highway accidents.
Now, we know you came to us to get the deets on all things Tennessee, and we're here to deliver. So, just for you, we've compiled a short list of a few of the weirdest and most outdated laws still in existence in the state.
Here are a just few:
- You're not allowed to sell hollow logs. Filled logs? No problem.
- You're not allowed to sing, hum, dance to, or sign "It Ain't Goin' to Rain No Mo'" in Oneida. Someone must not be a fan.
- It's illegal to drive while asleep. Sorry if work was exhausting, but you’ll have to wait until you’re home.
- It's actually illegal to share your Netflix password. Finally your brother has to stop mooching off you.
Off to ol’ Rocky Top
Well, it's been a blast bringing you all these fun facts and insights into Tennessee life. And we hope we helped you get prepped for the big move or finalize your decision once and for all. Now, we probably didn’t answer all of your questions, but we at least set you on the right path.
If the music fits you, and barbecue is your thing, there’s no way you can go wrong in Tennessee. So good luck, and enjoy those mountains - just make sure you're covered with an affordable home insurance policy.
NOTE: if you decide Tennessee isn't right for you, we've covered all the other states, too, to help you find YOUR scene. If you rely on borrowing someone else’s Netflix password, have you thought about Washington? We hear it's cool there.