Best Things To Do In Jonesborough, Tennessee

Top Destinations Nov 24, 2023

Jonesborough, Tennessee, is a place where history whispers from every corner, where stories are not just told but lived, and where the beauty of the Appalachian landscape merges seamlessly with the charm of a small town. As the oldest town in Tennessee, Jonesborough is a tapestry of the past and present, offering an array of experiences that cater to history buffs, nature lovers, cultural enthusiasts, and culinary adventurers.

In the heart of Jonesborough, the historic downtown area stands as a testament to the town's rich heritage. Walking through its streets is like stepping back in time. Buildings like the Chester Inn Museum, the oldest commercial building in Jonesborough, offer a glimpse into the 19th century, showcasing rooms restored in the Victorian era style. These historic sites aren't just relics; they're vibrant parts of the community, hosting events that keep the town's heritage alive.

Source: Jonesborough

Jonesborough's reputation as the "Storytelling Capital of the World" is not just a title; it's an integral part of its identity. The International Storytelling Center, a renowned venue, hosts the National Storytelling Festival, drawing storytellers and listeners from across the globe. This love for storytelling permeates the town, where every local seems to have a tale to share, making a visit here a truly immersive experience.

In Jonesborough, every street, every building, and every face tells a story. It's a place where history is not just preserved but celebrated, where nature's beauty is embraced, and where the arts and culture thrive. A visit to Jonesborough is more than just a trip; it's an experience that stays with you, a journey through the best of what Tennessee has to offer. As we delve deeper into the "Best Things To Do In Jonesborough, Tennessee," we invite you to explore this enchanting town and discover its many wonders for yourself.

Detail the charm of walking through historic downtown.

Walking through the historic downtown of Jonesborough, Tennessee, is akin to traversing the pages of a living history book. The town, rich in heritage and steeped in lore, offers a charming journey back in time, where each building and street corner narrates a story from a bygone era.

As you meander through the streets, the blend of the past and present is palpable. The Chester Inn Museum, a jewel in the crown of Jonesborough's historical treasures, stands proudly as a symbol of the town’s storied past. Built in the early 19th century, the Chester Inn has witnessed the ebb and flow of time, serving variously as a lodging house and a social hub. Today, it houses a museum that offers visitors a glimpse into the life of the times, with rooms restored to reflect the Victorian era. The Chester Inn is more than a museum; it's a portal to the past, allowing visitors to walk in the footsteps of those who lived over a century ago.

Source: Franklin Lodge

But Jonesborough's historic allure doesn’t end with its buildings. The town’s streets themselves are a mosaic of history. The cobblestone paths, lined with quaint streetlights, lead visitors through an array of charming shops and eateries, each with its own unique story. The town's architecture, a mix of Federal, Greek Revival, and Queen Anne styles, adds to the sense of being in a different time. This harmonious blend of architectural styles creates a picturesque backdrop, perfect for leisurely strolls or for simply soaking in the ambience of this historic town.

In Jonesborough, the art of storytelling is not just preserved; it's a living, breathing part of the community. The International Storytelling Center, a prominent landmark in the town, is a testament to Jonesborough’s title as the "Storytelling Capital of the World." Here, the age-old tradition of oral storytelling is celebrated and nurtured. The center hosts the National Storytelling Festival, an event that attracts storytellers and listeners from around the globe. This festival is more than an event; it’s a vibrant celebration of the human experience, where stories of love, adventure, tragedy, and triumph are shared, connecting people across cultures and generations.

Focus on the International Storytelling Center.

In the heart of Jonesborough, Tennessee, the International Storytelling Center stands as a beacon of the town's rich narrative tradition, embodying its reputation as the "Storytelling Capital of the World." This prestigious title is not just a moniker; it is a reflection of the town’s deep-rooted connection to the art of oral storytelling, an art that has been cherished and preserved here like nowhere else.

The International Storytelling Center, with its elegant architecture and inviting atmosphere, serves as the focal point for this tradition. It's a place where stories come to life, where voices from different corners of the world converge to share tales that range from the fantastical to the historical, from personal anecdotes to ancient myths. This center is not just a venue; it is a sanctuary for storytellers and listeners alike, a place where the power of words and imagination creates a shared human experience.

International Storytelling Center
Source: Storytelling Cente

Jonesborough’s storytelling legacy is most prominently showcased during the National Storytelling Festival, hosted annually by the International Storytelling Center. This festival, a revered event in the storytelling world, transforms the town into a vibrant hub of narrative and folklore. Storytellers of international acclaim grace the stages, enchanting audiences with their words and gestures. Under tents and in open-air venues, listeners of all ages gather, captivated by the magic spun by the storytellers. The festival is a celebration not just of stories, but of the community and connection they foster.

But the storytelling in Jonesborough extends beyond the annual festival. Throughout the year, the International Storytelling Center organizes a variety of programs and events. These include storytelling workshops, educational programs, and weekly storytelling sessions that keep the tradition alive and accessible. The center's efforts ensure that the art of storytelling is not only preserved but also evolves, embracing new voices and new mediums.

Outdoor Adventures

Jonesborough, Tennessee, offers a cornucopia of outdoor adventures that beckon nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts alike. The town, surrounded by the lush beauty of the Appalachian landscape, provides a plethora of activities that allow visitors to immerse themselves in the natural world.

Persimmon Ridge Park, a gem in Jonesborough's crown of outdoor spaces, is a haven for those seeking to explore the great outdoors. This expansive park, located just a mile from downtown, offers an array of trails that cater to every preference, from leisurely walks to more adventurous hikes. The trails wind through scenic landscapes, offering glimpses of the area's diverse flora and fauna. Hikers can enjoy the tranquility of walking under a canopy of trees, the thrill of traversing rolling hills, or the serenity of meandering alongside streams. Persimmon Ridge Park is not just a place for physical activity; it's a retreat for the soul, a place where one can connect with nature and find peace.

Persimmon Ridge
Source: Jonesborough

But Persimmon Ridge is just one of the many outdoor offerings in Jonesborough. Stage Road Park is another popular destination, known for its sprawling green spaces and recreational facilities. Here, visitors can engage in a variety of activities, from playing a game of baseball to enjoying a family picnic. The park's open areas are perfect for those who wish to enjoy the simple pleasure of a day out in the sun, whether it's through sports, relaxation, or just a leisurely stroll.

For water enthusiasts, Wetlands Water Park provides a refreshing escape. This park, with its slides and pools, is a favorite among families, especially during the warm summer months. It's a place where laughter and splashes fill the air, where children and adults alike can enjoy the thrill of water rides or the calm of a lazy river.

Culinary Delights and Distilleries

Jonesborough, Tennessee, is not only a feast for the eyes and the soul but also for the palate. The town's culinary scene is a delightful blend of traditional Southern flavors and innovative gastronomy, offering something to satisfy every food enthusiast.

At the heart of Jonesborough's culinary landscape is the Tennessee Hills Distillery, an establishment that has become a symbol of the town's rich heritage and craft spirit. Located in the historic downtown, this family-owned distillery is renowned for its artisanal spirits that capture the essence of Tennessee's liquor traditions. Visitors to the distillery can indulge in tastings, where they can savor the distinct flavors of locally produced whiskey, bourbon, and other spirits. The Tennessee Hills Distillery is more than a place to sample fine liquor; it's an experience, offering a glimpse into the art of distillation and the history of spirits in the region.

Tennessee Hills Distillery
Source: Pinterest

Beyond the spirits, Jonesborough's dining scene is a vibrant mix of eateries, each offering its unique take on Southern cuisine and beyond. From cozy cafes serving up homemade pies and fresh-brewed coffee to elegant restaurants offering gourmet dishes, the town caters to all tastes and preferences. Local chefs take pride in using fresh, locally-sourced ingredients, ensuring that each dish not only tastes delicious but also reflects the flavors of the region.

The town's culinary offerings extend to local breweries as well, where craft beer enthusiasts can find a variety of unique brews. Places like Depot Street Brewing offer a range of beers, from classic ales to experimental flavors, all brewed with a passion for quality and taste. These breweries often serve as gathering spots for locals and visitors alike, where stories are shared over a pint of finely crafted beer.

Theatrical and Musical Entertainment

In Jonesborough, Tennessee, the arts scene vibrates with energy, particularly in the realms of theater and music. The town is home to the Jonesborough Repertory Theatre, a cornerstone of the local cultural landscape, known for its vibrant performances that range from classic plays to modern musicals. This theater, nestled in the heart of downtown, is more than just a stage; it's a gathering place for the community, a space where stories are brought to life through the talents of local actors and actresses.

The Jonesborough Repertory Theatre's repertoire is diverse, offering something for every taste. From the works of Shakespeare to contemporary musical theater, each production is crafted with care and passion. The theater prides itself on delivering high-quality performances that engage, entertain, and sometimes challenge its audiences. Stepping into the theater, with its intimate setting and charming ambiance, visitors are transported into the world of the play, making each visit a unique and memorable experience.

Jonesborough Repertory Theatre
Source: Jonesborough Repertory Theatre

Beyond the theater, Jonesborough's musical scene thrives. The town hosts a variety of concerts and musical events throughout the year, showcasing a range of genres from classical to country, jazz to folk. These events often take place in local venues that add their own charm to the performances, whether it's an outdoor concert under the stars or an intimate gig in a cozy café.

Jonesborough also celebrates music through its community events and festivals, where local and visiting musicians take the stage. These events not only entertain but also bring the community together, fostering a sense of togetherness and celebration. Music in Jonesborough is not just a performance; it's a communal experience, a way for people to connect and share in the joy of song and melody.

Unique Shopping Experiences

Jonesborough, Tennessee, offers a shopping experience that is as unique and charming as the town itself. The picturesque streets, lined with beautifully preserved buildings and quaint cobblestone pathways, are home to an array of eclectic shops that invite visitors to explore and discover.

As you wander through the town, each shop beckons with its own distinct character. From boutiques offering handcrafted jewelry and artisanal goods to stores filled with rare antiques and collectibles, the shopping in Jonesborough is an adventure in itself. These shops reflect the creativity and spirit of the local artisans and shopkeepers, each one offering a piece of Jonesborough's culture and history.

One of the standout features of shopping in Jonesborough is the emphasis on locally made and sourced products. Many of the shops feature items that are crafted right in the town or in the surrounding areas of Tennessee. This focus on local craftsmanship not only supports the community but also provides visitors with a unique, authentic experience. You might find hand-thrown pottery, handmade quilts, or bespoke furniture pieces, each with a story that ties back to the town.

The shopping experience in Jonesborough is also marked by a warm, welcoming atmosphere. Shop owners and locals are known for their hospitality, often sharing stories about the town or offering recommendations for other places to visit. This sense of community is palpable as you stroll from shop to shop, adding to the charm of the experience.

Water Park and Recreational Activities

Jonesborough, Tennessee, is a haven for family-friendly fun, with a variety of recreational activities that cater to all ages. Among the town's most popular attractions is the Wetlands Water Park, a delightful destination for families looking to enjoy a day of aquatic adventures.

Wetlands Water Park is renowned for its engaging water features, including thrilling water slides, a lazy river, and a spacious pool. Designed with families in mind, the park offers a safe and exciting environment where children can splash and play while adults relax and join in the fun. The park's attentive lifeguards and well-maintained facilities ensure a comfortable and secure experience for all visitors.

Wetlands Water Park
Source: Wetlands Water Park

Beyond the water park, Jonesborough provides a range of recreational opportunities. The town boasts several parks and playgrounds where families can enjoy picnics, play sports, or simply bask in the beauty of the Tennessee outdoors. These areas are ideal for spending quality time together, whether it's through a friendly game of soccer, a leisurely walk, or enjoying a meal under the open sky.

For those seeking a more structured recreational experience, Jonesborough offers a variety of sports and fitness programs. The local community center hosts activities like swimming lessons, yoga classes, and sports leagues, providing opportunities for both physical activity and socializing.

Historical Architecture and the Chester Inn

In Jonesborough, Tennessee, the Chester Inn Museum stands as a remarkable testament to the town's rich historical heritage. This iconic building, nestled within the heart of Jonesborough's historic district, is a significant landmark that tells the story of the town's past.

Constructed in 1797, the Chester Inn has been a witness to the evolution of Jonesborough over the centuries. It has played numerous roles throughout its existence, from serving as an inn that hosted distinguished guests to being a central social hub for the community. Today, it has been meticulously restored and transformed into a museum that offers visitors a window into the past.

Chester Inn Museum
Source: Jonesborough

The restoration of the Chester Inn Museum is a remarkable achievement that reflects the architectural style and interior design of the Victorian era. This was a period known for its elaborate and ornate design elements, and the museum captures this essence beautifully. Visitors stepping into the Chester Inn are immediately transported to the 19th century, surrounded by elegant furnishings, intricate wallpapers, and period-appropriate decor. The rooms, including the parlor, dining room, and lodging rooms, have been carefully restored to reflect their original Victorian splendor, offering a truly immersive historical experience.

This preservation and restoration effort is not just about maintaining a building; it's about preserving a piece of Jonesborough's history. The Chester Inn Museum serves as a tangible connection to the past, providing insights into the lifestyles, customs, and aesthetics of a bygone era. It's a place where history is not just displayed but felt, allowing visitors to walk in the footsteps of those who lived over a century ago.

Nature and Wildlife Tours

Jonesborough, Tennessee, is not only a haven for history enthusiasts and cultural aficionados but also a paradise for nature lovers. The town and its surrounding areas offer a plethora of nature and wildlife tours that allow visitors to immerse themselves in the stunning beauty of the Appalachian landscape.

One of the standout experiences in this regard is the Waterfalls and Blue Ridge Parkway Hiking Tour. This guided tour is a favorite among both locals and visitors, offering an opportunity to explore some of the most breathtaking natural scenery in the region. The tour takes participants through picturesque trails that meander through dense forests, leading to spectacular waterfalls. The Blue Ridge Parkway, known for its scenic beauty, offers panoramic views of the rolling Appalachian Mountains, making it a perfect backdrop for hikers and nature enthusiasts.

Blue Ridge Parkway Hiking Tour
Source: Vlator

These tours are not just about the hike; they are an educational journey. Led by expert naturalists, participants learn about the local flora and fauna, gaining insights into the ecological systems of the region. This educational aspect adds depth to the experience, allowing for a greater appreciation of the natural world.

Wildlife observation and photography are also integral parts of these tours. The diverse habitats around Jonesborough are home to a variety of wildlife, including birds, deer, and other native species. These tours provide ample opportunities for wildlife viewing, offering moments of excitement and wonder as participants encounter animals in their natural environment. For photography enthusiasts, these tours are a dream come true, offering countless opportunities to capture the beauty of the landscape and its inhabitants.

Nearby Attractions

Jonesborough, Tennessee, is surrounded by a variety of intriguing nearby attractions that offer visitors a deeper dive into the region's natural beauty and historical significance. Among these are the Davy Crockett Birthplace State Park and the Gray Fossil Site, each providing unique experiences and insights into the area's rich heritage.

The Davy Crockett Birthplace State Park is a tribute to one of America’s most celebrated folk heroes, Davy Crockett, known as the “King of the Wild Frontier.” Located near the town of Limestone, this state park encompasses the birthplace of Crockett, offering a glimpse into the early life of this legendary figure. The park features a replica of Crockett's birth cabin, a museum, and a visitor center, all set amidst the scenic beauty of the Tennessee landscape. It's a place that combines historical education with outdoor recreation, featuring hiking trails, picnic areas, and a river, making it a perfect destination for both history buffs and nature lovers.

The Davy Crockett Birthplace State Park
Source: Clio

The Gray Fossil Site, another significant attraction near Jonesborough, is a prehistoric wonder. This site is a treasure trove of well-preserved fossils dating back millions of years, offering a fascinating look into the region's ancient past. The on-site museum and visitor center provide interactive exhibits and educational displays, making it an engaging experience for visitors of all ages. The fossil site is not just about viewing relics; it's an active research facility where new discoveries are continually being made, adding to our understanding of prehistoric life.

In addition to these attractions, the Cherokee National Forest is a must-visit for those who appreciate the great outdoors. As one of the largest tracts of public land in Tennessee, the forest offers endless opportunities for hiking, camping, fishing, and wildlife viewing. Its vast expanse of wilderness is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts and a testament to the natural beauty of the Appalachian region.

Another notable nearby attraction is the Tipton-Haynes Historic Site in Johnson City. This site is steeped in history, featuring a historic home, a museum, and several original outbuildings that offer a peek into life in the 19th century. The Tipton-Haynes Historic Site not only provides a historical journey but also hosts a variety of cultural events and educational programs throughout the year, further enriching the visitor experience.

These attractions, each with their unique offerings, complement the experience of visiting Jonesborough. They provide a broader context to the region's history and natural beauty, making a trip to Jonesborough and its surrounding areas a rich and diverse adventure. Whether it's delving into the life of an American legend, exploring ancient fossils, immersing in the wilderness, or stepping back into history, the attractions near Jonesborough offer something for every visitor.


In conclusion, Jonesborough, Tennessee, is a treasure trove of experiences, seamlessly blending historical charm with modern-day attractions. This quaint town, known as Tennessee's oldest, offers a journey through time and a celebration of culture, nature, and community spirit.

Source: Jonesborough

In essence, Jonesborough is a microcosm of Tennessee's beauty and heritage. It is a town where history is not just remembered; it's experienced. It's a place where nature's beauty is not just observed; it's embraced. And it's a community where culture and arts are not just present; they thrive. A visit to Jonesborough is more than just a trip; it's an immersion into a world where the past and present coexist beautifully, offering a unique and unforgettable experience for every visitor.