Take a Drive on Tennessee’s Sunny Side
Getting home to Greeneville is high on the wish list of the Band Perry. For the sibling trio, the quiet town serves as a retreat from hectic months of touring and recording. Over the weekend, they performed a free concert on N. Main Street to give back to their friends, family and fans in their hometown. Despite the late afternoon showers, people came to hear songs from their new album Pioneer.
Lead singer Kimberly Perry and her two brothers talk about how things don’t really change in Greeneville. With its brick sidewalks, flower boxes and proud old buildings, Greeneville is the quintessential East Tennessee town. It’s a piece of heaven for those who value mountain culture, down-home fun and close ties with kinfolk.
Greeneville and a string of neighboring historical towns are a big part of the Sunny Side Trail. The 475-mile motor route meanders through the oldest communities in East Tennessee, including Jonesborough, Elizabethton, Dandridge, Rogersville, Johnson City and Bristol. In the 1770s, settlers entered this vast Appalachian region, the sacred hunting ground of the Cherokees, to establish farmsteads and communities.
Greeneville was a trading center even before Tennessee was a state. It dates to 1783 when the land was part of North Carolina. These early pioneers sought their independence from the British sovereign and established the State of Franklin the next year; Greeneville served as its second capital.
Just like today when celebrities—such as Kimberly, Neil and Reid Perry— patronize the stores and eateries in Greeneville, so was it 200 years ago. Boldface names included Davy Crockett, born along the banks of the Nolichucky River in Greene County. Andrew Johnson worked as a tailor in Greeneville and, much later in his professional life, rose to become the 17th U.S. President. The National Park Service maintains his tailor shop and home; it is open for tours. Several other historic homes and churches are open for visitors. Presidents Andrew Johnson, Andrew Jackson and James K. Polk frequented taverns and boarding houses on the stagecoach roads through the East Tennessee mountains. These historical landmarks are highlights of the Sunny Side Trail; less illustrious landmarks, such as moonshine stills and bootlegger hangouts, are other stops along the way.
Destinations focused on music, crafts, adventure sports, and shopping punctuate the Sunny Side Trail, as it stretches from Bristol down to Pigeon Forge. The Farmer’s Daughter Restaurant and Three Blind Mice gift shop near Greeneville are among locally owned places also a part of the route.
The Sunny Side Trail edges Great Smoky Mountains National Park and loops through Cherokee National Forest, Warriors’ Path, Roan Mountain and Panther Creek State parks. It features 19 golf courses and 12 marinas, with ample opportunities for fishing, canoeing, rafting and other water sports.
Have you taken a drive on the Sunny Side? Share your trip in the comments!