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Douglas Lake is home to fishing and boating activities near Dandridge.

Jefferson County, Tennessee: A Year-Round Playground

Jefferson County in East Tennessee, just 30 minute from Knoxville, is a place to explore recreation, history and much more.

Historic towns, sweeping vistas of the Great Smoky Mountains and the pristine waters of Douglas and Cherokee lakes invite visitors to Jefferson County. Tucked in the northeastern region of the state, just 30 minutes from Knoxville, Jefferson County is home to Tennessee’s second-oldest town of Dandridge, established as the county seat in 1792. 

Cherokee and Douglas Lakes Offer a Year-Round Playground 

Enjoy world-class fishing on Cherokee and Douglas lakes, created by the TVA in the early 1940s. Both lakes are named in the nation’s Top 10 Lakes for largemouth bass and crappie fishing. Fed by the French Broad River and Holston River, the scenic lakes are fisheries for striped bass and sauger, and are the site of several major fishing tournaments. But, the lakes aren’t just for fishing. Marinas, campgrounds, cabins and lakeside lodging offer a great vacation getaway. Pack up your tent or RV or stay in a quaint Airbnb. Rent a boat, kayak, or paddleboard or parasail over the clear blue waters. Relax on the lakefront and experience the meaning of “lakeside of the Smokies.”

Take a Tour of Bush’s Beans Visitor Center 

“That Beautiful Bean Company” established in 1908, epitomized the passion for the humble bean. Breathe in the smell of a Southern favorite, simmered in a secret sauce in Bush Brothers and Company cannery in Chestnut Hill. The Bush’s Visitor Center near Dandridge offers museum tours, highlighting the history and growth of the company. Enjoy the video tour of the process facility or the popular fried chicken tenders and lunchtime beans-of-the-day at the Bush’s Family Café. The general store sells souvenirs and bean products, including items featuring the company’s lovable “spokesdog,” Duke.

Tour Historic Downtown Dandridge

Walkable Dandridge Historic District

Stroll the streets of Historic Dandridge and tour the many historic buildings preserved from the early 1800s. Dandridge is the only town in the United States to be named after Martha Dandridge Washington, wife of first President George Washington. Dandridge was a popular stop for travelers arriving by stagecoach or steamboat on the French Broad River. Four of these early taverns still exist. Hickman Tavern, built in 1820, boasts a spectacular circular staircase winding to the third floor. It now serves as the Dandridge Town Hall. Climb the steep, grassy bank of the dike that saved Dandridge for an expansive view of Lake Douglas. It was built in the early 1940s when the creation of Douglas Lake threatened to flood the town, and the million-dollar dike of native stone and solid earth held back the waters of the new lake.

Dandridge Walking Tour

Take the Dandridge Walking Tour in the downtown district to discover over 20 well-preserved historic structures. Along the way, don’t miss Tinsley Bible Drug Store & Soda Fountain, established in 1911. Tinsley Bible is a popular lunch stop, drug store and old-fashioned soda fountain, and you won’t regret ordering a genuine malted milkshake or the famous “Bible Burger.” Old medicine cabinets and bottles preserve the history of bygone days. The Historic Jefferson County Courthouse, built in 1845, also houses a museum depicting the visual county history from 1792 to the present. Exhibits include the 1806 marriage bond of David Crockett and Polly Finley, and a replica of David Crockett’s long rifle.

Discover Unique Shops and Antique Stores 

Once an 1817 tavern, the Shoppes at Roper Mansion now showcase antiques, vintage jewelry, furniture, artwork and gourmet food. Wander around the original parlors, butler’s pantry, kitchen and ballroom. Plan a stop at Martha’s Market and Alleyway Caffe & Coffee Shop, a quaint and cozy general store and gift shop.

Places to Visit in Historic Mossy Creek and Jefferson City

Take a seasonal tour of the 27-room Glenmore Mansion, an opulent example of early Victorian splendor. The mansion was built in 1845 by railroad tycoon, John Roper Branner, with a view of the railroad in the historic Mossy Creek District, later to become Jefferson City. The mansion opens for tours beginning the first weekend in May and continue through December with special candlelight Christmas tours.

New to Jefferson City is Mossback Distillery, a part of the Tennessee Whiskey Trail, features a 1920s-era speakeasy tasting room for those who want to sample some spirits. Head across the street to the Creek for a bite to eat. Opened by college alumni friends, the Creek Downtown Restaurant is a warm and trendy bistro and coffee shop, full of a new and vibrant energy for Jefferson City. 

Where To Stay in Jefferson County

Explore an abundant selection of Airbnbs and bed-and-breakfasts on Douglas and Cherokee lakes. The Shepard Inn was a popular overnight stop for stagecoach travelers, even hosting Presidents Andrew Jackson, James K. Polk and Andrew Johnson. Located in the heart of historic downtown Dandridge, it’s a short walk from the Revolutionary War graveyard dating back to 1785. For a touch of romantic luxury, book a stay at the world-renowned Mountain Harbor Inn on Lake Douglas. Anchor Down RV Resort in Dandridge or Cherokee Dam Campground in Jefferson City afford easy access for boating and fishing with both lake and mountain vistas. 

Annual Events in Jefferson County 

ROCKIN’ THE CREEK MUSIC SERIES

Each summer, music fills the air in the Mossy Creek Historic District of Jefferson City with local and regional talent. This free concert series runs from May through August and features a variety music acts, as well as craft vendors and great food. 

MUSIC ON THE TOWN

Pull up a chair for Music on the Town in August and September in the heart of historic Dandridge. The free concert series on Thursday nights features bluegrass and other music genres.

SCOTS-IRISH FESTIVAL

The Scots-Irish Festival, held the last Saturday of September, honors the influence of the early Scots-Irish. These fearless frontiersmen helped turn the tide of the American Revolution and expanded settlements westward over the Appalachian Mountains. 

LAKESIDE OF THE SMOKIES BALLOON FEST 

Enjoy the brilliant fall colors at the Lakeside of the Smokies Balloon Fest held in Dandridge in October. Highlights include hot-air balloon flights, craft fair, live music, food trucks, wine tasting and kid-friendly activities.

Discover the Lakeside of the Smokies

Explore Tennessee’s early history in Jefferson County, in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. Walk in the footsteps of the early frontiersmen and appreciate the beauty and stories of this historic part of Tennessee.
 

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