Exploring Jonesborough, Tennessee
Jonesborough, Tennessee has a Hallmark movie vibe with that small town feel and is perfect for a weekend getaway. Come with me as we explore this cute little town that is definitely worth a visit.
Jonesborough is Tennessee’s oldest town in the state, founded in 1779. A meander down Main Street, which is lined with shops in historic red brick buildings, brings visitors to many must-visit spots,
Get ready for picture overload. I love to see pictures of places I want to visit, so I grabbed my camera and spent a couple hours on foot exploring our little town. Jonesborough, TN is about ten minutes up the road from our home. It’s cute, it’s quaint, they could film a movie here and it’s worth a day peeking in the shops, eating a scoop of ice cream and enjoying the laid back Tennessee life.
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History of Jonesborough
Jonesborough was established seventeen years before Tennessee was granted statehood and is the oldest town in Tennessee. Jonesborough was dubbed the county seat of Washington County and was named after North Carolina legislator Willie Jones. From publishing the first periodical exclusively devoted to abolishing slavery in 1820 to welcoming Jewish immigrants and their business in the 1850s when they were discriminated against elsewhere, Jonesborough’s history has been one of welcoming guests.
A young future president, Andrew Jackson, came to Jonesborough in 1788 to await a caravan to travel westward. While in Jonesborough, he took the oath of office to practice law and served as an attorney in Jonesborough. He lodged at the Christopher Taylor home while in town. The 1788 Christopher Taylor Home is one of Jonesborough’s oldest buildings and has been restored and moved to Main Street’s Historic District.
The oldest and original building to the commercial district is the Chester Inn. A medical doctor by the name of William Chester built the building in 1797 to profit as a hotel from those traveling through Jonesborough. It has been fully restored and owned by the State of Tennessee and is an historic site. Many famous guests have stayed at the Inn including Presidents Andrew Jackson, Andrew Johnson, and James K. Polk.
Architecture and Buildings
From churches to brick homes to store fronts; Jonesborough has a lovely display of buildings that range from the 18th to 21st centuries with architectural styles that include Federal, Victorian, Greek Revival, Italianate, and Craftsman. I love all the variety of buildings in town and also the spaces that encourage relaxation so you can sit back and enjoy the sites.
Where to Stay in Jonesborough
The Blair-Moore House Bed and Breakfast offers accommodations in a lovely restored home dating from the early 1800’s. It is conveniently located downtown in the heart of Jonesborough’s Historic District.
Country Inn and Suites is just right outside of town, but within a doable walking distance to the town center. This hotel offers nice accommodations convenient to everything.
Franklin House offers guest rooms that feel like you are stepping back in time. Located in Jonesborough’s historic district.
There are also plenty of Air B&B’s around for a more personal, home experience. Our barndominium will be opening soon and can accommodate six people. Equipped with two bedrooms, two bathrooms, laundry, dining area, gourmet kitchen, two stone fireplaces, front and back patio, gorgeous views and 2100 square feet of space so you can be comfortable.
The lovely Eureka Inn is closed, but is up for sale. This might be your opportunity to own a piece of history all while running a successful business in Tennessee’s oldest towns.
Where to Eat in Jonesborough
Stop by The Corner Cup for breakfast to grab a freshly baked strawberry scone, egg sandwich, and an espresso. The perfect spot for lunch is the Main Street Cafe & Catering which is located in the 1930s building of the former town’s post office. Original pressed-tin ceiling, oak hardwood floors, and hanging globe lamps still adorn this lovely space and feels like you are taking a step back in time. Try their sandwiches, curly fries and grab a scoop of gelato and continue exploring the town.
If you need some groceries or a snack, you can stop by Boone Street Market, a local spot that stocks goods from farmers and other vendors within a 100-mile radius of Jonesborough.
There is also Texas Burritos and More owned by Myra Cardenas who has pulled family recipes together to create her Texas style dishes. Start with an order of queso and opt for the chicken sour cream enchiladas. There is also Jonesborough-based Tennessee Hills Distillery and Depot Street Brewing to finish out your evening.
What to do in Jonesborough
Just strolling through the town and grabbing lunch is a great way to spend an afternoon. There’s so much history dripping from every corner that it’s enjoyable to just take it all in; however, there is much to do in this little town of ours.
First start with an Historic Jonesborough Town Tours available at 1:00 p.m. on Saturdays and tours depart from the Chester Inn State Historic Site and Museum. Costumed guides will discuss the history of the town, its people, and their lives as you stroll down Main Street. Tickets are $5.00 per person and can be purchased at the Chester Inn Museum. Children 8 and younger are free.
Stop by the Chuckey Depot Museum, which recognizes the region’s railroad history. The museum is housed in an original 1906 Southern Railway train depot station from the town of Chuckey. This depot was dismantled and re-erected in Jonesborough’s historic district. You can tour a restored Southern Railway caboose while there and let the kids play on the adjacent playground.
If your up for a show, the Jonesborough Theater produces nice little productions with the town’s local talent. Check their website for tickets and performance schedule. Some parts of this building are under construction but don’t let that detour you; the theater is in production.
There are several boutiques that line main street and adjacent streets that make a great place to peruse many local shops. Gift stores like the Crafty Peddler, Mauk’s, and Jonesborough Antiques & Artisans are great for trinkets, folk art, jewelry, wall signs, garden decor, and more. Stop by the International Storytelling Center Gift Shop and find the perfect handmade wooden fountain pen at Paul’s Pens Odds & Ends. You can embrace the region’s creativity with stops at Mill Spring Makers Market to view local artists’ crafts. Plus many other shops to find that perfect gift for you or someone else.
Stop by the Lolipop Shop for a stroll back in time. Grab a bucket and fill it up with candy and also head upstairs to play in the arcade. You don’t be disappointed. Take a few snapshots inside this adorable store too.
Jonesborough Storytelling Center
Come for a visit and stay for a story. Jonesborough is the storytelling capital of the world and is home to the International Storytelling Center, which hosts concert series, educational programming, and storytelling workshops. The National Storytelling Festival, which has been happening in Jonesborough for nearly half a century is a huge annual high light that brings visitors from near and far.
The Jonesborough farmer’s market runs from May – October downtown on Saturdays and features local produce, meat, cheeses, flowers, breads and other finds. If you are staying local for a few days; the farmers market is a great place to stop for local fare.
Jonesborough Events Calendar
There are wonderful events that happen throughout the year including a fireworks display in July, a Christmas parade with Santa and a Chocolate Festival to name a few. All these events happen right in the town center. During the summer, the first Friday of the month hosts musical concerts free to the public as well as food trucks. Bring a chair and enjoy these free concerts.
Chocolate Festival – February
Irish Festival – March
Easter Extravaganza – April
July 4th Celebration with Fireworks – July
Craft Fair & Food Trucks – September
Story Telling Festival – October
Christmas Tree Lighting – November
Christmas Parade – December
•Best times of year to visit or Spring – Autumn. The town is slower and not as lovely during the winter months
•You can easily explore the town and eat lunch in one day
•Downtown lodging is not abundant; a hotel or Air B&B is your best bet, but book early during busy months.
•Avoid the town during the Storytelling Festival unless your are attending the Festival, which is in October.
If you are looking for a small town to enjoy the day; then Jonesborough should be on your next day trip list or make a vacation out of it. Asheville, NC, Gatlinburg and Knoxville are all within an hour to hour and a half drive away. There is plenty of hiking, biking and horse riding trails that surround the area as well. If you are looking for a relaxing vacation; then East Tennessee should be a top consideration for a trip back to nature and slow living life.
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