Chattanooga, Tennessee, is a well-known destination but just a few miles north is a smaller town with a plethora of activities for all ages. This is an intro to Cleveland, Tennessee, an easy drive up I-75. You will find adventure off of every exit.
Explore Native American History and Blue Hole Spring
Red Clay State Historic Park is just a few miles outside of downtown Cleveland, Tennessee. The site is where the Cherokee tribe learned they would soon be leaving their land and embarking on what is known as the Trail of Tears. The James F. Corn Interpretive Facility has several exhibits that tell the story of the tribe before they left the area. You will also find several pieces of artwork there.
The park has 234 acres of trails. You don’t have to walk too far to find Blue Hole Springs. The blue appearance of the water is due to a limestone ledge flowing from Mill Creek. You can relax on the bridge take a hike around the springs.
You will find several buildings at Red Clay that depict how the tribe lived. A small cabin with beds, a kitchen, fireplace, and other furnishings gives you a glimpse of how close their quarters were. You will also find windowless sleeping huts among the structures, where guests stayed when they visited.
Tour Historic Downtown Cleveland, TN
Downtown Cleveland is filled with historical structures you don’t want to miss. Craigmiles Hall, built in 1878, was once a famous opera house. It’s one of many downtown areas listed on the National Register of Historic Places. You will find beautiful churches that pay homage to the area’s religious history.
On the grounds of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, you will find a marble mausoleum constructed by Italian sculptor Fabia Cotte. The 1871 mausoleum was built for seven-year-old Nina Craigmiles, who died in a buggy accident with her grandfather.
Visit the Museum Center at Five Points
The Museum Center at 5ive Points is home to a permanent exhibit that chronicles life in Southeast Tennessee from the early settlers to the modern age. You will find various historical items reflecting everyday life from antique stoves, phonographs, and quilts.
The museum is home to a stop on the Tennessee Music Pathways. “The Red Back: America’s Best-Loved Hymnal,” tells the story of the gospel songbook published in Cleveland, Tennessee. The exhibit includes a working press and an interactive listening station where you can hear some of the songs played.
The museum is currently open Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. Admission is $9 for adults, and reduced ticket prices for children, college students, and active military members.
Spend Some Time on the Hiwassee River
The Hiwassee River is a short drive from downtown Cleveland in Charleston. You can launch a boat at the Charleston River Access or just sit and enjoy being on the water. The 1960 film “Wild River” was filmed here.
Before leaving Charleston, drive by some of the small town’s historic buildings. The Cumberland Presbyterian Church was built in 1860 and served as a Union Army hospital during the Civil War. Union Gen. William T. Sherman spent some time at Henegar House. Drop by the Hiwassee River Heritage Center to learn more about the area’s history. It’s open Tuesdays through Saturdays— admission is free.
See More of Cleveland on Foot
Walk the nearly four miles of the Cleveland/Bradley County Greenway and see the town’s shopping districts and more. The path winds along Mouse Creek, traveling below underpasses and over pedestrian bridges. You will encounter two playgrounds along the way.
Read more about Tennessee in these posts:
Visiting the James K. Polk Home
This article was written by Kim Jarrett of Southern Places and Faces
Author Bio: Kim Jarrett spent more than 20 years and journalism and is now a full-time freelancer and part-time nomad exploring the South with her husband, Steve. Kim has a heart for small towns, as she was raised in one of the prettiest ones in the South–Rome, Ga. She has discovered new favorites on her journeys and writes about them on her website, Southern Places and Faces.