Blake Walsh

15 Best Things to Do in Etowah, TN

  • Published 2022/08/17

Local folklore says that the historic city of Etowah got its name from the Etowah River.

Then, in the 1900s, the train crew of the Louisville & Nashville Railroad (L&N) used to bring a sign that reads “Etowah.”

Founded in 1906, Etowah belongs to McMinn County, Tennessee.

Etowah prides itself in the historic L&N Depot, which remains today’s main tourist attraction.

Besides being a gem in McMinn County, the city also features gorgeous parks, museums, train rides, restaurants, and many more.

If you’ve had the lovely idea of visiting the city, why not turn it into reality?

There are many outdoor activities you can count on to get an adrenaline rush.

Likewise, you can also explore nearby towns and cities for even more fun activities.

Discover the best things to do in Etowah, Tennessee.

Stay at Red Roof Inn

This hotel describes itself with a single word: unfussy.

It offers simple but beautiful, comfy beds in its rooms and suites.

Likewise, you can enjoy a complimentary continental breakfast and a fitness room.

The hotel is only a few minutes from the famous tourist spots around Etowah, such as the Hiwassee River Rail Adventure, Ridgewood Golf Club, and more.

It’s also a pet-friendly hotel, only nine miles from the McMinn County Airport.

The hotel opened in 2006 at North Tennessee Avenue.

Tour the Etowah Depot Museum

The L&N passenger service operated for 68 years until it ended in 1968.

In 1974, the Etowah Depot itself shut down.

A few years later, L&N sold the property and donated the building to the city.

The city and state successfully restored the vintage depot building.

Today, the building features the Etowah Depot Museum, which hosts different historical exhibits, gatherings, and more.

The museum also carries the exhibit “Growing UP With The L&N: Life and Times in a Railroad Town.”

Both the Tennessee Overhill Heritage Tourism Association and the Etowah Chamber of Commerce joined forces to develop the exhibit.

It also features an art gallery, a gift shop, photography, and a ticket office for the Tennessee Valley Railroad excursion.

The National Register of Historic Places has also added the Etowah Depot Museum to its record.

Bring Your Kids to Etowah Park and Splash Pad

Are you traveling to Etowah with the kids?

They will have intense fun at Etowah Park and Splash Pad, where they can enjoy a full day of playing and splashing around.

The city park’s splash pad is perfect during hotter days.

It also features an expansive playground with swings, climbing equipment, slides, and many more.

In 2016, the park added the splash pad, which opened to the public soon afterward.

You can find Etowah Park and Splash Pad at the corner of Louisiana Avenue and 6th Street.

Catch Live Performances at the Gem Theater

The historic Gem Theater has built up a good reputation for tourist visits.

It now hosts live performances such as concerts, local plays, movies, and other special Etowah events.

If you’re around the city, don’t miss visiting the place to watch some of the theater’s live performances.

In 1906, a millinery shop and clothing store occupied the building.

Later, the owners sold their operations to a businessman who converted them into a theater.

He called the theater the Gemto honor his hometown of Marietta, Georgia.

In the following years, the building got sold again to other business magnates until they sold it to the city of Etowah in 1993.

Ride the Hiwassee River Rail Adventure

Of course, your visit to Etowah isn’t complete without taking a train ride through the Hiwassee River Rail Adventure.

However, your adventure begins at the L&N Depot & Museum.

You’ll ride the train through the beautiful Cherokee National Forest, Hiwassee River, and the Hiwassee River Gorge.

Throughout the train ride, you’ll encounter scenic views along the river banks, lush and orange forests, the Appalachia Dam, and many more.

On warmer days, you’ll see visitors kayaking, canoeing, rafting, and tubing while onboard.

They also offer a Copperhill trip, which lets you enjoy the famous Hiwassee Loop.

The Etowah Depot Museum on Tennessee Avenue has a ticketing office for the magnificent Hiwassee River Rail Adventure.

The exciting trip takes four to five hours to complete.

Finally, the ride ends in Delano, Tennessee, seven minutes from Etowah.

Try the Famous Extra Crispy Wings at Mexi-Wing

Mexi-Wing is famous for serving delicious extra crispy wings and authentic Mexican food to its seven locations in Tennessee.

It’s the restaurant that you don’t want to miss visiting when you’re in Etowah because of its exclusive and homemade Mexican flavors.

They serve their famous chicken wings in many different flavors.

You can also enjoy their nachos, fajitas, burritos, tacos, seafood specialties, and much more.

Founded in 2000, Mexi-Wing should give you a hearty meal whenever you visit.

Its Etowah location is on Tennessee Avenue.

Taste the Tennessee Whiskey at Starr Mountain Distillery

There’s nothing better than tasting the famous Tennessee whiskey made in the beautiful city of Etowah, under the gorgeous Starr Mountain.

John Bohannon and Davey Ingram founded the Starr Mountain Distillery in 2016.

After hard times, the partners had to reform their company in 2018.

Today, the distillery has become a household name in the state for producing high-quality whiskey and other spirits, cocktails, mix-drinks, and more.

You can find Starr Mountain Distillery inside a 100-year-old building on Tennessee Avenue.

Visit the Tennessee Overhill Heritage Association

As a visitor of the beautiful city of Etowah, you deserve world-class guidance from the friendly staff of the Tennessee Overhill Heritage Association (TOHA).

As the main pilot area of McMinn, Monroe, and Polk counties, TOHA builds a unique tourism program.

The program they call the “Heritage Tourism Initiative” honors and preserves the three counties’ rich history, culture, tradition, and natural resources.

Likewise, the organization promotes all different cultural tourism in the three counties.

You can go kayaking, bird watching, horseback riding, and more in those places.

Established in 1990, the organization receives funding from local governments, donations, grants, income, and partnerships.

You can find the Tennessee Overhill Heritage Association on Tennessee Avenue.

Check the Artworks at Etowah Arts Commission

Arts in any medium are a vital part of a city’s culture and social traditions.

Like many cities, Etowah helps promote the artworks of its local talents by showcasing them at the Etowah Arts Commission (EAC).

You can also buy these artworks are also available for purchase, and admission is free.

The office also houses the Nancy Cantrell Dender Gallery, which exhibits different local artworks.

The gallery gets its name from the EAC’s founder, the late Nancy Cantrell Dender.

Founded in 1977, Etowah Arts Commission stands next to the historic Gem Theater.

Try the Healthy Drinks at Etowah Nutrition

It always pays to stay healthy, especially when you’re always on the road.

Traveling to this beautiful city doesn’t mean you lose access to your favorite healthy drinks.

At Etowah Nutrition, a smoothie & juice bar, you can choose from its tea-based shakes, smoothies, and juices menu.

Pick your choice of flavors, from chocolate, strawberry, lemon, watermelon, cherries, and many others.

These colorful juices will make your day!

Visit Etowah Nutrition if you find yourself in the city!

Other Things to Do Nearby

Etowah sits next to many other beautiful historical places, only a few minutes from the city’s heart.

You can enjoy fun in the water and other outdoor activities in the city.

Write a good story to tell your friends and loved ones!

Explore Cherokee National Forest

Scenic view of Cherokee National Forest waterfalls

Dee Browning /

Created in 1920, Cherokee National Forest gives the comfortable solitude of the forest.

When the seasons change, the forest also changes colors, from lush to red to deep red-orange.

Inside the national forest are beautifully maintained hiking and biking trails for you to enjoy.

It’s also home to more than 260 bird species, such as blue herons and sandhill cranes.

View from the top of Cherokee National Forest waterfalls

Dee Browning /

Enjoy the outdoors by fishing, kayaking, swimming, and boating.

Otherwise, you can try jet skiing, picnicking, horseback riding, canoeing, and water skiing.

It’s also rich in wildlife, so you shouldn’t miss taking photos of the animals roaming around you.

Cherokee National Forest spans almost 700,000 acres, shared between the states of Tennessee and North Carolina.

You can find the forest in Elizabethton, Tennessee, two hours from Etowah.

It might be a bit far, but the sights and activities are worth the journey!

Play Golf at Ridgewood Golf Club

At Ridgewood Golf Club, you can enjoy golf or take a course to bring out your best game.

The 18-hole course, complete with state-of-the-art equipment, features gorgeous lush forestry and rich wildlife.

Ridgewood Golf Club opened in 1968 after a careful and extensive construction with designs from William W. Amick.

It also houses a shop where you can get all things you need to play golf.

You can find this course in Athens, Tennessee, ten minutes from Etowah.

See More of the Textile Mill at Englewood Textile Museum

There’s much to learn around Etowah, especially about women’s lifestyles, in the Englewood area.

Englewood Textile Museum showcases the story of the textile mills in town.

Likewise, the museum tells the story of the women who worked there.

You can find it inside an antique shop, which houses local artifacts.

For example, you will also find a handmade trousseau from a previous worker who had never worn it.

There’s also a unique gift shop called the Company Store.

Check out the photographs, memorabilia from 1916, and some machinery, clothing, and fabric at the museum.

Englewood Textile Museum is in Englewood, Tennessee, 11 minutes away from Etowah.

Learn about Southeast Tennessee’s History at McMinn County Living Heritage Museum

Exterior of McMinn County Living Heritage Museum

Brian Stansberry, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Drive about 16 minutes away from Etowah to Athens, and you will find the McMinn County Living Heritage Museum.

It’s where you can find the preserved history of southeast Tennessee, particularly McMinn County, on permanent display.

You’ll see over 10,000 artifacts, memorabilia, artworks, and more at the museum.

It’s where you’ll find the culture and history of McMinn County that tells the life stories of the county’s notable figures from the 1700s to the present.

The museum has permanent exhibits, rotating exhibits, video archives, and other historic preservation.

Learning about a place you’re visiting is always fun, so don’t miss checking out the McMinn County Living Heritage Museum.

Try the Tennessee Wine at Tsali Notch Vineyard

Wine tasting doesn’t get any better at Tsali Notch Vineyard in Madisonville, Tennessee, 25 minutes from Etowah.

The vineyard specializes in growing the indigenous Muscadine grapes in the gorgeous and majestic views of the mountains.

The Muscadine grapes are indigenous to the Southeastern United States; the vineyard grows five of its varieties.

This focus on native grapes makes this winery unique in the country.

These varieties include the noble-dark, Carlos-bronze, Doreen-bronze, magnolia-bronze, and sterling-bronze.

The vineyard opened in 2004 and has become the largest vineyard in Tennessee.

Their tasting room allows you to taste all their wines for an affordable price.

Likewise, you can take some with you if you buy a bottle or more.

They also host private events and other special occasions like weddings, birthdays, and more.

Take a trip to Tsali Notch Vineyard and taste the authentic flavors of Tennessee!

Final Thoughts

Etowah is a historic small city and a hidden gem in Tennessee, featuring many tourist attractions and outdoor excursions.

With its rich history, culture, and tradition, you can trust that your visit to this beautiful city is worth the time and effort.

Plan your trip today and discover the best things to do in Etowah, Tennessee!

Experience its fun outdoor attractions, eat at their local restaurants, and ride a train to see the gorgeous mountains and clear waters!

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