20 Best Things to Do in Sweetwater, TN

Sweetwater, TN
PasSaKorn22 / shutterstock.com

The city of Sweetwater sits in two Tennessee counties, Monroe and McMinn.

Incidentally, Sweetwater is also the most populous city in the former.

It might be small compared to the major cities in the state, but this city offers a unique natural feature, “The Lost Sea,” the biggest underground lake in the country.

You can find this lake in the Craighead Caverns.

Isaac Lenoir, politician and a son of nearby Lenoir City’s founder, sold many lots in the 1850s, which eventually developed into modern-day Sweetwater.

In 1875, the settlement became the town of Sweetwater.

Legend says that the town’s name came from the settlers’ descriptions of the springs in the area.

Today, Sweetwater offers plenty of natural attractions and unique destinations to satisfy all manner of guests.

For example, you can easily spend an entire afternoon browsing selections in the city’s historic shopping district.

You can also visit Sweetwater Valley Farm to taste their signature cheese.

Do you want to know more about Sweetwater, TN?

Here’s a list of the best things to do in the city:

Learn Appalachian History at the Charles Hall Museum

Far exterior view of Charles Hall Museum
Brian Stansberry, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Drive a bit farther this time to reach the town of Tellico Plains, Tennessee, where you’ll find the Charles Hall Museum.

This town is roughly 28 minutes away from Sweetwater.

Notably, this museum gets its name from Charles Hall, a local historian who began his life’s work in his boyhood.

He served as mayor of Tellico Plains for 31 years.

During his time, he collected several historical artifacts, now housed in two buildings.

Visit the museum to find more than 8000 artifacts, consisting of historical documents and photographs.

These artifacts might come in displays or be archived for research.

Besides papers and pictures, these memorabilia also include old telephones, antique currency, guns, and equipment, among many others.

Explore Underground Tennessee with The Lost Sea Adventure

Visit Sweetwater’s crowning natural attraction by joining a tour with The Lost Sea Adventure.

The tour begins with a journey through the Craighead Caverns, taking a 3/4-mile trip on sloping paths.

During the tour, experienced guides will also share the history of the caverns and the lake.

They can also explain how the cavern’s interior and rock formations developed over the years.

When you reach the cave bottom, you’ll then get on a boat and ride along “The Lost Sea,” America’s largest underground lake.

After the tour, you can visit the Lost Sea Village, which offers various gift shops.

Likewise, you can walk along a self-guided nature trail.

The lake tours are open every day of the year, save for Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.

Meanwhile, the gift shops are open depending on the season.

Grab Unique Items at the Sweetwater Flea Market

Even if you weren’t looking for something, you’ll surely find an interesting souvenir at the Sweetwater Flea Market.

This market hosts about 800 booths, with many vendors having plied their wares there for several years already.

These vendors also make sure to offer only the highest-quality items for your pleasure.

Likewise, the market has attracted many businesses that offer great products at bargain prices.

The flea market operates at a climate-controlled facility that’s as long as four football fields.

Bring home memorable trinkets from the Sweetwater Flea Market and liven up your home.

Try the Signature Cheese at the Sweetwater Valley Farm

You can find this farm in the dairy-rich Sweetwater Valley, between Loudon and Philadelphia, Tennessee.

The farm is proud of its progress over the years, which the land’s agricultural vitality has enabled.

Likewise, this farm belongs to a network of farms working in the region.

During your visit, you can stop by the Sweetwater Valley Farm store to sample their fine cheeses.

You can also see how they produce these cheeses before you can sample them.

From January to August, the farm continually produces cheese, so make sure to visit the farm in that span.

They also make cheese twice a week, usually.

Savor Artisanal Toffee at Towns Toffee Company

This woman-owned toffee company creates artisanal toffee in the heart of Sweetwater.

If you’re sick of eating toffee filled with artificial flavors or corn syrup, Towns Toffee should be your next stop.

The company produces handcrafted toffee using only locally sourced ingredients.

Likewise, the toffee products come in beautifully designed bags or boxes, enhancing this confection.

Moreover, the company continues to innovate on toffee by creating limited-edition flavors while keeping your favorite classics.

They also blend toffee with nuts, chocolate, and seasonal ingredients.

For example, you can try their signature original milk chocolate toffee to their new Oh My Crackers toffee.

Towns Toffee crafts deluxe toffee with their customers’ unique tastes and personalities in mind.

Liven Up Your Home with Sweetwater Antiques

Two large antique malls merged to form Sweetwater Antiques, which hosts over 35 dealers offering various unique items that fill every category.

For example, you can buy sewing artifacts, toys, transportation memorabilia, primitive items, vanity items, and many others.

These dealers also travel across the country to pick up only the best and most interesting items to sell.

Feel free to wander the facilities, measuring 10,000 square feet, filled to the corners with antiques.

The mall also ships items if you decide to order online.

They process all orders within 24 hours. Likewise, they also respond to queries promptly.

Stop and Smell the Flowers at the Sweetwater Flower Shop

For nearly 40 years, the Sweetwater Flower Shop has served the community, both residents and guests, by selling gorgeous, fragrant flowers.

The family-owned shop creates top-notch flower arrangements and gifts, along with friendly and prompt service.

Besides flowers and plants, the shop also carries one of the largest collectible selections in East Tennessee.

For example, you can grab items from Dept 56, Boydz Bears, and Precious Moments at this florist.

If you’re with a date at Sweetwater, then liven up your vacation by bringing back a bouquet from Sweetwater Flower Shop.

Prep Your Next Meal with WEE Farm

This family-owned farm stakes its business on sustainability.

They process vegetables and heirloom plants in their commercial kitchen, coming out fresh for customers ready to buy.

Likewise, the USDA-compliant commercial kitchen offers various food items, such as fine bread, pickles, jellies, confections, and jams.

Besides the kitchen, WEE relies on its sawmill.

They mill lumber for several purposes, to build farm supplies, create arts and crafts, or produce construction supplies and firewood.

Likewise, the farm upcycles pallet wood, old lumber, and barnwood.

The on-site woodshop lets the owners build useful items like kitchen boards, wood crates, planter boxes, shadow boxes, or picture frames.

They can also build birdhouses and small furniture.

If you want to keep a sustainable household, try grabbing a couple of items at WEE Farm.

Go on a Relaxing Spa Day at S.A.L.T. Body Spa

S.A.L.T. Body Spa is a beach-inspired full-service spa center residing within the historic area of Sweetwater.

It aims for total body rejuvenation with services that cater to both the body and the mind.

From hydration sessions to sugar scrubs, you are sure you can find the best treatment that suits your body's needs at this spa.

The spa also offers beautification treatments, including lash lifts, brow tints, and waxing services.

Are you ready to meet the new you?

Get going to East Walnut Street to get to S.A.L.T. Body Spa.

Learn about Sweetwater's Past at the Sweetwater Heritage Museum

Want to add a historical excursion to your existing itinerary?

Then, you would like the Sweetwater Heritage Museum.

This small museum is home to a variety of artifacts and photographs detailing the past of the city.

Browse through memorabilia collections and learn more about Sweetwater's agricultural and industrial past.

And the best part is you don't have to pay an admission fee to enjoy the museum's offerings.

The Sweetwater Heritage Museum is open on weekends on the corner of High and North Streets.

Watch a BBQ Competition at Blooms, Bluegrass, & BBQ Festival

Come and get your cultural taste of Sweetwater at Blooms, Bluegrass, & BBQ Festival.

Held annually in the downtown area of the city, this event brings you closer to Sweetwater's proudest delights: barbecue and bluegrass music.

Bring the whole family together for a day of child-friendly activities, including carnival attractions and a kid's zone.

There's also a Picker's Corner program where you can showcase your musical prowess.

And while you find yourself at the center of the celebration, enjoy a bite of tasty barbecue.

Blooms, Bluegrass, & BBQ Festival bedazzles Main Street and Railroad Street with live entertainment every May.

Go on an Architectural and Historical Tour around Sweetwater

Sweetwater's abundance of historical landmarks is enough for anyone to enjoy a self-guided historical tour.

One of the city's promising landmarks is the 1981 Sweetwater Train Car on Circle Park.

This once-operating train car ran along the Southern Railway.

The Civil War Trails and Overhill Markers tell the interesting war and agricultural past of Sweetwater.

Be sure to make a stop at The Lily Pad on Main Street, too.

While the building now serves as a boutique, it once went by the name Thomas-Hill Department Store and also acted as a bank back in the day.

Within J.T. McKinney Dry Goods, there's also an antique elevator that's worthy of a visit.

Donated in 1908, The Carriage House is another great stop on your historical tour.

This bread-and-breakfast home was once a library from its year of donation up until 1981.

And there are more attractions and buildings you can explore all over the city if you only know where to look.

Go for an Evening Stroll along Duck Park

Duck Park is one of the rarest gems of the city.

Popular for its unassuming scenery and relaxing nature setting, this park contains paved trails and a bridge where you can see the ducks up close.

This park is also close to the historical district of Sweetwater.

Go for a jog or a walk along the trails and escape the buzz of the city.

Duck Park is on Old Highway 68 if you're interested to visit.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Try Muscadine Wine at the Tsali Notch Vineyard

Drive 13 minutes from Sweetwater to reach the city of Madisonville, Tennessee.

This city hosts the Tsali Notch Vineyard, offering specialty wines made from muscadine grapes.

What makes these grapes unique?

The muscadine grape’s nickname is “America’s Wild Grape,” featuring a uniquely robust flavor befitting its moniker.

Likewise, the grape contains very high amounts of antioxidant resveratrol.

The vineyard comprises 35 acres of a 202-acre estate, standing at an average of 1,150 feet with surrounding mountain views.

During your visit, you can check out the spacious party barn and a tasting room made from a log building.

However, its main attraction for parties is The Jackson Lounge, a 19th-century two-room farmhouse that has undergone major refurbishing.

Visit the vineyard from September to October to join the harvest season.

You can pick your muscadine grapes to make juice or wines yourself.

In late September, the vineyard also hosts the National Muscadine Festival to celebrate “America’s Wild Grape.”

Bring Your Family to the Mayfield Dairy Farms

You can reach this historic dairy farm by driving 21 minutes from Sweetwater to the city of Athens, Tennessee.

This farm started in 1910 when T.B. Mayfield, Jr. bought 45 Jersey cows and delivered milk to his neighbors in Athens.

Four generations later, the Mayfield milk and ice cream business has expanded to become one of the country’s favorite dairy brands.

Today, the Mayfield Dairy Farms continues to produce top-quality dairy items.

You can visit the farm yourself and join a quick tour behind the scenes of their dairy-making operations.

Then, browse souvenirs at the Mayfield gift shop and buy your favorite ice cream at the farm’s classic ice cream parlors.

Enjoy a scoop of ice cream with the whole family.

Learn Local History at the McMinn County Living Heritage Museum

The rich and stormy history of southeast Tennessee unfolds before you at the McMinn County Living Heritage Museum, located in Athens.

During your visit, you’ll find 30 permanent exhibits featuring the story of the Cherokee peoples and the early settlers, along with local life through 1940.

Besides permanent exhibits, the museum also hosts rotating displays throughout the year.

During the fall, the museum also hosts its yearly quilt show.

The museum then hosts its annual hooked rug show and hook-in during the spring.

If you explore the museum grounds, you can find its patio and amphitheater, with a rain garden to store, filter, and purify rainwater.

The museum is also fully accessible for people with handicaps.

Explore the Outdoors at the Gardens of Sunshine Hollow

Go back to Athens this time and visit the Gardens of Sunshine Hollow, which features majestic forests and gardens, along with a trail network.

These trails cross terraced beds arranged to surround the two-acre lake with a creek.

If you plan to visit with a group of 15 or more guests, book a lunch reservation from April to July.

This small agribusiness operation covers only a little bit of the 160 acres of untouched Tennessee forest tucked in the Great Valley.

The Gardens feature thousands of perennials, including roses, dahlias, iris, and cannas.

You can also find several annuals and shrubs planted on over 20 acres.

Likewise, you can buy many varieties of Daylilies and Hosta in the garden.

Then, you can even tie the knot at the outdoor wedding area, along with the reception center.

For other occasions, the event center is also available.

Grab pecan fruitcakes at the Sunshine Hollow Bakery before you leave.

Go Diving at the Loch Low-Minn Scuba Diving Resort

This scuba diving resort isn’t in the ocean but rather in an abandoned quarry lake repurposed into a dive resort.

In the 1970s, the original quarry shut down, and the land remained untouched for two decades.

Passionate scuba divers Rick and Stacy Low arrived in 1996, bought the quarry, and began developing it into a diving resort.

In 2014, the Lows sold the resort to Alexandre Smirnov, who continued scuba operations.

Today, the 10-acre resort offers terrific diving and top-notch amenities.

The clear waters show you several species of fish, such as bluegills, catfish, bass, and paddlefish.

You might even find artifacts tucked in hidden corners of the lake depths.

Trained staff will also take care of all your needs so you can focus solely on diving.

Grab a Hearty Dinner at Buddy’s Bar-B-Q

In 1972, Buddy Smothers and his wife Muriel inaugurated Buddy’s Bar-B-Q in Kingston Pike, West Knoxville, Tennessee.

Today, the barbecue restaurant has expanded to 19 branches all over Tennessee, along with a custom catering and the Bearden Banquet Hall.

The Buddy restaurants treat each customer as if they were house guests stepping inside the Buddy family’s house.

If you stay in Athens, you can savor a full delicious meal at the Buddy’s Athens branch on Decatur Pike.

Grab fresh, flavorful food at excellent prices, dashed with old-fashioned Southern hospitality.

Finish your Sweetwater trip with a nice family dinner.

Check Out Vintage Aircraft at the Swift Museum

You can find this aviation museum at the McMinn County Airport in Athens.

During your visit, you’ll find displays of Swift airplanes.

For example, the museum features the #1 prototype Swift plane and modified Swifts produced from 1946 to 1951.

Likewise, you can find two T-35 Buckaroo USAF trainers on display, which the Air Force tested in the 1950s.

One of these T-35s is an armed version given to the museum by the Saudi Arabian Air Force.

You can join the museum’s individual or group tours, too.

Final Thoughts

Sweetwater is a charming small city with plenty of attractions to offer tourists of all stripes.

Likewise, it’s an exceptional gateway to nearby towns and cities with unique destinations if you want to switch things up.

Spend your next holiday in the peaceful city of Sweetwater!

Spotted a mistake, have some feedback, or just want to chat with our editorial team? Click here to get in touch.
Find out more about Travel Lens and read our editorial guidelines here.