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Things to do in Cleveland TN

Cleveland, Tennessee, is next to the Appalachians and its rivers and rafting.Cleveland, Tennessee, is next to the Appalachians and its rivers and rafting. (Photo: waterfall image by kato from )

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Cleveland, Tennessee, is located about 35 miles northeast of Chattanooga and is becoming a tourist destination all its own, with scenic mountain vistas, a variety of outdoor recreation, historic and cultural sites and unique tours. Whether it’s the pulse-pounding thrill of whitewater rafting or the more sedate pastime of visiting Native American sites, Cleveland has something for just about everyone.


The area upon which Cleveland is built was home to prehistoric Paleo Indians living in the Hiwassee Valley 10, 000 years ago and was a center for Cherokee Indian tribes in the 18th and 19th centuries. The city of Cleveland was established in 1837 and named after Col. Benjamin Cleveland, a commander at Battle of Kings Mountain during the American Revolution. Although no major Civil War battle was fought here, Cleveland housed major officials from both Union and Confederate camps.

Cultural Activities

Thanks to its rich Native American past, Cleveland has a wealth of activities for learning about the earliest inhabitants of the area. A great place to start is the Red Clay State Historic Park, open year-round except Christmas and housing the last of the Cherokee Nation council grounds before the tribe's forced removal along the Trail of Tears. The park includes a Cherokee farm and council house, a sacred council spring, an interpretive center, a walking trail with limestone overlook tower and a picnic pavilion. Another historic site is the Hair Conrad Cabin at Blythewood Farms, where the Cherokee Chief Tekahskeh built a cabin in the 1800s. Blythewood also is a working farm that breeds championship show horses, so call ahead for schedule times.

Downtown Features

One of the lesser-known gems of Cleveland is its quaint downtown, bursting with charm and Southern hospitality. You’ll find Victorian-era homes, antebellum churches, antiques stores, boutique shops and various eateries. Get a guide book from the convention and visitors bureau and take a downtown walking tour to sites such as Regions Bank, the oldest continuously operating bank building in Tennessee, and The Spot, a unique restaurant built before 1900. Don’t miss the Museum Center at 5ive Points, filled with local history and a museum store and open Tuesday through Saturday. For something unusual, check out the Thunder Road Family Slot Car Center, where you can rent slot cars and the track by the hour.

Outdoor Recreation

Cleveland is a short distance from the Ocoee River, home of the 1996 Olympic canoe and kayak events, with Class III and IV rapids. Those 12 and older can take a guided raft trip on weekends from April through October and weekdays from June through August. Blue Moon Cruises offers a more genteel trip aboard a naturalist-guided boat through the Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge, where thousands of sandhill cranes winter from September through February. The 23-mile Hiwassee River is great for canoeing, fishing, hiking, skiing, boating, picnicking and nature photography. For marine wildlife fans, the Aquatic Wildlife Company’s 24, 000-gallon mariculture facility is the only wildlife center of its kind in the South. And if speed’s your thing, the Cleveland Speedway’s dirt track has races from June through November.

Wineries and Farms

Cleveland is home to two wineries, the Ocoee Winery and the Morris Vineyard and Winery, both of which offer tours and a variety of fine wines for all tastes. The Apple Valley Orchard houses a farmers market and bakery with fresh apple goods and related merchandise. And just minutes north of Cleveland is Mayfield Dairy, the largest dairy in the Southeast. Take the factory tour and see how ice cream and milk are packaged, then visit the gift shop to taste some of the yummy treats.

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