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The Secret’s Out About This Tennessee City

Get the inside scoop on what makes Oak Ridge – dubbed "The Secret City" – a great place to live and work.

By Livability on July 15, 2022

Melton Lake Park in Tennessee
Chad Steed

With a population of more than 31,000, Oak Ridge is one of Tennessee’s most livable communities. Thinking about moving to Oak Ridge? Here are some things you need to know about the “Secret City.”

Region Offers Outdoors Galore

The area isn’t short on outdoor amenities. Oak Ridge offers 17 public parks, 70 miles of trails and greenways in the city, and many sports fields, recreation centers and senior centers. Melton Lake Park boasts 173 miles of shoreline, walking, running and biking trails, and is also the site of a nationally ranked rowing venue.

People Can Afford to Live in Oak Ridge

Oak Ridge boasts a cost of living that is lower than the national average. The median home price in Oak Ridge is $248,350 (Zillow, May 2022), about 75% of the national average.

Did You Know?

Oak Ridge National Laboratory operates the fastest supercomputer in the world – named Frontier – that allows global science researchers to travel to Oak Ridge and tackle some of the most difficult challenges known to mankind.

About That Secret …

Formed in 1942 as a site for creating an atomic bomb, Oak Ridge was known as the “Secret City.” The city’s legacy continues today with signifi cant work in research, science, engineering, technology, supercomputing, energy and national security. The Y-12 National Security Complex and Oak Ridge National Laboratory continue to be the largest employers.

Rowing in Oak Ridge, TN
Nathan Lambrecht

Oak Ridge Knows Rowing

The Oak Ridge Rowing Association (ORRA) has promoted the sport in Oak Ridge and East Tennessee since 1978. Today, ORRA is home to the Atomic Juniors and Masters rowing teams. Practices and events take place on Melton Hill Lake. The Atomic Juniors is open to all area youth. One of the most popular programs that prepares kids for the Atomic team is a Learn-to-Row Juniors initiative for novices. ORRA offers annual membership options, with members having access to a boathouse, docks, race course, fitness facilities and audio-visual systems.

Oak Ridge Is a Great Place to Learn …

More than 75% of Oak Ridge teachers hold at least a master’s degree, and several Oak Ridge schools have implemented a science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM) curriculum to prepare students for high-tech careers.

… And to Have Fun While Learning

First conceived as a Girl Scout project, the Children’s Museum of Oak Ridge debuted in 1973 and today is situated in the city’s former Highland View Elementary School.

The building features 25 former classrooms outfitted with numerous interactive exhibits like A Century of Toys and 1930s Schoolroom, as well as the Manhattan Project National Historical Park Visitor Center.

Also on the must-visit list is the American Museum of Science & Energy, which tells the story of the advances in science and engineering that have taken place in Oak Ridge since the first days of the Manhattan Project during World War II. Several fun and interactive exhibits and programs are part of the museum, such as Everything Is Motion, Super Cool and You Are What You Eat.

Map of Oak Ridge, TN

Oak Ridge Is a Regional Hub

The city draws labor from 10 surrounding counties, giving Oak Ridge a daytime population of about 55,000.

The Arts Scene Is Spectacular

There is no shortage of talent in Oak Ridge, including in the cultural arts, which add to the community’s overall quality of life.

One of those organizations is the Oak Ridge Civic Ballet Association, which debuted in 1963 and has the longest continuously standing dance charter in Tennessee. Also entertaining local audiences is the Oak Ridge Symphony Orchestra, which has performed four concerts each season since its founding in 1944, and the Oak Ridge Community Band.

The Oak Ridge Playhouse stages local productions, while The Grove Theater is home to other community festivals and events. And at the Oak Ridge Art Center, about 50,000 visitors each year view its impressive collections of permanent artworks and rotating exhibits.

Enjoy Dinner Before Your Show

Diners have more than 60 independent restaurant choices in Oak Ridge, with patrons able to find everything from upscale cuisine to down-home favorites like catfish cakes and country ham. One of the popular hotspots is El Jinete, where the owners pride themselves on providing customers with tasty and flavorful authentic Mexican food in big portions. Other noteworthy dining options include Aubrey’s, The Soup Kitchen and DosBros Fresh Mexican Grill.

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