Knoxville is an amazing city found in an excellent location about halfway between Nashville to the west and Charlotte, North Carolina to the east. People who enjoy the outdoors find this area to be spectacular. Go north and you will find the Daniel Boone National Forest in Kentucky. Go south and you will fall in love with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Name that Town!
Knoxville has many nicknames. They are the Gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains, Heart of the Valley, K-Town, Marble City, Queen City of the Mountains, and Scruffy City.
It was named Scruffy City after a publicity campaign created by Scott and Bernadette West who are the owners of the famous Preservation Pub. This was Knoxville’s answer to the “Keep Austin Weird” media campaign developed for the Austin, Texas music scene.
Before Nashville became known as the world’s country music capital, Knoxville was called the Cradle of Country Music. American country music can trace its roots to Knoxville.
Knoxville is famous for the soda pop called Mountain Dew that was developed in Knoxville during 1940. Mountain Dew is slang for moonshine, which is illegally-produced grain alcohol made by the locals who live in the mountains and the surrounding countryside.
Get the Lay of the Land from the Sunsphere
In downtown Knoxville, there is a watchtower called the Sunsphere. It was created as part of the construction of the 1982 World’s Fair. It sits in the center of the World’s Fair Park. The entrance to the Sunsphere is free. The reason you want to start your Knoxville adventure here is that from the Sunsphere you can get a view of all of downtown Knoxville, the Tennessee River, and the Smoky Mountains. This will help you plan where to visit in Knoxville from all the sights you can see from the Sunsphere.
See the Bears in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
If you want to see the abundant black bears found in the mountains of Tennessee, you can take drive through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The park’s border starts about 38 miles south of Knoxville on Highway 321.
Allow about one hour’s drive to get into the center of the park and then you can go for a hike or a bike ride. Resist the temptation to feed the bears. It is very dangerous and makes the bears sick. Instead, just enjoy the dramatic scenery and breath in the deliciously-fresh mountain air.
There are beautiful waterfalls, stunning views of the mountains, abundant wildlife, hiking trails, and campsites. At Cades Cove, which is a popular spot to visit, there are historical cabins, churches, and lovely picnic areas.
Get Back to Nature at the Ijams Nature Center
The Ijams Nature Center is a 315 -acre city park, located at 2915 Island Home Avenue in Knoxville, which is one of the top destinations for residents and guests. It features many wonderful hiking trails and outdoor activities that include bicycle riding, rock climbing, fishing, and an outdoor rope-adventure course that kids enjoy. Canoes, kayaks, and stand-up paddleboards are available to rent and use in the lake at the nearby Mead’s Quarry.
For a Good Time Out on the Town, Go Downtown
To get up to speed on local history, start with a visit to the East Tennessee History Museum. It is located at 610 South Gay Street. Then, enjoy viewing the exhibitions at the Knoxville Museum of Art that is just northwest of the Sunsphere in the World’s Fair Park.
Enjoy many of the fine restaurants and taverns plus the live music and events in Downtown Knoxville. There are street trolleys that make it easy to get around.
Take a stroll down the Knoxville Riverfront that runs down the bank of the Tennessee River. Enjoy a walking tour of the Old City. It has many art galleries, coffee shops, restaurants, and trendy bars. The Old City is a neighborhood that is full of historic buildings dating from the 18th century. The building facades have all been maintained as they were when first erected; however, the insides are renovated for modern conveniences. This is a favored area that serves as a hangout for both locals and tourists.
For those who like musicals, plays, and concerts, be sure to get tickets for a performance at the Tennessee Theater, located at 604 South Gay Street. It was built in 1928 and is easily found by looking for its brightly-illuminated sign on what is the first tall building built in the city.
Fill Up with Good Eats at the Central Filling Station
This is Tennessee’s first food-truck park. It is located at 900 North Central Street just off of Broadway. It is jam-packed with food trucks from Wednesday to Saturday. There is also a craft-beer bar for adults to enjoy.
Farm to Table Products at Market Square Farmer’s Market
Dozens of local vendors sell produce, fresh meats, and other locally-made products at the Market Square Farmer’s Market in downtown. The market stays open from May to Thanksgiving each year and then closes for the winter.
Polish Your Bowling Ball for Some Matches at Maple Hall
This fully-renovated bowling center has 11 lanes for the public to use and two lanes reserved for private parties. There are VIP rooms available to rent and a full bar. The lounge area has a stage where local performers frequently play. Join a team for league play and try to become the tournament champions or just bring the family for some bowling fun.
University of Tennessee
The University of Tennessee is downtown. It was established in 1794. There are 10 undergraduate colleges and 11 graduate schools. About 22,000 students are enrolled. On the campus, there are college football games and other events held at Neyland Stadium.
Take a Riverboat Cruise on the Star of Knoxville
This is a must-see thing to do in Knoxville. This traditional-style riverboat, with a paddle propelling it, holds 235 passengers. Enjoy lunch or dinner on board as it cruises up the Tennessee River. There are also special events with live music. The views are spectacular.
Another way to see the local area is to take a train ride on the Three Rivers Rambler. This steam-engine train starts in downtown and goes to the countryside for a 90-minute ride with delightful scenery to view. It operates on a limited schedule for special events. At the end of October, get spooky and scary on the All Hallows Eve Special. From October to December be sure to enjoy the Christmas Lantern Express for the holidays.
Time Travel at the Marble Springs State Historic Site
This landmark home and farm were once owned by John Sevier, who was Tennessee’s first governor and a hero of the American Revolution. He lived here from 1801 to 1815. It is a marvelous spot for a family picnic. Pets on a leash are welcome.
After lunch, stroll around the farm on well-maintained walking paths past the many springs on the land. Imagine what it was like to live the simple farm lifestyle of over 200 years ago and appreciate that you can now enjoy the modern amenities of Knoxville as well.
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