Visiting Knoxville - What to See and Do
(Knoxville McGhee Tyson Airport TYS, USA)
One of Tennessee's bigger cities, Knoxville
is a great travel destination for those in search of Appalachian chic. Its location along the mighty Tennessee River, just 30 minutes from the Great Smoky Mountains, ensures that nature is never far from the city scene.
Knoxville has been shedding its gritty facade in recent years, as its underappreciated downtown area is continually being transformed into a collective of creative cafés, galleries, boutiques, bars and tourist attractions. Market Square is the hub of the action, propelled along in no small part by the University of Tennessee's student population.
The real charm of Knoxville is just kicking back and enjoying its relaxed town atmosphere. With the Smoky Mountains just next-door, the outdoor recreation possibilities around the city are endless. Be sure to visit the city's zoo as well - it is a real gem.
Ten things you must do in Knoxville
- Market Square is the nexus of the city's downtown revitalization movement. This historic market site still holds a Farmer's Market twice a week, although its quaint brick warehouses are now home to trendy cafés, bars and boutiques. This is a fantastic area to come for a stroll, some people watching and a bite to eat.
- Knoxville Zoo is one of the star attractions here. For a city of its size, Knoxville has done very well for itself building this wildlife center where visitors can see most of the big game creatures, along with unique critters like red pandas and river otters. The zoo is a little way out of the city, but it is worth an afternoon, especially if you have kids along.
- If you've been to the Louvre or New York's Met, then the Knoxville Museum of Art won't blow your mind. It is a decent enough art gallery and one of the few cultural distractions available on a rainy day. The museum's permanent collection is all post-modern, but it receives around 12 touring art exhibits yearly, and some of them are quite interesting.
- One of the nicest parks in the city is actually part of the University of Tennessee campus. The UT Gardens contain over 1,000 trees and 2,000 species of various plants. It is a 12-acre / 5-hectare site and certainly worth a visit if you feel like a quiet stroll. The university campus is adjacent, offering additional territory to explore with a more lively atmosphere.
- The Smoky Mountains are a mere 30 minutes by car from Knoxville, offering miles of hiking trails and acres of wilderness to explore. There are lots of activities to do in the park all year round, from 800 miles / 1,290 km of hiking trails to horseback riding, boating and fishing. Less strenuous endeavors can be had by simply driving the 11-mile / 18-km Cades Cove Loop Road that exposes you to the beauty of these mountains, together with several 19th-century home sites.
- Four historic theaters in downtown Knoxville keep the locals entertained throughout the year with a solid array of live concerts, plays and symphony performances. From the historic Tennessee Theater and Bijou Theater to the modern performances at the Black Box Theater, you can be sure of finding something intriguing scheduled.
- The House Mountain State Natural Area is the closest outdoor recreation area of note. Located just outside the city, this 525-acre / 212-hectare park is ideal for a quick escape from the city. There are some 5 miles / 8 km of easy trails, frequent wildlife sightings, plenty of outdoor attractions and an interpretive kiosk that can give you some background on the area.
- You can enjoy the beautiful Tennessee River by going down to Knoxville's stylish Volunteer Landing. This river walk along the banks of the Tennessee is perfect for a stroll right in town. It also has a seriously fun set of splashing fountains that encourage people to run around and get wet in the summer.
- Take the Three Rivers Rambler, a historic coal-fired steam train, upriver from Knoxville to the headwaters of the Tennessee River. It departs from the popular downtown river walk for a short, but very scenic and fun ride on this old-style train, right along the banks of the river.
- The basketball program at the University of Tennessee is among the best in the country. The Volunteers are the men's team and the Lady Vols are the women's team, both of which are regular contenders to win the NCAA basketball championship each March. The Lady Vols in particular have dominated their league for years. Catch a home game of either team at the Neyland Stadium on campus - with its capacity of 100,000+ people, it is never a dull event.