Road Trip: Knoxville, Tenn.
Knoxville, Tenn., is more than a gateway to the Smoky Mountains or the University of Tennessee, says Catherine Saxon, communications manager for Visit Knoxville.
“Those are just part of the picture,” she says.
More important, she says, are the outdoor activities from fishing to bicycling that fill the day, arts and theater that crowd the evening, and restaurants that are popular any time.
Founded in 1786, Knoxville boomed when a rail line went through it in 1855. Those rails made it a target for Union and Confederate forces in the Civil War and helped its steady growth after the conflict.
Now, it is a great visitors' outpost with a variety of festivals including Dogwood Arts Festival in April and the International Biscuit Festival in May.
But the best aspect, Saxon says, is that “everything we do is local.” For instance, the restaurants that surround Market Square mostly are locally owned.
She is pleased that many people discover Knoxville because of the orange-clad Volunteers from the university, but says tourists soon discover “there is much more to do and see.”
Bob Karlovits is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com or 412-320-7852.
Enter, stage left
Knoxville is home to a tantalizing range of performing arts.
The Dogwood Arts Festival (www.dogwoodarts.com or 865-637-4561) combines them in a blend of the arts, culture and natural beauty. Naturally, it is centered in April, dogwood time. The Rhythm and Blooms Fest, part of the event, will provides a weekend of music April 20 to 22 at a number of sites downtown.
The Bijou Theater, downtown, (www.knoxbijou.com or 865-523-2665) is home to the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra and the Knoxville Jazz Orchestra, but it also is the site that houses visits of performers such as Citizen Cope on March 11 and the Banff Mountain Film Festival on March 25.
Meanwhile, for 40 years, the Carpetbag Theater (www.carpetbagtheatre.org or 865-544-0447) has explored issues of black empowerment. Besides presenting a series of shows, the non-profit, professional company also tours nationally and stages annual theater festivals.
Taking to the outdoors
The area offers plenty of activities outdoors, ranging from city parks with greenways perfect for casual walks to nearby rivers with water as white as snow.
The Knoxville area is filled with golf courses because of the fine weather. But all are not pro-level. The Concord Park Par 3 Golf Course overlooking Fort Loudon Lake provides a 1,100-yard course for all levels of talent. It even has a clubhouse and lessons from professionals. Details: 865-966-9103 or www.knoxcounty.org/golf/concord_par3.php
The website www.outdoorknoxville.com provides information on activities in the area, including rock climbing and fishing. Details 865-525-2585
Bike Knoxville provides a way of finding out about the area in a way that provides a healthy activity as well. With knowledgeable, skilled guides, riders can take tours that show off the city or the great land around it. Details: www.bikeknoxville.com or 865-368-6574
In touch with the past
In Knoxville, the past starts at the two-story home of James White, the founder of the city. He built the home on 1,000 acres given to him for fighting in the War for Independence. He later donated some of his land for the formation of the town. Details: www.jameswhitesfort.org or 865-525-6514
Knoxville's history centers greatly on the Civil War, but the Frank H. McClung Museum of the University of Tennessee makes sure visitors see the bigger picture. The museum has collections in anthropology, archaeology, decorative arts, local history, and natural history, dating back to prehistoric times. Details: 865-974-2144 or mcclungmuseum.utk.edu
Another overview of the area can be had at the Beck Cultural Exchange Center that features the history of African Americans in Knoxville and East Tennessee from the late 1800s to the present through photographs, newspapers, biographies, audio and video recordings, books and artwork. Details: 865-524-8461 or www.beckcenter.net
Putting the community on display
Museums and galleries provide a variety of ways of learning about a community.
The East Tennessee History Center, downtown, provides a look at the emergence of country music ands examinations of the history of the Cherokee tribe in the area and Tennessee's role in the Civil War. Details: 865-215-8824 or www.easttnhistory.org
Meanwhile, the Knoxville Museum of Art (865-525-6101 or www.knoxart.org) celebrates the art and artists of east Tennessee. The Bennett Galleries, an art-and-design center, looks at jewelry, arts, crafts and furnishings from all over the world. It also has interior-design services and a custom framing shop. Details: 865-584-6791 or www.bennettgalleries.com
Going to the game
Eastern Tennessee also offers a great deal of high-class spectator sports thanks to the University of Tennessee and its Volunteers. Football's Neyland Stadium, basketball's Thompson-Boling Arena and baseball's Lindsey Nelson Stadium are homes to high-level athletics that have featured such standouts as Peyton Manning. Details: 800-332-8657 or www.utsports.com.
The Tennessee Smokies baseball team offers its own brand of excitement. The team is a AA affiliate of the Chicago Cubs and plays in the Southern League. Details: 865-286-2300 or www.milb.com/index.jsp?sid=t553
Cashing in on the visit
Shopping is a big part of any trip.
The acquisition of souvenirs to record a visit is important, but sometimes a place offers a store that is truly memorable. Such is the case with 3 Rivers Angler (865-200-5271 or www.3riversangler.com). The store that handles clothing and gear for all kinds of fishing — a large activity in the area — and acts as source for up-to-the-day fishing reports.
It also offers trips, classes and equipment repairs, which should leave rod-and-reelers hooked.
But from an Apple store to Zales Jewelry, the Knoxville area runs the alphabetical gamut for shoppers.
Checking in to check it out
Finding a place in Knoxville to retreat to at the end of each day is easy.
The Crown Plaza (865-522-2600 or www.crowneknox.com) is in the middle of downtown, within walking distance of most business, entertainment and government sites.
Meanwhile, the Country Inn (865-693-4500 or www.countryinns.com/knoxville-hotel-tn-37923/tnknxced) in the busy Cedar Bluff area bills itself as a “new, hip hotel” and takes pride in rooms that have refrigerators, microwaves and 37-inch LCD flatscreens.
But if you want something unusual, try the Tennessee Boat Rest (865-312-9000 or tennesseeboatrest.com). At a downtown slip in the Tennessee River, boat owners rent their craft as places to stay, allowing a visitor an unusual “room” that is within walking distance of clubs, restaurants, and places to visit.