Surprise! Surprise! Knoxville, Tennessee, resting on the banks
of the Tennessee River and back-dropped by the foothills of the Great
Smoky Mountains, is one of travel’s best-kept secrets,
Surrounded by unsurpassed natural beauty, it is a magical meld
of rustic, Appalachian wilderness and a cosmopolitan downtown. Blending
small town charm with some big city attractions, it is perfect for that
quick get-away you’ve been promising to give yourself.
Market Square is a chill place to hang out in the heart of Knoxville.
restaurants, cafes, shops, a park, a fountain and pubs, it is a perfect
walking distance to the old city.
Krutch Park, just steps away from the hustle and bustle of Market
Square, is a one-acre scenic park with a pond with a flowing
stream and large sculptures on display (and for sale) by talented
artists. When Charles Krutch died in 1981 at the age of 94, he
surprised the City by leaving about $1.3 million in his will
for an urban park. Krutch stipulated that it be, “a quiet retreat
with trees, shrubs, flowers, and other planting for the pleasure and
health of the public.”
Situated in the heart of Knoxville on Market Square, The Oliver
Hotel…Knoxville’s exclusive boutique hotel…is an original expression of
the city. Originally built in 1876 as the Peter Kern Bakery, the
building has hosted everything from the Kern’s candy counter and soda
fountain to a drugstore, and dancing hall.
Known for it’s quirky, eclectic style, the hotel operated under several
names until it was purchased in 2011 and renovated by two young
developers who changed the name to The Oliver Hotel. The
hotel is the only boutique property in Knoxville with a style that
plays tribute to the buildings history, yet offers its charming
sophisticated rooms with modern amenities. Our 675-square–foot, two-room Market suite overlooking Market Square,
costs a fraction of the price you would pay for a big city suite.
OLIVER HOTEL OVERLOOKING MARKET SQUARE
Hotel’s Peter Kern Library, a cozy bar where Knoxville
socializes, cleverly incorporates its menus into old World Book
Encyclopedia covers. Check out the Southern food and
whimsical interior of the Tupelo Honey Café, a swinging place that
occupies the bottom level of the hotel, fronting
Market Square. Their divine mile-high biscuits and
goat cheese grits make you well aware that you are down South.
The Knoxville Zoo, exhibiting more than 230 species of animals, is
Knoxville’s largest year-round attraction. The zoo ranks
as one of the top two zoos in the world for the breeding of
endangered red pandas. Two red panda cubs, Tabei and
Tenzing, were born at the zoo on June 1, 2013. The birth of these
cubs brings the number of red pandas born at Knoxville Zoo to 106.
The Sunsphere is a hexagonal steel truss structure, topped with
a gold-colored glass sphere. It was constructed for
the 1982 World’s Fair. The 4th level of the Sunsphere now houses the
Observation Deck. It offers a 360-degree view of the original 1982
World’s Fair site (now World’s Fair Park), downtown Knoxville,
the Tennessee River, the University of Tennessee, and the Smoky
Mountains. There is no admission charge to visit the Observation
BENEATH THE SUNSPHERE IN WORLD’S FAIR PARK
Old Gray Cemetery, located in downtown Knoxville, was founded in 1850
and dedicated in 1852. Today Old Gray, on the National Register of
Historic Places, depicts Knoxville’s history and reveals excellent
examples of Victorian art and architecture.
Botanical Garden and Arboretum is a secret garden paradise
that grew from a family tree. Located two miles from Knoxville’s
city center in East Knoxville, its history spans more than 200 years of family,
flowers, and friends.
|ENTRANCE TO KNOXVILLE BOTANICAL GARDEN
The Bijou Theatre, built in 1909 as an addition to
the Lamar House Hotel (built in 1817), has at various times
served as a performance venue for traditional theatre, vaudeville, a
second-run movie-house, a commencement stage for the city’s
African-American high school, and a pornographic movie theater.
The Lamar House Hotel, modified in the 1850s, was added to
the National Register of Historic Places in
1975. After years of closure, deterioration, and threats
of demolition, the doors were opened again in 2006.
During our Knoxville weekend we sampled an astounding variety of
dining options. No dieting this trip!
If you have a hankering for contemporary Southern food made from
ingredients well-known to the region, try Knox Mason Restaurant located
of Gay St. in downtown Knoxville. Chef Matt Gallaher’s seasonally focused menu features
the finest available products that speak to the traditions of the
South. Don’t leave the restaurant without trying Matt’s
Tennessee Derby Pie made with Olive and Sinclair Chocolate, Jack
Daniels Tennessee Whiskey, Muddy Pond Sorghum Mousse and Whipped
The Crown & Goose, Knoxville’s first authentic London Gastropub, is
located downtown in the Knoxville Old City. Englishman Jeffrey
Nash, his wife Pat, and their son Jeffrey DeAlejandro launched the Crown
& Goose in 2008. In a traditional pub environment it
serves food that is “several steps above the usual pub
grub”. Enjoy a pint of their Crown and Goose Royal Stout as you
gather ‘round an exact replica of a 19th-century style London bar in
the adjoining Underground, inspired by an actual London
|THE UNDERGROUND BAR ADJACENT TO THE CROWN AND GOOSE GASTROPUB
two-and-a-half hour Starlight Escape Dinner Cruise aboard the
149-passenger Volunteer Princess yacht was an elegant escape on
the river. After a busy day of touring, we stepped
into a world of ease and were treated to breath-taking views that changed
with each of our four delightful dinner courses. On board we had
the first of several of our 25th anniversary celebrations.
|CELEBRATING 25TH WEDDING ANNIVERSARY ABOARD VOLUNTEER PRINCESS
Departing from the Volunteer Landing Marina, we traveled downstream on
the Tennessee River. Passing under the bridges of Knoxville,
the skyline included Neyland Stadium, Thompson Boling Arena, and the
Sunsphere. The cruise continued down river past
the legendary “Body Farm” (The University
of Tennessee’s Anthropological Research Facility) and into the
beautiful area of Sequoyah Hills. Before returning to port, we
continued down river past the new UT golf course and around Looney
Island (a sand bar in the Tennessee River).
A visit to Knoxville puts you in the middle of breathtaking scenery and
an abundance of recreational opportunities. You will discover more
than you might expect in Knoxville.
JANET STEINBERG is an award-winning Travel Writer/Editor and a
Travel Consultant with THE TRAVEL AUTHORITY in Mariemont, Ohio.