Most of the people who actually read my blog are familiar with Knoxville, Tennessee, but there are a few of you who aren’t, so here’s lookin’ at you, kid.
If you are in town for some reason, that reason usually being a UT football game (I’d say the city’s population doubles in size on home game Saturdays, but that’s a statistic I just completely made up), then here are a few more jaunts you should put on your list, draw a square beside it, and proceed to check off.
1. Visit the World’s Fair Park, historical home of the 1982 World’s Fair, especially if the weather is nice. You can head up to the Observation Deck of the Sunsphere for an aerial view of downtown Knoxville and a mini-museum exhibit showcasing what went down in K-Town in 1982. Surrounding the Sunsphere are acres of grassy knolls perfect for a game of Ultimate Frisbee, as long as you remember to bring your hippie gear, and a fountain pad that dances to music, as long as you remember to bring your swimsuit. And kids, creepster.
2. Speaking of fountains, you should definitely grab a milkshake at the Creamery Park Grille in Historic Fountain City. They make their own ice cream there, as well as their own barbecue sauce, so if you haven’t had lunch yet, forget I said anything about barbecue sauce and eat your dessert first, because Imma ’bout to tell you where to have lunch.
3. Across the street (ish) from the Creamery (as we locals call it) is Litton’s Market and Restaurant. When you walk in, go immediately to the old-fashioned Coke machine, buy yourself a glass bottle of Coke, and write your name on the chalkboard instead of searching for a hostess. You’ll instantly feel like a native Knoxvillian. Do not, I repeat, do not look at the menu, because I’ll tell you what to order. You’ll want to get the Burger Platter, add smoked cheddar cheese (and bacon if you’re feeling feisty). It comes with homecut fries, but I usually go for the onion rings. You haven’t had a cheeseburger until you’ve had a Litton’s cheeseburger. Save room for dessert (we’ll call the Creamery milkshake the “appetizer”) because they have cake, and it is ridonk. You’ll be able to find whatever your palate desires: Red Velvet, Italian Creme, German Chocolate…just don’t go overboard. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
4. Some thirty-ish miles east is the Tourist Trap known as Pigeon Forge. There are lots of things to do there, including go-karts, outlet-mall shopping, driving nearly two hours to get to Gatlinburg five miles away, Dollywood, Dollywood’s Splash Country if it’s hot outside, a minor league baseball game, and miles of kitschy touristy things to do like dressing up for your own Old Western Outlaw Poster. Just be prepared to inch (INCH, I say) along the main Parkway. There’s a stoplight every hundred yards or so, and on the weekends, everyone and their motorcycling mama floods to Dolly Parton’s hometown. Oh, you didn’t know this is where she was from? Don’t worry, the billboards will tell you so.
5. Knoxville is currently smack-dab in the middle of Sundown in the City, a free weekly Summer musicfest put on by the same folks who do Bonnaroo. Every Thursday, downtown Knoxville basically shuts down so music lovers and drunks alike can come listen to some solid tunes. It’s held at Market Square, a trendy little patch of Knoxville with great locally-owned restaurants, bars, and shoppes, and where everyone has a dog. But if live music or large crowds aren’t your thing, come hang out at the Square during the day. You might even get treated to some random flute music courtesy of the same guy trying to raise money for at-risk kids, or drug abuse education, or the blind. He’s got a very large bleeding heart, I think.
6. Make sure you enjoy a locally brewed beer at the Downtown Grill & Brewery, just a few blocks away from Market Square. Not only do they have some quality brews, but they have a nacho plate roughly the size of large cat. Don’t worry, there’s no cat in it, though. You can, however, add taco beef. When I was pregnant, I ate the half-sized nachos almost weekly. Just some size-comparison for you: a pregnant lady (me, duh) ate the HALF-sized nachos and was happy.
7. We have live music, we have dancing fountains, great food, and outlet malls. We also have the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. You’ll see how they got their name early in the morning, as you watch the mystical fog lingering over the mountaintops. It’s the stuff poetry is made of. You can hike, bike, camp, or picnic there, or do all four at Cades’ Cove, the most popular Smoky Mountain area around. I would suggest making a trip during the Fall, right around the second half of October, when the leaves have changed. The views are spectacular. East Tennessee has got to be one of the most glorious places to experience the changing of the seasons. Do yourself a favor and see it for yourself.
8. Attend a UT Vols football game. This is one I have yet to check off, but there’s nothing like being there for a big-rival SEC football game, and I can only imagine what it would be like in Neyland Stadium, the largest football stadium in the SEC (and one of the Top Ten Largest in college football). Just so you know, Vol fans are avid. But they’re also one of the friendliest batch of avid fans in the SEC. And I’m not just saying that because I live amongst them. Word of advice: learn the words to “Rocky Top” before you come. Or at least the appropriate time to “WHOO!” during the song.
9. There’s a lot of history to be found in Knoxville, but history’s not my bag, so you can just go to the Museum of East Tennessee History and see Davy Crockett’s gun Ol’ Betsy, and stroll around James White’s Fort, built during the Revolutionary War. I know only enough to be considered a proud Knoxvillian. My kid knows more because he likes history. Weirdo.
10. Okay, East Tennesseeans, chime in with your adorable Southern accents! What else is awesome about our town, not including its obviously cool residents? What sites have I missed?