To me, Knoxville was a city that I’d driven through but had never really stopped to explore until a recent trip took me into the downtown area. Located near both the Appalachian and Smoky Mountains, Knoxville is well-known for its plethora of outdoor activities but it also boasts a hip downtown area with arts and culture venues, renovated buildings and lots of shopping and nightlife options.
Market Square seems to serve as the hub of downtown. It’s been in existence since 1854 as has always served as a market area to Knoxvillians. Today, shops and restaurants line the square and it’s bustling with activity. There’s a farmer’s market from May to November, First Friday events are held the first Friday of each month as well as other special festivals throughout the year, including the Biscuit Festival held in May.
For arts and culture, head over to the Tennessee Theater. An original movie palace back in 1928 when it was built, The Tennessee Theatre is considered a downtown jewel. It recently re-opened in 2005 and now hosts the hottest shows and musicians. Les Miserables recently entertained sold out crowds in January 2012.
For shopping, Mast General Store is known in the south to carry everything “from cradles to caskets”. They really do have a little bit of everything. Kids will enjoy the candy barrels while Mom and Dad can browse local wares, outdoor clothing and camping equipment.
If you’re in the mood for some libations, The Blue Slip Winery is downtown Knoxville’s first winery. Grapes come from vineyards from the surrounding area and everything else is done onsite. They offer a lot of fruit-based wines with strawberries, blueberries and muscadines. In 2012 they will also begin offering a sparkling wine.
Even the visitors’ center gets in on the action with live Americana and Bluegrass music each day around noon provided by the in-house radio station WDVX. Also unique is the Coop Café located in the visitor’s center that provides sandwiches, soups and salads.
Getting around downtown is also easy. There’s a free trolley system and parking after 6 pm and on weekends is free. Knoxville also offers heritage tours, ghost tours, tours of historic homes and way too much more to mention here. For more information, visit the City of Knoxville’s website at http://www.knoxville.org.