Recently, we traveled to Knoxville for the weekend. While we went for work, we found a little time to play also. Most of the travelers who stop by Knoxville are there for the University of Tennessee, or to visit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Our weekend visit was quick and required us to stay primarily in the downtown area, but just the little we saw of Knoxville was enough for us to make the decision that we would definitely be back!
I always like to start out in every new city just trying to get my bearings and orientate myself. The best way to do this is by simply walking. Head downtown or uptown and simply walk around town, getting a feel for what the city has to offer and what the vibe is like. We arrived in Knoxville late at night on a Friday, and after checking into our hotel at 11pm, we hit the streets, walking a couple blocks, just to see what was going on. This is a great way to locate some key places you may want to hit up later in your stay, especially if you didn't do any research ahead of time. If you already have an idea of some of the places you may want to visit, this still allows you to locate them in conjunction to where you're staying, that way you don't have to spend precious time seeking them out later.
Knoxville has an adorable downtown, anchored by a large square called Market Square, and is surrounded by shops and restaurants. This is where we spent most of our free time when we weren't working. One of my favorite shops that I love visiting every time I go to Asheville is the Mast General Store. It has an old-timey feel with modern-day products, from hiking and camping gear to pet accessories to jewelry and leather wallets. Imagine my surprise when I found out there is a Mast General Store in Knoxville, and it's actually one of nine locations! Of course I grabbed a postcard or two on my way out.
Strong Alley, more commonality referred to as Graffiti Alley to Knoxville residents, is located just behind Market Square near Gay Street. It was the first part of the Artist Alley Revamp Project, a movement that worked to rid the city of tagging and illegal graffiti and instead replace it with commissioned artwork. With work spaces ranging from 3x3 to 10x10, the project has seen huge success between the various artists, as well as the business owners providing the space. In fact, the project has been met with such positive feedback, that it has been expanded to other parts of the city.
I'm always in search of a good beer, and the best place to find these is usually at the source. Knoxville has a solid list of breweries to offer, and even better are the ones that have a food menu. Since we were staying and working downtown, we kept our visits to places that were walk-able. This brought us to the Downtown Grill & Brewery, a micro brewery located a block behind the main square. With lots of seating and almost as many TVs, this was the perfect place to grab a drink and watch the Hokies game that was on. Splitting some chips and queso and a pizza, we were satisfied. The only thing that made it better was, as we were about to pay, we realized that a pint of beer in Knoxville is considerably cheaper than in Charlotte, and made it a point to grab another couple of drinks before heading out.
For breakfast Sunday morning, we walked a couple blocks to a small French creperie on the fringes of the main square downtown. The French Market Creperie has an adorable French style with a huge menu that includes more than just crepes. From standard breakfast sandwiches to beignets, crepes sweet or savory, and pastries of every kind, the French Market is sure to please. If you enjoy sitting at a small patio table and watching the town wake up, whilst perhaps sipping on a very strong espresso, this might just be the place for you.
While Knoxville has lots of permanent attractions and natural resources that are worth checking out, sometimes the best things are those that cannot be (or were not) planned. In this case, it was the Great Llama Race of 2018. Now, a lot of people seemed to know about this event ahead of time, as there was a very large crowd gathered. I, however, did not know about this event, making it all the much more enjoyable as what could possibly be better than stumbling across an unexpected llama festival? The idea behind the event was to pair up a local celebrity with a school in Knoxville, as well as one llama from the Southeast Llama Rescue. The llamas would race in heats and the whole event was designed to raise money for the schools, the llamas, and at-risk children and families in the area. The event also featured lots of food, artisan vendors, and llama-related activities. For more information, check out http://thegreatllamarace.com/
I travel and then I write about it. I hope you enjoy my experiences, and can learn from my trial and errors!