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Knoxville, Tennessee

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Did You Know … ?

  • Frontiersman Davy Crockett was born in Greene County, east of Knoxville, in 1786.
  • When Knoxville hosted the 1982 World’s Fair, it was the smallest city (180,000) to host an international exposition.
  • On a spring day in 1974, an estimated 5,000 people streaked down Cumberland Avenue.
  • The first touch-screen computer displays were demonstrated at Knoxville’s 1982 World’s Fair.
  • The Oak Ridge National Laboratory, pivotal in the development of the A-bomb, is 20 miles south of Knoxville.

Celebrating Davy Crockett

The headwaters of the Tennessee River cut through downtown Knoxville in eastern Tennessee. The Cumberland Plateau rises to the northwest and the Great Smoky Mountains to the southeast, a circumstance that moderates weather extremes for the city. The Tennessee Valley Authority constructed dams on the Tennessee and other area rivers, adding artificial lakes to this mix.

The net effect is to offer visitors access to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, to area lakes and rivers for boating, fishing and paddling, and to in-city green spaces that include the 1,000-plus-acre Knoxville Urban Wilderness with its forests and rolling hills.

Knoxville was the scene of Civil War battles in 1863-1864. Visitors can see remains of some of the forts that surrounded the then-small city (population: 4,000). The past is on display, as well, in historic houses and neighborhoods. For example, Confederate Memorial Hall is a mid-19th century home used as a Civil War battle headquarters. Old City is an area of warehouses repurposed as restaurants, shops and nightspots.

Knoxville hosted a World’s Fair in 1982. With more than 11 million visitors, it was a success — and Knoxville gained a downtown park, the World’s Fair Park, in place of unused rail yards. It also gained the 266-foot Sunsphere, now a city landmark and, with its observation deck, a way for visitors to get a unique perspective on Knoxville and its neighborhoods.

The University of Tennessee campus is one such neighborhood. Collegiate sports bring visitors by the thousands, but the university enriches the city’s cultural calendar, too, with its museums, theater, art exhibits and special events, not to mention a slice of nightlife that appeals to the young.

Separately, the city makes its own mark in the worlds of art and music. First Friday gallery walks highlight works available for viewing and sometimes for purchase. The city has several music-themed festivals; one is combined with the monthlong Dogwood Arts Festival. Visitors also enjoy Knoxville’s free concerts, offered regularly.

Further, annual events include a Cherokee Heritage Day and the Kuumba Festival presented by African American Appalachian Arts, Inc. And, the East Tennessee History Fair celebrates Davy Crockett’s birthday.

Things to do for Venturers

  • Cycle through some part of the 42 miles of pathways in the Urban Wilderness’ Southern Loop Trail, three miles from the heart of downtown.
  • Refresh yourself with whitewater rafting on the Pigeon River in the Great Smoky Mountains.
  • Explore the bars, clubs and eateries in the Jackson Avenue Warehouse District, in Knoxville’s Old City area. Or, leave town to sample the shine at Ole Smoky Moonshine Distillery or Sugarlands Distillery, both in Gatlinburg.
  • See the Smokies and the Knoxville area from a helicopter.
  • Get serious about your music at the avant-garde Big Ears Festival, held in March.  Within a few weeks of that, the Dogwood Arts Rhythm ‘n Blooms Festival focuses on “American roots” music.
  • Take basic Cherokee language lessons or hand drum instruction at Cherokee Heritage Day in June. Other features include Cherokee dances and Cherokee storytelling.

Things to do for Centrics

  • Love biscuits? In spring, celebrate the food at the International Biscuit Festival on Biscuit Boulevard for a bakeoff, biscuit brunch, a Mr. and Mrs. Biscuit contest and a food writers’ conference.
  • Hear Jazz on the Square, free outdoor concerts on Market Square each Tuesday May through August. There are other free concerts, too, on Market Square or at the Cove in Concord Park.
  • Satisfy your curiosity about life in the Appalachian Mountains with a trip to the Museum of Appalachia in Clinton about 20 miles northwest. It displays a large collection of farm buildings and cabins, plus a church and a school.
  • Take a walking tour with a Civil War theme. Fort Dickerson is a rare example of surviving Civil War fortifications.
  • If a birder, head to Sharp’s Ridge Memorial Park, which not incidentally offers spectacular views of the Smoky Mountains.
  • Paddle a canoe from the French Broad River or the Holston River to the Tennessee River as far as downtown Knoxville. You can toss a fishing line into the Tennessee right in town, too.

Things to do for Authentics

  • Schedule time at the only museum devoted to women’s basketball, the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame. Or, for a quite different choice, see the McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture, which emphasizes local culture but devotes space to cultures from around the globe.
  • Make a day trip to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
  • Get great views of Knoxville and its valley setting from the observation deck at the Sunsphere, a remnant of the 1982 World’s Fair. Look over the World’s Fair Park, too.
  • Participate in a First Friday walkabout, which allows the time to take in quite a few of the city’s art galleries in a short time.
  • Book a seat for a performance at the historic Tennessee Theatre; this could be a stage play, the Knoxville Opera or the Knoxville Symphony. Or, see a show at the University of Tennessee’s Clarence Brown Theatre.
  • Tour any or all the seven Historic Homes of Knoxville, ranging from log cabins to frame houses and stone mansions.

Additional Resources

For more information, consult Visit Knoxville at