Explore Knoxville’s Outdoors, Music, Food and Culture Scene

Explore Knoxville’s Outdoors, Music, Food and Culture Scene

Knoxville, Tennessee is full of delicious food choices, beautiful outdoor scenery and cultural offerings sure to make you want to visit again and again.

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When you first think of Knoxville, Tennessee, you may think of themes like football, it’s a college town or the color orange. What you may not know and can soon discover is Knoxville is a city that's dedicated to arts, music and the outdoors.

Knoxville is about three and a half hours from Nashville, and is a beautiful drive. Take a weekend in the fall to see the trees rich with color. The scenery alone is worth the drive! Once in Knoxville, you’ll experience a whirlwind of music, culture, delicious food and gorgeous landscapes. Here’s what you can see and do in The Marble City. Trust me, you’ll want to start planning a trip pronto!

EAT

BREAKFAST

Coffee & Chocolate, Knoxville
A cozy destination in Knoxville: Coffee & Chocolate

Coffee & Chocolate: This cozy spot is next to Market Square and like the name suggests, serve coffee and chocolate. Order a mocha and blueberry a muffin for breakfast and get some chocolate for later. (The pumpkin spice chocolate changed my life.)

OliBea, Knoxville
The ultimate brunch spot is OliBea

OliBea: This breakfast spot is located in Knoxville's 'Old City'. Their take is simple; simple food, local ingredients, seasonal menu. The Olibea Chicken Biscuit and Olibea Pancakes were my favorites with some yummy hot chocolate to drink.

Located in Market Square, Tomato Head has been known for good, quality, local food for years – before it was a trend. You need to try their brunch specifically and go all in by ordering the waffles. Tomato Head does not disappoint. The food is delicious and it’s a great local spot to meet those brunch goals with friends.

LUNCH

After a morning of exploring and walking around Knoxville, you're bound to work up an appetite. We stopped in Sweet P's Downtown Dive and, boy, did it hit the spot. Dine on pulled pork sandwiches, ribs, mac n' cheese, tater salad, green beans and sweet tea. You’ll want to be a regular patron after one meal.

Yassin's Falafel House, Knoxville
Comfort food can be found at Yassin's Falafel House

Yassin's Falafel House: If you want to have a delicious, affordable lunch in a laid back environment, Yassin's is the place to go. Order the chicken gyro with french fries and a coke. It will hit the spot on any given day! There's 30 minute parking on that street, so it's easy to drop by and pick up your meal.

 DINNER

Emilia Italian in Knoxville
Emilia Italian serves up delicious cuisine in the heart of Knoxville. 

Emilia: Knoxville definitely delivers in the dinner department! Emilia Italian is, hands down, some of the best Italian food I’ve had. Start with an order of the Grilled Romaine Salad and Bruschetta as an appetizer. Then, order the Bolognese and Meatballs. Save room for dessert; you need Tiramisu.

The Bistro at the Bijou is a cute, intimate setting with delicious food. A lot of the ingredients served are local. The Bistro at the Bijou Restaurant is located in one the most historic buildings in downtown Knoxville. The Bijou also has a speakeasy for specialty drinks and they host live jazz music. The Bistro at the Bijou is perfect for date night.

Wild Love Bakehouse, Knoxville
Get there early for the fresh baked goods found at Wild Love Bakehouse

Bonus: If you want to grab coffee and a croissant sometime during your stay as a mid-day snack, stop by Wild Love Bakehouse. This is a great place to hang out, check emails or catch up with a friend over coffee.

SHOPPING

If you're hanging out in Market Square eating at Tomato Head or Emilia's, there's a ton of great shopping.         

Earthbound Trading Co., Knoxville
Lifestyle pieces can be found at Earthbound Trading Co. 

Earthbound Trading Co. is a lifestyle shop for the nomadic spirit who embraces individuality and craves exploration. This boutique sells a bunch of different things from apparel and accessories to home decor. Each piece ignites adventure and celebrates diversity.

Bliss is one of my favorite places to shop when I'm in Knoxville. Bliss sells trendy women's apparel with accessories and home decor. When you walk in, there's a table of UT apparel and gear to the left; just in case you need a last-minute piece for the big game!

Earth to Old City, Knoxville
Find fashion and lifestyle gems on every shelf at Earth to Old City in Knoxville

Earth to Old City. Earth to Old City was such a fun boutique to visit. There are gems on every shelf and it’s the perfect place to get a lot of Christmas shopping done! From nick nacks to socks to cute home decor, you'll find yourself spending so much time in here laughing at the sassy and funny items you find and Instagram-ing them.

Fizz is another boutique in Market Square. They have tunics, hats and tons of jewelry. It’s a great place for some souvenir fashion gifts for the special women in your life.

Tori Mason, Knoxville
Shoe dreams come true at Tori Mason in Knoxville 

Next to Fizz is Tori Mason Shoes. Tori Mason is a division of Fizz so the decor and shoes are darling. They have a variety of styles, colors and heel heights, and anyone would find a shoe they love in Tori Mason.

Nothing Too Fancy, Knoxville
Get game day ready at Nothing Too Fancy.

Around the corner from Market Square is Nothing Too Fancy. This store had the coolest local tees and hats! If you want a UT or a vintage tee/tank top, stop by Nothing Too Fancy.

My Kind of Lovely, Knoxville
Darling accessories can be found at My Kind of Lovely

Bonus: Drive 15 minutes outside of Market square and check out My Kind of Lovely. MKL is located next to Publix on the second floor of the shopping center. There you'll find sorority gifts, the cutest clothes and accessories.

SAMPLING SPIRITS

Want to spend some time drinking local wines and spirits? Knoxville has plenty of places. In fact, it's fun to do a crawl and sample a few!

Start at the Blue Slip Winery. This winery is located at the Historic Southern Railway Station in downtown Knoxville. It’s the city’s first winery and Tennessee’s first urban winery. The wine is made from all locally-grown fruit from Tennessee growers. Blue Slip also makes all of their wine on-site.

Blue Slip also has a fun event like Train Car dinners on Valentine's Day, Food Truck nights, events, parties and more. The cool thing is you can walk the train cars housed at the railway station.

After the winery, go to Knox Whiskey Works. Knox Whiskey Works is Knoxville's first (legal) distillery. Established in 2015, they craft award-winning Old City Heirloom Corn Whiskey from local corn. Once distilled, it is placed in new charred oak barrels to rest until it becomes bourbon.

Along with corn whiskey, Knox Whiskey Works produces Jackson Ave Gin, barrel-aged Marble City Pink Gin, Cold City Old Brew Coffee Liqueur, Fleur de Vie Liqueur, Tennessee Tailgate Orange Vodka and new products are always "in the Works."

Take a tour of their distillery to learn how each drink is made and then test each drink. You’ll definitely want to try the Marble City Pink Gin and Fleur de Vie. The staff was knowledgeable and so much fun to get to know.

If you're up for a walk, leave your car in the parking lot across the street from Knox Whiskey Works and walk 5 minutes to PostModern Spirits down the road. PostModern Spirits is a newer distillery with a cocktail bar in a fun, modern setting. You can sit at the bar, a table or in a comfy chair and enjoy a signature cocktail. Or, try all their spirits. The Cacao Liqueur is a standout and could be a great hit for the holiday season.

ART

Knoxville is full of places that offer you to take in art for free. Take a day to hit up all of the great museums in Knoxville. The Knoxville Museum of Art’s current exhibits are American Impressionism, Higher Ground, art from local artists, and a glass exhibit. You can read all about these exhibits here.

The Art Market Gallery is around the corner from Market Square and down the road from the Tennessee Theatre. If you're looking to buy or see some local art, you can do all these things at the Art Market Gallery. The Art Market Gallery is Knoxville's one-stop shop for local art, ceramics, jewelry and other mixed media.

A five-minute walk from the Art Market Gallery on South Gay Street is the Knoxville Emporium Center. The Emporium Center is free, self-guided and a part of the Arts & Culture Alliance. The bottom level is an office and studio space for local artists and photographers, the second level is exhibits and offices, and the third floor is the symphony office and exhibitions. We saw exhibits on the Arrowmont Experience, Anthropomorphize, the Love of Nature and Painting with Light.  The Emporium has an open house with music and light bites once a month as well.

MUSIC

One of the most iconic landmark in Knoxville is the Tennessee Theatre, turning 90 years old in 2018. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places and honored as the Official State Theatre of Tennessee, today's Tennessee Theatre has something for everyone: classical music, vintage films, dance, Broadway, and stellar performances by today's hottest musicians and legendary musicians. Local arts organizations such as the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra and the Knoxville Opera use the Tennessee Theatre throughout the year. The theater is also the site of special events like wedding receptions, private parties, corporate meetings, and other functions.

If you have an hour to spare, the WDVX Blue Plate Special is a great music show to check out. WDVX is a local radio station and every week day from noon to 1 p.m. and have two artists perform music for half an hour each. Snacks are available for purchase there or you can bring your lunch. A word of advice: get there early because seating goes quickly!

There's also a cool and colorful mural outside of WDVX. Stop and see it for yourself!

OUTDOORS

This time of year, the outdoors are irresistible. The temperatures are cooler and the trees are full with color. Set some time aside to hike at Ijams Nature Center. Ijams has anything and everything for the outdoor lover; hike, bike, paddle, climb, shop, relax. No matter your time limit, there's a hike and a trail for you to enjoy.

WHERE TO STAY

The Tennessean Hotel: Located next to the Knoxville Convention Center, you couldn't find a better location to stay. The Tennessean used to be a state government office and is now a chic, boutique hotel. The hotel is near the University of Tennessee and Neyland Stadium, making it an ideal urban getaway with the added bonus of scenic mountains and park vistas.

Authentic East Tennessee folkways are found in every detail. The carpets depict Tennessee waterways, the logo portrays the state flower, and the room furnishings are designed by Tennessee craftsmen.

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