How Kelsea Ballerini Experiences Knoxville, Tennessee

How Kelsea Ballerini Experiences Knoxville, Tennessee

Follow in country music star, Kelsea Ballerini's footsteps as she traces her favorite spots in her hometown of Knoxville, Tennessee

Add to TripRemove

Knoxville native, two-time Academy of Country Music Award winner and talented songwriter Kelsea Ballerini teamed up with Tennessee to return to her alma mater, Central High School, the place Ballerini first performed an original song, for a Knoxville homecoming concert.

Kelsea Ballerini to host homecoming concert at Central High School, her alma mater, in Knoxville, Tennessee.
Kelsea Ballerini performed a homecoming concert at Central High School, her alma mater, in Knoxville, Tennessee.

She performed her well-known hits and new songs from her sophomore album, Unapologetically, now available.

Follow in Kelsea’s footsteps around Knoxville as she shares some of her can’t-miss stops while in town.

Stop 1 of 5

Litton's Market, Restaurant & Bakery

For comfort food with premier, locally-sourced ingredients, head to Litton’s. At the top of food lovers’ lists including Southern Living and ESPN, Litton’s has been serving quality dishes like fried chicken paired with broccoli casserole and banana pudding and juicy burgers with hand cut fries since 1946.

Don’t forget dessert! Litton’s red velvet cake is famous throughout the region. You can order from the 85-100 cakes and other mouth-watering desserts on the menu for a sweet finish to your meal.

Read More Add to TripRemove
Market Square in downtown Knoxville; Photo credit Hunter Lawrence.
Stop 2 of 5

Market Square

“It’s a mixing pot of people and the best restaurants ever,” said Ballerini. 

Boutiques full of approachable fashion, restaurants dedicated to locally-sourced ingredients and music and other entertainment performances can all be found on Market Square. Knoxville’s large events like Dogwood Arts Festival, Sundown in the City, International Biscuit Festival and more can be found here annually. From a romantic dinner for two to taking in the city and region’s artistic talents with a gallery walk on the first Friday of every month, Market Square offers endless ways to enjoy Knoxville’s unique and blended community.

Read More Add to TripRemove
Knoxville Civic Auditorium and Coliseum in Knoxville, Tennessee
Stop 3 of 5

Knoxville Civic Auditorium and Coliseum

The 6,500-capacity coliseum attracts more than 250,000 people annually for events like symphony concerts, music greats like Jimmy Buffett, the Rolling Stones and Stevie Wonder and family events like Disney on Ice. Since opening in 1961, the space has hosted everything from concerts to circuses, sporting events to theatrical productions.  

Read More Add to TripRemove
Stop 4 of 5

Rita's Bakery

“Food always brings back memories, like the smells and the taste of it,” said Ballerini.

For Kelsea, those memories flood back when thinking of Rita’s Bakery, a family-owned and operated establishment since 1993.

“It was our special treat,” she said. 

They specialize in mouth-watering cakes, pies, cookies, pastries, breads, petit fours and more. From wedding cakes to 4” layer cakes for any special occasion, Rita’s does it all, especially Ballerini’s favorite.

“They have the best cookies...Their thumb-print cookies: I had them in every Girl Scout meeting and youth group meeting,” said Ballerini. 

The thumbprint cookie is a thumb-pressed shortbread cookie filled with buttercream icing. The last time Kelsea performed in Knoxville, she stopped by the bakery so her crew could try them.

“...They all freaked out, it was awesome,” she said.

Read More Add to TripRemove
Historic Tennessee Theatre in Knoxville, Tennessee
Stop 5 of 5

Historic Tennessee Theatre

“It’s one of my favorite places in world that I’ve been to. It was my place to dream,” said Ballerini.

Located in the heart of downtown Knoxville, the Tennessee Theatre opened in 1928 as a movie palace. The Tennessee Theatre is the Official State Theatre of Tennessee and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. It’s the region’s leading performing arts venue with advanced technology, staging and lighting that draws top entertainment to the Knoxville area, like Kelsea Ballerini.

For her headlining tour, The First Time, she wanted to do a hometown show in Knoxville. The theater holds 1,600 people and within a week the show sold out.

“There’s nothing like playing a venue that you’ve been a fan of. It’s a weird, magical, unexplainable thing,” she said.

In the near future, the Tennessee Theatre will welcome top Broadway shows like The Book of Mormon and Kinky Boots and accomplished artists like Jennifer Nettles, Brit Floyd and St. Vincent.

Read More Add to TripRemove

How to Stay Active this Winter in East Tennessee

East Tennessee offers a variety of ways to stay active during the colder months of the year.

Read More