Sunday, June 6, 2010

Blog Trot: The Knoxville area, Tennessee

Knoxville, Tennessee: third largest city in Tennessee, home of the University of Tennessee Vols, site of the 1982 World's Fair, and once known as the Underwear Capital of the World. (It's true; I read it on Wikipedia, which is always right, right?)

Knoxville lies in the shadow of the Great Smoky Mountains and the Cumberland Mountains. It is the hub for three major interstates: I-40 from North Carolina to California, I-75 from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico, and I-81 from Canada to Knoxville. More than 60 million Americans are within a day's drive of Knoxville.

I don't actually live in the city of Knoxville but am part of the Knoxville Metropolitan Area, which includes five counties and has 655,400 people. Knoxville itself is too busy and crowded for my tastes, but we do enjoy the variety of places to visit there. So what does Knoxville offer? Here are just a few ideas:

Outdoors: Visit the Knoxville Zoo and Ijams Nature Center
Inside: Visit the Knoxville Museum of Art (but don't touch anything, trust me); the Frank McClung Museum (it's free!); the American Museum of Science and Energy (in nearby Oak Ridge and while you're there, visit the Children's Museum of Oak Ridge); and East Tennessee Discovery Center
Historical: Try James White's Fort, Marble Springs Historic Farmstead, Blount Mansion, Ramsey House Plantation, East Tennessee Historical Center. Or take a 30 minute drive to visit Fort Loudoun and the Sequoyah Birthplace Museum.

Most people, however, don't come to our area to visit the city of Knoxville. Most come for what we like to call Our Big Backyard: the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP). The Park, which was dedicated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1940, consists of 510,030 acres of beautiful ridges, hollows, river gorges and coves. With over 8 million tourists each year, the GSMNP is the most visited national park.

And that's why we live where we do. You can read all about the Great Smoky Mountain National Park on this website, which provides lots of great links and information. But let me just give you a selection of photos from some of our favorite spots:

Those are just a few of my hundreds of photos that we've taken on our many hikes and camping trips. If you want to see some truly spectacular photos of the Smokies, please visit my friend Lynn Freeny's website. My photos might make you think, "Hey, I might like to go there." His will make you pack your bags and head out the door.

Cades Cove is the most visited spot in the Smokies; click on that link to take a tour with us from a couple of years ago. And before you come, check out my post In the Smokies: Selected Reading.

I would be seriously amiss if I wrote a whole post about the Knoxville area without mentioning Gatlinburg. I am convinced that 7.8 million of the 8 million tourists who visit the Smokies each year spend 99% of their vacation time actually in the Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge area. And there really are lots of fun things to do in that area:

Here are just a few of the more popular spots:
Titanic Museum
Dixie Stampede
Splash Country
Miracle Theatre
Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies

You can read more things to do in Gatlinburg, Sevierville, and Pigeon Forge, including all the information about places to stay and the fantastic outlet shopping.

But if I were coming to visit the Smokies, I'd stay in Townsend. Around here we call it "The Peaceful Side of the Smokies." You can get to Gatlinburg in 30 minutes or less from there if you really want to, but there are plenty of things to do right in Townsend (if hiking in one of the most beautiful places in the U.S. isn't enough for you). We love Tuckaleechee Caverns and the Great Smoky Mountain Heritage Center. And if you're coming in the summer, tubing on the river is a must.

There is no doubt that the Knoxville area has something for everyone, from shopping to amusement parks to museums to hiking and camping. You could spend thousands of dollars on a vacation filled with rollercoasters and hot tubs, or just a couple of hundred of you like to camp and hike.

Knoxville is the featured destination today on the virtual tour at Blog Trotting. You can get an insider's view of all kinds of cities across North America every week at Blog Trotting—it's a great way to plan a vacation!


  1. LOVE the Knoxville much to do.
    In fact we went to Bass pro and Gander Mountain last weekend to celebrate hubby's b-day!!

  2. Gorgeous pictures. We lived in Georgia while my husband went to school. Drove up to the Gatlinburg area one time, did not stop though because there were too many people. Just continued on our drive and enjoyed the mountains all the way back down into Georgia and back to Marietta. Well, not mountains back to Marietta, that is just where we lived:)

  3. Great tour! I had the great fortune to visit your fine state last year for a girl's weekend. We did, in fact, stay in Pigeon Forge and it was lovely. We avoided most of the really touristy stuff in favor of horseback riding and just hanging out. Other than the traffic, I LOVED it. I hope to get back there soon and explore a little further.

    Thanks for being a part of BlogTrotting!

  4. your gsmnp pics are gorgeous! i think i'll un-post mine & steal yours instead. :-)

    i actually JUST got some pics blogged, nearly 2 weeks after we got back. just for fun, i did it as a weekly wrap-up with cades cove as history, appalachian trail hike as p.e., etc.

    thanks for the advice you gave before we went! it definitely helped sway a decision or two.

  5. When I was in high school we took a family vacation to Tennessee, partially because of my love of Dolly Pardon and partially because of some weird time share-esque thing my parents had. Is that normal? But I'd forgotten how gorgeous the scenery was until your photos reminded me.

  6. we stayed in townsend. it was a great place, but i was a little frustrated at how long it took to drive back and forth to pigeon forge. there's so much to do there you have to come back more than once to get all you want.

  7. Bethany: Glad you all had a good time here! Seeing Dolly = serious bonus!

    Megan -- yes, timeshares are totally normal!

    Melissa --what can I say? Pigeon Forge = people and traffic!

  8. I tried to comment yesterday but "Blogger was unavailable." Urgh.

    Loved the tour and really think Tennessee is a great state! I would love to get back to the Smoky Mountains soon!

  9. We love the mountain area also living close in the North GA area. We have visited Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. We hope to visit the new Titanic Museum when we study it for school next year. Great post.

  10. What a great post! I'll be sure to remember this next time we plan to stop in Knoxville. Thanks for sharing. :)


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