I recently experienced a much-needed getaway to Knoxville, TN—and I’m kinda surprised that it has taken me this long to see Tennessee’s third largest city. I mean I live in Atlanta; a hop, skip and a jump away! So naturally when Visit Knoxville put it on my radar, I grabbed my hubby and off we went on a weekend baecation. It’s a vegan-friendly, walkable city that ended up being right up my alley. Without further ado, here’s my 2-day itinerary to help you uncover why Knox rocks.
Our Hotel: We stayed at Hyatt Place in Downtown Knoxville and everything on my list is either within walking distance or less than a 10-minute ride away.
1. VISIT THE ICONIC SUNSPHERE
When I first Googled “Knoxville,” 99% of the images I immediately saw had this curiously tall structure with a giant golden ball on top. Behold: The Knoxville Sunsphere. While the 24-karat gold-dust filled, glass-paneled ball is a beauty to gaze upon from afar and fun to use as a backdrop in photos, you can also get up close and personal—as in actually ride to the top of this thing.
The structure itself is 266 feet tall with an Observation Deck that features a gallery of Knoxville images, the city’s history, and a 360-degree view of Knoxville.
Open: 7 days a week 9a-10p
Location: 810 Clinch Avenue, Knoxville, TN 37902
2. GET CULTURED
To understand black culture and its relationship to the American South today, we must look to the past. Tennessee, just like its southern neighbors, has its share of African American history to preserve. One visit to the Beck Cultural Exchange Center will give you a lens into the black history and culture of Knoxville.
A guide showed us around providing helpful insight into the historical collection of archives and artifacts found throughout the museum. I particularly enjoyed furthering my knowledge of the Negro Motorist Green Book—a very necessary guide book African Americans used during the Jim Crow era to help them find safe places to eat and sleep while traveling. The 2018 movie “Green Book” was based on this. You can choose a guided or self-guided tour anytime during business hours.
Cost: Free (donations accepted)
Open: Tue-Sat 10a-6p
Location: 1927 Dandridge Avenue, Knoxville, TN 37915
3. SEE A SHOW
I have a thing for shows. If you do too, then you’ll have a nice selection depending on what you’re in the mood for. Whether you want to see a concert, Broadway show, or the latest Block-buster flick, you can find it in the Theatre District.
The hubs and I had a retro-themed date night where we watched The Lion King at the Regal Riviera Stadium 8. Down the street from that is the Tennessee Theatre, a downtown Knoxville landmark and magnificent theatre that serves as a performing arts venue. Also in the area are the Bijou Theatre and Clarence Brown Theatre, both of which serve as treasured performance theatres.
Location: Downtown Knoxville
4. GO MURAL HOPPING
Mmmmm street art. Who can resist a good bout of mural gazing? If you’re an art lover or just someone who likes to “do it for the gram,” then you can’t leave Knoxville without peeping its street art game.
The city of Knoxville has its own handy little app you can use to map out your mural hopping adventure (download on your Apple or Android device). I couldn’t visit them all, but I managed to see the Greetings from Knoxville and Dreambikes murals.
5. DRINK COFFEE IN A HAMMOCK
Next to the Greetings from Knoxville mural is K Brew, a place where you can grab a cup of craft coffee and swing in a hammock at the same time. Who says hammocks only go with coconuts and pineapples? Coffee works too.
If you’re vegan like me or have a dairy intolerance, make sure to get an almond milk substitute—which they charge an extra $1.00 for. Yay for dairy-free options, but boo to having to pay additional for it. #VeganProbs
Open: Mon-Sat 7a-6p and Sun 8a-6p
Location: 1138 N Broadway, Knoxville, TN 37917
6. TACKLE THE TENNESSEE RIVER
So yeah. I love a good SUP sesh. I’ve done it in oceans, lakes, and I was excited to add a river to my repertoire. But when I arrived at Billy Lush Boards & Brew ready to slay another standup paddle boarding adventure, my confidence balloon popped. The Tennessee River waves and I had one brief stare down, before I decided to switch it up and try a different water activity for once.
Have you ever heard of hyrdo-biking? Yeah, me neither. It’s like riding a bicycle. But ya know. On water. Although I had never done it before, I felt fairly confident this was something I could do without falling in. To my relief, I am happy to report I have no horror stories to share from this new experience. Instead, I had a good, relaxing time whilst learning about an environmentally-friendly watercraft that I never knew existed.
Open: Wed-Fri 11a-8p | Sat 10a-8p | Sun 11a-7p (*varies by season)
Location: 900 Volunteer Landing Lane Knoxville, TN 37915
Cost: Prices vary by activity
7. GO TO MARKET SQUARE
There’s always that one central safe space in a city where people (and dogs!) of all ages can come together and enjoy themselves. In Knoxville, that place is Market Square. This is where you go for dining, shopping, and entertainment options. If you’re fortunate, you just might experience an outdoor concert or a festival.
8. DRINK CRAFT BEER FROM HANDBLOWN GLASSES
Pretentious Glass is apparently the only place in the world where you can drink craft beer that was brewed on site from glasses that were also hand-blown on site. If craft beer isn’t boring, neither should the glasses you drink it out of.
Location: 133 South Central Street, Knoxville, TN 37902
9. GET DRINKS WITH A VIEW
Hello rooftop views! Even better with a drink in hand. 2x as good when a party is involved. The Hyatt Place rooftop is apparently THE place to be. How lucky was I that all I had to do to get there was leave my room and ride an elevator to the 10th floor?
It was originally a private event space but eventually opened up to the public with craft cocktails, a small food menu and a casual, yet classy place for people to hang. You get both mountain and city views; and at night when those lights turn on, a whole new layer is added to the ambiance.
Location: 530 South Gay Street, Knoxville, TN 37902
10. EAT ALL THE THINGS
So you know how cities usually have that one food thing they are known for? Knoxville isn’t like that. In fact one thing I noticed about Knoxville in general is that there’s something for everyone. Does it sound cliché? Sure. But am I lying? No. There’s no “signature food” or “signature music” like you might find in other cities. The best word I can think of to describe Knoxville is “inclusive.” Being vegan, I can certainly appreciate that.
PS. Look out for my next Knoxville post on the vegan spots I hit up!
* This adventure was made possible by Visit Knoxville, but please believe all opinions are ALL me. In other words, I legit had fun on this trip and believe you will too.