Imagine arriving at a market square lined with Asian, Southern and American Bistro-style restaurants with a statue that honors suffragettes and where blue notes and blue grass fill the air morning to night.
You have made it to Knoxville, Tenn., a perfect stop on Interstate 75 when driving north to Chicago, south to Orlando or on the way into Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The city is full of surprises.
Sports enthusiasts know Knoxville as home to the Big Orange VOLs (Volunteers) of the University of Tennessee, an NCAA SEC Division I athletic powerhouse, and home to the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame.
But when doing a road trip, what travelers may not know, is that if timed right, they can catch a city filled with glorious pink blooms during the Dogwood Arts Festival, a downtown food and music fest tied to opera during its Rossini Festival and some amazing southern comfort taste treats during its famed International Biscuit Festival.
If you go:
Visit the Sunsphere, the 1982 World’s Fair tower to see the Smoky Mountains from the Observation Deck during the day and have a cocktail in its cool Icon Ultra Lounge at night.
Consider the Holiday Inn World’s Fair Park for accommodations. As a convention hotel, it is well located near downtown and the highways but also has the upscale “Windows on the Park” dining room with good food and views.
Drop by the town’s Market Square on Wednesday or Saturday May to November for the Farmer’s Market or anytime for music and food.
Try to do breakfast at The Plaid Apron in the charming Sequoyah Hills neighborhood and at Tupelo’s for lunch (the same as the popular Ashville eatery) in Market Square. For a good casual dinner go to the Downtown Grill and Brewery for really great hamburgers and beer or The Crown and Goose, a London gastro-pub in Knoxville’s old-town neighborhood for British flavors.
For some fun, value shopping stop at Mast General Store near the Downtown Grill. An old-fashioned, carry-everything place, candy is sold in barrels and local jellies and honey line shelves in the back.
Stop in at the Visitor Center downtown on Gay Street at noon because a free, live music program is broadcast from there, Monday through Saturday. However, the Visitor Center is also a great place and any time during the day to look for Knoxville and Tennessee food and crafts.
Photos (c) Jodie Jacobs
Like any great city, Paris is more than the sum of its restaurants and museums. It is also a city of remarkable holy places. Except for Notre Dame, tourists may not know the city is home to the Great Synagogue of Paris or the Moslem Institute of the Paris Mosquee. All three religious sites allow visitors and are worth a stop. Be prepared to gape in awe.
The famous cathedral sits on the Île de la Cité in the middle of the Seine River. A Paris landmark, Notre-Dame is a state property but operated by clergy as a Roman Catholic church so entrance is free and visitors can attend masses and services.
The Cathedral Tower and the Treasury have entrance fees but the Tower is worth visiting for its views of Paris and its gargoyles and the Treasury for its precious holy objects.
Find Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris at 6 Parvis Notre-Dame, Place Jean-Paul II, 75004 Paris, France.
The synagogue is also called La Victoire. The largest synagogue in France, it was constructed in 1974 by Alfred-Philibert Aldrophe with financial support from the Rothchilds.
Find Synagogue de la Victoire at 44, rue de la Victoire – 75009 Paris, France.
Founded 1926, the Mosque is a place of prayer. Its institute is a place of study and a cultural center. Its Moorish style arches and patio are beautiful and lend a peaceful feel.
Find the Moslem Institute of the Main Paris Mosque at 132,boulevard de grenelle, 5e Arrondissement, Paris, France.
Arguably the best place to watch the inaugural parade and zoom in on the ceremonies on Capitol building’s west side, is high up on the Pennsylvania Avenue Parade Route. So think Newseum.
However, the museum’s roof and terrace are already spoken for by more than 500 broadcasters from 21 countries who are already setting up temporary studios and production areas there.
Among the broadcasters anchoring Inauguration Day newscasts from the Newseum are MSNBC’s Chris Matthews and Rachel Maddow and ABC’s Diane Sawyer, George Stephanopoulos and Barbara Walters.
The Newseum, always a fun and interesting place to visit was designed to do multiple broadcasts.
Inauguration Day entry to the Newseum is already sold out but visitors can stop by the museum earlier in the weekend and put it on the museum list for next time in DC. Its terrace is among the best places to photograph the area.
A couple of alternatives to bucking the crowd in Washington is to catch the action on WGN which broadcasts across the US, your local TV station or the Newseum web site. The swearing-in ceremonies begin at 11:30 a.m. ET.
More inauguration information and suggested places to visit at Inauguration Weekend.
Travel companies predict that vacation trips will increase in 2013.
If so, it’s not too late to start planning your trip to find the best deals. You also don’t want to hear sorry, we’re booked during Presidents’ Weekend, Spring Break or whatever.
“People are really starting to think about and book their spring break
vacations,” said Mike Going, president of Milwaukee-based Funjet Vacations.
“Now that the weather has turned cold and the holidays are over, everyone is ready for a warm, sunny vacation — which means that hotels and flights book up very quickly in January and February.”
January might sound a bit early to look at destinations and flights but Going said, “January is the peak booking month for spring and summer vacation.
The questions you should now be considering are where to go and how to save money.
In answer to the destination question Mark Drusch, Chief Supplier Relations Officer of CheapOair, a major online travel agency said, “Latin America; specifically Brazil, Panama, Colombia and Galapagos, the Gulf Coast, Oregon (specifically since this part of the country is relatively unexplored, and offers ocean, mountains and a great culinary scene) and South Africa.”
Drusch, who worked for major airlines, offered a few insider tips on savings and bookings.
He suggested that travelers look at deals offered by online travel agencies, particularly for daily specials to find best airfares, hotels and car rentals. But they should also know there are best days and times to book flights.
“Always check airline tickets on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings. The airline RM systems update their demand algorithms overnight, therefore available seats are released in the morning,” Drusch said.
He also recommended taking advantage of email travel alerts and social media. “People may not want to be receiving another email, but fare alerts instantly let you know when a price for a certain flight has changed. On social media, a lot of companies post last minute “fire sales” where prices can be slashed up to 50%,” he said.
Because airlines now have a variety of fees and options, Drusch warned that consumers should be sure they are purchasing what they want and know what is included when comparing prices.
Two basic tips heard in the industry is 1. if hoping to travel on a peak week or weekend, be sure to book way ahead to get what you want and 2. you are likely to find better deals when you can be flexible.
Photos copyright to Jodie