Knoxville: An easy roadtrip stop with a musical soul

Music fills Knoxville's Market Square night and day

Music fills Knoxville's Market Square night and day

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.

Go up to Sunsphere's Observation Deck to see the town, UT and the Smoky Mountains.

Go up to Sunsphere's Observation Deck to see the town, UT and the Smoky Mountains.

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.

The Sunsphere's lounge is a popular night spot

The Sunsphere's lounge is a popular night spot

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

Live music is broadcast from the Visitor Center at noon, Monday through Saturday.

Live music is broadcast from the Visitor Center at noon, Monday through Saturday.

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