Knoxville, the birthplace of Tennessee, is a city steeped in history and culture. It’s location, at the headwaters of the Tennessee River and the gateway to the Smoky Mountains, make for an ideal location for outdoor enthusiasts and adventure seekers alike. But there is more to Knoxville than it’s proximity to national parks, surrounding lakes and SEC football (Go Vols!). Editor, Frances King, shares her tips to take in all the area has to offer, from the numerous breweries to the vibrant food scene. So, whether you are one of the lucky ones who resides here or just passing through, be sure to check out our city’s cheat sheet to experience the best of Knoxville and live like a local. 


The Oliver (407 Union Ave) is a boutique hotel “tucked in a charming 1876 building, that has been lovingly renovated” on Market Square, making it the ideal spot to stay while exploring the city.  Named part of the “Southern Living Hotel Collection”, The Oliver offers guests an eclectic respite with several dining options (Oliver Royale & Tupelo Honey) and a “buzz-worthy watering hole” (Peter Kerns Library).  If you are looking for a polished, full service hotel, The Tennessean (531 Henley) offers downtown luxury across from World’s Fair Park and walking distance to the University of Tennessee. But if you don’t feel like walking, the concierge will be happy to take you in their street legal golf cart. After a day exploring, be sure to stop in the Drawing Room for local bites and craft cocktails. If the city vibe isn’t what you are looking for, less than 20 miles from downtown, is the RT Lodge (1406 Wilkinson Pike).  Referred to as “The Lodge” by locals, it is tucked into the lush, quiet woods in the quaint town of Maryville.  RT lodge is a luxury boutique inn, restaurant and event venue that offers overnight guest experiences, and farm-to-table Southern dinners.  Just a little further out, in Walland, is the ultimate escape of Blackberry Farm (West Millers Cove Road) and Blackberry Mountain (East Miller’s Cove Road), both family owned Relais & Chateaux properties that epitomize Southern hospitality.  The “Blackberry way of life” is something best experienced. No words can describe the scenery, the heavenly food, or the peaceful feeling that overcomes the guests on property. 


Being on the Tennessee River comes with perks, lots of them to be honest! One such perk, the breweries.  Over the past 5 years, Knoxville has gained a reputation for craft beer. And if you are looking to try several, or even all (there are over 20), then head on over to KABA (Knoxville Area Brewers Association) and download a Knoxville Ale Trail Passport.  Then hop on one of the Knox Beer Tours for behind the scene, guided tours & tastings.  They offer a bus tour and several walking tours covering up to 4 breweries.  If beer isn’t what you’re after, there are distilleries too.  Along the Tennessee Whisky Trail are several local distilleries offering tours and tastings.  Post Modern Spirits (205 W Jackson Ave) has a sleek tasting room offering flights and seasonal craft cocktails. In addition to breweries and distilleries, there are several unique bars around town.  Diamondjack Wine Bar (298 Highland Ave, Maryville), owned by a local couple, offers more than just wine, they also have “munchies” and delicious craft cocktails.  And be sure to check their instagram regularly, they like to host fun pop ups and wine dinners for those in the know.  If you like Pina Coladas, head over to The Tern Club (135 S. Gay Street) where it’s a vacation every day at the vintage lounge serving up tropical classics like Mai Tai’s and neon Blue Hawaii’s. 


The hospitality industry in Knoxville is next level (thanks to Blackberry Farm) and it’s no surprise that there are lots of great places to eat, too many to list! Surrounded by farm land, Knoxville is home to many agricultural families and institutions that have become much a part of the food scene here.  J.C. Holdway (501 Union) offers farm-to-table food in a comfortable downtown setting that is led by our very own James Beard Award winning chef Joseph Lenn.  The cuisine focuses on foods grown locally and cooked in an open, wood fire oven. Another downtown favorite, Emila (16 Market Square), offers seasonal Italian food in a fun, lively atmosphere.  Owned by chef/restauranteur Matt Galllaher (of Knox Mason and Paysan), Emilia keeps crowds coming back with its fresh, daily, hand made pastas and friendly service.  And if pizza’s what you are after, you are in luck.  A Dopo (516 Williams Street) offers wood fired Neapolitan sourdough pizza, seasonal vegetables and small batch homemade gelato.  Go in for the “trustfall”….trust me!  If you are looking for something outside of downtown, Northshore Brasserie (9430 S. Northshore Drive) has been a local favorite for over 10 years. Serving French Belgian style cuisine in a cozy (think Balthazar meets Knoxville) setting, the Brasserie is where to go, whether you want a lively night out with friends or a date night for two. Another local favorite, The Plaid Apron  (1210 Kenesaw), nestled in the Sequoyah Hills neighborhood, offers farm fresh “community focused” cuisine.  Recently renovated, The Plaid Apron, has a full bar and offers breakfast, lunch (Brunch on the weekends) and dinner. Expect to see lots of families and dogs at this neighborhood favorite!  


After eating and drinking your way through the city, head over to Knoxville Adventure Collective (900 Volunteer Landing) for a fun outdoor activity. There are paddle boards, kayaks, bikes, guided fishing trips and even camping gear. Jon Terry, the owner, has curated outdoor adventures for the past 20 years and is passionate about getting people immersed in the outside world. If shopping is your idea of activity, be sure to stop by GlitterVille Studios (701 World’s Fair Park) where it’s a party everyday.  Designer and artist, Stephen Brown, creates whimsical, sparkly celebration decor for holidays, birthdays and just because.  It’s a “trip” worth taking!  Another great, eclectic shop is Bennett Galleries (5308 Kingston pike).  A curated experience sourcing home goods, original art, custom furniture, and jewelry, Bennett Galleries highlights local makers from around East Tennessee and beyond. And if you’re interested in history, sign up for a Knoxville History Project walking tour with Laura Still and explore our rich history as one of the oldest cities in the United States. For additional recommendations for what to do, see, and experience in Knoxville, Tennessee, follow The Scout Guide Knoxville on Instagram.