Knoxville Essentials

Looking for the Knoxville, Tennessee, that locals know and love? Here's a quick road map to some of the city's best-kept secrets.

Food and Drink Essentials: Best Places to ...

BUY FRESH FISH

The Shrimp Dock
5210 Kingston Pike
All the fish sold at the Shrimp Dock is caught on American boats and flown in fresh, never frozen; owner Paul Willis even goes to New Orleans and brings back his own catch once a week. If you’re into making your own sushi, the Shrimp Dock offers several varieties of sashimi-grade tuna, salmon and snapper.

BUY FRESH MEAT

Crawford Farm Meats
1800 Maynardville Hwy., Maynardville
This old-fashioned butcher shop offers only meats that are steroid- and antibiotic-free.

BUY ORGANIC VEGGIES

Three Rivers Market
937 N. Broadway
A $25 annual co-op membership nets you the best prices, but the market is open to the public.

Earth Fare
10903 Parkside Dr.
This regional supermarket chain is based in nearby Asheville, N.C., and is the area equivalent of Whole Foods. The Earth Fare cafeteria is a great option when you need food fast but don’t want fast food, especially if you’re vegetarian.

DRINK SOME COFFEE

Blackbird Coffeehouse
1208 Kenesaw Ave.
Make the extra effort to find this shop, which is tucked into the Sequoyah Hills neighborhood. Ali Johnston, who owns Blackbird along with her husband, Craig, recommends the "Blackbird Vienna": half hot chocolate with cinnamon and half brewed coffee. All Blackbird coffees are organic and Fair Trade-certified.

Gourmet’s Market/Cosmo’s Caffe
5107 Kingston Pike
Also look here for oddball cooking and baking ingredients -- including specialty cheeses -- that you can’t find anywhere else.  

GRAB A LATE-NIGHT BITE

Old College Inn
2204 Cumberland Ave.
Not many establishments in Knoxville serve food after midnight. This is the place to go when you need after-hours comfort food, like roast beef and mashed potatoes. Open past midnight several nights a week.

BUY WINE

Ashe’s Wine & Spirits
4534 Old Kingston Pike
Owner Thad Cox, Jr., is a true oenophile who travels the world to find great selections. The store also has a very knowledgeable staff.

EAT A STEAK

The Butcher Shop
806 World’s Fair Park Dr.
If you prefer, you can cook your own steaks here on big open grills.

HAVE SUNDAY BRUNCH

La Costa
31 Market Square
Cozy, private atmosphere and a unique twist on Latin food. You can get typical brunch fare such as eggs and fried potatoes, but you’ll also find plenty of interesting options like smoked duck breast burrito or a steak wrap with manchego cheese.

The Sunspot
1909 Cumberland Ave.
One of the best brunch options for vegetarian and vegan eaters; tofu can be substituted for any dish in which you’d normally find meat or eggs. Brunch dishes and specials change every week.

EAT VEGETARIAN

Tomato Head
12 Market Square
Their interesting gourmet pizza combinations are the crown jewel of the menu. Heads up: Tomato Head is closed on Monday evenings. 

Entertainment Essentials: Best Places to...

ENTERTAIN THE KIDS

Fountain City Duck Pond and Park
117 Hotel Rd.
Cap off your day with freshly made ice cream from the Fountain City Creamery, adjacent to the park.

Fort Kid/World’s Fair Park
1060 Worlds Fair Park Dr.
Interactive water fountains for kids to splash in are open from mid-March to late October.

PEOPLE-WATCH

Market Square
Downtown Knoxville
Many restaurants and nightspots around this central square have patio seating so you can see and be seen. Establishments include Tomato Head, La Costa, Preservation Pub, Oodles/Uncorked and World Grotto.

WATCH A BAND

The Valarium
1213 Western Ave.
This venue, located in an old warehouse near downtown, features a big variety of bands and plenty of parking. But mind your manners, because the security staff has a reputation for roughness. Also, get your driving directions from the website -- GPS locators and MapQuest can’t follow Western Avenue’s bi-level setup.

HEAR SOME CLASSICAL MUSIC

Knoxville Symphony Orchestra
Calendar and performance venues at www.knoxvillesymphony.com

Knoxville Choral Society
Calendar and performance venues at www.knoxvillechoralsociety.org
To get the most bang for your buck, see these two premier arts programs perform together at the popular Clayton Holiday Concerts in December.  

HAVE FUN FOR FREE

First Friday Art Walk
Free "crawl" of art galleries and shops through downtown Knoxville, Market Square District, Gay Street and the Old City on the first Friday of each month.

University of Tennessee Trial Gardens and Arboretum
Trial Gardens: Chapman Dr. off Joe Johnson Dr. University of Tennessee Agricultural Campus
Arboretum/Oak Ridge Forest: 901 S. Illinois Ave., Oak Ridge
Self-guided tours and walking trails; free gardening seminars and guided tours are also available at the trial gardens.

Nightlife Essentials: Best Places to...

HAVE A CHEAP BEER

Toot’s Little Honky Tonk
114 E. Anderson Ave.
This down-home North Knoxville neighborhood bar is noted for cheap beer and heaping helpings of karaoke.

HAVE A PREMIUM BEER

Northshore Brasserie
9430 S. Northshore Dr.
A reputation for half-price Belgian beers on certain nights keeps the locals coming back.

DANCE

Cotton Eyed Joe
11220 Outlet Dr.
This country/western club is Knoxville's best-known dance spot. Check Web site for daily specials, including free dance lessons.

Sassy Ann's
820 N. 4th Ave.
Cozy blues club in Fourth and Gill neighborhood has DJ request nights and rarely a cover charge.

HAVE A MARTINI

Sapphire
428 S. Gay St.
This bar is located in an old downtown jewelry store. Score the seats in the display windows for prime people-watching.

Outdoor Essentials: Best Places to ...

GO OUTSIDE

Ijams Nature Center
2915 Island Home Ave.
Hiking is only part of the fun -- Ijams also offers educational programs like organic-gardening seminars, "owl prowls," and bug beauty contests for kids.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park
107 Park Headquarters Rd.
This is the most visited national park in the country, but try the less-traveled Cosby campground and trails for a quiet Sunday afternoon excursion.

BUY A KAYAK

River Sports Outfitters
2918 Sutherland Ave.
Visit River Sports’ on-site Climbing Center for one-on-one rock climbing instruction.

Other Essentials: Best Places to...

SHOP IN A FUNKY BOUTIQUE

Bliss Home + Art
24 Market Square
Shop here for that funky/retro/supermod item you can’t get anywhere else. Furnishings, gifts and cards, women’s clothing and jewelry.

TAKE IN GREAT VIEWS OF THE CITY

Club LeConte
2700 Plaza Tower
This downtown business club is members-only, but live in Knoxville long enough and you’ll eventually be invited to a wedding reception or holiday party here.

Sharp’s Ridge Memorial Park
329 Sharp’s Ridge Memorial Drive
This is also a favorite place to watch the spring and fall migration of hawks.

HANG OUT WITH BIKERS

Coyote Joe's
5640 Clinton Hwy.
FYI: 15,000 motorcycle enthusiasts descend on Knoxville every June for the four-day rally known as the Honda Hoot. Coyote Joe's is a favorite stop.

Time Warp Tea Room
1209 North Central Ave.
More into a non-alcoholic scene? Enjoy gourmet coffee beverages in an old North Knoxville storefront decorated with vintage motorcycle memorabilia. 

TAKE A DAY TRIP

Historic Rugby
5517 Rugby Hwy. (State Scenic Hwy. 52), Rugby
This isolated remnant of a Victorian-era utopian community features period architecture, quaint bed & breakfast lodging, craft workshops, hiking trails and seasonal events. About 75 miles from Knoxville.

Ocoee River
4651 Hwy. 64, Copperhill
Whitewater rafting and mountain biking. About 110 miles southeast of Knoxville. 

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