Knoxville: Like No Place Else

These nine local icons make Knoxville, Tennessee, like no other city.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park attracts up to 10 million visitors each year, the most of any national park. 

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park attracts up to 10 million visitors each year, the most of any national park. 

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Neyland Stadium. Even if the University of Tennessee isn't your alma mater, you have to appreciate the pageantry of college football in one of the sport's finest venues. Neyland Stadium is one of the three largest American college football stadiums, swapping bragging rights periodically with Michigan and Penn State's stadiums as each adds seats and vies to break NCAA attendance records. When Neyland fills with more than 100,000 frenzied orange fans on a fall Saturday, it's truly a sight to behold.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This crown jewel of the Knoxville outdoor experience attracts up to 10 million visitors each year, the most of any national park. The mountains, part of the Appalachian chain, are named for the mist that tumbles over their low, rolling peaks. Fall color here is a must-see.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). Tennessee's "Secret City" isn't such a big secret anymore. Oak Ridge, 23 miles west of downtown Knoxville, was first built clandestinely to produce uranium for the Manhattan Project. Its enduring legacy is its reputation as one of the premier scientific research communities in the country. ORNL does pioneering work in many fields, including supercomputing, genetics and renewable energy. Read more about Oak Ridge here.

The Sunsphere. This remaining bit of signature architecture from the 1982 World's Fair is beloved by locals and serves as an obscure icon for fans of The Simpsons (Bart spent one episode making an ill-fated pilgrimage to it). Take a free elevator ride to the observation deck and enjoy a view of the city from more than 200 feet in the air.

Dollywood. East Tennesseans adore their most famous hometown girl, and she loves them right back. Country music star Dolly Parton established a theme park in Pigeon Forge, a tourist town near her childhood home in Locust Ridge, and she still visits a few times a year. About 35 miles from Knoxville, 125-acre Dollywood features rides, live entertainment, craft and folk-art shows and country-themed shops.

John H. Daniel Company. There's only one place in the world where you can have your suit handmade by the same fellows who sew the famous green jackets for the Masters Golf Tournament. This company has been a downtown staple for 80 years, and its tailors are recruited from the world over to live in Knoxville and practice their craft.

Poor Air Quality. The downside to Knoxville's four glorious seasons is four inglorious seasons of allergies, whether from trees, grasses, weeds or mold. For this reason, and because of pollution from the area's many coal-burning plants, Knoxville usually ends up on annual watch lists compiled by allergy and asthma groups. Knoxville is also nestled in the low point of a topographical bowl, making it difficult for rain and wind to wash out air pollution, whether from natural or man-made sources. It's worth thinking twice about living here if you suffer from respiratory problems.

The Body Farm. Intrigued by crime shows like CSI? A big chunk of the forensic knowledge they flaunt comes from research done in Knoxville. The University of Tennessee Forensic Anthropology Center, better known by the media (and readers of bestselling author Patricia Cornwell) as the Body Farm, studies the process of decay in the human corpse by placing scores of them all over the property and letting the sun, rain and wind do their thing. The Body Farm was started by UT professor Dr. Bill Bass, highly regarded not only for his singular expertise but for bringing insight and humor to an otherwise grim topic.

Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame. If you love women's sports, Knoxville may be your mecca. University of Tennessee Lady Volunteers basketball coach Pat Summitt has won more games than any college coach -- men's or women's -- so it's fitting that the sport's shrine is located in the heart of Knoxville. Just look for the giant orange basketball; regular adult admission is about eight bucks.

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