Updated: Jan 20, 2020
Often times when you think of visiting Tennessee, most think of Memphis, Nashville, & Chattanooga. I’ve always been interested in historical landmarks, good places to eat (even if it’s in an interesting part of town), and cultural things to do. Being born and raised in the 865, I can tell you first hand that growing up there, I didn’t appreciate it. Now that I’m older, not only am proud to be from Knoxville (honorable mention goes to my Roadrunners), but I love it more than ever! There’s more to do than ever before these days. Full of life, culture, southern food and history, Knoxville should definitely be on your summer road trip itinerary.
Knoxville College: Once it opens it's doors back up this year, take a tour of Knoxville’s HBCU, a historically black liberal arts college. Founded in 1875, it’s a United Negro College Fund member school that has strong ties to Knoxville’s civil rights history. After recent woes, they’re planning to re-enroll students this year (2018).
Address: 901 Knoxville College Dr., Knoxville, TN 37921
9/11 Memorial: Built by Knoxville native Randy Vaden, you can visit this statue and pay your respects to those we lost on 9/11.
Address: 400 Main St., Knoxville, TN 37902
Alex Haley Heritage Square: Residing in Morningside Park in East Knoxville, it includes a 13 ft. high bronze statue of Alex Haley himself, a park for kids, water fountains and more. Designed by Tina Allen and cast in bronze in New York, the Pulitzer Prize winner’s statue has resided in Morningside since 1996. Haley is best known for his book, “Roots”, a classic that traces his origins back to Africa. Haley spent his early years in Henning, Tennessee and ended up living his final years in Clinton, Tennessee.
Address: 1600 Dandridge Avenue, Knoxville, TN 37915
World’s Fair Park: One of the many spots that hold my childhood memories, the World’s Fair Park is one of Knoxville’s most beautiful landmarks. Filled with water parks and gardens, it’s the home of most festivals & special annual events.
Address: 525 Henley St, Knoxville, TN 37902
Market Square: This is one of Knoxville’s oldest districts and it’s become more alive than ever over the recent years. Home to the best boutiques, restaurants, and farmers markets, Market Square will give you an experience of a lifetime.
Address: Market Square, Knoxville, TN 37902
Beck Cultural Exchange Center: This center means a lot to me, as it preserves & exhibits African American achievements and culture. I’ve always been proud to know that the Beck Cultural Center actually has the largest African American membership in East TN, as it’s one of the most extensive exhibits in American History. Getting it’s first start in 1975, it houses audio, memorabilia, books, journals, and more. Bonus fun fact: It’s in walking distance from the Alex Haley Heritage Square.
Address: 1927 Dendrite Ave., Knoxville, TN 37915
Bijou Theatre: Known for being Knoxville’s oldest building, dating back to 1813 as a tavern and the 1830s as “The Grandest Hotel in the South”, this is your go to for wonderful shows and performances.
Address: 803 South Gay St, Knoxville, TN 37902
Tennessee Theatre: Built as a fantasy-like palace, this beauty has been standing tall since 1928. Many top artists like Johnny Cash, Diana Ross, Elvis Presley to name a few, have made an appearance as this historical location.
Address: 604 South Gay Street, Knoxville, TN 37902
Theatre Knoxville Downtown: If you’re into plays or anything that has to do with theatrics, you'll fall in love with this location. It’s right in the heart of downtown Knoxville, so it’s the perfect place to roam around after a show is done! As of right now, they’re at the location below, but they look to expand their digs, soon.
Address: 319 North Gay St, Knoxville, TN 37917
The Carpet Bag Theatre: Known as one of the tenured African-American theatre companies in the South, this place has a phenomenal mixture of writers, dancers, musicians, artists & more! This is my favorite theatre in Knoxville, as it’s vision is to reveal, re-frame and RECLAIM (Hey, Auntie Maxine) the hidden stories of OUR community. Established in 1969, this beauty is basking in the glory of Black Excellence.
Address: 1323 North Broadway, Knoxville, TN 37917
Kuumba Festival: As a PROUD Roadrunner (BEEP, BEEP! to all my Austin East High School Alumni), this is my pride and joy. I remember attending the Kuumba festival each and every year and understanding the significance of it as I got older. The impact this festival had on me and STILL has on me is something I'll pass down to my kids. People from the U.S & Africa come together, as we share our heritage of African, African-American and African Appalachian communities. Kuumba, meaning “creativity” in Swahili, showcases visual arts, folk arts, dance, theatre, music, storytelling games, foods and goods. This years’ celebration was bittersweet, as we honored our beloved executive director, “Iyalode” Nkechi Ajanaku who passed away last year.
Address: Market Square, Knoxville, TN 37902
Austin East High School: https://www.knoxschools.org/austineastmhs
Greekfest: This annual festival lets you experience the Greek culture like never before. Serving “old country” dishes, offering an array of Greek music and dances as well as imported goods, this two and a half day event is something you won’t want to miss. It’s usually held in October.
Address: 4070 Kingston Pike, Knoxville, TN 37919
Hola Festival: In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, this day-long festival fills the streets with culture and love. Attend the event to learn and enjoy the music, food, arts, and crafts. The festival features the Latino Countries Exhibits and the acclaimed Parade of Nations and is a free event is organized by the amazing HoLa Hora Latina community.
Address: W. Depot Ave. & N. Gay St, Knoxville, TN 37902
Knox Asian Festival: Looking for culture and education? It's right here in Knoxville. Participating Asian countries showcase the best of their rich traditions, crafts, and arts. Starting off with a parade followed by meditation chanting, dancing, and instrumental performances, this event is jam packed with something to do and learn. Vendors offer food from Malaysia, Japan, China, Philippines, Taiwan, India, Laos, Vietnam, & Thailand. You can submerge yourself in this beautiful experience sometime in August.
Address: Market Square, Knoxville, TN
Knoxville Brewfest: If you know me, you know I love a good beer (hence, the gut). Craft beer tasting accompanied by food, non-alcoholic beverages as well as live music, clearly this place has everything we need in this sweet life.
Address: 306 Depot Avenue, Knoxville, TN 37917
Gosh Ethiopian Restaurant: Looking for even more cultural experiences? Ethiopian food is your golden ticket, I promise! Packed with plenty of spice and flavor, this traditional food is everything you’ve ever wanted. Plus, I can’t pass up the opportunity to bring my own bottle of wine. Can we say sauced?!
Address: 3609 Sutherland Ave., Knoxville TN 37919
Jackie’s Dream: Yet another black-owned heavenly place for soul food! Working in the food industry for years, Jackie blessed us all when she decided to become a business owner. The daily specials alone will have your mouth watering as soon as you look at the menu.
Address: 2223 McCalla Ave., Knoxville, TN 37915
Preservation Pub: Anything with good drinks, rooftop gardens and a live music dining experience is a spot for me. This has all the vibes I absolutely love!
Address: 28 Market Square, Knoxville, TN 37902
Not Watson’s: As you can already tell, I love a good ambiance when I’m out and about. If the vibe is good, I’m all about it. Mix in a delicious menu & tasty drinks and I'm there! I had the pleasure of eating here for the first time back in December 2017 with my sister Nicole. Why? Because a bittersweet reunion just isn’t complete without good eats and good laughs.
Address: 15 Market Square, Knoxville, TN 37902
1). Nikki Giovanni, an American poet, writer, educator & activist was born in Knoxville, TN. While she was raised in Ohio half her life, Giovanni moved back to Knoxville to live with her grandparents. She attended Austin-East High School from 1958-1960.
2). Knoxville has more restaurants per capita than any other city in the U.S.
3). In our nearby city, Oak Ridge, the atomic bomb, which is modern history’s closely guarded secret, was developed.
4). Knoxville is situated right next to the beautiful Great Smokey Mountains, which is the most visited national park in America.
5). The Sunsphere was built in 1982 for the World’s Fair Park and has become one of the main attractions in Knoxville.
6). Knoxville was at one point the capital of Tennessee as well as the capital of the Territory South of the River Ohio.
7). We were also once named the streaking capital of the world by Walter Cronkite in 1974. This was due to 5,000+ naked college kids running through the street. This also explains a lot on why I am the way I am. Long story, amirightguys!?
8). Knoxville was also once called the underwear capital of the world. Like seriously, make up your mind, guys.
9). There is an official law in Knox that makes it illegal to lasso a fish. Sorry, cowboys.
10). The once notorious Kid Curry of the Wild Bunch known for being a racist, cop-killer, robber and thief was once held in a Knox County jail for shooting two deputies.
11). Boomsday was once an annual firework show and it was one of the largest shows in the Southern states. With more than 22,000 fireworks shells, this 22 minute display was a sight to see.
12). The University of Tennessee’s Anthropological Research Facility, better known as the Body Farm, possesses one of the largest collections of modern skeletal remains in the world. With 700 in total and an additional 1,000 future bodies willed to the project, this farm is strictly for the facility and students of the University. Seen on Forbes, the farm is one of the top 6 body farms that help Forensic Anthropologist learn to solve crimes.
Resources: Wikipedia.com, KnoxvilleTennessee.com, 10-facts-about.com, Forbes.com & InsideOfKnoxville.com