Dogwood Arts Festival In KnoxvilleMarch 12, 2022
Get To Know Clingman’s DomeMarch 26, 2022
An hour’s drive from the main tourism of the East Tennessee Smoky Mountains (Sevier County) is the other big center of culture and development on our side of the very long state we’re proud to live in, and it has been called Knoxville since 1791.
Why Are We Talking About Knoxville?
Knoxville is THE big city of East Tennessee and pretty much all of us who live and work in Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg, Sevierville, Townsend or Douglas Lake visit every so often for business, fun, shopping and special events that only a major city can provide. For decades, Knoxville had, and still has, every major store and business representation you can find located somewhere within its city limits. Everything is here in Knoxville somewhere, all cultures from around the world and subcultures of generations can be found by looking. Knoxville is also a major college site of the state and it is where the University of Tennessee has set up its famous campus, with other colleges in, or near-enough-by, Knoxville including Franklin University, Pellissippi State University, Fountainhead College of Technology and others. When your favorite musician or band or act is on tour, they regularly have Knoxville listed on their tour schedules. When you want to experience a kind of “New York or LA kinda city” vibe without actually having to fly out there, you go spend a day in Knoxville. When you want to visit the hometown of the Tennessee Vols and see them play at the famous Neyland Stadium, yep, the answer again is Knoxville!
Knoxville History Points
Knoxvilletn.gov offers a great summary of early Knoxville history:
“Present-day Knoxville is located near the center of the Great Valley of East Tennessee. Its location, in the heart of the valley and at the headwaters of the Tennessee River, make the city a center for the region’s economy, culture, and history. Before European settlement, the valley was the hunting grounds of the Cherokee Indians. James White, the founder of Knoxville, established his home here in 1786 as a fort and cluster of cabins. By 1791, the community was renamed Knoxville and enjoyed status as capital of the Southwest Territory. By 1794, the town was home to Blount College, known today as the University of Tennessee.
In the 1800s, Knoxville took advantage of its river access, railroad connections, and geographical location to become one of the leading distributing centers in the south. These same assets would make Knoxville a prize to be fought for during the American Civil War. Like the rest of the state, Knoxville was divided between the blue and the gray. After the war, Knoxville rebuilt its economy through commerce, industry, and natural resources that included lumber, coal, and marble. Those natural resources and river-generated power helped establish Knoxville as an important “New Deal” city in the early 20th century, as a gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and as headquarters to the Tennessee Valley Authority. In 1982, Knoxville was host to a World’s Fair and 11 million visitors. The theme, “Energy Turns the World,” reflects the city’s prominent role in technology.”
Additionally, Knoxville has been the setting for more than a few events important to the history of Country Music:
- Country music giant Roy Acuff lived in Fountain City (which would later become Knoxville) starting at the age of 16 and spent many of his young man years here, especially at the start of his music career. He even tried out for the Knoxville Smokies baseball team.
- Guitar giant Chet Atkins had one of his first music jobs at WNOX in 1942 playing guitar and also fiddle as part of the Dixieland Swingsters. He did this for 3 years before moving to Cincinnati, Ohio.
- The Everly Brothers also had their teen and high school years in Knoxville and went to West High School. They got some starting ground for their music with Cas Walker (and were fired soon after) and the aforementioned Chet Atkins.
- “The World’s Smallest Gospel Singer” Lowell Mason was born here in 1937.
- June Carter and the Carter Family lived in Knoxville for a single year in 1948, but a year that would change their whole life trajectory when they performed on WNOX and, again, Chet Atkins plays an important role to getting another artist to stardom. June Carter and Johnny Cash would later come back to perform at the Dogwood Arts Festival of 1971.
- A grim note is that, it is widely reported, if not definitely nailed down, the original Hank Williams last night alive was in Knoxville at the Andrew Johnson Hotel at the wildly young age of 29. This story is a veritable rabbit hole of mystery and intrigue.
- Country superduo Flatt & Scruggs, you guessed it, got their start here in Knoxville and cut some of their earliest work here.
- A much more modern Country singer you may have heard of named Kenny Chesney grew up in Knoxville and calls the city home.
Knoxville Attractions And Nightlife
Like any metro city in America, Knoxville has so much going on and so much to see that 188,000+ people decided to call Knoxville home by 2022 just to do it all (and also have a place to live and jobs to work and place they’re comfortable raising kids, etc., but also for the stuff to do here)! In the daytime, locals go shopping and dining downtown and on Kingston Pike, check out the dining and student scene near the University of Tennessee, check out the preservation and dining in the Knoxville Old City, visit the Knoxville Zoo or Ijam’s Nature Center with the kids and get something wonderful to eat afterwards (Knoxville has a lot of dining options is what we’re saying here), or go take in the many, many different types of museums and art centers and “Hall of Fame” centers that show visitors more about Knoxville’s history and it’s place in the grander history of America than they thought existed.
Then when the sun goes down, the city flips to nightlife and the people really come out for what Knoxville can offer. Want to find some absolutely exquisite fine restaurants that make you feel like an aristocrat? Knoxville’s got it. Want to find a weird, exclusive speakeasy where you have to provide a password to get in and enjoy a type of vibe you can’t find just anywhere modern day? Knoxville’s got it. Want to find a local venue playing some bizarre psychedelic band hitting sitars with oyster shells followed by a band of voodoo priests singing “Rainbow Connection?” Oh yeah, Knoxville’s got that, too. Enormous football and basketball games play in our stadiums here by the season, the biggest names in music play at the Thompson-Boling Arena, and acts of all amazing varieties and sizes come to perform at the historic Bijou Theater, Tennessee Theater, Clarence Brown Theater and, yes, more.
Let’s name of the “more”, shall we?
- East Tennessee History Center
- McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture
- Market Square
- Knoxville Museum of Art
- Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame
- The French Market Creperie
- The Sunsphere
- The Three Rivers’ Rambler (Train)
- Defy Knoxville (Trampoline Park)
- Bernadette’s Crystal Gardens
- Cotton Eye’d Joe (Nightclub)
- The Ramsey House
And YES, you can even visit the World’s Fair Park where the famous 1982 World’s Fair took place.
Knoxville Special Events
No need for elongated introductions here, we’ll just dive right in to a selection of special events that can be expected in Knoxville each year:
- Big Ears Festival
- Dogwood Arts Festival
- Annual Street Rod Nationals South
- DollyFest In The Old City
- KARM Dragon Boat Festival
- Annual Smoky Mountain Quilt Show
- East Tennessee History Fair
- Market Square Farmers’ Market
- Bluegrass, BBQ, Bourbon, & Beer at the Blounts’
- Volunteer Ministry Center Golf Tournament
- Grainger County Tomato Festival
- Hola Festival
- Mountain Makins’
- Rossini Festival
- Symphony in the Park
The full calendar of special events can be found at https://www.visitknoxville.com/events/.
Include a visit to Knoxville for your upcoming trip to the Great Smoky Mountains and your vacation will add levels of fun and culture you will never forget!