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.
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!
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:
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?
And YES, you can even visit the World’s Fair Park where the famous 1982 World’s Fair took place.
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:
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!
See more on Knoxville at: