Happy Friday, all! I hope everyone’s had a great week. Today I’ll be sharing another one of the destinations we visited on our Tennessee road trip: Knoxville!
Located on the Tennessee River, Knoxville is Tennessee’s third largest city (after Nashville and Memphis) and was actually the state’s first capital! It’s perhaps best known as the home of the University of Tennessee, and it’s very much a college town. Knoxville is about an hour north of the Smokies and three hours east of Nashville, which made it a convenient ‘between point’ for our trip. We were only there for one night, so we didn’t get to see too much, but we really enjoyed the short time we spent there. Here are my best recommendations for Knoxville (based on my admittedly limited experience!)
Where To Stay In Knoxville
The Graduate Hotel: The Graduate is a chain of boutique hotels located in college towns across America. The hotels are distinguished by their eclectic and one-of-a-kind décor, and each hotel is uniquely designed to reflect the city around it. When we stumbled across The Graduate Knoxville when searching for hotels, we were immediately enticed by the gorgeous room photos, so booking there was a no-brainer. I can best describe the hotel’s interiors as classic and traditional with some fun and quirky twists. The lobby has so many of the traditional design elements I love – wood paneling, floral paintings, oriental rugs, blue and white ginger jars – but is also heavily themed around the University of Tennessee and their football team the Tennessee Volunteers, with several nods to famous alum Peyton Manning. There’s a cute café in the lobby, Poindexter Coffee, where we enjoyed lattes in the morning, and a country-themed restaurant, Saloon 16.
Our room at The Graduate was absolutely stunning. I loved all of the décor details, from the gingham-trimmed headboard and blue-and-white wallpaper to the kitschy throw pillows and dog lamps. But my favourite element had to be the preppy hunting dog wallpaper in the bathroom!
Where To Eat In Knoxville
Tupelo Honey Café: This renowned chain of restaurants specializes in “Southern food with gracious roots”. They serve classic Southern dishes with a twist, made using seasonal, locally sourced ingredients. We enjoyed what was probably the healthiest meal of our whole trip here! We split three different vegetarian dishes: the Lemon Garden Party Salad (which was huge!), crispy Brussels sprouts and fried green tomatoes. Everything was excellent, but our favourite dish was the fried green tomatoes – Tupelo Honey is famous for them and I can see why! They were fried to perfection and served atop savoury goat cheese grits which were so good. Tania and I both agreed this was our favourite meal of the trip. Our server even let us take one of their fun drinking glasses home as a souvenir!
Cruze Farm: Voted best ice cream in Tennessee, Cruze Farm has five different locations, each serving ice cream made on their family dairy farm in Knoxville. Their downtown Knoxville location is decorated like a 1950s-era ice cream parlour and the servers wear the cutest red and white gingham uniforms. They serve a menu of unique rotating flavours that range from pineapple to ube, but I went with a vanilla hot fudge sundae and it was fabulous – sometimes the classics are the best!
Things To See & Do In Knoxville
Phoenix Pharmacy & Soda Fountain: This historic building houses an independently owned, fully operational pharmacy. The business only opened in 2016 but you’d never know it – it was decorated in the style of a 1930s-era pharmacy, from their retro signage right down to the display of vintage apothecary bottles. But the best part is their old-fashioned soda fountain, where you can pull up a seat at the bar and order a sundae, shake or ice cream float. We stopped by in the morning while we were exploring downtown Knoxville, so it was a bit too early for ice cream (if there even is such a thing!) but if we ever find ourselves in Knoxville again I would love to go back.
Tennessee Theatre: Built in 1928, this landmark is the official state theatre of Tennessee and was Knoxville’s first skyscraper. They host various events from concerts to ballets to Broadway musicals, but even if you don’t go see a show there, it’s worth a stop to see the iconic building and take a picture in front of the Tennessee sign – which is especially gorgeous when it’s lit up at night!
Market Square: Located in the heart of downtown Knoxville, Market Square has a history dating back to the mid-late 1800s. The neighbourhood’s many shops, restaurants and bars are anchored by the square, which contains a lovely small park with a fountain as well as historical landmarks like the Tennessee Women Suffrage Memorial.
Strong Alley: Just around the corner from Market Square, this unassuming alleyway is filled with beautiful and inspiring murals from various local artists. My favourite was (of course) the mural of Dolly Parton by artist Megan Lingerfelt.
While we were only in Knoxville for a short time, we loved exploring at least some of what this unique and charming city has to offer! I hope you’ve enjoyed this post, as well as my recent posts about the Smoky Mountains portion of our road trip. Next week I’ll be sharing what we did in one of my very favourite cities: Nashville. Stay tuned!