The beautiful thing about Tennessee is that there’s something for everyone here.
Whether you’re looking for adventure, culture or history, you’ll find it in this US state. Nestled in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains, along the banks of the Tennessee River, Knoxville overflows with natural beauty and has a vibrant arts and entertainment scene.
Savor the Flavors at the International Biscuit Festival
The schedule of festivals held in Knoxville is exhaustive. Not surprisingly, I found a lively Market Square the day I arrived. In addition to the usual Farmers Market that takes place from May to November, the International Biscuit Festival was in full flow. And we’re not talking about any old digestives here. These are US biscuits and fall somewhere between a scone and a dumpling. They can be sweet or savory, and if you’ve got a tasting ticket or two in your hand, you can try as many as your stomach can handle and then vote for the winner.
First up was a spring onion and bacon biscuit, quickly followed by a blueberry peach French toast biscuit, chased down with one featuring caramelized onion and Gruyere cheese. I rounded everything off with a lemon-lime pecan sticky biscuit before falling into a coffee shop to recover.
Outdoor Adventures at Ijams Nature Center
The only thing to do after all that indulgence was exercise. I drove five minutes from downtown to Ijams Nature Center and met up with Dylan from River Sports Outfitters. He kitted me out with all the gear and within minutes I was cycling up one of several easily accessible trails in the beautiful wilderness. Trying my hand at kayaking and paddleboarding in picturesque Mead’s Quarry Lake were also options.
Downtown Entertainment on Gay Street
By the time I finished, it was lunchtime. How could I not resist trying an “Ex-Girlfriend” roll at Nama Sushi Bar on Gay Street? Story goes that when one of the chefs and his then-girlfriend were together, it was named something else. Let’s say “Pam.” After the relationship ended, the praise and demand for “Pam” did not, so the name was changed to simply “Ex-Girlfriend.” Whatever the name, it was delicious.
Gay Street traverses the city’s downtown area and is home to Knoxville’s theater district, which features the historic Tennessee Theatre, the State Theatre of Tennessee. Dating to the 1790s, several buildings have been listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
After lunch, I strolled along Gay Street and popped into the Mast General Store and The Art Market. The Art Market gallery showcases the work of more than 60 painters, glass artists, printmakers, photographers and sculptors and was a great place to pick up gifts for friends and family back home.
At the end of the day, not surprisingly, I was still full from all the food I’d eaten. There was just enough room to squeeze in a local pint on the rooftop of one of the bars in Market Square and watch the sun go down on an amazing day.