So my good friend Danny is coming in town to visit me for the weekend! So that means I only have 48 hours to show him everything I love about living in Knoxville, no pressure! While I was trying to figure out what exactly I was going to show him I realized I should share this with all of you! I think I am also going to start a series on here of doing 48 hours in select destinations and giving you guys my feedback, and advice! So what better way to kick off the start of the series than a city I know only too well…Welcome to my 48 hour itinerary for fun in Knoxville!
The goal for day one is to really highlight what I like to call “classic Knoxville.” These are all the things that I think of when I think “Knoxville.” It’s a jam packed day, but is packed FULL of photo ops! (which if you’re like me, is half the fun of visiting new places!) The majority of our day is centered in the downtown area, outdoors and mostly everything is within walking distance of each other.
Breakfast & coffee at K-brew
K-brew was one of the first coffee shops I started visiting when I moved to Knoxville, and will forever hold a special place in my heart for that. I like to go to the OG location off of Broadway in North Knoxville, but they now have three total locations! One of which is actually downtown, off of Gay street. No matter what location you end up at make sure to get a cute pic on the swings while you’re there! (see below!) Also, my favorite bagel is the asiago toasted with chive cream cheese, and I always get a dirty vanilla chai, iced of course.
The shops at market square are a MUST see for every newbie or visitor to Knox; there are also some great brunch spots as well if you aren’t able to get up early for coffee! And if today happens to be a Saturday you can catch the Knoxville Farmers Market and get some quality local products & produce. Don’t forget to enjoy all the beautiful & unique street art adjacent to Market Square.
If your day one happens to be a weekday check out Frussies Deli downtown. It is one of my favorite places for lunch with locally sourced fresh ingredients and fresh baked bread! I usually go for an Egg Salad on Wheat with a side of Kettle Chips!
Pete’s coffee shop is a little closer to Market Square and has similar vibes, but a wider menu & is open on Saturday! They have a full service breakfast, soups, salads, and burgers! Make sure you catch them before 2pm though!
If you’re looking for something a little later in the day, on a weekend, or a different vibe I suggest Tupelo Honey Cafe. They have a great brunch menu and amazing mimosas if that’s your style!
Worlds Fair park & Sun Sphere
World’s Fair Park (from the 1982 World’s Fair Exhibition) is a MUST see if you’re in Knoxville. There are plenty of places to get that iconic Sun Sphere pic! Then of course go up to the sky deck to read some more history on the park and enjoy the 266ft 365 degree view of Knoxville, The Tennessee River, and The Great Smokey Mountains in the background!
If you find that you have time in your day, and this is your kind of thing, then you definitely need to check out the Knoxville Museum of Art. The museum celebrates local artistry and supports the community of Knoxville. The best part is admission is free and they are constantly having new events to partake in! Just visit the website for more information. The Knoxville Museum of Art is also located in Worlds Fair Park.
Dinner at the Downtown Grill and Brewery
If you know me, then you know I will never say know to Pizza’s & LIT’s at DGB on a Friday night. The Downtown Grill and Brewery is by far my favorite sit down restaurant in the downtown area. And I am obsessed with their pizza and Long Island Teas (which are only $3 during happy hour!) and love going on Wednesday nights where they have live trivia in the upstairs bar! Play a round or two of pool, have some inexpensive drinks, and get your pop culture trivia on!
I HIGHLY recommend the “White” pizza of theirs, it has their house made Alfredo sauce instead of traditional red pizza sauce, fresh mozzarella, spinach and sliced tomatoes. You can also opt to add a meat on it if you choose, I usually go chicken if I’m feeling I need some more protein.
I would ideally schedule “day two” to be a Friday or a Saturday! Today is all about the gorgeous national treasure we get to call home: The Great Smokey Mountains National Park! A little fun fact for you, the GSM’s are actually the most visited National Park in the country! With almost twice as many visitors a year as the Grand Canyon!
While this area isn’t technically part of “Knoxville,” being so close to the mountains is probably my favorite thing about living in Knoxville, and something I took for granted while growing up.
Today we will be spending lots of time outdoors, and a fair amount in the car as well, so be prepared!
Foothills parkway & drive to Gatlinburg
Anyone who grew up or has lived in Maryville has been up to the Parkway. When you’re from a small town, you can sit in the same Walmart parking lot doing absolutely nothing on a Friday night only so many times. I couldn’t count the times I’ve said “I’m bored, wanna go to the parkway?” And for good reason! The views up there are spectacular and never get old. It is 33 miles, starting in Chilhowee and ending in Wears Valley just short of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge.
While it is definitely quite the drive to get out to the end, if you have the time (and don’t get car sick on winding roads!) I would definitely recommend starting at the end off of Highway 129 next to Chilhowee lake and driving the full 33 miles up the mountain.
The other option would be starting towards the tail end of it in Walland off Highway 321 and driving towards Wears Valley. The views are still quite spectacular, but you’ll save some time and gas this way!
Now there are a few different ways you can get to Gatlinburg from the parkway. It all depends on where you start your journey. But in the end you can either take Highway 321 up to Townsend and follow signs for Gatlinburg, or you can take Wears Valley road up to Pigeon Forge and follow signs from there. For those wanting the scenic route, I would recommend going through Townsend as Pigeon Forge can be very crowded, especially in peak tourist season (generally summer/fall and around the holidays).
Gatlinburg sampling tour
Now there are tons of things to do in Gatlinburg, but one of my personal favorite things to do is take a stroll down the main street, check out all the cool shops, and sample as many wines and moonshines as I can! 😂 And trust me when I say there is no shortage of places to sample wines and good old fashioned, smokey mountain moonshine!
If alcohol isn’t quite your thing, or you’re in town with children/under aged friends then don’t worry! There is still PLENTY to do in Gatlinburg! Visit the official Gatlinburg tourism website to find more things to do!
Recently, Gatlinburg became home to the longest pedestrian suspension bridge in North America. And if you thought the views were good on your drive up here, you’ll really be blown away when you’re standing 140 feet above the valley with a panoramic views of the Great Smokey Mountains! But don’t let me convince you, just let the video, and the views, do the talking.
Personally, I love eating dinner in Gatlinburg! There are so many cool and local dives you can find, you just gotta look for them! I have had dinner on the 3rd story balcony overlooking the main street parade, and I’ve had dinner under the ground in a little hole in the wall place. There are so many great places that I couldn’t reccomend just one, but luckily Travel Awaits had no problem coming up with a list! I’ve been to several of the places listed and loved them all!
But don’t worry, if finding a local place isn’t your thing, they have plenty of chain restaurants as well! I suggest to check trip advisor to find something that might be more to your taste!
Well I hope you all have enjoyed your 48 hours in Knoxville! This was such a fun project to work on and really reflect on all the things I love most about where I live! If you try out this itinerary or even some of the places on it, let me know in the comments or on Instagram! What do you think? Where should I try this next?
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