It’s Football Time in Tennessee!

When I decided to transfer schools just for my journalism classes—Sewanee was liberal arts and, thus, had no specific majors as such—and wound up at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, I hemmed and hawed and hemmed some more. Practically everyone I know from my hometown goes there (there were 30 alone from my graduating class); I didn’t want my college experience to be Tullahoma High School, v. 2.0. Also, UT isn’t particularly known for its academics; partying, sure, but I was always something of a nerdy kid-turned-teen-turned-college student. I tried to transfer to UNC-Chapel Hill, but they only took fall transfers, meaning I’d have to take a semester off. I wasn’t on board with that. I went and interviewed at UVa, which was a lovely, lovely campus, but again, had no journalism program. What would have been the point in leaving one prestigious academic institution without a journalism program for yet another prestigious academic institution without a journalism program where I’d no longer be on academic scholarship but rather, paying out-of-state tuition? So, begrudgingly, I found myself in Knoxville, Tennessee…and loved every minute of my 16 months there.

neyland stadium, knoxville, tennessee, university of tennessee, vols, football season, travel

I’ve had the chance to take SVV through Knoxville a few times before, but it wasn’t until we were home earlier this summer that we really got to enjoy it. We spent five glorious days at my sister’s house over SVV’s birthday (aka the Fourth of July), and in the off chance you find yourself also in those parts sometime in the coming (warm) months, I thought I’d give you my short list to enjoying Knoxville. (Also, this will be the first time in five years I haven’t made it back for a football game—*boohoo*—so this is a bit of nostalgia on my part.)

knoxville, tennessee, pigeon forge, dollywood, university of tennessee, vols, neyland stadium

Have a pint at the Crown & Goose. This authentic British pub, run by (you guessed it) a homesick Brit and his son, will make you feel like you’re back in England again. Have a dash of shepherd’s pie or bangers and mash and you’ll no doubt have a bit of traveler’s vertigo by the end of the night.

knoxville, tennessee, pigeon forge, dollywood, university of tennessee, vols, neyland stadium

Eat barbecue at Calhoun’s by the river. Drink a pumpkin ale for me, as not nearly enough establishments have pumpkin ale on the menu in fall/winter months.

Tailgate in Circle Park. Play in the leaves. Have no shame.

knoxville, tennessee, pigeon forge, dollywood, university of tennessee, vols, neyland stadium

Wander Gay Street. Marvel at the grandiose facades of the Bijou and Tennessee Theatres.

knoxville, tennessee, pigeon forge, dollywood, university of tennessee, vols, neyland stadium

Continue your walking tour down to the Old City.

knoxville, tennessee, pigeon forge, dollywood, university of tennessee, vols, neyland stadium

Have a pizza at Barley’s. And then a pint or seven. The multi-level taproom also has a number of pool tables and dart boards upstairs, and often live music down.

Wear orange. Because, let’s be honest, when else is a shade this bold going to be appropriate? (While you’re at it, drink Miller Lite. The two go hand in hand.)

knoxville, tennessee, pigeon forge, dollywood, university of tennessee, vols, neyland stadium

Spend an afternoon in the newly renovated and thriving Market Square. Have a calzone at the Tomato Head (possibly my favorite restaurant in existence) for lunch or a full-on dinner at the new Cafe 4. Peruse the local goods in shops like Earth to Old City and Bliss. Frolic in the fountains (you don’t have to be five years old to do so).

knoxville, tennessee, pigeon forge, dollywood, university of tennessee, vols, neyland stadium

Destroy a burger at Copper Cellar on a Thursday night (when they’re half off). This might be one of my favorite burgers ever and you can bet your bottom dollar that I go back for one every time I’m in town. The hot pretzels with white cheese dip don’t suck either. Neither do the spinach maria with artichokes or the spicy baked macaroni with spinach. Or the blue cheese mashed potatoes. (I could go on…)

Learn the lyrics to Rocky Top. If you plan to spend any time in these parts, it will behoove you to not be the idiot standing around not even knowing the words to the chorus. I’ll help you out here: “Rocky Top, you’ll always be…home sweet home to me…good ol’ Rocky Top (woo!), Rocky Top, Tennessee…Rocky Top, Tennessee.” (Wash, rinse, repeat. Truth be told, that’s the only part you need to know, though I’m not going to lie the “get their corn from a jar” part sure is fun.)

knoxville, tennessee, pigeon forge, dollywood, university of tennessee, vols, neyland stadium

Paint the Rock. But only do so during nighttime when no one can see you. This is one of UT’s long-running traditions, and it’s always exciting to see what message will don the landmark next.

neyland stadium, knoxville, tennessee, university of tennessee, vols, football season, travel

Brunch at the Bistro. Or Sunspot. Or Tomato Head (again). For a small city, Knoxville has such a great dining scene, I have trouble fitting all my favorites in to one short visit.

Go for a drive through the Smokies. Ooh and ahh over the myriad of colors prevalent this time of year. If it still happens to be boiling out during your visit, take a float down the river in Townsend, where a number of tubing operations rent out inner tubes and drive you to the starting point. (You’ll also be put face-to-face with Tennessee’s finest. I say that with a heavy trace of irony.)

knoxville, tennessee, pigeon forge, dollywood, university of tennessee, vols, neyland stadium

Get your kitsch on in Dollywood. Nuff said. Then continue your tawdry tour of the area by venturing into Gatlinburg with its, erm, eclectic offerings such as Hillbilly Golf, the Knife Museum, Ripley’s Believe It Or Not, and the Salt and Pepper Shaker Museum.

knoxville, tennessee, pigeon forge, dollywood, university of tennessee, vols, neyland stadium

Lastly, give Neyland Stadium a kiss for me. We may not have a prayer of a chance this season, but that doesn’t make this place in all its orange-and-white glory any less magical.

neyland stadium, knoxville, tennessee, university of tennessee, vols, football season, travel

Fellow Knoxvillians, what did I miss?

COMMENTS
  • September 6, 2010

    Makes me sad that I will not make it home for a game either!!! My husband (a born and raised Knoxvillian) is pretty upset about living in Kiffen-land as we do.

  • September 6, 2010

    Over the last few days, autumn has started to peek its head out here in Saratoga. Seeing you play in the leaves just made me more excited for fall to come!

  • September 6, 2010

    I think you about covered it. Maybe check out the observation deck of the Sunsphere for the view?

    The one thing I make everyone who comes visit me do is eat at Tomato Head, and since you had that down twice …

  • September 7, 2010

    I can’t tell you how excited I am to see this. I also second the recommendations of Dollywood, obviously, and Calhoun’s on the river. Ribs with sides of Spinach Maria and baked beans—SO GOOD.

  • September 7, 2010
    jcristg

    More orange in this post than a Gamecock like me can handle, but I have to say — we hit Cafe4 for dinner last year and it was fab.

  • September 7, 2010
    Katy "Mac"

    You forgot cupcakes from magpies on central, swanky martinis from sapphire, see a movie at the riviera, locally crafted brews at the downtown grill and brewery, check out the WDVX blue plate special at noon at the Knoxville visitors center… There is soooooooo many great things about Knoxville packed into such a small city!

  • September 8, 2010

    Thank you for this! I got routed through Knoxville coming back from NYC recently and marveled at how pretty the airport was, what with the rolling hills outside and the rocking chairs in the terminals; I thought I might go back sometime on purpose.

  • September 8, 2010
    Knoxville Girl

    Oh, and the S&W downtown has been renovated – go there for some great live jazz in an Art Deco setting – Donald Brown has been playing there most weekends!
    Coach Dooley has quite a challenge this season, but I’m still up for the absolute spectacle of singing Rocky Top (woo!!) at Neyland Stadium.

  • September 8, 2010

    Wow – Nashville looks beautiful! My husband was telling me that it was (he has traveled there once or twice for work) and that the people are amazing. Plus, I hear there’s a growing music scene. His stories, combined with your pictures have convinced me. Next time he takes a business trip out there, I’m tagging along, with a suitcase full of orange. 🙂

  • September 9, 2010

    I’d say that orange is appropriate during Flyers season… different city, different state… but still 😉

  • September 10, 2010

    Not sure if you’ve seen this or not, but as a Florida alum, I am very excited to pass this little gem your way http://www.ajc.com/sports/vols-coach-tells-players-609750.html.

  • September 11, 2010

    next time your there, you need to add hard knox pizza to your food scene. some of the best pizza i’ve had anywhere, and their calzones will rival those at tomato head, if not beat them flat out.

Leave a Comment

CommentLuv badge

GET MY POSTS DELIVERED DIRECTLY TO YOUR INBOX
+ Sign up and receive your free copy of my eBook