Diana's Official Guide to Knoxville

As my time in this "scruffy little city on the Tennessee River" comes to an end (for now), I've put together a short Knoxville travel guide.  Who better to tell you what's out there than someone who's spent the past two semesters in Big Orange Country? These places are some of my favorites, and hopefully I will be able to add more as time goes by!

This one is pretty self-explanatory.  Even if you aren't a Vol fan, Neyland Stadium on game day is something you need to experience at least once! The fifth largest college football stadium in the nation, Neyland Stadium can hold 102,455 people, and game day attendance is usually pretty close to that, especially if another SEC team is in town. The atmosphere is loud, energetic, and fun, and there's orange and white as far as the eye can see! (Being a part of the human checkerboard when the Vols played Florida was so much fun!) Like most large universities, we have an incredible marching band; the first time I heard them play "Rocky Top" is something I'll never forget!  On the weekend my family came up for a game, Lee Greenwood performed with the band at half-time, and the whole crowd sang along to "God Bless the USA." It was one of those moments where you feel proud and patriotic and just oh, so many emotions!

Tips: There's not a bad seat in the place, and don't be afraid to buy tickets from scalpers. It used to always make me nervous, but my dad has made some pretty good deals buying tickets off the street!     Also, the student section is the most rowdy part of the stadium, so you may want to avoid it. The students don't sit down the whole game, which gets pretty tiring, and it can get rather loud. If you're bringing kids, try to sit on the opposite end of the stadium from the band, or in the upper deck if you can.  

Ijams Nature Center (the "j" is silent) is a 300-acre "urban greenspace" that is located less than 15 minutes from downtown. It has miles and miles of hiking and biking trails, overlooks, a beautiful rock quarry, and spaces that can be rented out for weddings and events. Even though it's so close to the city, it's incredibly peaceful, and you can't even hear the sounds of the city! In the quarry, you can rent paddle boards (basically large surf boards with a paddle), canoes, kayaks, and paddle boats to explore the "lake," and many people use it as a swimming hole. (Once, we saw a morning yoga class out on the water: everyone was doing yoga on paddle boards!) 

Tips: Go as early in the morning as you can. (Check opening times.) It's not very crowded, and the trails and scenery are gorgeous in the morning light. And, be prepared to walk a lot. 

This one is a more recent discovery of mine; I've been on the greenways before, but I've been using them lately as a place to get away from it all after final exams. Greenways are paved trails that run all throughout the city for walking, running, and biking. What's really great is that in most of them, you can't even tell how close you are to the city! (Like the one pictured above.) They typically run through grassy, shaded areas, by streams, and by the river. I've been using these trails fairly often for running, and I've really enjoyed it. Running on the track on campus gets old, as does a treadmill, so this is a perfect change! Plus, there are so many options when it comes to what trail to take! There are choices for everyone; some trails are winding and filled with ups and downs, others are super flat. People are always on the track, so it's perfectly safe to be out by yourself (during the day, obviously). The city of Knoxville does a great job of keeping the greenways clean, mowed, and beautiful all year round. 

Tips: The best time to run/walk/bike on my favorite trail is around 9:00 in the morning. The early morning pre-work walkers are done for the day, most students are in class (or are still asleep), and you'll pretty much have the whole trail to yourself. 

Ben and I went to the zoo earlier in April, and we had so much fun! It's a little more expensive than the Nashville Zoo, but I believe that there are more exhibits and more activities at the Knoxville Zoo. It's a great place to take kids! They have a great variety of animals, from giraffes (which you can feed!) to penguins to black bears. We were fortunate enough to go on a day when all the animals were cooperating and every exhibit was open. Plus, the weather was perfect! 

Tips: Get there when the gates open in the morning. (Do you see the pattern here?) You'll be able to park much closer to the gate, and you won't have to fight the crowds to see the exhibits. Ben and I went through the whole zoo in about two and a half hours, and by the time we were done, the crowd was just starting to pick up. Also, we didn't eat in the zoo; the food is incredibly expensive, and I've heard from friends that it's not very good. 

So, there you have it: four things to do in Knoxville that cover many price ranges! I'm hoping that I'll be able to post about more someday because there really are so many awesome places in Knoxville! For instance, I've been to a handful of great shows, eaten delicious food, and discovered some darling little boutiques all within walking distance from my dorm! For now, I'm back on the farm and won't be returning to UT until January. Until next time, Knoxville. 

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