Kara and I bonded through the dogs, the food and musical Wicked. Anybody who gets Wicked and loves the dogs, can be my friend. How can you not, after a singalong Wicked numbers in the car? Great times. Anyway, while Kara and John were visiting their family for a week, Stephen and I stayed at their house for our first housesitting and dogsitting job. They lived in Knoxville for a couple years before moved to Denver. Since I’ve never been in Knoxville, I asked Kara to contribute on Runaway to Sister’s city series. She is also the one who inspires me to write “What to do in Denver?”.
1. If you use only one word to describe Knoxville, what would that be?
2. What are the three best reasons to include Knoxville on our travel list among a lot of other destinations in America?
a) The Great Smoky Mountains are less than an hour’s drive. You can enjoy the city and the mountains all in one trip.
b) Location: Knoxville is located at the junction of I-40 and I-75. Driving west on I-40, you can be in Nashville in about 2 hours, and driving east on I-40, you can be in Asheville, NC in about 2 hours. Driving north on I-75, Cincinnati is about 3 hours away, and Atlanta is about 3 hours south. It’s on the way to a lot of places!
c) Southern hospitality!
3. How long have you been living there and what did you do?
I lived in Knoxville for 4 years (2007-2011). I was a teacher in the Knox County School District and my husband was a graduate student at the University of Tennessee.
4. Who would you invite to travel to Knoxville with you, if you can choose anyone in the history/ present/ and future. Who would like Knoxville the best?
I would choose Runaway Juno because it sounds like she’s never been there! Big time college football fans would love Knoxville as well.
5. For you, when is the best season to travel Knoxville? And the reason why?
I would definitely say spring or fall. The temperature is perfect; summer is very hot and humid and it can get quite cold (and even snowy) in the winter. In the spring the dogwoods are in bloom all over the city and there is a Dogwood Festival each year in April. There are beautiful leaves in the fall, especially if you make the drive to the mountains. Also, fall is football time in Tennessee – the Tennessee Volunteers have the 3rd largest NCAA football stadium in the country!
6. What are three foods that you would say “You can’t leave Knoxville without trying these!”
a) Señor Taco – best Mexican food I have had anywhere, especially the chimichangas
b) Magpie’s cupcakes – get free samples every first Friday of the month
c) Big Fatty’s brunch – Gangsta breakfast and Phat biscuits served with a tallboy
7. Tell us about your favourite and the least favourite thing about Knoxville.
Knoxville has great people. It feels small but is really a decent sized city. However, it has a lot of the same problems facing many cities in the Southeast, such as poverty and homelessness.
8. What is the most famous landmark? And which one is your favourite to visit?
Most famous is definitely the Sunsphere, built for the 1982 World’s Fair. It is free to ride the elevator to the top and get great views of the city. For a while there was a bar at the top, and I think you can have your wedding reception up there. Market Square is also a great place to check out for restaurants, shopping, and occasional festivals and events.
9. Where was your secret hangout place? The place where you felt most comfortable, or had the most fun.
The Bistro at the Bijou – a cozy little restaurant with great food and drinks and a seasonal menu. The people there were great. It was always the place we went for special occasions or just to grab lunch or dinner downtown. My friend Lakiea would say Rooster’s Bar, if you’re in the mood to just have a beer and play some pool.
10. How much is for a cup of coffee?
About the same as anywhere I guess. We usually make coffee at home.
11. Would you recommend us one ‘off-the-beaten path’ place in Knoxville?
Señor Taco is definitely off the beaten path – It is about 3 miles north of downtown on Broadway. Also Union Jack’s bar, west of downtown off Papermill Rd.
12. Any quirky things about Knoxville that travelers should know?
Knoxville is very down-to-earth. People aren’t pretending to be something they’re not. Also, check out the Simpsons episode where the Sunsphere houses a wig shop!
13. I’m a fan of souvenirs. Which one should I buy in Knoxville?
Something with the Sunsphere on it, or from the University of Tennessee bookstore. Also, the Mast General Store downtown is a great place to check out for some local gifts. A Knoxville girl t-shirt is a good choice. J
14. Would you go back Knoxville, to travel?
Knoxville is on the way to so many places, I would definitely stop in if I was passing through, to visit friends.
Kara Sakulich is an elementary school teacher currently living in Denver, Colorado with her husband and 2 dogs. She has previously lived in Knoxville, TN, Emerson, NJ, State College, PA, and Scranton, PA. She is looking forward to travelling more in the western half of the United States!
Message from Kara: Thanks to my friend Lakiea Chapman, a lifelong resident of East Tennessee, for her input on some of these questions!