We’ve gotten a lot of questions this road trip, everything from “Why did you bring your dog along?” to “Do you two fight ALL the time?” but two of the most frequent questions we’ve gotten are “What’s your favorite stop so far?” and “Has anywhere surprised you?”
While it’s too hard to pick a favorite (every city has been SO different, you really can’t compare), we without a doubt can answer which city surprised us.
Now, we could say the typical “It’s really up and coming!” and “It’s such a foodie city!” (which is all true), but Knoxville deserves more than that. It’s special. It has the charm and approachability that we would assume Nashville had before it really commercialized. It’s a small town, yet modern, and the people are all so incredibly kind and proud of their city. (And after having spent a couple of days there, we felt proud of Knoxville too!)
Instead of trying to convince you on just how epic Knoxville is, we figure we’ll let our experience (and the pictures) do the talking. Here’s what we did:
ATE OUR WAY THROUGH KNOXVILLE
If we’re being honest, we’re probably still full from Knoxville. This city has more restaurants and cafes than it knows what to do with - and they’re good, too! From modern taco shops like Chivo Taqueria and Good Golly Tamale, to artisan pizzarias like A Dopo Sourdough Pizza, to mouthwatering bakeries like Wild Love Bakehouse and Paysan Bread, the Knoxville foodie scene has a little of everything. And if you don’t end the day with a dipped cone at Cruze Farm Ice Cream, you’re doing it wrong!
DRANK OUR WAY THROUGH KNOXVILLE
If you love beer, you will have a serious love affair with Knoxville. There are 15 local craft breweries in town, and every brewery has a story and a theme. Schulz Brau Brewing Company serves German style beers in a castle, Pretentious Beer Co serves their ales in hand-blown glasses that are made on site, and Last Days of Autumn has the best taco tuesday in town! (Paired with a habanero IPA, of course!)
How do we know so much about these breweries, you ask? We took the famous Knox Brew Tour - and we highly recommend it! This 3-hour tour took us through four craft breweries, where we not only learned more about the beer-making process, but we enjoyed twelve tastings, and made some new friends along the way. (No joke - we all went out to dinner together after!) We can’t say enough about how fun the tour is, and how great the people are that run them. The next time we’re back in Knoxville, you better believe we’ll be doing another Knox Brew Tour.
And while beer was definitely a highlight, we would be remiss to leave out our daily fuel - coffee. Of course there are amazing coffee shops in Knoxville. Some of our favorites are Honeybee Coffee, Remedy Coffee, Wild Love Bakehouse, and Awaken Coffee (and there were more that we wanted to visit - next time!).
SWUNG, ZIPPED, & WALKED OUR WAY THROUGH KNOXVILLE
Thanks to the folks at Navitat Canopy Adventures, we were able to see Knoxville in a whole new way… from the trees! We spent an afternoon conquering their tree-based zipline and aerial course, and it was quite the thrill! USA Today has called their zipline course “One of the best in the nation”, and it definitely lives up to the hype. Adventure seekers, this is reason enough to put Knoxville on your radar!
Prefer walking on solid ground over balancing on ropes? You’re in luck too! Knoxville’s downtown is incredibly walkable. We rarely used our car while we were there, which we loved! We stayed at the Hilton Downtown, which was just a stone’s throw away from the picturesque Market Square, where there were plenty of restaurants, bars, and shops to explore. Oh, and we can’t forget about Strong Alley (just parallel to Market Square)! This colorful artist-designated alley has dozens of unique and expressive murals - our favorite was the painting of the iconic Dolly Parton!
SALLY PAWED HER WAY THROUGH KNOXVILLE
Knoxville is just about as dog friendly as they come. Not only do most restaurants have dog friendly patios, but many downtown shops allow dogs inside! We had the best time shopping with Sally in Mast General Store, where she got ample attention from friendly shoppers, and we were able to stock up on some needed roadtripping essentials.
Popular pet brand Pet Safe has their headquarters in Knoxville, and has outfitted the city with spacious dog parks and even a pet resort and spa! We frequented the Pet Safe Downtown Dog Park, where Sally was able to get her wiggles out and make some new friends.
Most breweries are dog friendly, including Alliance Brewing Company, Balter Beerworks, and Elkmont Exchange (see a full list here). Many of which will bring water bowls to your table and have puppy treats on hand, that’s true Southern hospitality right there!
Moral of the story? Knoxville is really cool. It surprised us, and we think it will surprise you too. We can’t wait to go back.