Crashing in Knoxville

It’s burnout season. I can feel it. I try to space my vacations exactly six months apart, but around month five I start to burn out, both physically and mentally. My next vacation is in a month, and like clockwork I can feel myself coming unglued. Time for a weekend trip – a quick patch job until vacation rolls around. Plus, my back really needed some time in the hotel’s hot tub.

Since it’s been way too long since we’ve hung out together, Jay and I decided that we’d meet halfway in Knoxville and kill a weekend. Knoxville is one of those cities that most people pass through but never really stop to see; but since it’s so close, I figured I could simply ask around to learn the “best of” Knoxville. Amazingly, I got mostly blank stares. Good thing for the internet!

Turns out, Knoxville is a pretty neat town. Downtown is surprisingly pedestrian-friendly with little restaurants and shops on nearly every street. It’s also REALLY hilly… which I guess is good practice for next month in San Francisco. Downtown is also situated right along the Tennessee River; they’ve created a really nice riverwalk area which I imagine would be a great place to spend an evening.

The heartbeat of downtown (at least on the weekends) though lies in Market Square, where we spent a good bit of time. Market Square is home to K-town’s uber-nice farmer’s market, and the square itself is surrounded by local shops and restaurants, all with plenty of outdoor seating. Downtown Knoxville is absolutely alive on Saturday nights too… and with lots of culture, not just the typical college frat kid bar scene. There was free Shakespeare at Market Square (which had a big turnout) and live music of all genres at various spots around downtown. But we skipped all that to crash an Irish festival hosted by one of the downtown Catholic churches (the Immaculate Conception). Jay just returned from two weeks in Ireland, so now he’s obsessed with all things Irish. The festival was a lot of fun, with a great traditional Irish band, hearty food (corned beef and cabbage) and lots of Guinness. Come to think of it, I was quite grateful for the food.. because… uhm, yeah… I really like Guinness. 🙂

We really weren’t traveling with an agenda, but the one place we had been asked to check out was Redeemer Knoxville – a local Presbyterian church. Having spent the last several years at a contemporary “seeker” church, occasionally something more traditional is very refreshing… gets me back to my roots a bit. Redeemer’s service was liturgical, but not at all stuffy, and the pastor’s message was absolutely anchored in scripture get painted God in a light I had never considered before. The way they offered communion was also very cool – you went up row-by-row, and each row formed a circle and had their own little “private” communion. The whole place screamed “community”, and since they were smack between downtown and the University of Tennessee campus there was a lot of diversity within the church. I enjoyed it immensely, and their ministry is obviously healthy, relevant, and putting Christ out there in a good way.

For a good Sunday brunch, I can highly recommend Table Fifteen on the west side. It’s expensive ($20 a head after tax/tip) but the food is awesome, and the chef was really accommodating when it came to preparing some “off-the-menu” pizza for Jay (who can’t eat dairy products.) I can also recommend Oodles on Market Square for lunch. I forget what they called it, but try the fried tofu & portabella salad. Sounds weird, but it’s good! The wine list is great too.

Knoxville has a very big feel to it, which I really liked. It also seems to have a ton of shopping, but the only thing we bothered with was the Apple store, which we found after lunch. I think I’ve decided that after this laptop dies I’ll replace it with a MacBook Pro (gasp!! ok… I know Jason just disowned me for that… who else? Suzanne will be happy though.)

So if you get a free weekend sometime, check out Knoxville – or at least carve out a day on your way back from Gatlinburg or the Smokies. I’d recommend one of the downtown hotels, ditch the car, and explore away!

A side note on GPS’s.. remember the episode of The Office where the GPS sends Michael and Dwight into the lake? Yeah. Not funny, because for the record, I-40 is closed in downtown Knoxville, but my GPS kept INSISTING that I take it! She quite literally ordered me to turn into some orange traffic barriers onto a closed entrance ramp, and when I refused she was very unhappy and took us through the hood to get back to our hotel. After that, she didn’t talk to us for miles. We were ok with that. (Oh yes… she has a name now, but I won’t post it here because there could be hell to pay next time I’m at the airport.)

  1. Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: