When your Tennessee River cruise calls for a taste of city life, Knoxville, Tenn., glows. Dock at Volunteer Landing Marina (865-966-7444) in the heart of downtown, then set out on foot or pick up a bicycle next door at the Outdoor Knoxville Adventure Center.
The city is threaded with jogging and biking trails and greenways that can take you deep into the scenic countryside and for miles along the riverfront. Or head for the sightseeing, nightlife and restaurants of Downtown Market Square, Gay Street and The Old City.
The city also has a good transit system and a free trolley. Here’s just a sampling of what visiting houseboaters can see and do.
- The Tennessee Theatre is the centerpiece of the downtown cityscape. A lavish movie palace built in 1928, it’s restored to its original splendor. On the first Monday of the month, come at noon to see the magnificent theater and hear a free concert played on the original Wurlitzer organ. Concerts and shows also play here regularly.
- The East Tennessee Historical Society hosts an excellent museum downtown. Starting with Native American history, its displays take visitors through the area’s role in history. Even before the Revolution, pioneers defied British colonial rulers at Williamsburg and settled in these mountains.
- The stately building complex, once the courthouse, is also a popular destination for people interested in family history. Free to users, it’s one of the largest genealogy libraries in the South.
- If you time it just right, you can catch the Vol Navy, a University of Tennessee tradition. College football fans pack the docks along the Tennessee River just outside Neyland Stadium with boats of all sizes to tailgate before each home game.
- Dominating the downtown skyline is the Sunsphere, a large dome built for the World’s Fair in 1982. Take the elevator to the observation deck, then explore sprawling World’s Fair Park and have a meal overlooking the park at the Windows on the Park Restaurant in the Holiday Inn.
- Old-time radio lives at the WDVX Blue Plate Special, a live broadcast at noon featuring country music. Order food and a soda at the lunch counter to enjoy during a free concert that’s also heard on public radio.
- Bistro at the Bijou serves country meals in one of the city’s downtown landmarks. Built as a stately home in 1815, the site became a prestigious hotel where guests included Andrew Jackson. By 1909 it was a grand theater. Still staged here are plays, concerts and opera.
- Knoxville Museum of Art has a good variety of collections including works by local artists and an outstanding array of glass sculptures.
- Downtown Market Square is a car-free outdoor mall where you can have a meal or an ice cream cone, shop the boutiques and watch as buskers and musicians perform.
- The Old City has become trendy again thanks to its many restaurants and brewpubs housed in what were once warehouses and factories.
- Mast General Store has been here since 1883, selling everything from penny candy to local crafts and top quality hardware, outdoor gear and kitchen needs.
- James White’s Fort is a reconstructed log cabin complex on the site where Knoxville was founded in 1783. Nearby is the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame with displays showing the history of the game. Blount Mansion, dating to 1792, is also a short walk from the marina. It’s open for tours.
If You Go
Pick up maps and information in person at the Visitors Center at 301 South Gay Street, go to www.visitknoxville.com or call 865-523-7263. Volunteer Landing Marina is a full-service marina (865-966-7444).