Hi, my name is Jake Ryan and I’m a native of Knoxville, Tennessee. Aside from my college years, I’ve called Knoxville home for my entire life, developing my family construction and wood working businesses (@ryancustomworkings on Instagram) here. You could say I know my way around a bit. Knoxville is known by most in the south as the home of the University of Tennessee Vols, and while the pride in our team does run deep, this city is much more than just a place to have an epic tailgate. This city is growing and changing all the time, with new restaurants and attractions, plus charming, recently revived neighborhoods. This great city is the perfect place for a weekend away or to visit friends. Come spend 48 hours with me in Knoxville.
I’d definitely start with Market Square because there are a bunch of restaurants, bars and people out and about pretty much any night of the week. The square sometimes features live music, plus a variety of activities depending on the season. Parking is pretty easy to come by in the Market Square Parking garage or the garage across the street that are both free on weekends and, of course, Uber and Lyft are also readily available.
- Preservation Pub: After making the short walk from the parking garage to the square, take your pick between Preservation (or “Pres”) Pub and it’s next door neighbor, Scruffy City, for pre-dinner drinks on either of their rooftop patios. Both bars are multi-level, feature live music and have seating on the roof, so it’s a nice place to relax and enjoy.
In between drinks and dinner, if it’s an especially busy night, walk down to Maple Hall to put your name on the list for after-dinner bowling. Maple Hall tends to be in high demand on the weekends with likely long wait times, so putting your name in before dinner saves time and creates a smoother evening.
- Cafe 4: One of my favorite spots near Market Square for dinner is Cafe 4, which is a restaurant only found in Knoxville, the restaurant named after it’s location, 4 Market Square. This restaurant offers a number of southern classics from pimento cheese dip to shrimp and grits (I’m partial to the Lobster Mac and Cheese). There aren’t any TVs in Cafe 4, so it’s a great place for a nice meal and conversation. If southern comfort’s not your bag, Market Square has options from Italian to Mexican to Asian Fusion as well.
- Maple Hall: After finishing the meal, Maple Hall is the final destination for after dinner drinks and some good old-fashioned bowling. This 11-lane bowling alley offers drinks, small plates and even a live stage to cap off the night.
If I’m being ambitious I’d recommend starting Saturday out by getting active. Depending on the season there are a number of activities to choose from in and around Knoxville. You can be on a boat, on a mountain trail, or on a golf course within minutes of the city. Here are a few options:
- Fort Loudon Lake
- The Tennessee River
- Norris Lake
- House Mountain
- Ijams hiking trail
- Ruggles Ferry (golf)
- Willow Creek (golf)
From there, I know I’ve definitely worked up an appetite for brunch or lunch.
- Lakeside Tavern: Overlooking Fort Loudon Lake, this restaurant has indoor/outdoor seating options and an all you can eat brunch buffet. That’s right, I said ALL you can eat. So while you’re nursing your food come you can admire the scenic views.
- A few other options for Brunch or Breakfast:
From brunch, I usually move on to watch afternoon sports or if I’m feeling up for day drinking, there are a number of breweries around the city that are perfect for a fun afternoon.
- Fieldhouse Social: Game watching, there are recliners, can’t get much better
- Balter Beerworks: Although this is technically a brewery, Balter is a great dinner option and, in my opinion, has the best shrimp and grits in town.
From Balter, walk down to Jackson Avenue to the Old City where there are a number of bar options. Barley’s Taproom has several pool tables and live music, and Old City Wine Bar and Boyd’s Jig and Reel are great for a casual drink with a group or on a date.
Before heading out of town, grab Sunday brunch at The Crown & Goose in the Old City for an English-style brunch. Buy a bottle to make your own mimosas and check out their beer garden for a boozy afternoon. If you haven’t had enough to drink, Central Flats and Taps is a great spot for Sunday funday with indoor/outdoor seating and tons of TVs to catch the game.
Why not try 48 hours in one of Tennessee’s greatest cities, the beautiful home of the Volunteers and the 1982 World’s Fair. You might find that, beyond just the epic tailgating, Knoxville has a southern spirit and charm that’s intoxicating!
Tennessee River picture from @caitlani9