I used to live in Sevierville, TN which is a beautiful area near the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. But in order to get to any serious shopping, a.k.a., T.J. Maxx or any type of mall, I needed to drive 50 minutes or so to Knoxville on I-40.
I dreaded this drive.
I-40 always has some construction going on which causes traffic to stand stock still for miles on end. I know this because one day I sat in I-40 traffic for an hour, just inching along, until I finally got up to one, single, solitary TDOT worker filling one single, solitary pothole. Since I was making such a sacrifice each trip, I made up my mind to learn more about Knoxville to make it all worth it.
I was last in Knoxville in 2013 and snapped some pictures while I was at World’s Fair Park. The Sunsphere was constructed in 1981 for the last successful World’s Fair held in 1982. It is the only structure of its kind in existence and is synonymous with Knoxville’s skyline. When I was there, you could ride up to an observation deck on the elevator and have a drink at a bar on the top. Apparently, that bar is now an Italian restaurant and the ride up to the observation deck is still free. I highly recommend taking advantage of this because the views are 360°. Here is what I saw that day ….
While you are there, take a stroll through the park. The grounds are very green with plenty of space to throw a frisbee or catch a concert in the tented amphitheater (pictured to the left in my main picture). A great place to cool off is down at the lake where you can dip your feet in the water and watch the fountains. Somewhere at the end of this park is a fun candy store called Knoxville Chocolate Company. https://knoxchox.com/
Also, if you are in Knoxville, try to save enough time to check out two more nature-inspired places. One is the Knoxville Botanical Garden and Arboretum.
There is a lot of stone around, including in the Visitors Center.
And directly outside the Visitors Center are circular stone buildings. I don’t remember what their purpose was, but they were unique to look at.
I was here in autumn, and the flowers were gorgeous.
As was the view of the Smokies ….
The second place you want to save enough time to see is called Ijams Nature Center. It is located about 3 miles from downtown Knoxville on an island. Once you get there, Knoxville seems hundreds of miles away.
All of the above pictures were taken at Ijams. This secluded park was developed in the early 20th century by Harry Ijams as a Bird Sanctuary. At the gift shop, I picked up the Emmy-nominated documentary, A Place by the River produced by the local Heartland Series/WBIR TV which explains the history of this peaceful place. Speaking of which, if you do travel to the Great Smoky Mountains, please, please look for the Heartland/WBIR TV series of videos about the entire area. There is something about how these videos are produced that will make you feel as if you grew up here.
Tennessee is such a beautiful area. I never thought of Knoxville as having a “nature” aspect to it, but you can see from my pictures above that if you dig a little, you can find areas like this when you least expect them.