Every week we'll be asking you to come with us to some of our favorite small towns and cities—and we'll show you the places, secret spots, and nooks we love.
You need a ride, baby? is a phrase that would make me turn the other way, fast, in New York. But it's Knoxville, Tennessee, and this is the question I am asked minutes after I land, by a taxi driver—a pert woman with pert hair, neon orange nails, and a blindingly pink top. Her demeanor fits right into her ensemble; she is effusive, energetic, eager, like she just reunited with a long-lost niece at a family reunion.
And she is infectious: I sit in the front instead of the back, I say please after I say to the Knoxville Hilton. When she decides to tell me she likes my haircut by actually reaching out to touch it, I do not recoil to preserve my very roomy, very native-New York personal space bubble.
In the first ten minutes of our ride, she tells me three stories of “city people” being swept off their feet by Southern hospitality. I realize that her brand of hospitality isn’t just real down here, it’s also a source of pride—and so I ask her everywhere I should go in the next two days. In response, she doesn’t just tell me where to go for breakfast, for barbecue, for the dying art of penny candy—she writes it all down on a map. This, combined with a slew of recommendations from our Home and Design editor Amanda Sims, who grew up in Knoxville, carries me through 48 hours with not a minute to spare.
Before I get out of her minivan, she adds to my list a discount shoe store, the name of which I’ve since forgotten—though I appreciate the tip, my brain involuntarily clouds when it hears "Cole Haan bargain shopping"—and offers her personal phone number should I need anything else. Welcome to Knoxville: Aside from that elusive shoe store, here are the places to hit when you go.
The great Knoxville Sunsphere (not a wig store); image courtesy of Knox County Government
The very first thing you should do:
For stocking up and quick food options:
If it’s 2 P.M. and you need sugar:
You’re in Tennessee. You’re going to need to eat some biscuits:
Our favorite dinner (and post-dinner) options:
Downtown in Market Square; image courtesy of brookpeterson
You have a free afternoon. Here’s where Amanda wants you to go:
See all of our picks on the map below. Where do you love to go in Knoxville? Leave your suggestions for us in the comments!