Downtown Knoxville – the perfect “stay-cation”

Posted on January 21, 2013 by Mary Ellen Brewington

Winter is here. The temperature may be 40 degrees or 70 degrees, but the winter months can still drag by at a snail’s pace. That’s why I recommend a hometown “stay-cation” right here in downtown Knoxville.

No matter the weather forecast, you can easily stroll from hotel, to watering hole, to theaters and to restaurants. It’s all there for your enjoyment, conveniently located on Market Square and a few easily navigated blocks beyond.  

Last weekend my husband and I booked a room at reasonable rates at The Oliver Hotel on Union Avenue. But if “renovated old world” isn’t your style, you can pick a room at the Holiday Inn at World’s Fair Park, the Crowne Plaza or the downtown Hilton. Wherever you choose to stay, you can enjoy a walking tour of food and brew throughout downtown.

The Oliver Hotel on Union Avenue at Market Square

Once checked in, we strolled over to Gay Street for an afternoon sushi snack at Nama. I highly recommend the Soy Joy and Crunchy Tuna rolls paired with a Tsingtao Lager or Rogue Dead Guy Ale. Nama’s menu is full of sushi delicacies and an extensive beer list to complement your meal.

Up and down Gay Street, you’ll find many entertainment options from movies at Regal Riviera Cinema, to Broadway performances at the Tennessee Theatre and live music at the Bijou Theatre. And if your wanderings make you curious to learn more about the history of downtown Knoxville and the region, stop in the beautiful East Tennessee History Center.  Be sure to check these suggested websites for entertainment choices when planning your Knoxville “stay-cation.”

My choice was shopping in the variety of boutiques and stores. And that, my friends, worked up a thirst for my patient husband! We made our way through the Tupelo Honey crowd to sit at the bar to watch a few minutes of football on the big-screen television. The restaurant’s draft system is lovely and properly cooled to the benefit of beer lovers. With many regional craft brews offered, we settled in for a Depot Street Loose Caboose from Jonesborough, Tennessee.

All the outstanding restaurant offerings in downtown Knoxville can overwhelm one’s palate and make dinner decisions a struggle. To maximize our time away from our kitchen we decided to enjoy small bites in several locations starting with one of Knoxville’s new restaurants, Knox Mason. This casual new Southern cuisine delight is very small. But if you get there early, take a seat at the bar where Robert, a talented mixologist, will serve a cocktail to suit your taste buds.

Since we were walking and not driving, the choice was easy: a Sazerac with a Miller High Life chaser.

Sazerac and Miller High Life at Knox Mason

Knox Mason’s draft offerings also include Guinness that goes well with homemade pimento cheese, collard greens and ham croquettes. Every bite was delicious. It’s no surprise that the menu is creative and hearty as the executive chef honed his craft at Blackberry Farm and cooking for the governor in Nashville.

Heading back up Gay Street, we stopped in Shuck Oyster and Raw Bar, which offers a huge variety of oysters served with the proper accouterments, wonderful tuna and specials to rival a seaside restaurant – all very fresh. Blue Moon or Stella Artois will sit pretty on your taste buds with any seafood selections.

What a whirlwind of sights, sounds, tastes! Downtown Knoxville has matured from a “Scruffy Little City” to a culinary and entertainment hub to rival our neighbors to the east and west. We are already planning our next “stay-cation” because there are so many more places to explore.

As much as we love to travel, there really is no place like home. Stay tuned for more of our hometown explorations and recommendations. Cheers, Knoxville!

2 Comments on “Downtown Knoxville – the perfect “stay-cation””

  1. Cheers to you, too, Mary Ellen! You are so right about how much fun downtown Knoxville is! That’s why we moved here! You picked some of our favorite spots, as well. Others we adore are Cru in the 100 block of Gay Street, The Bistro on the south end of Gay Street and Cocoa Moon on Market Square. All this talk of food is making me thirsty for a Miller Lite! Let us know when your next stay-cation is.

  2. Cynthia, I’m going to write a series of “stay-cation” posts and include your suggestions. There are so many good things in Knoxville I can’t squeeze them all in a weekend. Thank you for sharing the places you adore.

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