Knoxville was named by The Discoverer travel blog recently as one of 10 underrated cities in the U.S. “Set on the Tennessee River, this is the personification of an easy-going college town,” the blog read. “College football, museums, nightlife, you’ve got a little bit of everything to keep you busy. Market Square and the Old City are the restaurant and nightlife hotspots. And Knoxville’s Urban Wilderness has 50 miles of trails that meander along the riverfront.”
We couldn’t agree more; Knoxville deserves a higher rating for all it has to offer. We decided to ask some local community leaders what’s one thing about Knoxville that they think is underrated.
Here’s what they had to say. Some responses have been edited for length.
State Senator Richard Briggs: “I think Market Square is underrated and unique. A pedestrian friendly urban center where you can enjoy outdoor dining WITHOUT the noise and fumes of vehicular traffic.”
Jim Biggs, executive director of the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center: “Knoxville’s entrepreneurs! We’ve been building, and continue to build, world-class companies here that even WE don’t appreciate — think Pilot, Clayton, Scripps Networks, Regal, Team Health, CTI, Bandit Lites, etc. — all homegrown successes, all best in class at what they do!”
Knox County Commissioner Larsen Jay: “Three things: The restaurant scene. The “Blackberry Effect” of local chefs and the diversity of cuisine is astounding. Two, our arts. We have a topnotch symphony, amazing performers, world-class theatre and spectacular local artists that bring incredible vibrancy to our community. And three, our community kindness. We are full of people who are welcoming, inviting, and genuinely interested in others.”
David Butler, executive director of the Knoxville Museum of Art: “Knoxville punches way above its weight in the visual and performing arts. Music is being made everywhere, from dive bars to the Knoxville Symphony and multiple opera companies to the Big Ears festival. There’s equal range and quality when it comes to the visual arts: visual artists from or working in Knoxville have had an outsize impact on the world. And, the University of Tennessee was just rated thirteenth IN THE WORLD for its theatre program. We totally rock when it comes to culture.”
Sherry Jenkins, executive director of Dogwood Arts: “I think the most underrated thing about Knoxville is that it is EASY LIVING. It’s EASY to get from one end of town to the other (even our traffic jams are easy). It’s EASY to walk through a sculpture park then take in a movie or go to the Theater/Opera/Symphony. It’s EASY (with a little notice) to eat in your favorite restaurant and check out an exhibition on the way to a live concert. It’s also an easy place to make friends, get connected, and volunteer to immediately feel part of the larger community. And it’s just as easy to get OUT of the City and into nature and back in a day or even just for a few hours.”
Matt Ryerson, president and CEO of United Way of Greater Knoxville: “I heard nothing about coffee in Knoxville when I started here a year and a half ago, but I have found some outstanding coffee spots: Honeybee Coffee, Vienna Coffee, Golden Roast and Likewise, just to name a few! I believe the beer scene is on par with “Beer City” in NC. Whether at Crafty Bastard, Balter Beerworks, Elst, Albright Grove, Alliance, or Pretentious (this is only a SAMPLING) our beer scene not only has tasty choices, but the locations are amazing (the patio at Pretentious . . . c’mon!). Lastly, the nonprofit community is as committed to results and impact as I’ve ever seen.”