10 Reasons We Loved Vacationing In Knoxville, Tennessee

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For us, our overnight in Knoxville, Tennessee was supposed to be just that- an overnight stop along the way. It turned out to be much more of a mini-vacation instead. We were able to stay at an unexpectedly awesome hotel and explore the downtown area, including the truly special Market Square! 

Downtown Knoxville Tennessee  

Quick note: I’ve started and stopped this series of posts about our cross-country road trip multiple times over the past few months. Every time it feels like we are heading back towards more normal travels, we are thrown another (somewhat expected) curveball and I hold off on publishing until things have settled down again travel-wise.

I’ve decided at this point I’m going to just finish this series for those planning their own future vacations. I know that I like to plan (and daydream while doing so) as far in advance as possible so it makes sense to get these articles published because at some point travel will stabilize. 

Quick Links: Jump to part 1: How We Took A Bucket List Road Trip Across The Country and part 2: Driving Across The USA- Our Old Fashion Roadtrip Memphis Stop

The next stop on our road trip was to the East Tennessee town of Knoxville.

While in Knoxville, we intended to use the stop to catch up on rest to be ready for the next section of our road trip across the country. We ended up feeling rested and ready to go- but that was not from getting extra sleep. It was from being in a place where we truly could unwind and relax, if only for an afternoon, evening, and into the next morning. Even though we were there for only a day, we were able to explore Downtown Knoxville quite a bit because our hotel was so central to the downtown area.

More about Knoxville.

If you are not familiar with Knoxville, it is located in Knox County which is about an hour from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and also from Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. With its location off Interstate 40, it is a good place to stop for a night on your way to or from vacation or for a weekend getaway- if you are lucky enough to live close by.
For us, our enjoyment of Knoxville, Tennessee was elevated by our stay at an unexpectedly awesome hotel and our time spent at the special Market Square! 

We loved this hotel so much that I have to share a mini-review of the Hyatt Place Knoxville/Downtown.

Admittedly, I love the Hyatt brand of hotels, but I’m not normally a super fan of Hyatt Place/House. They are perfect for staying at the night before a flight but I don’t search them out for longer stays. When we were leaving Hyatt Place Knoxville/Downtown we did not want to leave. We would have been thrilled to stay here much longer.

First, the lobby was gorgeous and had a lot of elements that made it feel more like a boutique hotel. Second, everyone working there went out of their way to say hello, offer assistance and just make sure we and our fellow guests were having a really great stay.

The rooms had all of the Hyatt Place features and the layout you would expect, but they were also very clean and well taken care of.  In normal fashion, we had 2 rooms that were right next to each other, and that worked perfectly as well.

We were upgraded to a higher floor room with a view of South Gay Street and we all loved watching the street down below. When you stay here, be sure to ask if there are any street view rooms available.

About a 3-minute walk from Hyatt Place Knoxville is Market Square in Knoxville, TN.

We ate in the square area for all of our meals while we were in Knoxville. It had such a great feel and was so lively, and I can’t wait to see it again during more normal times.

We were really excited to try the food at The Tomato Head when we heard that they had vegan options. It did not disappoint!

When I was looking for things to do in Knoxville, knowing we would have an afternoon to spend there, the first thing that popped up is that we would be there while Market Square had Firefly Nights.

Firefly Nights bring the twinkling of lights to an already adorable area. We got there a bit early before it was totally dark so plan to be there right at or after the sun sets and bring your camera.

There are also statues, shopping, ice cream and so much more within a short walking area.

We just cruised around after we arrived and the next morning before we headed back out on our road trip.

We also ate at Kabuki Restaurant and the Japanese food was good. They were even able to accommodate vegan/vegetarian diets.

When we come back we want to eat at one of the rooftop restaurants!

Emmy recommends that you definitely get an ice cream cone at Cruze Farm Ice Cream!

If we had been able to spend even just a couple of hours more in Knoxville, we would have also loved to have visited the East Tennessee Historical Society and Museum. It is about a minute’s walk from Hyatt Place Knoxville in the opposite direction from Market Square.

We really enjoyed our quick visit to Knoxville, Tennessee, and look forward to returning!

A quick note on masking and the images in this post:

Emmy was not eligible for a vaccine yet on this trip (June 2021) so she wore a mask anytime she could possibly come into contact with those outside our household. Outside she wore a cloth mask and inside a higher quality mask that would provide better protection. To protect her, we also wore high-quality masks inside even though we were all fully vaccinated.

At the final writing and publishing of this post in January 2021, we are all fully vaccinated, and the adults are also boosted. We are all wearing N95/KN94/KN95 masks anytime we are around those outside our household. The images in this post reflect a different time in this pandemic with different variants and mask recommendations.

Heather Reese
the authorHeather Reese
Heather Delaney Reese is the storyteller and photographer behind the lifestyle and family travel blog, It's a Lovely Life®! For the past decade, she has vacationed over 150 days a year with her family. She is a vegan, and loves being by the water, spending time with her children, husband, 2 Shih Tzus and Cat.