editorial (2006-19)

Discover Your Knoxville

Apparently, everybody else has gotten the picture

Discover Your Knoxville

Remember all the jitters a few years back over how important to the city it was to create a “destination attraction” to spur tourism to Knoxville.

It turns out now that, without ever really dedicating ourselves to the establishment of such a signature feature, we are a destination attraction.

Last week, the CNN- Money Magazine website, www.cnnmoney.com , listed Knoxville as one of seven “most affordable vacation destinations” for Americans. The listing, among such notably exotic spots as St. Lucia, the Caribbean island, and Banff, the Canadian wonderland, gave Knoxville effusive credit for its “cultural and family attractions,” including our symphony, our opera and our zoo, and said affordable hotel and motel rooms abound here. Others on the list were Portland, Me., Richmond, Va., Denver, Col., and neighboring Greenville, S.C.

Not once did the vacation guide point to the Knoxville area’s other attractions, such as the Smokies, the TVA lakes, or Dollywood and Gatlinburg. It just said Knoxville itself is a vacation destination.

It’s the second time this year that Knoxville’s been picked as one of the most affordable travel destinations in the country. Travel website Hotwire.com ranked the Knoxville area fourth in its January Travel Value Index. That posting identifies U.S. cities offering travelers the best value based on discounts, low hotel and airline rates and affordable entertainment such as free outdoor attractions.

Well, glory be. Look around a little bit, and you may figure out why that’s true. And here’s your chance, if you’re a Knox Countian who wants to have a great day on the town this weekend for next to nothing.

The Knoxville Tourism & Sports Corp. and the Knoxville Tourism Alliance have partnered to promote a Saturday event called “Discover Your Knoxville,” in which the admission to a panoply of educational and entertaining institutions around town is free to anyone with a valid driver’s license showing a Knox County address.

The playbill is pretty impressive. Participating attractions include:

The Knoxville Visitor Center at (865) 523-7263 or toll free at 1-800-727-8045 or online at www.knoxville.org/events/discoveryourknoxville is your source for more information on “Discover Your Knoxville” day, including each attraction’s special free admission hours.

What you’ll learn about your town that you may not have known already should stimulate the kind of word-of-mouth marketing of Knoxville as a vacation site for your friends or family members elsewhere. Apparently, the CNN/ Money research team knew about it before you did.

And that’s not all that’s attractive about Knoxville. It’s not just the established institutions that make our town a fun place to be. Just last weekend, the Market Square Farmers’ Market opened its summer season; the Sundown in the City concerts will fill the Square on Thursday evenings through the summer, as will First Friday summer arts events bring folks downtown and entertain them on Friday evenings.

A Scottish heritage festival graced the World’s Fair Park last Friday and Saturday, and the dulcet notes of the pipers’ airs and the fiddlers’ gaelic jigs still echo down there. That Saturday in Bearden, a seafood festival with live bands drew a crowd of hundreds in the Kingston Pike parking lot at the Shrimp Dock in a benefit for Katrina victims.

St. George Celebration of Greek Culture this Saturday at St. George’s Church on Kingston Pike is a sure bet for fabulous food and music. Animal Planet Expo at the World’s Fair Park Saturday encourages folks to come down to the park to spend quality time with their pets. There’s a guided “Ramble at the UT Arboretum” Saturday morning. And the 6th annual Vestival on the site of the old Candoro Marble Company off Maryville Pike in Vestal will feature arts, crafts, kids’ attractions and great local music.

Regular art displays and poetry and prose readings are scheduled at various galleries and venues around the city. And the variety and excellence of Knoxville music at dozens of locations across our map is becoming legendary. Those kinds of events are happening all summer long around town, and they illustrate, better than anything else, including any national TV or magazine listing, how much there is to do on any given day or evening around here.

Knoxville may not be a vacation paradise in the conventional sense, but it offers a lot of options to vacationers, just as it does for Knoxville residents. No wonder we’ve become a touted “destination” for travelers on a budget. The cost of living, working, and playing here is among the lowest in the country. And the attractions have come together to form what we were all told we should be seeking just a few years back. There’s more to come, we’re certain, because the momentum continues to build, but the features are many and varied, and they’ve been tallied up by others outside this region.

Congratulations, Knoxville. In case you didn’t notice, you’ve arrived. Take a long look this Saturday, free of charge, and you’ll see.