The Official Insider's Guide to Knoxville

Tips, Shortcuts, Pointers, Advice, and the Straight Dope on Making Life Easier for Yourself in the Marble City


Some have long urged travelers to avoid central Knoxville altogether on University of Tennessee football home-game days. And when there are 109,000 people in Neyland Stadium, each of whom seems to have brought his or her own SUV, it's easy to understand why. Thanks to some traffic improvements, it's easier than it used to be. But one of the reasons it's easier now has to do with the draconian traffic laws that don't acknowledge anyone should ever be in the UT/Fort Sanders area except to go to the game.

Knoxvillians who aren't at the game have learned to avoid the one-mile perimeter around Neyland Stadium during the game. For that reason, even if you have no interest in football, it's useful to know when kickoff is. For non-fans, kickoff is a moment of rare peace, an excellent time to shop, or to go bowling. But it's good to avoid Neyland Drive and Cumberland Avenue for about three hours before kickoff, then again for about three hours after kickoff. You'll get the hang of it.


Game Days: Downtown tends to be quiet on game days, but it's not impossible to get to, especially if you arrive and park on the eastern side of downtown. However, some of the commuter surface lots, especially east of Market Street, will try to gouge you on game days. Don't pay more than $5. You may be able to park much cheaper than that in a metered parallel space.

Parking Meters: They are officially active until 6 p.m. every day but Sunday; but we've found that they're not often checked on Saturdays, and rarely (but not never) after 4:30 p.m. on weekdays. Look for the 10-hour meters on State Street, South Central Street, Church Street, and the tiny fractured piece of Cumberland Avenue near the off-ramp for James White Parkway. Cheap!

The Old City: You can now park for free at new public lots under the James White Parkway overpass. Cheapest!

Monthly Parking Bargain: Parking is offered at the Knoxville Civic Auditorium and Coliseum from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday, for only $20 a month. KAT's Blue Line Trolley service is available free of charge and will pick up every five minutes during peak hours (6-9 a.m. and 4-7 p.m.) and 10-minute service during non-peak hours.


Knoxvillians will tell you "we have no public transit," but it's a silly lie. The KAT bus system, much improved in recent years, runs from very early in the morning until late at night. The last buses pull out of downtown—the Main Street "transfer point" which serves as our transit center until the completion of the elaborate new building on East Church Street next year—at 11:15 p.m.

Most routes run just once every half hour during the day, and once an hour at night. But if you live within the city of Knoxville, chances are there's a bus stop within walking distance of your house, and you can use it for lots of practical trips, saving gas money, parking fees, and the environment in the bargain. There are all sorts of discounts offered to seniors, UT folks, etc., but to ride a bus, all you need is $1.50 in any sort of American currency. If you don't have change, give them two bucks or a five or whatever, and they'll give you change in the form of a card you can use for future fares. Just step up into the bus, and if you're shy or befuddled, the patient driver will walk you through it.

All the routes use Main Street as their hub; hence, all buses except for some of the UT trolleys are eventually bound for downtown. But with a transfer you can boomerang into different parts of town.

Also: Those over 65 ride free with proper ID. And during the summer, every Orange, Red, or Purple Air Quality Alert means free bus rides for all.


* Reclaiming Rover (And Fifi): This is critical, no exceptions, so listen up now: If your pet goes missing, you must, within a day, head over to the Young-Williams Animal Center off Sutherland Avenue and take a tour of the facility to see if your loved one is there. You can't call. You can't wait. You must go at least once every two days. That's because the center is flooded with unwanted animals and must euthanize most pets that come in. The state hold time on a stray is three days; if your pet has ID, state law says the center must hold it five days. The shelter's website ( does list lost and found pets, but you are urged to visit the center in person.

* Don't Rationalize About Pet Surrenders, Part 1: They will tell you this at Young-Williams, and it's really true: A surrendered animal has almost no chance of making it to the adoption floor; there are just too many. Animals surrendered by their owners are eligible to be euthanized immediately. If you are thinking of giving up an animal, know what fate you are dooming it to. If you truly have financial difficulty keeping your cat or dog in food, the shelter does offer some help with extra chow, so try that first.

* Don't Rationalize About Pet Surrenders, Part 2: Knoxville's many rescue groups are also inundated with unwanted animals in this current economy, and while they may be the best bet, they also have to turn down some pets. The no-kill Humane Society of East Tennessee shelter is wonderful, but it also rarely accepts animals for adoption—they're usually full.

* Sixteen-Week Lead-Time on Free Snipping: Knox County has a spectacular program where any local cat or dog can be spayed or neutered free of charge. But plan carefully: There's a four-month waiting period, so get on the list while your pet's still a wee mite.


Movie night, no fee! About a year ago, the Knox County Public Library made DVD and VHS rentals free, and they really have some good stuff, not just recycled Wonderful World of Disney episodes as you might expect. Whole seasons of The Wire, multitudes of foreign films, lots of Hitchcock, and a surprising array of stuff that was first published this year are all available for seven-day check-out periods and two renewals. More great news: You can sit on your duff at home and browse the lot, at Here are the caveats, though:

1. You must have a valid library card

2. Most of the best DVDs are at the downtown library, though you can request one to be delivered free to a branch more convenient for you.

3. A tape or DVD can't be renewed if someone else has a hold on it (that's library talk for "signed up to be the next to get a limited copy").

4. Overdue video fines add up fast: $1 per day!

5. The downtown library closes at 5 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, so no impulse check-outs.


They do the legwork, you print the coupons. COUPON KATIE ( is a stay-at-home mom in Knoxville who spends inordinate amounts of time perusing ads, collecting tips, and testing coupon deals so you don't have to. Just visit her site for direct links to, say, free chocolate samples, a complete strategy for matching coupons and sales at Walgreens for deep-discount health and beauty products, the best deals this week at Kroger, or printable coupons for anything from baby wipes to pasta sauce. Another local blogger who will lead you straight to great deals is Gabrielle at If you want tips on saving money, she's got 'em, along with insta-print coupons—Yankee Candle and free dessert at Mimi's were two recent ones—and other freebies like free downloadable cookbooks.


Regardless of your feelings about civil rights and red-light cameras issuing traffic tickets (well, sort of—there are still humans involved), here are six important points to know about the Big Brother machines:

1. You are unlikely to win if you protest a ticket. That's because they've already reviewed the video twice—two separate sets of eyes—and decided you truly ran a light. The ticket will tell you how to review your own video online; don't forget this important step.

2. If you do decide to protest a ticket, note well that a court hearing costs $118 extra if you're found guilty. (See above).

3. If you totally have an iron-clad case—they've issued a ticket to the wrong license plate, your video shows a parked car—skip the hearing and go to the Clerk of Court payment window to get it adjusted.

4. You will not get points on your license for a red-light camera citation. So if you did it, just pay the stinkin' $50 and be done with it.

5. If someone else was driving the car, the city will let you "nominate" them to pay the ticket, but if they don't, it's on you.

6. To avoid the next one: Go to the City of Knoxville website ( for a list of red-light cameras in Knoxville. And keep in mind that the light has to be completely red when you enter the intersection to trigger the camera. So gun it a little if you're on your way and the light starts to turn yellow. But keep in mind you must come to a complete stop at red lights, even if you're turning right at an intersection.


According to UT's Veterinary School, what you mostly want to do with injured wildlife is be VERY cautious. (In the words of Sandra Harbison, the school's media relations expert, "If you can catch a bat or a raccoon, you shouldn't.") Though UT accepts good-samaritan animal patients and they value that potential learning experience, Harbison recommends that your first phone call be to Knoxville or Knox County Animal Control.

Knoxville City Animal Control: 865-215-8639

Knox County Animal Control: 865-215-5240


Sec. 3-28. Stunt flying.

It shall be unlawful for any person operating an aircraft to stunt fly over the city.

Sec. 5-13. Riding or herding animals on median strip separating traffic lanes.

No person shall ride or herd any animals on any median strip separating traffic lanes on any city street.

Sec. 5-28. Prohibition against sale or gift of animals under certain conditions.

(b) It shall be unlawful to color, dye, stain or otherwise change the natural color of baby chickens or other fowl or rabbits, or to sell such animals after their natural color has been altered.

Sec. 19-67. Parades.

(a) No person shall engage in, participate in, aid, form or start any parade unless a parade permit has been obtained from the chief of police.

Sec. 19-101. Electrically charged garbage cans.

It shall be unlawful for any person to erect, construct or maintain any apparatus or device which would electrify or electrically charge any garbage, trash or refuse container or any object or structure or facility in close proximity to such container, such that any person coming into contact with such container, apparatus, structure or facility will receive an electrical shock.

Sec. 19-186. Fortunetelling.

(a) Prohibited acts. No person shall advertise by sign, circular or handbill or in any newspaper, periodical, magazine or other publication, or by any other means, to tell fortunes, to find or restore lost or stolen property, to locate an oil well, gold or silver or other ore or metal or natural product, to restore lost love or friendship or affection, or to unite or procure lovers, husbands, wives, lost relatives or friends, for or without pay, by means of occult or psychic powers, faculty or forces, clairvoyance, psychology, psychometry, spirits, spiritualism, mediumship, sayership, prophecy, astrology, palmistry, necromancy, graphology or other crafts, science, cards, talismans, charms, potions, magnetism or magnetized articles or substances, oriental mysteries or magic of any kind or nature, or numerology, or engage in or carry on any business the advertisement of which is prohibited by this section. [Note: This fortunetelling law does not apply to any "accredited representative of a bona fide church or religion.]

(Source: City of Knoxville Municipal Code — Thanks, Edna!)


Have A Key From The Early 20th Century That Needs To Be Duplicated?

F.M. George Safe & Lock Co. (622 North Central St. 37917, 865-522-0841)

F.M. George was founded in 1911. At that time, they specialized in carriage wheels and umbrellas. They quickly evolved into crafters of locks, safes and vaults, and a broad array of smithing-related services at which they continue to excel. They're keen to just about any lock-related challenge, excluding laser-cut car keys. (If you have one, you know what it is.)

Inherited a Slaughterhouse and Need to Buy Some New Equipment?

A-1 Saw & Butcher Supply Co. (241 Neals Landing Rd. 37924, 865-933-2811)

If you've seen the David Mamet play American Buffalo, you may remember a much-discussed metal object—designed to splay the legs of an upended pig while its blood drains—and its possible uses as a weapon. Now you know where to get one. You can also procure or have serviced all manner of large sharp things. Call ahead; it's situated on a functioning family farm hidden inside a modern subdivision.

Has Your House Become a Crime Scene and Desperately Needs to Be Cleaned Up?

Distress Scene Cleanup (6001 Wichita Drive 37921, 865-694-4114)

Every good scout knows that you only need what you do not have. And since you now know who to call for expert recovery from "Homicide, Suicide, Decomposition, Odor Removal, or Biohazard," here's hoping you will never need to make that call.

Have a Knife That Needs Sharpening, But You Don't Actually Want to Drive Somewhere?

The Sharper Edge (865-202-6629)

Ron Bortolussi says all he needs is an electrical outlet and some shade to put a razor's edge back on your kitchen cutlery. He uses a whetstone grinder that turns slowly and doesn't damage the blade's temper. Then he hones by hand to the desired degree of sharpness. He also sharpens garden tools and scissors, though not salon shears. His rates are more or less determined by volume—actually total inches of edges to be sharpened—so you might consider pooling sharpies with a neighbor or two and making a day of it.


When traveling east to west, or vice versa, most Knoxvillians seem committed to using either Interstate 40 or Kingston Pike. Consequently, it can get mighty crowded. Wouldn't you rather be moving along, even at a slower clip, just so you can enjoy the feeling of constant motion? These aren't technically "shortcuts," per se, but they can whisk you past traffic pile-ups and allow you glimpses of nature.

Downtown to Bearden: Take Western Avenue, turn left on Middlebrook Pike, and left again on Sutherland. Enjoy the tour of funky shops and groceries as you cruise behind Bearden and eject to Kingston Pike just before Bearden Hill.

Bearden to West Knoxville: Jump on Lyons View Drive across from Western Plaza. Take it to the Northshore intersection. If you're heading to West Town Mall, take Westland Drive to Morrell Road, and turn right. If you're heading further west to Cedar Bluff, take Northshore to Ebenezer Road and turn right.

Downtown to Far West Knoxville: Take Western Avenue, turn left on Middlebrook Pike, and follow it all the way to Lovell Road.


Free lemon squares at Ace Hardware (5214 Kingston Pike): Every Saturday morning, Ace Hardware in Bearden gives out free lemon squares to its customers, so you can load up on all of your hardware supplies while getting the sugar rush you may need to push you through your job.

Free coffee at Fresh Market (11535 & 4475 Kingston Pike): If you're looking for a little jolt of energy in your day and don't want to make the $6 investment for a venti mochaccino (or whatever they're called), swing on over to The Fresh Market for free cups of joe. They have several varieties to choose from, and although they are small cups, here's a hint: There's no limit to refills.

Free flowers and cupcakes at the Flower Pot (700 S. Gay St.): This florist offers a free flower to those lucky enough to be named whichever name owner Gina McMurray picks out. Each day (Monday through Friday), a chalkboard displayed outside the front door of the store has two names on it, but don't fret if you never see your name—there is a drop box to place yours so that one day you may be on the sign outside! The Flower Pot also offers a free cupcake with any purchase (no limit on price) on Fridays.

Free food samples that are better than you'd expect: Make yourself a finger-food picnic at local grocery stores that offer cooked samples of their wares. Earth Fare (10903 Parkside Dr., 104 N Forest Park Blvd.): Expect exotic items like Halloumi fried cheese. Sam's Club (2920 Knoxville Center, 8435 Walbrook Dr.): Expect semi-interesting frozen foods freshly heated up as well as fruit pieces.

Free pizza at Preservation Pub (28 Market Square): Looking for a cheap bite with your brew? At Preservation Pub downtown, you can get free pizza at their happy hour buffet from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m., every weeknight.

Free popcorn and possibly food at Marie's Olde Towne Tavern (202 W Magnolia Ave.): If you're pining for some more food with your beer, look no further than Old Towne Tavern (next door to Tennessee Valley Bikes). According to an employee of the bar, "If you're drinkin', you get free popcorn." Olde Towne also has free food for Sunday drinkers.


Knoxville's never been famous for its museums, but the city has several that are at least worth a rainy afternoon. And the best of them are free! Sometimes, at least.

* The Knoxville Museum of Art (1050 Worlds Fair Park Dr.) is free every day, and its year-old permanent exhibit, a sort of intuitive look at the broad history of Knoxville-area art since the Civil War, is worth an hour or so. And there's something weirdly appealing about the miniature rooms, which are famous in dollhouse circles.

* The McClung Museum (1327 Circle Park Dr., on UT's campus) is an underappreciated asset, so well laid out you don't notice how random it is. Paleontology, the Civil War, ancient Egypt, and usually a traveling exhibit about Japan or banjos or something. The most famous artifact on permanent exhibit here is the controversial (likely) hoax called the Bat Creek Stone, sometimes used as proof of ancient Europeans in the Tennessee backwoods. Even if it's purely a hoax, it's a very old one, and more interesting than many authentic relics.

* The McClung Collection (601 S. Gay St., named for a different McClung—we think they were cousins maybe) is a reference library, but it also serves as an art gallery, and as such offers the highest concentration anywhere of the work of Tennessee's greatest impressionist, Catherine Wiley. The library, an unusually complete historical archive, caters to people doing genealogical research, but you're welcome to come just to look at the paintings.

* The Museum of East Tennessee History (601 S. Gay St.) features everything from prehistoric Native American artifacts to Davy Crockett's rifle, as well as the desk of renegade Reconstruction Republican Horace Maynard and one of Dolly Parton's capacious dresses. It's free only on Sundays.