Nestled in the East Tennessee Valley along the Tennessee River, Knoxville is surrounded by opportunities to play on the water. Downtown is located just below the confluence of the Holston River and French Broad River, forming one of the nine reservoirs within an hour of the city. You can venture a little further and find world-class whitewater kayaking and canoeing in the Smoky Mountains, but you don’t have to leave Knoxville to enjoy a host of activities within paddling distance of the food, drinks, and entertainment of the city. Plus, it’s easy to do.
Knox Brew Hub
Since downtown Knoxville sits right on the river, lots of people put their canoes, stand-up paddleboards, and kayaks right in at Gov. Ned McWherter/Riverside Landing Park. It offers a convenient boat ramp to access the Tennessee River, where you can drift downtown or access the rural riverbanks upstream. If you don’t have your own craft, rent a SUP from Knoxville Adventure Collective, based at the headquarters of Outdoor Knoxville (which also doubles as a bar in the summer).
Standup Paddleboarding in Knoxville
Once out on the water, you can turn upriver to explore the Knoxville Urban Wilderness. Through years of work and the generosity of private landowners, Knoxville has one of America’s largest urban wildernesses. You can enjoy all the scenery from the water while looking for birds and other wildlife. Turn downriver, and you’ll pass under historic bridges, towering bluffs, the impressive University of Tennessee boathouse, and some of the oldest and most beautiful historic homes in Tennessee. If you work up an appetite or are feeling thirsty, just head to North Knoxville, or as the locals call it, NoKno.
North Knoxville is known for its role in the city’s overall beer scene; it’s home to over a quarter of the breweries on Knoxville’s Ale Trail alone. The best part? Several are walkable from each other in the “Uptown North” area just north of downtown/Old City. You’ll find Xül, which has excellent fruity sours and IPAs in a unique building that was once a car dealership display room; Geezers, which has a grungy 60s mechanic shop vibe (in the same building next door!); Crafty Bastard, which is just down the street at Emory Place and has all kinds of interesting tropical sours and unique experimental options in a pet-friendly hole-in-the-wall vibe; and Next Level, which is on the corner of Broadway and Central with a great selection of NEIPAs; and Gypsy Circus Barrelhouse, one of only 5 wild cider barrelhouses in the US focusing on Lambics and other wild strains of cider.
Gypsy Circus Barrelhouse
Also in North Knoxville, The Oak Room by Abridged is a sour beer barrel-aging facility with a food menu curated as carefully as the libations where you can enjoy specialty cheese boards, sandwiches and flat breads. Speaking of pies, you can’t go wrong with nearby A Dopo Sourdough Pizza or Central Flats & Taps. And if that’s not enough, cap off the day with a foot tall “Great Smoky Mountain’ sundae from The Phoenix Pharmacy and Fountain, a locally-operated full service pharmacy & authentic soda fountain in the heart of downtown.
The Phoenix Pharmacy and Fountain