A Long Weekend in Knoxville
Spring is in the air here in Louisville! A mix of 60-70 degree weather, summer-like sunshine, and thunderstorms makes me antsy to get out and explore more of our city and the Southeast. That being said, my life is full of changes and obligations, so a new trip ASAP isn't happening. What better to encourage my spring fever than to reminisce on some of our weekend trips last summer?
Let's go back in time to Labor Day Weekend, the official end of summer and one of the worst times to travel. We had a long weekend away from work, so what better than a weekend trip to one of the busiest holiday destinations in the Smokey's: Gatlinburg. Okay, I'm not that crazy. I definitely needed to see the mountains, but needed a reasonable place to stay with things for Mason and I both to enjoy. We opted for Knoxville, Tennessee...just an hour from the mountains and full of it's own character.
One of our absolute favorite things to find in cities we visit is a farmer's market. Coming from Iowa and experiencing the AMAZING DSM Farmer's Market, we have been on a mission to find something comparable. Since our time in Louisville, Knoxville's Market Square Farmer's Market is the second best we have discovered (Cincinnati's Findlay Market is an obvious first place...recap of that trip is coming soon). We started our morning in Market Square, which is the CUTEST town square/park I've have seen in awhile. The square was full of vendors, music, and food. I led us straight to a coffee truck, Three Bears Coffee, and had a fabulous cold brew. Mason grabbed breakfast at the Savory Sweet food truck. The market was beginning to close up before we left, but it was a great staple in Downtown Knoxville and definitely recommend stopping for breakfast and a little local shopping before continuing your day.
Off to Gatlinburg
As I mentioned, the main reason for this trip was to get in the mountains. I haven't been hiking or in a mountain since our trip to Boulder, and I was desperate to breathe in the fresh, mountain air. Gatlinburg was about an hour from Knoxville, even with traffic. As we made out way out of the city, I began to fall in love with the landscape. Knoxville and most of eastern Tennessee is covered in these beautiful vines that practically took over anything it touched. One thing I absolutely loved about these mountains was how GREEN everything was. I'm sure the majority of you are very familiar with the Rocky Mountains out West and their landscape...uhh rocky. These mountains are green, fresh, and damp, so very different than the dry atmosphere in Colorado. The mountains are filled with waterfalls, green vines and truly have a "smoky" haze above them. I was quickly in love.
I found us a perfect trail to hike before heading into Gatlinburg to be tourists. We made our way to the Grotto Falls trailhead, that was significantly less busy than the prior trails we passed. It was a nice 3 mile loop trail that takes you to a stunning waterfall. It was the perfect distance and was actually cooling on a hot labor day weekend. This trail was a little longer and steeper, making it perfect to avoid a lot of families and tourists. It is also a decent distance from Gatlinburg's strip, so we couldn't even tell it was insanely busy a few miles down the mountain. I also have to mention, again, just how beautiful this trail was!
After a peaceful hike, we were absolutely starving and ready to find food, and moonshine, of course! Everyone told us to make our way to the Gatlinburg Strip and check out Sugarland's Distilling Company. As we made our way there, we realized how big of a mistake we made coming to Gatlinburg over Labor Day Weekend. I wish I had taken pictures, but we were both in utter awe of the amount of people packed onto the sidewalks (still in the middle of a pandemic, mind you). We quickly realized that parking would be a feat and actually getting to try any moonshine at Sugarland's before dying of hunger would be impossible. I am telling you, there was barely room to walk on the sidewalks, so the thought of standing in line inside a stuffy building sounded like a nightmare. We quickly rerouted and made our way to Pigeon Forge, home of Dollywood!
Oh Pigeon Forge, seemingly land of amusement parks and family resorts. I cringe just thinking of you and Gatlinburg. In Pigeon Forge, we decided we HAD to have our Moonshine before leaving the mountains, and stumbled upon Tennessee Shine Co. Inside, you could try all the Moonshine you wanted in any flavor you could think of. They also had wine in the back...that we of course had to try as well. I would recommend sticky to Moonshine when in Pigeon Forge. We were very excited to try the different flavors of Moonshine and add to our small bar. Most were sugary sweet and low alcohol, which made us giggle. Coming from the city known for Bourbon, we were definitely expecting the experience to be similar to visiting Old Forester. We were very, very, wrong. The bartender was slinging samples at you, whatever flavor you wanted to try. Not one person in there cared if it was real moonshine or not, how it was made, or what they were drinking...except us! We are the exact type of people you hate to have on your tours, wanting to know everything there is to know and asking all the questions. We were not the tourists that this place was used to. We got our fill of sugary flavors and grabbed a jar of actual moonshine to take home, ready to eat. We stopped at Corky's Ribs and Barbeque, realizing it was 5:30 and we hadn't eaten anything since breakfast and just downed several samples of moonshine. We made our way back to Knoxville, walked around Market Square to find a place for dinner and drinks the next day, and returned to our hotel.
A Day of Food, Drinks, and Knoxville
After an exhausting day of hiking and driving, we decided to do what we do best - eat! We made our way back to Market Square on Sunday Morning and discovered that it was lined with restaurants, bars, and shops! We found a perfect brunch spot, Myrtle's Chicken and Beer, that faced into the square where you could easily people watch and see enjoy the music and entertainment that lined the streets. The food at Myrtle's was FABULOUS. It was exactly the kind of southern food we were looking for. I had chicken and waffles with an incredible chicken gravy, and Mason had a fried chicken style eggs benny with country potatoes, and we split a pitcher of mimosas, of course!
After brunch, we wandered the streets some more and decided to head to Bearden Beer Market. This was a beer garden outside of downtown that had hundreds of beers to choose from, mostly local. We had a few beers here while enjoying the amazing weather and people watching before heading to our next spot, Post Modern Spirits. Here, we had some fabulous cocktails made with their own liquor. I actually fell in love with their Elderberry Gin Liquor (for those of you who know me, yes...GIN). It was a beautiful purple color and was oh, so tasty. Pictured below are the Elder Gin Fizz and the Handsome Jack. (PS, they have their cocktail recipes online!)
After our lovely day of drinking, we returned to Market Square for dinner at Not Watson's Kitchen and Bar. Once again, we were stuffed with incredible food and drinks. Fried Calamari to start, and a beautiful steak dinner to follow. We were so full and happy after eating, and the staff was incredible. Mason and I left downtown feeling satisfied and exhausted from eating and drinking in the sun all day. Fully recommend.
We are so looking forward to our next adventure, that is WAY over due. For now, we look back and continue to be thankful for our busy lives that allow us to take these long weekend away!