As of late, Knoxville has received a lot of national attention. Unfortunately, the shadow cast upon us has revolved around violence, not the good things that make this city a home to so many of us.
I’m curious as to what outsiders really think of Knoxville.
If someone were to ask you to describe Knoxville to them, what would you say?
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“Knoxville: Where Floridians come to retire!”
“Knoxville: Where Buckeyes (Ohioans) come to retire after realizing Florida was a mistake.”
if i had to describe knoxville in one word, the word would be “heartless” – not in a vindictive sense of the word, but lacking heart. strip mall of chain retail after strip mall of chain retail, it is a city that lacks character, with the exception of UT Sports of course.
I talk to people almost every day who are coming to Knoxville from another part of the world and the one thing they all seem to agree on is how absolutely gorgeous our little corner of the world is. It’s really easy to take for granted when you’ve been here a while, but most places don’t have all of the beautiful old trees and mountain views that K-Town has.
As for me, I always think of Knoxville as the baby bear of cities – not too big, not too small, but just right.
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“most places don’t have all of the beautiful old trees and mountain views that K-Town has”
Give it a couple years. The guys with the bulldozers are working as fast as they can to correct that.
I just got this question yesterday from a new resident. After living on the humidity-soaked gulf coast, and the frigid northeast, I say that Knoxville is a wonderful middle ground. The climate is rarely extreme, mostly comfortable, and we have enough transplants here to give the city an “open mind” by southern standards, and nice bit of cultural influence. We have a wonderful, thriving downtown and the best dog park of any city I’ve ever lived. It’s nice and green most of the year and like a painting in the fall. We have rolling hills and changing landscape and we’re an easy drive to lots of other fun cities. And best of all, it’s not expensive to live here! What is NOT TO LOVE ABOUT KNOXVILLE?!! I’ve only been here 2.5 years and it feels more like home every day. I think Knoxville is ALL heart!
I’m with bettis. Maybe it’s because I’m not a native Knoxvillian, but the whole city just seems to lack character. Everything feels very generic, very stamped out, and very new. The place you can find unique character and a more settled feeling are few and far between.
I’m with Suzy. Knoxville is very not too big, not too small and that’s a good thing.
Just found this, over here: One is that it is a negative image of Austin: where Austin is a big city trying to be a small town, Knoxville is a small town trying to be a big city. Its downtown features a signature park–Market Square–full of public art garbage nobody minds getting rained, hailed or sat upon. It is walkable and you could see all the sights in a weekend. People still smile here, and it has got to be the least branded city I have seen.
CP – Interesting. I lived in Austin last summer and after returning, heard a well-pedigreed, commercial real estate investor (who lived in Austin 22 years prior to Knoxville) proclaim Knoxville to be the next Austin. Austin is a heck of a lot of fun (in its own “weird” way of course), but with all that comes a price. Downtown can be sketchy block for block, and very dirty. Getting to and then parking downtown is a nightmare any day of the week. And housing prices? Forget about it. I had a great job offer to return to Austin, and refused it. I’ll take Knoxville any day.
@Jen McClurg: Jen said, “we have enough transplants here to give the city an ‘open mind’ by southern standards, and nice bit of cultural influence.” I agree.
Being a Knoxville native, I enjoy sharing this city with my friends who hail from all over. It’s as if the southern graces inherent to this area mix with the influx of transplants to create an environment that is warm and welcoming. At least, that’s the type of vibe and hospitality my friends and I enjoy sharing with those we meet.
Regarding our climate, the biggest kick I’ve gotten out of someone’s description is from one of my friends from Tijuana, Mexico. As we drove her around town she said, “You live in a rainforest!” Furthermore, there is actually some truth to that as parts of the Great Smoky Mountains are a coniferous rainforest.
@bettis: I agree that there are too many strip malls around here; however, if you’re looking for the true “heart” of an area, you will find it in the people who live there. That’s what makes Knoxville home for me. Knoxville is nondescript enough to not distract me from what matters most: people, yet charming in a way that will surprise you from time to time.
There are plenty of naysayers. To them I say, in a non-redneck sort of way, either leave or attempt to make the city better. Monday morning quarterbacking it doesn’t do any good.
I’ve lived her my whole life, and have a love/hate relationship with the city. There are times where I can think of no better place to live, other times when I feel the strong urge to escape.
What always brings me back is the people and the area. There’s nothing like our town. Nothing. We have great music, great food, generally nice people and enough stuff to do to keep one busy ’til kingdom come.
My love for this town far outweighs any hate. Those are merely flashes every once in a blue moon.
I think there a four types of Knoxvillians:
1) natives who irrationally love it (and UT Sports)
2) natives who hate it and will escape as soon as possible
3) transplants who see all the wasted opportunity and strip malls and start looking elsewhere
4) transplants who dig a little and are suprised at the city they find.
I have become No. 4 in the last 10 years. Knoxville is not an obvious city, but it can be an interesting one if you look around. Basically, stay away from the west end of town. Most of the No. 3s I meet live and work out there, and I don’t blame them for their attitude. If Cedar Bluff was my main impression of Knoxville, I’d be getting out soon too. But start hanging in the Old City or Market Square and see if you you don’t shift to No. 4.
I think CK hits the nail on the head with the four types of K’towners. I started at #4 and now after three years I am solidly at #3. There is so much potential yet I am not sure if any sensible planning is being done when it comes to growth. I think downtown has done a better job with planning, but the burbs still are too car dependent. I moved here from a burb that was 20+ miles from downtown, yet I did not have/need a car. I would describe Knoxville as a bg rural town with some much potential.
for what it’s worth, i am sticking with “heartless”. i am a born & raised knoxvillian, with the exception of my 5-year college stint in chattanooga – a town with exceptional heart. returning to knoxville for work made me realize how much character chattanooga has – thriving, locally owned coffee houses, restaurants, & grocery stores. it has a downtown setting unlike few I have seen, where locals relished in the unique character of their hometown. when my knoxville friends came to visit, i could wine & dine them with all that was unique to chattanooga. now when my chattanooga friends come to visit me in knoxville, i woo them with chili’s, starbucks, & panera.
to me, knoxville just seems…blah. it’s not bad, but it’s not good. it’s…blah.
I also agree with CK and I personally am a No. 4. I moved here 7 years ago for a temporary job and knew that it would only be a temporary stint here. Knoxville at first glance was ugly, way too car dependent, and lacked any sort of character that I could see. Seven years later and i’ve grown to love the place. I’ve met some of the nicest, most intersting people here, there is always something to do if you open your mind and look in the right places. I suggest to those who are No. 3’s, just give it time. Market Square and downtown has made a miraculous change since I moved here when there was only the Tomato Head downtown. Now it’s become a bustling town center with a Farmer’s Market, free concerts and plays, and museums and restaurants, and I think it’s just going to get better. And the new Downtown North plan is looking to get underway soon, which will further help beautify Knoxville and make it more accessible to those who don’t want to drive anywhere.
I think alot of people who base their impressions on Knoxville haven’t gotten off of Kingston Pike and out of West Knoxville to really explore and see what’s Knoxville’s all about. And I know that I’ personally have never been forced to wine and dine my out-of-town friends at places like Chili’s and Applebee’s.
I find Doug McCaughan’s comments of particular interest to me. The Ohioan transplants and retirees is fascinating to me. It could be the fact that I married one of these “Ohioans off to Tennessee guys”…but, I’m not sure. Realizing that we have transplants from everywhere, it still seems that the numbers of Ohio to Tennessee people are huge. I would be interested in seeing a “study” on this. I just think it is very interesting. I wonder how many “Tennessee to Ohio” there are. I have visited Cleveland once, and while it was a nice visit, (and we do love our Browns) I definitely would not want to live there….but then, I wouldn’t want to live anywhere but East Tennessee, I am fairly certain. (LOL!)
I also agree with his comment about giving the “bulldozer guys” time, and they will clear out what is left of our natural beauty. (It is also true to say that I’m married to one of those “bulldozer guys”…a “bulldozer guy” that comes home saddened much of the time because of this very fact.)
It’s interesting reading all these impressions about Knoxville. My partner and I are moving there next summer temporarily from the San Francisco Bay area. We’re not expecting the same kind of culture, of course, but hope to find some interesting things, like old neighborhoods, cafes (not Starbucks!), farmer’s markets, and hopefully some some diversity. We drove North Knoxville a few weeks and got a good feeling about it. Whereas the rest of Knoxville didn’t strike us as that interesting, although we haven’t really gotten to know the city yet. Does anyone have any comments on North Knoxville? And where the most diverse and tolerant neighborhoods might be?
Thanks for any input.
I ususally describe Knoxville as having a lot of trees and feeling like a sauna. My Dad lives in California near Oakland, and all my friends from out there ask me if we have theaters, electricity, roads, etc.
Bay Area, huh? That’s awesome, but I’d imagine not very affordable. I really have no idea about the diversification and tolerence of the neighborhoods here, sorry to say, but most of the people here are either accepting of alternative lifestyles or simply keep their thoughts to themselves.
@Marc: Mark–I have lived in Knoxville since 2001 and have always loved living in North Knoxville. The most tolerant and diverse neighborhoods would probably include Old North Knoxville, Fourth and Gill, and even North Hills. The neighborhoods are quirky, have lots of character, are very convenient to downtown, and have quite a few older, historic neighborhoods that are constantly improving. A new redevelopment plan is in the works for Central Street and Broadway, which will hopefully bring more culture and entertainment to an area that has been overlooked for quite some time. Check out the following websites for more info:
@Sassyanne: Sorry for the comment error. Yours got caught up in the spam filter. Everything should be good now.
Sassyanne, thanks for the comments and the links! I’m looking forward to coming around christmas time and getting the know the neighborhood better.
I had lived in Knoxville for 14 years by way of Boston, MA where I also spent 14 Years. I moved to Knoxville, West Side, and Started High School there, needless to say it took me about 2 or 3 years before I did not want to immediately move out of there and leave. I went through High School and College in Knoxville and spent a ton of times exploring everywhere from Lenoir City to Gatlinburg to Asheville, NC. I have been everywhere inbetween and I must say that Knoxville has some very interesting aspects and sights to see, like most places in the south that are small and have a history reaching back into the 1800s.
I have now moved to Chicago, IL and live in the suburbs. We have been living here for a year and Knoxville has Nothing on it. Knoxville has barely an variety of jobs in the tech sector, there are NO telecommunciations jobs there. If you can work in healthcare or in a call center, you will find TONS of jobs!
Chicago has a cost of living that is 1/3rd more than knoxville and my wage is much more than double for the same experience I had in Knoxville. The short spring, Nice Summer, and Long fall in Chicago are breath taking. Beautiful trees, parks, outdoors, sidewalks EVERYWHERE so you can ride you bike anywhere you want without clogging traffic. They also provide a nice walk. Chicago has fantastic ethnic food, great small and original local owned shops and food, etc.
Moving out of Knoxville (Which I was fond of) was one of the best things I have ever done. I still miss Knoxville sometimes, those nights in the old city at all the bars, antique stores, shops, etc., those days and nights in market square and on South Gay street enjoying the shops, the music, etc. but you can find all of that x 1000 in the Chicago land area, let alone going into the city of Chicago.
The Suburbs of Chicago remind me of everything knoxville has plus so much more that I cannot list it.
I’m glad to hear your view of Knoxville and that you enjoy Chicago much more. My wife and I just visited Chicago for the street paper convention at DePaul a couple weeks ago, and we really enjoyed the feel and the scenery.
I’ve lived in Knoxville practically my whole life and have been ready forever to leave, but there’s always been some reason to stay. We should be able to move soon, and Chicago would be an option. That’s great to hear about the seasons and the cost of living being that proportion. I get so sick of hearing about Knoxville’s “low” cost of living – yes, real estate is cheaper, but the job market is much narrower and everything else costs the same or more because it’s such a car-dependent, sprawled out city.
Also tired of the myth of hospitality here.
I’ve thought for a while about getting my Master’s, and moving to the Chicago area would allow me to have a better option of schools to attend than Knoxville would.
How is the education market and the journalism/broadcasting/writing market there? Also, if you don’t mind replying, what neighborhood would you recommend for the value and character? Thanks.
Knoxville: Laid back college town