COVER_0910_robertmaddoxJack Evans

Market Square
It’s where all walks of life mingle in our city, surrounded by boutique shopping and an array of restaurants with shaded outdoor patios. On a regular day, it offers prime people-watching: buskers playing everything from a saw to classical violin, and the laughter of children as they splash in the fountain. But the thriving twice-weekly farmer’s market, Shakespeare on the Square, free movie nights and concerts, festivals that offer everything from biscuits to history, and chalk-art extravaganzas have made Market Square an eclectic place to hang out on weekends without spending a dime—if you can stand to take a pass on some of the best pizza, burgers, Italian ices, and fried okra in town. (S.H.D.)
Popular Picks: Ijams Nature Center, Zoo Knoxville
See Also: Top Shopping District, in Shopping

Urban Wilderness South Loop
This is what most people mean when they talk about Knoxville’s Urban Wilderness—a mammoth 12.5-mile hiking and biking trail in the heart of residential South Knoxville, with 30 additional miles of trails branching off from the main loop and all of it connected to miles and miles of adjacent trails and greenways in nearby parks, preserves, and neighborhoods. (M.E.)
Popular Picks: Ijams Nature Center, Third Creek Greenway

Ijams Nature Center
Popular Picks—Top Free Stuff to Do: Market Square, Urban Wilderness
Popular Picks—Top Walking Trail: House Mountain, Urban Wilderness
See Also: Top Secret About Knoxville, in Community

PetSafe Concord Dog Park
Since Knoxville has lately become an outdoor wonderland, why shouldn’t our dogs enjoy it, too? Concord Park’s canine retreat offers 4 acres of land to sniff, water fountains to splash in, a dock with access to the river, and even a dog shower. (C.T.)
Popular Picks: PetSafe Dog Park at Victor Ashe Park, PetSafe Downtown Dog Park

Sun Ra Orchestra

Sun Ra Orchestra

Big Ears
It’s become one of the most interesting and acclaimed music festivals in the world. Every year, it gets a little harder to define—what do you call an event that includes ’90s alt-rock band Blonde Redhead, the far-out jazz keyboard legend Carla Bley, indie guitar hero Ben Chasny, and Pulitzer-winning jazz bandleader Henry Threadgill? Explaining what it is, though, is about as difficult as Big Ears gets; despite its reputation for “challenging” music, it’s instead a weekend of connection, surprise, profound experiences, and unexpected gifts. (M.E.)
Popular Picks: Dogwood Arts Festival, Rhythm N’ Blooms Music Festival

The Sunsphere
Neglected for years, the big gold ball—designed to represent the source of all energy—has gotten more attention recently thanks to its Primo Ristorante Italiano, which based on first impressions may be the best restaurant the place has housed since 1982. But the Sunsphere’s not actually “historic” yet, at least not by the guidelines of the National Park Service, which determines such things. And a few years ago, the well-known Savannah preservationist Lee Adler, a fierce opponent of demolition in almost all cases, startled a packed house at the Knoxville Museum of Art by declaring the first thing Knoxville had to do to be taken seriously was to tear down the Sunsphere. But you can’t beat it for conspicuousness. And maybe our readers are showing foresight; the Sunsphere will be eligible for the National Register of Historic Places in just 16 years. And to give it credit, it’s Knoxville’s only building ever represented on The Simpsons, and the only one believed to be imitated in Eurasia. (Look at the taller, frillier Bayterek, built in Astana, Kazakhstan in the 1990s.)
Maybe by 2032 it’ll seem historic. (J.N.)
Popular Picks: Tennessee Theatre, James White’s Fort

cover_1020_knoxvillezooTricia Bateman

Zoo Knoxville
Zoo Knoxville has been undergoing a major revamp, and it’s not just the name change or its marketing plan. The physical overhaul to come over the next five years will not only be the zoo’s largest in a decade, but it also signifies broader changes in the nonprofit’s vision and identity. And central to that vision is becoming an even bigger family destination than it already is, not only with new animal habitats, but also with attractions that give you even more reasons to make repeat visits, like the recently added train, splash pad, and gem-mining features. (C.T.)
Popular Picks: Ijams Nature Center, World’s Fair Park

Tennessee River
The Tennessee River flows slow and deep, like the city it bisects, and it offers a mellower paddling experience than adrenaline-pushers like the Upper Pigeon and Ocoee. For those who want to leave the steep-creeking and combat kayaking to the young and the reckless, the Tennessee—née Fort Loudoun Lake—is a perfect flat-water destination. You can put in and take out your kayak, paddle board or canoe at a number of official (and unofficial) ramps. You can also integrate the Holston and French Broad rivers into your paddling trip for a longer, wilder—yet still mellow—excursion. You might want to limit your contact with the water in its more urban stretches, but the length of the river through the city is home to wildlife ranging from herons to bald eagles and bass. Remember to take out at Farragut, lest you find yourself well en route to the Gulf of Mexico. (T.F.)
Popular Picks: French Broad River, Mead’s Quarry