Three Rivers Rambler

The Three Rivers Rambler is a train excursion that runs along to the Tennessee River.  This 90 minute train ride starts from the waterfront near downtown Knoxville and takes you on a ride through the foothills of the Smoky Mountains.  You will pass a lot of the history that has formed not only Knoxville but parts of the country as well.  The end of the trip is a visit to the Three Rivers Trestle.  The Rambler runs on selected weekends and has become a huge draw for the Neyland Drive area of Knoxville,

The Trains

Depending on when you decide to take a ride on the Rambler, you might be pulled by Lindy – the 1925 steam engine or the slightly older 1890 steam engine that they are unveiling in the summer of 2012.  There are also times that they use diesel engines to pull the coach cars. These give you an entirely different feel to your train ride as the power of the diesel engines pulls you down the track.  While you are onboard the Rambler, you will be sitting in one of the two coach cars that date back to 1932.  The various cars of the train are connected and allow you to roam to the open air section fo the train or to the merchandise cars where they sell soft drinks and water; this is also where the restrooms are located.

Three Rivers RamblerThe Trip

The 90 minute ride on the Rambler takes you from the waterfront on Neyland Drive past downtown through the foothills of the Smokies and past lush pastoral landscapes and lots of history.  As you progress north from the boarding station, you will pass the farmlands that were the first settlements in the area, quarries that actually supplied some of the stone that helped to build Washington DC and many other points of interest.  While you travel along, feel free to ask questions of the staff members on board.  They are very knowledgeable and they have been asked your questions before.  They know the route and will be glad to share their knowledge with you.

The Trestle

The highlight of the trip is a visit to the Three Rivers Trestle.  The Rambler takes you to the point where the Tennessee River really begins.  The French Broad, after winding its way out of the mountains, and the Holston combine to form the Tennessee River.  The Tennessee then continues on its way to the Gulf of Mexico. You actually get to see the point where this new river, the Tennessee, is formed.  A highlight that lets you see a stretch of river that powers homes, moves the economy along and of course provides hours of recreation.

The Three Rivers Rambler offers a different way to experience the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains.  You can sit back and enjoy the hour and a half ride through the outskirts of Knoxville, TN while you learn about the history of the city, the area and the country.  You also get to view the start of the one of the largest waterways in our country.  Try the Three Rivers Rambler out as a day trip the next time you visit the Smokies.

Three Rivers Rambler
2560 University Commons Way
Knoxville, TN 37919

University of Tennessee Football

Go Vols!

Looking for some fun in the Smokies on a football weekend.  Plan your visit for a home game weekend and get those tickets early.  plan to sit with over 100,000 of your closest friends and cheer on the UT Volunteers (or their opposition) at one of the best football venues in one of the best football towns in the SEC.

Now, UT and other college football communities get a bad reputation for their over-zealousness but if you are coming through town on a Friday afternoon before a home game, there is something that you are going to notice:  lots of ORANGE.  The fan base in and around Knoxville is incredible.  They support their time and the town gets decked with orange from one end to the other.  Bank tellers, fast food restaurants and anything that doesn’t move gets festooned with orange.  As the approach of kickoff draws nigh, the town empties as people gather at the stadium or at their homes to watch the Vols take to the field.

The stadium itself is something to behold.  Neyland Stadium is named after General Robert Neyland,  Neyland was former athletic director and coach of the Vols.  The stadium was founded in 1921 and it is s till on that same location, though it has grown considerably over time.  In 1962, the stadium was renamed Neyland Stadium and it is currently one of the largest college football stadiums in the country.  Attendance has been tracked since 1964 and since that point, it has averaged 68,925 fans per game.  The largest crowd to ever fill the stadium was on September 18,2004 when 109,061 people arrived to watch the Vols beat Florida, 30-28.  Right now, Neyland Stadium is the third largest college stadium behind Michigan Stadium and Beaver Stadium.  Sitting in this large outdoor venue is one of the most exciting ways to take in a college football game.

Tips for going to UT Home game

  • Come Early and Expect to Leave Late
  • No Outside food, snacks or drinks
  • No alcoholic Beverages.
  • Gates open 2 hours before kickoff and not before
  • Bring your RV and tailgate before the game
  • All attendees must have a ticket regardless of age to enter the stadium
  • Parking is free in downtown Knoxville but your are going to have to walk or you are going to have to ride Knoxville Area Transit (KAT) buses to get tot he stadium

Prohibited items

  • Cans, bottles or coolers
  • Radios without headsets
  • Open Umbrellas
  • Video Cameras
  • Stadium seats with arms
  • Large bags of any kind
  • Weapons of any kind (this includes pocket knives)
  • Artificial noisemakers
  • Smoking
  • Strollers

Next time you come to the Smokies during football season why don’t you plan to go to a home game at Neyland stadium?  Sit in one of the biggest football stadiums in the country, watch a great team and experience the fun of SEC football in the Smoky Mountains.

McKay Used Books

One of my favorite places to shop in Knoxville is McKay Used Books, CDs, Movies & More.  Imagine, if you will, a library sized store selling every type of book imaginable at hugely discounted rates.  Add to that, shelves of music and movies, videos games and more and you have a shopping trip that might take you half the day.  Along with selling books, movies and more, they also buy used items to sell in the store.  Being located centrally in Knoxville, McKay’s is always jumping and each time you return they have a brand new selection due to the turn over and the volume of customers that they see.

Makes has thousands of books.  They painstakingly shelve them according to category and you can find books on almost any topic imaginable.  From history books and cooks books, to text books and audio books, you can find it at McKays.  It is incredible to watch the number of books that come in and out each day.  Find your favorite section and then start browsing.  You will find that when you look back down at your watch that hours have passed and you have found a stack of books you need to buy.  Of course, becaus eof the low, low prices at McKays buying a stack of books will not break the bank.


  • 1985 – Store opens in Knoxville
  • 1993 – McKay’s storms into the used CD market
  • 2005 – Knoxville store moves to its new location

Maybe you have some stuff you need to get rid of, pass on to the next person to enjoy.  If what you have is books, movies, CDs or video games… take them to McKays.  When you walk in, you will see a counter to the right hand side of the doors.  Grab one of the totes at the counter and fill it with the items you brought in.  Take your items to the counter and then wait for them to process the items.  When they get done, they will offer you cash or credit.  Choose whichever works for you and then head to the store to go shop.  You get more for store credit so if you are planning on shopping at McKays and finding books, movies and music to take home then a load of your stuff will get you new stuff.

McKays is easy to find.  Jump on I-40 in Knoxville.  Look for the Papermill exit.  When you come off the interstate, follow the signs to Papermill.  You will be driving toward Kingston Pike and you will pass McKays n the left hand side of the road.  So, if you are looking around for a great place to shop, a wonderful book store and a place to get a lot of loot for a little money, then McKays is your place.

McKay Used Books
230 Papermill Pl Way
Knoxville, TN

Mast General Store – Knoxville

In 2006, a Smoky Mountain tradition joined the newly renovated downtown area of Knoxville, TN – the Mast General Store.  The Mast General Store is what it was to people back in the turn of the century a store, carrying general merchandise and those things from our homespun past that bring back tons of great memories.  This addition to the downtown scene in Knoxville has brought visitors to the area that may not have stopped by before and the ability to walk into a great store, carrying amazing merchandise is a perfect in downtown Knoxville.

The Mast General Store in Knoxville is located on Gay Street.  This is one of the main roads that run through the middle of downtown.  Gay Street passes right next to Market Square, in front of the Tennessee Theater past many a Knoxvilian’s favorite restaurants and late night hangouts.  Parking was at one time an issue in this typical downtown area but now, especially at night and on the weekends, parking is free and the walk to and from your car will let you window shop and enjoy the sights and sounds of Knoxville.

mgsk1When you pass through the doors of the Mast General Store you will be overwhelmed y the sheer volume of the merchandise that they have on display.  From clothing to home wares, from candy to dry goods and even those items you need to strike out on the trail, you will find yourself walking the aisles of the Mast General Store for hours.  On the main level you are going to find a great selection of clothing for both men and women, homewares and the best candy selection in East Tennessee.  The candy area is a draw for children both young and old.  There rae bins and barrels and boxes of candy of every shape and size.  They also have a lot of candies that you might not have seen in years.  Some of the classic candy selections include:  BB Bats, Black Licorice Pipes, Kits, Sky Bars, Squirrel Nut Zippers and many more.  Daily, people take their taste buds on a walk down memory lane in the candy section of the Mast General Store.

mgs2Downtown at the Mast General Store in Knoxville is a hikers paradise.  Footwear to the right, backpacks to the back and hiking gear scattered on every surface.  Watches to wallets, shorts to sleeping bags, you will find everything you need to tackle the trails in the GSMNP.  Buy yourself a backpack and load up on all of the essential gear.  Of course, the best thing about the Mast General Store is the fact that the employees use the gear they sale and they will point you in the right direction for the items you need for your day hiking or any other outdoor activity in the Smoky Mountains.

Pay a visit to the Mast General Store in Knoxville, TN.  It is a step back in time, it is a great shopping experience, it is a place to walk down memory lane.  It is in the middle of one of the great downtown revival sin East Tennessee.  Make the Mast General Store a destination on your vacation.

Mast General Store – Knoxville
402 South Gay Street
Knoxville, TN

Tennessee Theatre

tntheater2On October 1, 1928, a landmark was opened on Gay Street in Knoxville, TN – The Tennessee Theatre.  The first movie they ever played at this grand old theater was The Fleet’s In with Clara Bow.  From that time until today, this theater has been a cornerstone ofthe culture and history of Knoxville and East Tennessee.  Over the years, this venue has brought both the Silver Screen and live shows to the area and to this day is one of the favorite place sin the Smokies to take in a play or a movie.  Tradition and history are the catch words of the day at the Tennessee Theatre.

Knoxville’s Grand Entertainment Palace

From its inception, the Tennessee Theatre dominated the Gay Street area of Knoxville.  On Saturdays kids from around the city flocked to the corner to buy tickets and stand in line to take in the Saturday afternoon serials at the theater.  Throughout the years, movies were opened at the theatre, star studded casts were in attendance at show like Thunder Road – Robert Mitchum was in attendance at this premier.  The theater has been renovated several times over the years.  Each time it has gone through renovations, it has kept that old flare, that fill that it had the day it opened.  Unlike movie theaters of today, the inside of the Tennessee Theatre is a feast for the eyes, a testament to the builders that made this the Grand Palace of Entertainment that it still is.

The Official State Theatre of Tennessee

tntheater1In 1999, the Tennessee Theatre was made the Official Theatre of the State of Tennessee.  This designation, the establishment o the Historic Tennessee Theatre Foundation and the fact that people were donating money to the theatre meant that another, bigger renovation could occur.  The stage was modified to accommodate larger productions, enhancements to the acoustic nature of the theatre, modernized lighting and rigging and updates to the carpet and other decorations in the theatre.  The whole process of this renovation kept the original nature of the theatre in mind, kept the look and feel while making sure that the Tennessee Theatre was able to stay functional and bring in the best that Broadway and artists might have to offer.

Another aspect of the Tennessee Theatre is the Mighty Wurlitzer.  This pipe organ was installed when the theater opened in 1928.  For silent movies this Wurlitzer Organ provided the music and fell of the movie.  For the ‘talkies’ the Mighty Wurlitzer was the pre-show entertainment.  Nowadays, getting to hear the Mighty Wurlitzer played by a professional organist takes place most Mondays at the Tennessee Theatre.  The pipe organ was completely renovated in 2000 and is now a draw all by itself .  Throughout the year, the concerts that are given with th organ fill this grand olde theatre from top to bottom and side to side.

Check out the Tennessee Theatre the next time you are in the Knoxville area.  Visit their website and see what is playing or what Broadway show is in town.  You might get a chance to see a play or a performance that is not coming to your area but you will get to see a show performed in a one of the best theatrical venues that East Tennessee has to offer.

Tennessee Theatre
604 Gay Street
Knoxville, TN

East Tennessee Historical Society

The East Tennessee History Center

If you are looking to learn a little bit more about the history of the Tennessee side of the Smoky Mountains, then you might want to make a trip to Knoxville, TN.  In the middle of downtown, right on Gay Street is the home of the East Tennessee Historical Society and their museum.  The East Tennessee History Center is one of the best local museum you will ever find and it has a plethora of information about the SMoky Mountains and the people that populated them on the Tennessee side of the mountains.

The permanent exhibit is a museum that covers the history of Tennessee.  This hands on museum covers all 35 counties and ranges from the people that settled this land before the times of the European settlers to the Secret City – Oak Ridge – itself.  Each section of the museum covers a different time period or a different set of people.  From the moonshiners to the origins of country music, from a replica cabin to the founding of Knoxville.  East Tennessee is celebrated in recordings, art, architecture and exhibits that tell a tale: a tale of success and falure, of happiness and disappointment but mostly, the tale of a people that kept pressing forward to make their dreams come true.

The East Tennessee Historical Society does a lot more then curate a museum.  They are also the curators of a mass of genealogical record sin East Tennessee.  They also supply a seemingly never ending series of talks and lectures on topics ranging from art and music in the East Tennessee area to basic history about this region.  These talks and lecture series are all laid out on their website so if you are going to be in the area you might want to schedule sometime for a special event or program at the East Tennessee Historical Society.  They also have a changing exhibit that changes from month to month and season to season.

The museum and the society are located in the same building in downtown Knoxville.  If you are traveling along I-40, take the exit for downtown and head into the downtown area.  If you cut across from Henley Street toward the old city you will cross over Gay Street.  Gay street runs from the river all the way to the Old City.  This used to be the main street in Knoxville and it still contains a lot of history like the Tennessee Theater and access to Market Square.  The East Tennessee Historical Society is about a block from the Tennessee Theater, toward the river.

East Tennessee Historical Society
601 South Gay St
Knoxville, TN

Tupelo Honey Cafe

Fluent Flavor Spoken Here

One of the premier restaurants in Asheville has recently expanded to the other side of the mountains.  Tupelo Honey Cafe strives to take southern cuisine to the next level.  They take the traditional and the extremely southern, you know soul food, and they turn it on ts head and put their own spin on it.  The original location in Asheville expanded there to a second location.  Now, with the new location in Knoxville, Tupelo Honey Cafe is bringing their take on southern tradition to the next level.

Their menu reads like a Sunday dinner at your grandmothers house… but different.  They take those comfort foods from our youth and make them their own.  Cheesy Grit Cakes, Appalachian Egg Rolls and Homemade Pimento & Cheese are on tap for the starters.  If you are looking for a good sandwich then you can sink your teeth into When Shrimp Met Taco, Southern Fried Chicken BLT or a Grateful Dead Black Bean Burger.  Their menu items cover everyone’s taste.  From those in your group that live a vegetarian lifestyle to those that want BBQ, there is something for everybody.  And part of the something for everybody includes their selection of Main Courses.  Shrimp and Grits, Chorizo-Crusted Colossal Sea Scallops with Basil Cream Sauce and a BBQ plate.  Go look at their menu online and you will feel your mouth start to water.

And now, because dessert is as southern as…well as apple pie, let’s look at their desserts.

  • Brown Butter Pecan Pie with Vanilla Bean and Caramel Sauce
  • Honeybee Apple Pie
  • Naked Chocolate Cake a La Mode
  • Banana Pudding
  • Blueberry Hill Thrill Cream Cheese Pie
  • Old Fashioned Soda Parlor Float
One thing that has become a part of our culinary choices is a gluten free menu and the gluten free menu at Tupelo Honey Cafe is terrific.  Full of flavor and wonderful, the gluten free menu is extensive and gives the choice of southern favorites without gluten but with all of the flavor.


Downtown Asheville
12 College St
Asheville, NC

Market Square Knoxville
1 Market Square
Knoxville, TN

Southside Asheville
1829 Hendersonville Rd
Asheville, NC

Make the Tupelo Honey Cafe a stop on your next trip to the Smokies.  You can choose either side of the mountains now and enjoy southern favorites with a more modern style.  Experience the flavor and thrill of eating at Tupelo Honey Cafe.

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Knoxville Ice Bears

The ice glows as you walk into the arena.  You can feel the coolness of the rink seep into your bones.  You take your seats and get ready for the action.  The Ice Bears take the ice, the adrenaline starts pumping through the crowd.  The puck starts flying and if you are lucky, you might even get to see a fight.

The Knoxville Ice Bears, a professional hockey team in the Southern Professional Hockey League, have been thrilling locals and visitors alike in Knoxville, TN since 2002.  Since the date of their establishment they have won four William B Coffey Trophies (as regular season champs) and they have won three President’s Cups (playoff champions).  The Ice Bears bring a fun and aggressive playing style to the ice that the people of Knoxville and East Tennessee have embraced.  Of course, the fact that their home ice is located so near downtown Knoxville doesn’t hurt.  With plenty of parking at the Civic Coliseum getting in to see a game is easy.

And the Knoxville fans love to go see this team.  Part of the fun of an Ice Bears game is seeing the fans get into the action.  Shouting for the home town players, encouraging the stars on the ice and having a great time.  If you start going to a lot of games you will find that the number of season pass holders almost always outweighs the people that are first time visitors.  These folks will suck you in with their passion for the team and their love of the game.

Also, if you are looking for a great night out, you could do a lot worse than a night at the rink with the Ice Bears.  This is a professional team.  This is a great team.  The action is always exciting, the team plays until the bell at every game, win or lose and of course it is not an expensive night out.  Tickets, at the door, start at $12.  This is for standard seating, which is fantastic, you can get closer tot he ice and even find seating behind the glass but it is always necessary if you want closer seating to call ahead or go to their website and check out the available seating for the day you are wanting to attend.  Spend the evening with a great professional hockey team here in the Smoky Mountains.  Get out and enjoy one of the best sporting events that Knoxville and East Tennessee has to offer.

Haunts and Haints at Marble Springs

Two days before Halloween, the former home of Tennessee’s first Governor, John Sevier put on a new face and had some Halloween fun.  Marble Springs was the home of John Sevier from 1745-1815.  It has been kept as a historic landmark of the history of Tennessee.  Throughout the year, living history and educational tours happen daily.  Along with the living history they have many special events.  One of the events this year was their Halloween Haunts and Haints.  The event included decorations, a costume contest for the kids and storytelling around a bonfire.

Haunts and Haints at Marble SpringsMarble Springs is a beautiful location.  Set in the woods right off Governor John Sevier Highway in South Knoxville, it is idyllic.  Add to that setting, lots of pumpkins, the gorgeous colors of an East Tennessee fall and you have a painted landscape that is the perfect backdrop for Halloween fun in the Smokies.  Luminaries lit the path down to the historic buildings and pumpkins were placed at the door of each log structure.  Trying to replicate the late 18th century means that electric lights are few and far between so the light of a bonfire provided the majority of the lighting in the area after the sun went down.

Before the sun sunk below the horizon, the kids and adults went house to house to learn about the history of the site.  Most of the kids came in costume and participated in the Halloween costume contest.  Pirates, princesses, superheroes, ghost and ghouls roamed around the site and the winners were chosen.  Candy was handed out and as the day grew older, the light got dimmer and the bonfire began to rage, everyone settled in around the bonfire or in the tavern to listen to ghost stories.

The Smoky Mountain Storytellers Association provided their voices for the ghost stories. As promised they had not so scary stories around the bonfire for the young and timid at heart and seriously scary stories in the tavern for those that were feeling more adventurous.  The atmosphere around the bonfire was warm and inviting.  With a bit of a nip in the air, everyone gathered around the bonfire for fellowship and warmth.  The stories began and everyone from the youngest to the oldest person listened with rapt attention as the stories unfurled around them.  The stories at the bonfire were new telling’s of fairy tales and fables, tales that everyone had heard but were fascinated to hear again in this wonderful environment and unique setting.

The stories in the tavern were of a different nature.  None were gruesome or graphic but they were not for the faint of heart.  With just enough edge to set your hair on end, you experienced the feeling of sitting around a campfire swapping stories with you friends.  The listeners in the cabin sat facing the fireplace and the storyteller.  The fire gave off more than enough warmth to keep everyone toasty but the sound of the wind whistling across the top of the chimney certainly added to the tales being told.

Speaking to some of the guest that attended, parent and child alike had a great time.  One family said that they would like to make this one of their fall traditions.  Another group said they were looking forward to telling their friends how much fun they had so that they could bring them back in 2012.  All in all, this is one of those events that will stick with the attendees for years to come.  They will look forward to the net trip to Marble Springs, especially the next trip at Halloween, to revisit the Haunts and Haints at Halloween.

Puleo’s Grille

It is nice to find a local chain of restaurants that you love.  One of those places in East Tennessee is Puleo’s Grille.  Puleo’s bills themselves as having ‘Southern Roots with Italian Heritage’ and they live up to that concept.  Their food is simply amazing, the atmosphere and the service is second to none and they have locations all over Knoxville and as well as one in Murfreesboro, TN.  Puleo’s should be on your dining agenda while you are visiting the Smokies.

Puleo's GrilleWhile you are on vacation, it is important to find a place where you feel comfortable taking your friends and family.  You slide into one of the booths and immediately you are in your own little world.  Each one of their restaurants is designed to let you have your privacy while you are in a public restaurant.  You don’t have to scream to be heard over everyone else.  You don’t have to yell your conversation to the rest of your dining party.  It is laid back and the service is some of the best you will find anywhere in Knoxville.  Whether you need a place to celebrate with that special someone or if you are looking for a place to bring your spouse and kids, Puleo’s is the place.

There are 5 Puleo’s in the Knoxville, TN area.  They are headquartered in Knoxville and they have expanded as their customers have demanded it.  When they found that they were having more customers than they could handle they simply added another location in a different part of town.  The nice thing is if you get to Puleo’s and one location is full, you can just drive to another one.


  • Puleo's GrilleAlcoa
  • Cedar Bluff
  • Deane Hill
  • Merchants / Cedar Lane
  • Strawberry Plains
  • Murfreesboro

Here is the most important part:  the food.  I have yet to have anything at Puleo’s that I would not have again and again and again.  I do seem to have a problem though… I am stuck on their Shrimp and Grits.  They are my favorite version of this low-country delicacy.  Made with Taso sausage and gravy, there is no part of the dish that doesn’t shine.  The grits are cooked to perfection and the peppers and onions that are sautéed in the same sauce are the perfect counterpoint.  The last several times I have been to Puleo’s I don’t even get a menu because the Shrimp and Grits are so good.  If I had to pick something else to recommend it would be the Rattlesnake Prime Rib which is a pan seared prime rib with an indescribable dry rub topped with a cheese sauce.  My mouth is watering just thinking about the Shrimp and Grits though.  I may be at Puleo’s tonight.

If you are passing through or if you are in the Smokies for a week-long vacation drive back toward Knoxville or end a day in Knoxville eating at one of the best local chains you will ever find.  Puleo’s has a full menu and there will be something for everyone in your traveling party to enjoy, but if you are a seafood fanatic, get the Shrimp and Grits.