Where to stay?
The Oliver Hotel
To be completely honest, I chose this hotel just for its name; it happens to also be my oldest son’s name. I surprised him, hoping he would get a kick out of it. His reaction and the hotel itself did not disappoint. This 28-room boutique hotel in downtown Knoxville is in a renovated 1876 building that was originally a bakery. Everything from the hotel keys and décor to the hidden speakeasy ooze charm and sophistication. Optional hotel suites, walkability to restaurants, parks, coffee shops, and other points of interest make this a great choice for children and parents. The three kids, wound up after the 8-hour drive from Michigan, loved going up down the abundant staircase examining the eclectic artwork. The staff was friendly, full of local knowledge and recommendations and knew the hotel’s history inside and out. My Oliver found it strange but very cool to see his name everywhere throughout the hotel. He joked about taking the immense front doormat with his name on it home for outside his room.
Where to Eat?
Our family loves southern food! Tupelo Honey Café is a fun, funky southern comfort food gem that serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It is popular; we must have hit at the right time. A few minutes later, there was a line out the door. The staff was teeming with southern hospitality and accommodated my 8-year old’s request to add fresh strawberries to his meal. A bonus, if you are a coffee addict like me, they have a full espresso bar in addition to a traditional bar. My youngest ordered steamed milk and said it tasted like clouds. My oldest appreciated that there was also a great selection of vegetarian options on the menu.
A must for adults is the Peter Kern Library. This speakeasy is hidden in the lobby of The Oliver Hotel. I love that their cocktails are named after literary characters. As mentioned, I was traveling single parent style, alone with the kiddos. Unfortunately, I did not get to sit and soak up the cozy library atmosphere or enjoy the full menu, which looked delicious. However, the staff was very accommodating and made me an incredible old fashioned to take back to my room and sip. The perfect way to relax after a full day in the car.
Where to Play?
Knoxville is a charming town with plenty to keep you busy. There is the Knoxville Zoo, Jams White Fort, and the Knoxville Museum of Art, to name a few. If you’re an art enthusiast, Knoxville is a great place to visit. We were surprised to find a modern urban art sculpture park just steps from The Oliver hotel. The sculptures are so creative and thought-provoking that it appeals to all age groups. My 8-year-old was so intrigued he had to take home pictures of each sculpture. Knoxville is also home to the University of Tennessee (Go Vols!). You will not regret taking a stroll through this magnificent campus, home to beautiful southern-style brick buildings that are vacation picture-worthy.