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Tuning into Tennessee

With its New South mix of music, food and revitalized waterfronts, Tennessee is practically tailor-made for fun on and off the shoreline.

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Volunteer Landing in Knoxville, Tenn.
Volunteer Landing in Knoxville.

Courtesy of Visit Knoxville

This northeast Tennessee River town made a splash as host of the 1982 World’s Fair, and World’s Fair Park remains a major gathering place for local festivals and performances, but Knoxville was a commercial and cultural draw long before that. The surrounding peaks provided attractive minerals and timber, which lured early entrepreneurs. Today, these same resources bring visitors to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Knoxville is also home to the University of Tennessee and its formidable Volunteer Navy, but more on that later.

You can’t miss Volunteer Landing, a one-mile promenade scattered with waterfalls and fountains, historical markers and three locally owned restaurants. It’s also the location of the Star of Knoxville riverboat, offering lunch, dinner and specialty cruises, and the Three Rivers Rambler Railroad, providing scenic train rides along the Tennessee River.

Downtown Knoxville is within walking distance of Volunteer Landing, and the tourist options here are almost overwhelming. There’s the 18th century Blount Mansion, Civil War Gateway, Knoxville Museum of Art, Knoxville Visitor Center, World’s Fair Sunsphere (now free and open to the public) and Market Square, offering an eclectic blend of open-air dining, shopping and entertainment.

Tie up at Volunteer Landing Marina to be right in the middle of the action. It carries gas and diesel, and is equipped with electric and water hook-ups, transient slips, pump-out, a store and more.

About 25 miles downriver is Louisville Landing Marina, a Tennessee Valley Authority Clean Marina just a quarter-mile off the main channel in Lackey Creek. Ten miles further south is Sinking Creek, home to Fox Road Marina and Concord Marina, both of which provide full amenities and services.

Mark your calendar for college football season, because there’s nothing else like catching a University of Tennessee home game with the Vol Navy. Neyland Stadium is one of only two college arenas that are directly accessible by boat (the other is the University of Washington) and up to 200 boats and their pigskin-crazed passengers turn out to tailgate here before and after games.

Visit nearby Lake Tellico, about 30 miles southwest of Knoxville. An extension of Fort Loudon Lake — the two are joined by a canal — it establishes a navigational waterway up the Little Tennessee River and creates the potential for non-stop cruising. Tellico Lake consists of 373 miles of shoreline and features a number of premier golf courses and resorts. You might even see the newest of the new Sea Ray, Bayliner and MasterCraft models buzzing around, as the lake is home to manufacturing facilities for these boat builders, among others.

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