Are you new to Knoxville? Maybe you just got divorced? Perhaps you still think there’s nothing to do in Knoxville?

Eight years ago, when I was 40,  I had to start over in Knoxville. It was and still is a wondrous journey. Back in 2005, if the greater downtown area had a yearbook, my photo would have been on nearly every page! I have since calmed down, but I still cherish the opportunity to try new things and to make more new friends and acquaintances.

8 Ways to Start Over in Knoxville

Become A Restaurant Regular

1.     Become a regular at a few restaurants. My motto is: “The better the beer selection, the better the patrons.” Always sit at the bar – this increases your chances of meeting new acquaintances and getting to know the staff. I eventually was befriended by terrific regulars and made a few close friends as we swapped jokes, shared our passion for obscure Rolling Stones’ songs, coped with grief, bad dates, and unemployment. Some folks I met were just passing through town.  I enjoyed their stories about a nasty pet monkey (that’s not code for anything), impersonations of Miles Davis, and hearing about glory days playing bass with The Spinners. Happy hour discounts on food and drink are a plus. I recommend Downtown Grill & Brewery, Preservation Pub (smoke free on the second floor) and Boyd’s Jig & Reel.

At Preservation Pub with the late great Phil Pollard.

At Preservation Pub with the late great Phil Pollard.

Become A Fan Of Local Music

2.   Become a regular fan of a few local bands. Over time, you’ll start to notice and meet the bands’ other regular fans. This automatically gives you something in common and you may find yourself dancing and singing exuberantly – this is fun even if you do it alone. Now that WDVX offers a Saturday Blue Plate Special there’s no excuse to not take advantage of these wonderful FREE live shows that are also available at noon during the week. Again, be a Blue Plate Special regular and you’ll start to meet the other regular attendees. It’s a great community.

The Lonetones perform at WDVX's Tennessee Shines, and early evening series on Monday nights.

The Lonetones perform at WDVX’s Tennessee Shines, and early evening series on Monday nights.

5K Charity Fun Run/Walk

3.  You probably know someone at work or online who enjoys forming a team to participate in a 5K walk/run. I used to avoid these events because I don’t like crowds and parking hassles. If you arrive early, parking is easy, and the crowd is what makes it fun. The 5K route is like a continuous party. I walked in my first 5K with folks I only knew from KnoxBlab and/or Facebook. It was great to meet these friends in person and to share the joy of exercise and helping a local charity.


Walking buddies I met online. This was our third 5K walk together.


4.   We are fortunate to be surrounded by so much natural beauty. Visit parks, greenways, arboretums, Ijams Nature Center,  Mead’s Quarry, the Knoxville Botanical Garden & Arboretum, and UT Arboretum for free! Venture further out to Frozen Head, Big South Fork, and the Smoky Mountains. Better yet, explore bike riding on the numerous greenways, or register for canoe trips with the City of Knoxville Parks & Recreation, Ijams, and River Sports. Attend lectures, how-to classes, or become a member or volunteer at any number of outdoor organizations. Don’t forget historic sites/homes. Many have lovely gardens and interesting histories.

my wedding

Our 2012 wedding at Marble Springs State Historic Site in South Knoxville.

5.   Use to find a variety of clubs in town. The local has everything from outdoor adventure clubs to nudists. Most Meetup groups don’t charge a fee, but some do to defray’s cost to create the club’s page.  Even if you don’t want to join a group, you can still learn about fun things to do by viewing the clubs’ schedule of events.

Finding my rhythm with Knox Earth Drum meetup group on the Market Square lawn.

Finding my rhythm with the Knox Earth Drum meetup group on a First Friday on Market Square.

University of Tennessee Cultural Events

6.  Don’t forget to regularly check the University of Tennessee’s cultural event calendar (scroll down to various committees). This excellent source of information is frequently overlooked. Many of these events are unique and available to the general public. Granted the calendar is a little sparse in the summer, but during the school year, there are free music recitals, ballets, plays, lectures, art exhibits, etc. The agriculture campus has it’s own calender of events and workshops, too. Oh yeah, and there are sporting events, too. During my Renaissance, I saw my first ballet, the musical Tommy, and a concert by Refugee All Stars of Sierra Leone!

Knox County Public Library System

7.  Use your local library. Check its schedule of events often. The Knox County Library System offers free computer classes, info on geneology, live music, poetry readings, film screenings, wellness classes, and lots of events for small children and teens. The library also hosts large events like The Great Cake Bake-Off, the Children’s Festival of Reading, and Movies on the Square. Participate in community reads and attend accompanying events.

Kelly Jolly presents the music and poetry of "The Sweethearts of Rhythm" at Lawson McGhee Library. Photo by Meg Bensey.

Kelle Jolly presents the music and poetry of “The Sweethearts of Rhythm” at Lawson McGhee Library.


8.  Explore area museums. Many have free admission and host special events like live music, lectures, films, and classes.

Getting Malcolm Holcombe's autograph after a concert at the Knoxville Museum of Art.

Getting Malcolm Holcombe’s autograph after a concert at the Knoxville Museum of Art.

This is not an exhaustive list. It’s just a beginning. Part of the fun is doing your own research and discovering events and places by accident. Promise yourself you will get out and try something new at least once a month. Become a regular where everyone will eventually know your name. Discover a local band or two, or three (there are so many great ones), and attend most of their shows. Starting over, or just starting, can be a beautiful thing. Don’t take all these opportunities for granted. Not every town has so much to choose from. I know. I have visited Decatur, Illinois.

neo nazi

Oh, Knoxville, you so crazy. There was not a riot at the neo-nazi counter demonstration.


© Debra Dylan, 2013.

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