Photo: Kayaker on river

A kayaker is propelled by rapids on the Tennessee River.

Photograph by Jaime Dunn, My Shot

Pop. 184,802
GPS: 36°00'N, 83°57'W

Knoxville sits just northwest of the crest of the Appalachian Mountains, on the banks of the Tennessee River, within easy driving distance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Cherokee National Forest. The University of Tennessee campus here lends the city a youthful energy and helps fuel a lively and largely undiscovered local music scene.

PLAY

Though it sounds more like Six Flags than a mountain bike trail, the Screamer at Hall Ridge dips into a ravine and out again before you can catch your breath. In the Smoky Mountains, hike down the ridge from Clingmans Dome to Silers Bald and see Tennessee lakes on one side and South Carolina peaks on the other (www.nps.gov/grsm). And with 750 miles (1,207 kilometers) of fishable streams in the Smokies, it’s best to ask an expert; a Little River Outfitters guide will show you the best trout flyfishing, and improve your technique along the way (www.littleriveroutfitters.com).

EAT

Grab a beer and listen to live tunes at the Preservation Pub (www.preservationpub.com). Calhoun's on the Tennessee River batters fresh caught catfish in cornmeal and serves a baked creamed corn casserole—Tennessee Corn Puddin'—on the side (www.calhouns.com).

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