Last weekend we were the guests of the Holiday Inn World’s Fair Park in Knoxville, TN. Knoxville is an easy 1 hour and 45 minute drive from Chattanooga, and that makes it a perfect day trip location, or even a great weekend getaway destination. Knoxville is just 30 minutes from the Great Smoky Mountains, an area with more to do than you could possibly make time for in a vacation.
But what if you would rather just stay put in Knoxville and enjoy the local sights? After spending the weekend there with my family, I can tell you that it’s a great option, especially if you pick the right place to stay!
Holiday Inn World’s Fair Park
I always thought that Chattanooga was the third largest city in Tennessee (just behind Memphis and Nashville). I recently learned that Knoxville actually is the third largest, and Chattanooga is fourth. As a VERY proud Chattanoogan, I was rather miffed about this! What has Knoxville got going on besides a huge university???
Well, actually, quite a bit. For starters, did you know that Knoxville, TN was home of the 1982 World’s Fair? I know that was 32 years ago, but you should care about this because there is a BEAUTIFUL park downtown, as well as a sun sphere that offers beautiful views and is free to visit. And Holiday Inn World’s Fair Park was built for the occasion. But lest you think you’ll be staying in a hotel straight out of the ’80s, let me show you evidence of the 9 million dollar renovation that the hotel underwent in the last few years.
The hotel has an absolutely gorgeous lobby area (perfect for when the little ones need to run a few laps…you know that’s something they just need to do from time to time!). It’s also a nice place to sit and have a chat on the phone with a friend in peace and quiet if your partner can hold down the fort back in the hotel room for you with the kids. Not that I would know this from personal experience, or anything… You’ll also see gorgeous and fun art pieces throughout the hotel, including a dazzling crystal chandelier and the world’s largest rubik’s cube! Also of note is a small but well-equipped pool (only 5 feet at its deepest, and warmed for year-round use) and a work-out facility. I used it planning on getting my run on. In reality, I only got my walk on, but hey, at least I did something, right?
Tips for Maximizing Your Stay
There are some features and some tips and tricks I want to suggest for enjoying your stay at Holiday Inn World’s Fair Park. You will love that they have the rounded shower curtain feature (a personal favorite of mine…makes showering feel much more comfortable and spacious!). They also have open shelving closets, which I wasn’t sure I loved at first, but after sitting with it for a while, I realized that they opened up the room quite a bit and gave even more area for our girls to play around in.
Speaking of our girls, for this trip we experienced having two connecting rooms, and I have to say, it was REALLY nice. Because we have a toddler who goes to bed by 7, when we all stay together in one hotel room, either the whole room has to go to bed at 7, or the adults have to go sit in the bathroom if they want to talk or watch a movie or read a book. I cannot tell you how many times Tim and I have spent hours at the end of the day crammed into a tiny hotel bathroom just so we wouldn’t have to go to sleep at 7 pm. It’s never all that fun. With two rooms, we had the ability to put our kids down at the ideal time for them, and then have the space and freedom to stay awake for a while longer in our room. But since the rooms connect with an inside door, we were still able to check on our kids very easily. I know two rooms are more expensive than one, but now that I’ve tried traveling this way, I can see where it is worth the extra expense, especially if mom and dad need a little space to themselves, too!
I also want to recommend that you either bring some extra special treats with you, or that you request them from the hotel staff. We had a cheese and cook platter waiting for us, and that made us all feel quite special. It was also just great to have something to munch on! Additionally, we had a few new toys to play with. Kids really love the novelty of having something new; it doesn’t have to be expensive! Gather up a ball, some stickers, and some glow-in-the-dark stuff and your kiddos will be very entertained. It might even buy you a bit of time to sleep in while they play!
Holiday Inn World’s Fair Park has a concierge level on the 11th floor. This is a VERY nice upgrade, or if you are a frequent traveler and have platinum status in their loyalty program, you are entitled to a room on this floor automatically. The reason I would recommend looking into staying on this floor is because you are served complimentary breakfast. There is a full service breakfast in the hotel restaurant, but it isn’t free, and if you are like me, it can be a challenge to part ways with your funds for something you aren’t sure your kids will even eat. The complimentary breakfast on our floor included yogurt parfaits, assorted breads and pastries, fresh fruit, cereal, waffles, milk and juices. It was great, and it was literally right outside of our door.
But perhaps one of the gems of the hotel is their on-site restaurant, Windows on the Park. You guys, let me just say that if you stay at this hotel and don’t eat at the restaurant for one of your meals, you have sacrificed visiting what is surely one of the greatest meals offered in the city, and it was right under your nose. We were positively wowed by the menu, which had a large variety of creative dishes using a lot of local, seasonal products. You’ll also find the restaurant to be very smartly appointed with stunning views of the park that was created for the World’s Fair and continues to be enjoyed today. This is NOT what I was expecting from a hotel restaurant. It had a very upscale vibe with a pleasantly moderate price point. The meal with truly one of the highlights of the entire trip. DO NOT MISS IT!
How to Spend Your Time in Knoxville
Ok, so I know that there are lots of hotels in Knoxville, but one of the reasons I would strongly suggest staying at Holiday Inn World’s Fair park is because of its location. One of the city’s top attractions, the Sun Sphere, is next door to the hotel. As in, right across the street. It is also nestled up against the beautiful park I have mentioned. This is a GREAT area to go for a stroll and to run around and play. Two blocks away from the park, you’ll find Market Square, which hosts a HUGE farmer’s market on Saturdays during the warmer months (last weekend was the opening day!). I’m a downtown Chattanooga resident, so I’m not easily impressed by other downtown areas, and I expected to be underwhelmed by what downtown Knoxville and Market Square had to offer. I will tell you now that I was WRONG WRONG WRONG, and truth be told, Chattanooga could take a few notes from Knoxville on how to create a vibrant downtown area. We toured several blocks of adorable shops and restaurants, saw countless booths of vendors selling everything from local honey to produce to jewelry, and we enjoyed having the area blocked off to cars so that everyone could walk around safely. It was a truly delightful experience and I would recommend that your stay in Knoxville include a Saturday if at all possible.
We also visited IJams Nature Center, which is just an 8 minute drive from the hotel (yes, we timed it!). This is yet another FREE activity that is great for the family. Plenty of hiking to do here, plenty of nature to surround yourself with, and plenty of places where kids will want to stay and play.
And of course, if you have kids, your entertainment in Knoxville is certainly going to include some time in the pool at the hotel. While it isn’t deep, it’s still a lot of fun. We played there on two different occasions and our girls would tell you it was their very favorite part of the trip.
All in all, I’d say we had a VERY good time in Knoxville. We stayed at the ideal location, we made ourselves comfortable with ample room and some fun goodies, we enjoyed fine dining without having to get in our car, and we found several totally fun and totally free activities to enjoy. Knoxville is a great place to visit with your kids, and Holiday Inn World’s Fair Park is the right choice for your stay. I highly recommend it!