LOVE LETTER TO EAST TENNESSEE
By JEFF BELL
Dear East Tennessee,
What a bewitching region you are! I fled you many moons ago for bright lights and big dreams, achieving more than I ever imagined and falling prey to traps of a fast life. I returned to you humbled and obliged to assist in caring for my aging mother. The life you have unfolded for me is nothing short of a miracle. A visit to Renegade Yoga Center three years ago resulted in innumerable gifts. One class led to a part-time job at the front desk for two years, and then a managerial role. I am now part owner, I completed our RYT 200 in 2022, and am currently enrolled in our RYT 300. I have gained trusting partners, deep friendships, and a life I never imagined. Nestled in the Appalachian foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains, your charms are at once ironic, elusive, and seductive. Clever of you to have birthed three national laboratories, attracting scientists from all over the world and a major university with enrollment of nearly 30,000. Your wellness and spirit-minded crowd are many, thriving in the endless activities of the outdoors, hiking, and cycling your mountains and paddling your vast streams and rivers. You provide us a vital calendar of sport, art, culture and music. In valleys near, simpler folk remain entrenched in lives learned from ancestors, reaping the land, at odds with the modern. In great part, we are politically and socially divided, striving to coexist, and we do. I shall stay awhile.
So much love,
Renegade Yoga Center
Absolutely the most beautiful practice space in the region. It’s a place where all are welcome to practice and learn on all levels. Lead instructor and partner Philip Clift sets the pace as Renegade offers an incredibly talented roster of instructors and massage therapists. There is a thriving curriculum of workshops, and the teacher training program is unparalleled. It’s a vibe!
Conveniently located halfway between the studio and my home, I find myself at this eatery a few days a week. The food is fresh, tasty, and authentic. Founder Bettina Hamblin cites her family meals growing up as the impetus for her passion. I especially love the brussels sprouts and the ever-changing burrata bowl. Half-priced appetizers throughout the week from 4-6pm are a big draw. The casually elegant atmosphere is always welcoming.
Honeybee Coffee & Brewery
With four locations, this local roaster offers delicious brew and treats. Owner Norris Hill offers up a full slate of hot and cold drinks with a wide array of milk types, flavors, and sweeteners. The honey lavender latte is a favorite. You can also find a delicious assortment of bakery fare and sandwiches. This ever-expanding business is one to watch. Buzz on over to Honeybee!
The Tennessee Theatre
Built in 1928, this former movie palace is the official state theater of Tennessee. It’s a magnificent tribute to the art of show featuring a fantastic array of musical performers, Broadway touring companies, ballet, symphony and any other type of staged entertainment you can imagine. A $25 million renovation and restoration has cemented it as a world-class entertainment venue. The grand Wurlitzer organ is still played on Mighty Musical Mondays and you can still see movies there! It’s the crown jewel of downtown Knoxville.
Five Thirty Lounge
Situated atop the Hyatt Place Hotel in a 100-year-old building in downtown Knoxville, this stylish and sexy indoor/outdoor cocktail lounge features a great menu of delicious appetizers and spectacular views. It’s a great place to meet a friend or gather a group for a special occasion. Mountain and river views accentuate this spectacular setting.
Cruze Farm Dairy
Fresh churned ice cream from a local dairy is a special treat. With a flavor selection changing daily and an array of cone dips and toppings, there is always something to suit every palate. With four locations, there’s never one too far away.
Originally owned by the Cherokee tribes, the land of this public park is located along the banks of the headwaters of the Tennessee River. For years, it served as home to a mental health institute. Now a public resource with many event lawns, walking paths, sporting fields and a fantastic children’s playground, it’s a great place to visit on a sunny day to walk, picnic, meet up with friends, or just lay on a patch of green grass and watch the clouds float by.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The most visited national park in the United States drew over 14,000,000 visitors last year and is situated on the border of Tennessee and North Carolina. Thousands of miles of trails and hundreds of streams and waterfalls provide endless beauty and recreation. Home to a myriad of plant and animal life, it is a vast and precious natural resource which is carefully cared for and protected by the National Park Service.
Dolly Parton is likely the most widely-known entertainer in the world. Born of humble beginnings in Sevierville, TN, she has built a career and body of work that is unmatched. In 1986, Dolly purchased what had begun as a small railroad attraction in 1961 and has grown it into Tennessee’s most visited entertainment venue. The park features multiple shows and some thrilling amusement park rides. She has created an empire employing many of her own family members and thousands of locals contributing greatly to the economy of the region. She loves us and we love her! Dollywood is almost as much fun as she is.