My stepsister got her Masters and doctorate at UT there. She teaches at a very renowned university in the South so she’s not some bro-type like me. Here’s her response when I asked her:
“I loved Knoxville. Great music scene (I went mostly to smaller local and regional acts but bigger stuff came through too). Lots of good restaurants and bars. Easy to get to mountains for hiking and to rivers and lakes for boating and swimming. Awesome farmers markets. Fun college town for sports and speakers and such...It doesn’t have the super country vibe of Nashville, which is good for me...Cons were that there was some bible thumping going on in the city and you didn’t have to get too far out of the city to be in “churches with snake handling and speaking in tongues” kind of places.”
I spent a year in Pigeon forge over a six-week period in 1982. We made a couple of trips to Knoxville, but not even the World's Fair left much of an impression on me. I could tell you more about the game of Wooden Ships and Iron Men I played over that time than I could about the city.
I went to Knoxville to take pictures of Neyland stadium about 5 years ago. It was awesome! We had sideline passes to a football game (105,000 thousand screaming fans all around you) and my ears rang for 2 days. The city was awesome as well. The greenery there was amazing. It reminded me of Japan. Beautiful country with awesome food. We happened to be there on Labor Day and I am not kidding when I say the city was empty. I have a video where I do a 360 turn in downtown and you only see 1 car moving and no other people. It was crazy. I guess everyone heads out to the many lakes to party on holidays.
Let me explain my question about Knoxville and maybe you all can help me in another way...
Right now, my wife and I are trying to create as comprehensive of a list of places we would consider living as possible. Knoxville is up for consideration. Here’s why: we want to find a place where (a) we can live nearly mortgage free, (b) have at least 3 acres (but hopefully more around 5), and (c) be in a place that we both think is beautiful.
These factors whittle down the list of possible places pretty fast. For example, take (c): my wife grew up in rural Massachusetts, surrounded by forest; and she maintains a deep tie to abundant greenery; that’s what is beautiful for her. On the other hand, I grew up in Utah and have consistently pursued mountains and open spaces ever since; I’ll take a long view over a dense forest every time.
Knoxville crept into consideration because of the Appalachia and the reasonably long growing season. You can also get a little house on a few acres for pretty cheap.
We’re also considering some areas in the Pacific NW, Montana, and Idaho.
If anyone else has ideas, I’d love to hear them. If you would’ve suggested Knoxville to me just 3 weeks ago, it would have been a novel idea. I’ve never even considered living there until just recently. Tia.
I've been to all 50 states. I don't think there is any place better than Washington. From what you describe, I would recommend Wenatchee. If you don't mind the rain and spending more money, I would suggest Port Angeles area. The Olympic Peninsula is amazing. If you want cheap land, mild winters (except rain), access to incredibly beautiful outdoors, access to the ocean, I would recommend Grays Harbor County. But the Aberdeen area is a very poor area with drugs/social problems with a lot of Trump voters/thinkers. These are the factors that make the land cheap. There is a reason Kurt Cobain had so much angst.
I am in Oregon often. Beautiful for sure, but there is a weird vibe I can't get past. Too many hipsters trying too hard for my liking. Its either hipsters or trumpsters. Not a lot in between.
I would't sleep on Vermont, if you can stand the winters. Your wife probably already knows the pros and cons. But, definitely one of the most beautiful and unique areas.
I love Missoula area. On my radar for possible relocation.
The mid South has some wonderful areas. North Carolina is my favorite. But, ultimately, it is too conservative for me to consider living full time.