Knoxville Visitor Center
You couldn't ask for a better start to the Top Secret Trail. Welcome to the home of visitor info, the Uniquely Knoxville gift shop and WDVX radio. Pick up brochures, coffee or lunch, and watch a free live music performance Monday through Saturday at noon: WDVX's Blue Plate Special.
301 S. Gay St. Knoxville, TN
More About: The City of Knoxville
The 1786 settlement known as White's Fort (see point 107) was renamed Knoxville in 1791 to honor the first U.S. Secretary of War, Henry Knox. For a time, the city served as Tennessee's state capital. In the early 20th century, Knoxville's quarries supplied pink marble to much of the country, earning it the nickname "The Marble City." Today, Knoxville is the third-largest city in the state and the largest city in East Tennessee. Offering museums, historic homes, fine dining, entertainment, a world-class zoo, and the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame (point 106), Knoxville boasts big-city attractions with small town charm and rests in the beautiful foothills of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
This square has served as a farmers market, a commercial center, a political stage, and a cultural crucible since 1854. Today, you'll find something for everyone; dine, shop, play, and stay in this revitalized area.
Between Gay St. & Walnut St., from Wall Ave. to Union Ave., Knoxville, TN
From pt. 1 parking lot, turn R onto S. Gay St. Turn R onto Wall Ave. to pt. 2.
More About: Aspiring Market Square Stars
Market Square (point 2) has witnessed its fair share of aspiring stars. Around 1870, influential New York Times publisher Adolph Ochs started out here as an apprentice typesetter for the old Knoxville Chronicle; groundbreaking fiddler Roy Acuff began his career here as well, playing for local crowds and radio broadcasts in the 1920s. In the summer of 1954, a new record by an unknown singer named Elvis Presley was selling by the hundreds after a merchant started playing it on the loudspeakers on Market Square. One of them was sold to an RCA talent scout, and several months later RCA bought Elvis's contract from Sun Studios, launching him to stardom. And in their early works, Pulitzer Prize-winning novelists James Agee and Cormac McCarthy both described the rich tapestry of historic Market Square.
World’s Fair Park
Explore the site of the 1982 World's Fair, a six-month exposition emphasizing energy: alternative and clean sources of it, as well as conservation. Visit the 1905 L&N train station, the East Tennessee Veterans Memorial and the Tennessee Amphitheater. You can't miss the world-famous Sunsphere, one of the only two remaining original Fair structures; it now houses offices and an observation deck with an amazing 360° view of the city. The site is a popular event venue and hosts the Brewers' Jam craft beer and music festival in October.
913 Clinch Ave. Knoxville, TN
Turn R on Walnut St., turn L on Summit Hill Ave. After int. of Summit Hill Ave. & Henley/Broadway, take 1st R on L&N Station Dr. At stop sign, turn L on Worlds Fair Park Dr. to pt. 3. Park & walk to visit pts. 3-5; parking available at Holiday Inn
More About: The World's Fair
The 1982 World's Fair operated from May 1 to October 31 and received 11 million visitors.
Built in 1917 by Littlefield & Steere, this respected local candy company has customers across the nation. Next door, you'll find the Knoxville Convention Center and park, home to an extensive collection of artwork and host of outdoor concerts and festivals.
1060 World’s Fair Park Dr. Knoxville, TN
Worlds Fair Park Dr. makes a loop encircling pts. 4 & 5; pts. 4 & 5 are N of Clinch Ave.
Knoxville Museum of Art
Get your fill of awe-inspiring works of contemporary 20th- and 21st- century art in four galleries dedicated to design, emerging artists, a wonderful permanent collection and thematic group exhibitions. Admission is free, and you'll find live music almost every Friday night.
1050 World’s Fair Park Dr. Knoxville, TN
Pt. 5 is next to pt. 4.
University of Tennessee
Founded in 1794, UT was the first non-sectarian institution of higher learning established in the U.S. It boasts an expansive campus with grand architecture. Drive or stroll the area and enjoy these highlights: Neyland Stadium, Thompson-Boling Arena, the iconic Torchbearer Statue in Circle Park, Frank H. McClung Museum, featuring decorative arts and natural and local history, and the UT Gardens.
Neyland Stadium, Thompson-Boling Arena, Phillip Fulmer Way
Frank H. McClung Museum, 1327 Circle Park Dr., 865-974-2144
UT Gardens, Corner of Neyland Dr. & Jacob Dr., 865-974-8265
Phillip Fulmer Way Knoxville, TN
From pt. 5, continue N on World's Fair Park Dr. Turn L on 11th St., turn R on Cumberland Ave. Enter pt. 6 on L to begin your exploration through Big Orange Country. A free parking pass is required to park on campus.
More About: Good Ole Rocky Top
Rocky Top is not the official fight song of UT, but was unofficially adopted when its Pride of the Southland Band made it a part of their routine in the 1970s.
Ignored for years after the riverboat era, the Tennessee Riverfront now supports this landscaped walkway featuring a restaurant, boarding for Three Rivers Rambler train rides, the Star of Knoxville excursion riverboat, NavCal River Rides and the Volunteer Princess yacht. The landing is also an anchor of Knoxville's bicycle/pedestrian greenway system, which stretches deep into West Knoxville. Rent a bike or a boat at Outdoor Knoxville Adventure Center.
Three Rivers Rambler: 865-524-9411
Tennessee Riverboat Co.: 865-525-7827, 800-509-2628
NavCal River Rides: 865-765-3407
Volunteer Princess Cruises: 865-541-4556
Outdoor Knoxville Adventure Center, 900 Volunteer Landing Ln., 865-523-0066
956 Volunteer Landing Ln. Knoxville Knoxville, TN
On campus, turn L onto Volunteer Blvd. (toward river), turn L onto Lake Loudon Blvd. Turn L onto Neyland Dr. to pt. 7.
Also known as the Armstrong-Lockett House, the oldest house west of downtown was built in 1834 by wealthy planter Drury Payne Armstrong and was once the centerpiece of a 600-acre farm. Explore this exquisite home's century antique furniture, decorative arts and collection of English silver from ca. 1640-1820. Walk around the magnificent fountains and terraces overlooking formal Italian gardens.
2728 Kingston Pk. Knoxville, TN
From pt. 7, turn L onto Neyland Dr. Continue on Neyland Dr. to int. with Kingston Pk. Turn L onto Kingston Pk./US-70 to pt. 8.
This Secret City once housed more than 75,000 people at the peak of the Manhattan Project, the top-secret mission to develop the atomic bomb. People in neighboring towns had no idea that the town even existed. Every resident over 12 wore a badge at all times, and no visitors were allowed without prior approval. Military police manned the gates, and guardhouses were set up along the fence line surrounding the site; three remain today. Stop along the way for great photo ops or visit one of two replicas at the American Museum of Science & Energy (point 11) or the Children's Museum of Oak Ridge (point 15).
US-70 Oak Ridge, TN
Turn L onto Kingston Pk./ US-70. Go W for approx. 10 miles, following signs to Oak Ridge.
More About: The Secret City
Oak Ridge did not even exist on a map until it was added in 1946, four years after WWII.
New Hope Center at Y-12 National Security Complex
Get a glimpse at the history of Y-12 at this site through artifacts, videos, and knowledgeable Y-12 historians. This is as close as a visitor can get to what some call the nation's Fort Knox of nuclear weapons. Today, the Y-12 National Security Complex is a premier manufacturing facility dedicated to making our nation and the world a safer place. Y-12 was one of the original Manhattan Project facilities built to help end World War II (WWII) by developing the fuel for the world's first atomic bomb.
602 Scarboro Rd. Oak Ridge, TN
From Kingston Pk./US-70, turn R onto TN-162N. Go approx. 7 miles, exit onto Bethel Valley Rd. Pass guardshack on R, turn R onto Scarboro Rd. Go 0.7 mile, turn L onto Portal Rd. to pt. 10.
More About: Creating an Atomic Bomb
How can 75,000 people keep a secret? Oak Ridge (point 9) seemed to be built overnight in 1942. Nestled in the valley between two ridges, far from the ocean (and therefore Japan and Germany), and powered by Norris Dam (point 88) not far away, this was the chosen site of the now-famous Manhattan Project during World War II. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers acquired nearly 60,000 acres and displaced thousands of families in order to enrich and produce uranium in secret. They brought in engineers, scientists and workers in the top of their fields, whose questions were many and answers were none. The location, purpose and population were all top secret; the city didn't even exist on a map. The workers were prohibited to discuss their duties: not to their coworkers, families, or neighbors. They used code names and wore special badges. It wasn't until the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 that they realized the purpose of their mission: creating the atomic bomb.
American Museum of Science & Energy
Telling the story of Oak Ridge, the Manhattan Project and the atomic age in vivid detail, this is a great place to learn the significance of this small community's efforts in changing the world. Take part in hands-on activities and get an in-depth look of the movement that made this area into what it is today.
300 S. Tulane Ave. Oak Ridge, TN
From pt. 10, turn L onto Portal Rd., turn L onto Scarboro Rd. At 2nd light, turn L onto Illinois Ave./TN-62. Turn R onto Tulane Ave., turn L into pt. 11 parking lot.
International Friendship Bell
A gift from the citizens to their city for Oak Ridge's 50th birthday celebration, this was the first monument between a U.S. Manhattan Project city and Japan. The bell serves as an expression of hope for everlasting peace, designed in Oak Ridge and cast in Japan from solid bronze. The artwork on the traditional Japanese bell depicts commonalities between Tennessee and Japan including official flowers, trees, and birds and symbolizes international friendship. The bell, in AK Bissell Park (point 13), is easily accessible so all citizens of the world can ring the bell for peace.
Badger Ave. Oak Ridge, TN
Exit pt. 11, turn R onto access road beyond picnic area. At stop sign, turn R onto Badger Ave. Curve around to next R into parking area for pt. 12.
AK Bissell Park
Learn more about Oak Ridge's WWII history with a stroll through this park named after the city's first mayor. The Secret City Commemorative Walk on the east end of the park was built in 2005 and pays homage to the businesses and workers of the Manhattan Project whose efforts helped end the war. Each June, the park is home to the annual Secret City Festival, featuring the South's largest WWII reenactment. You might also spend some time in the Oak Ridge Library, researching more about this historic town in the Oak Ridge Room.
Between Badger Ave., ORAU Way & Oak Ridge Trnpk. Oak Ridge, TN
Exit R onto Badger Ave., at stop sign, turn R onto ORAU Way. Turn R onto Oak Ridge Trnpk./TN-95, take 2nd R into Oak Ridge Civic Center parking lot for pt. 13.
More About: The Prophecy of John Hendrix
According to local lore, mystic John Hendrix (1865-1915), prophesied the establishment of Oak Ridge some 40 years before construction began. He told those who would listen that "in the woods, as I lay on the ground and looked up into the sky, there came to me a voice as loud and as sharp as thunder. The voice told me to sleep with my head on the ground for 40 nights and I would be shown visions of what the future holds for this land... And I tell you, Bear Creek Valley someday will be filled with great buildings and factories, and they will help toward winning the greatest war that ever will be. And there will be a city on Black Oak Ridge and the center of authority will be on a spot middle-way between Sevier Tadlock's farm and Joe Pyatt's Place. A railroad spur will branch off the main L&N line, run down toward Robertsville and then branch off and turn toward Scarborough. Big engines will dig big ditches, and thousands of people will be running to and fro. They will be building things, and there will be great noise and confusion and the earth will shake. I've seen it. It's coming."
Oak Ridge Welcome Center
This original Manhattan Project building was once home to the Midtown Community Center, also known as Wildcat Den, a recreation hall and hang out for most of the youth living behind the fence. Today, you can pick up area brochures and see a recreated dorm room as well as original maps, photos and artifacts from the Manhattan Project.
102 Robertsville Rd. Ste. C/Traffic light 11 Oak Ridge, TN
Exit L onto Oak Ridge Trnpk./ TN-95, turn R onto Robertsville Rd. Turn R immediately into parking lot for pt. 14.
Children’s Museum of Oak Ridge
Whether you're a child or a child at heart, this museum offers a unique hands-on way of learning about the Appalachian and Manhattan Project heritage of East Tennessee. Play in a child-size doll house, experience the wonders of a rain forest or be the conductor of a train, it's only up to your imagination.
461 W. Outer Dr. Oak Ridge, TN
Exit R onto Robertsville Rd. Take 2nd R onto Highland Ave., turn L onto W. Outer Dr. Turn L into parking lot for pt. 15.
One of the best kept secrets in town, this spot offers home-cooked breakfast and lunch, as well as hand-dipped milkshakes. Specialties include the famous Y-12 Breakfast and Myrtle Burger. A part of Jefferson Pharmacy, this restaurant offers a warm sense of community. While you're here, shop for knickknacks, historic books, Oak Ridge souvenirs and old-fashioned candy.
22 Jefferson Cir. Oak Ridge, TN
Exit L onto W. Outer Dr. At light, turn L onto Illinois Ave./TN-62. Turn R onto Oak Ridge Trnpk./ TN-95. At light, turn R onto Jefferson Ave. Turn L into Jefferson Center to pt. 16.
Secret City Scenic Excursion Train
Take this one-of-a-kind trip that runs through the heart of the K-25 facility, one of the plants built for the Manhattan Project to enrich uranium for the atomic bombs that ended WWII. Enjoy the scenic East Tennessee countryside, part of which was featured in the 1999 movie "October Sky," starring Jake Gyllenhaal. Train runs select weekends, Feb.-Dec.
Hwy 58 Oak Ridge, TN
Take Jefferson Ave. back to Oak Ridge Trnpk./ TN-95, turn R. At TN-95 & TN-58 split, follow signs to TN-58 (Kingston). Go approx. 9 miles, follow silver signs for Excursion Train. Turn R into Heritage Center (former K-25 plant). Take 1st L inside plan
K-25 Overlook/East Tennessee Technology Park
This overlook and park is located across from the now idle K-25 gaseous diffusion plant. Displays and video tell the story of the plant from its Manhattan Project days to the end of the Cold War.
Hwy 58 Oak Ridge, TN
Exit pt. 18, turn R onto TN-58. Take immediate L into parking area for pt. 18.
More About: Bradbury Community Center
Nearby Bradbury Community Center in Kingston is a great place to hear foot-stompin' bluegrass music every Tuesday or third Saturday night. At Hwy 326/Gallaher Road and Hwy 70, go east on Hwy 70 for approximately 2 miles; turn left on Buttermilk Road for approximately 2.9 miles. Info: 865-376-4201.
Watts Bar Lake
One of the South's largest and most scenic lakes, Watts Bar provides over 39,000 acres of water and 800 shoreline miles for outdoor adventure. Enjoy world-class fishing, lakeside resorts, dining, boating, swimming and more. Kingston has a perfect vantage point to view the lake near the intersection of Hwy 58 and Hwy 70 with picnicking areas available.
Hwy 58 Landing Park S. Kentucky St. Kingston, TN
Go S on TN-58 for approx. 6 miles (under I-40 road becomes TN-326/ Gallaher Rd.). At int. with US-70, turn R onto US-70/Kingston Hwy. Go approx. 3.8 miles, turn L onto TN-58/S. Kentucky St. to pt. 19.
Fort Southwest Point
Built in 1797, this fort became the headquarters and home to a large number of federal troops, stationed to protect the travelers crossing Cherokee territory and to ensure that they did not illegally settle on Cherokee-owned lands. Several treaties with the Native Americans were negotiated and signed on this site. This is the only pioneer-era fort in Tennessee reconstructed on its original foundation, complete with barracks, blockhouse, cabins, palisade walls and a museum. Free tours, Tue.-Sat., 10 a.m.- 4 p.m.
1225 S. Kentucky St. Kingston, TN
Exit R to continue S on TN-58/S. Kentucky St. Go 0.5 mile to pt. 20. Fort is at rear of parking lot.
More About: Avery's Trace
In 1787, in an effort to encourage settlers to move west into the new territory of Tennessee, hunter Peter Avery was commissioned by the mother state of North Carolina to cut a trail approximately 300 miles long through the wilderness. The trail was to stretch into the Cumberland Settlements from Clinch Mountain in East Tennessee (near Fort Southwest Point, point 20, in Kingston) to French Lick, which would later be called Nashville. The pioneering settlers came with North Carolina land grants, which they earned in service or purchased from veterans or speculators. They camped along the way and occasionally were fortunate to find families living in the area to give them shelter and food. Because a portion of Avery's Trace passed through Cherokee land, tribe members began demanding tolls for use of the road. After many travelers were killed along the route by the Cherokee, North Carolina legislature ordered militia details, commanded by General John Sevier, to provide armed escorts when large enough groups had gathered at the Clinch River to head west. Hwy 70W from Kingston up to Monterey follows the early route of historic Avery's Trace.