Outdoor Adventure Center
The city of Knoxville this year began promoting itself as an outdoor activity destination. In addition to creating a promotional website and launching a three-day festival to be held this summer, the city opened Outdoor Knoxville Adventure in early May.
Based at Volunteer Landing in downtown, the Adventure Center is designed to be a hub of outdoor adventure activities for locals and visitors. The Adventure Center is home to an outfitting company that rents kayaks and bicycles to visitors and can arrange guided adventure trips for groups.
The Tennessee River runs through downtown and connects to many small lakes, giving outdoor enthusiasts a variety of options for activities near town.
The new Adventure Center also serves as the headquarters for the Legacy Parks Foundation, whose offices feature a theater and an outdoor pavilion with a Tennessee River waterfall in the background.
Visitors may come to the Smoky Mountains hoping to see deer and black bears, but they find many more exotic creatures when they stop in at Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies in Gatlinburg. This smaller, easy-to-manage aquarium introduces guests to fish and marine animals from waters both near and far.
This summer, the aquarium will be opening a new exhibit called “Perfect Predators: Sharks!” The exhibit was created exclusively for Ripley’s Aquarium and will feature a variety of live sharks from around the world. Guests will not only see the powerful creatures up close but also learn about the way sharks struggle to survive in our modern oceans.
In addition to the live sharks, the exhibit will feature more than 30 interactive displays. Visitors will be able to see the interior anatomy of a shark, look through specially modified glasses to experience “shark vision” and put their hands inside a machine that replicates the force of a shark bite.
The exhibit will be on display through the end of the year.
Behind the Rock City scenes
For decades, painted barns and other roadside advertising have encouraged travelers to “See Rock City.” Located just outside Chattanooga, Rock City Gardens features a maze of massive ancient rock formations and gardens containing more than 400 species of native Tennessee plants.
This year, to celebrate its 80th anniversary, Rock City introduced a new way for visitors to experience the gardens. Called the Media Tour, the tour uses cellphone technology and quick response (QR) codes to give visitors behind-the-scenes information on the sites throughout the park.
More than 20 signs posted around Rock City have special phone numbers for visitors to dial and QR codes for them to scan. Doing so brings up stories on the history of the park, as well as audio and video interviews with the Rock City family and staff.
Visitors will also find a newly designed seating area on top of the park’s famous Lovers Leap that now features two fireplaces and a permanent entertainment stage.