National Local Life

What It's Like Living in Old City, Knoxville

Old City is aptly nicknamed Knoxville’s “creative corridor,” and while this moniker makes sense at a glance, there's a rich history behind the neighborhood that makes it even more meaningful. Residents love this artistic enclave for its sophistication as well as the quirky volunteer spirit that characterizes Knoxville as a whole.

Located in the northeast corner of Downtown, Old City was known for its raucous nightlife and outlaw culture in the 19th century. Movie buffs might envision a mix between “Wild Wild West” and “Gangs of New York”—Old City was home to saloons, gunfights, and Knoxville's red-light district for many years. The landscape consisted of stockyards, factories, and mills, and the cultural environment was a melting pot of cuisine and entertainment.

Jackson Avenue became a famous garment district, in the 1920s Old City was home to jazz, and it's safe to say that nearly every prominent cultural movement has been represented in this neighborhood over the years. But it was not until the 1980s that Old City got its name, and restoration efforts in the following decades gave rise to the modern revival this neighborhood embodies today. 

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Where to Eat and Drink

Old City is still the pride of Knoxville’s nightlife and culinary culture with 23 bars, 17 restaurants, two distilleries, three coffee houses, and 20 retail shops all located within less than one square mile. Among the most popular offerings are Barley’s Taproom and Pizzeria, Blue Slip Winery and Bistro, OliBea, and Curious Dog. Foodies flock to A Dopo for their sourdough Neapolitan style pizza and Good Golly Tamale for hand-rolled, traditional tamales. A date night out on the town in Old City could consist of almost infinite combinations of dining and drink.

Coffee lovers delight in Awaken, Old City Java, and Vienna Coffee with their quality barista skills and high-end roasted beans.

Things to Do

Music lovers can take in a show at Mill and Mine and true aficionados know that Pilot Light is the only place to experience Knoxville’s true underground music scene.

For art collectors and retail fiends, Old City also boasts such treasures as Willow Creek Gallery, Dogwood Arts, Patrice Argant Photography Studio, and Rala which offers local creatives a retail space to showcase their craft in a highly curated environment.

The Great Outdoors

In keeping with the neighborhood’s tradition, the Old City Association has established a bi-weekly outdoor market for makers and artists to showcase their wares along West Jackson Avenue. While there's no official greenspace in Old City, nearby parks like Cal Johnson Park and Recreation Center are just a short stroll away. 

True outdoor enthusiasts can rest easy in the urban core with the knowledge that the heart of Old City is less than an hour’s drive away from the nation’s most visited national park, Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Activities like rock climbing, backpacking, and even whitewater rafting are just a stone’s throw away from a life with all the amenities of the city.

Getting Around

As Knoxville neighborhoods go, Old City is among the easiest to navigate. It's an urban neighborhood so walk and bike scores of 87 and 85, respectively, are not surprising. A transit score of 62 is in keeping with comparable neighborhoods in Knoxville, but Old City has something that many others don't. Residents and visitors alike may avail themselves of a free trolley that circles the neighborhood. The Green Line runs every 10 minutes on every day of the week except Sunday. 

Real Estate

With a median home sale price in the mid $300s, Old City is a great value for residents looking for sophisticated and hip urban living. Offerings like the Sterchi Lofts, Regas Square, and The Crozier on Willow Avenue are a testament to the aesthetic and quality dividends that can pay from renovating former industrial spaces in thriving commercial districts. Residents can experience the glamour and feel of condominium living in a big city while still paying Knoxville prices.

For comparison, lofts and condominiums in a similar Nashville neighborhood like The Gulch run in the mid $400s and prices can top out in the millions. There's no denying that Old City offers residents a massive value for their dollar and all the city life luxuries residents could desire.

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