Looking for things to do and places to go in Knoxville? Enjoy our Neighborhood Guide series where we share a part of town and cover food and drinks, nature and outdoors, arts and culture, attractions, and more!  


A Whole Lotta Happy - Happy Holler and Central

Just beyond the shadow of the Sunsphere, north of downtown, lies a stretch of fun and entertainment guaranteed to bring joy. It’s a little pocket of Central Avenue that roughly parallels Broadway known lovingly as “Happy Holler”. The history of this area goes back over a century’ it’s currently thriving, and its future is incredibly bright. Historically a spot for beer joints and saloons, Happy Holler has maintained that gritty vibe with local breweries surrounded by incredible food and vintage delights. Let’s start with the beer.

If you’re planning an outing on Knoxville’s Ale Trail, consider this area a trailhead. Central Avenue is the address for several local breweries, starting with Fanatic Brewing Co. From flagship to seasonal and everything in between, Fanatic has something for everyone. Coming south toward downtown, your next stop is Elst Brewing Co. Their Elstwhere taproom was created on the belief that beer provides a common bond between races, religions, and countries. That same sense of unity can be found across the street at Ebony & Ivory Brewing. Only the second Black-owned brewery in the state, E&I also believes in the common ground found through beer. It’s a sentiment you’ll, quite honestly, find at all the local breweries, along with live music and game nights. Happy Holler’s watering holes are surrounded by great restaurants including Steamboat Sandwiches, Hard Knox Pizzeria and Pizzeria Nora. You’ll also find amazing charcuterie boards and sandwiches at The Oak Room by Abridged, a sister brewery to Abridged Beer Company, popular for their barrel-aged sours. As exceptional culinary experience awaits at Bistro by the Tracks, Knoxville’s answer to great metropolitan dining. For more fun and casual lunch or dinner, hop into Central Flats & Taps, home to exactly that – delicious flatbread pizzas (and way more) plus beer on tap!

While you’re in the heart of the holler, peruse the vinyl at Raven Records & Rarities and Magnolia Records, shop for all kinds of vintage treasures at Retrospect Vintage Store, and see what’s playing at Central Cinema – the city’s only independently owned theater.  This homegrown, eclectic film venue features a regular rotation of first-run independents and repertory favorites. You’ll find it in a fantastically fun bit of businesses that includes the Pirate Tavern (you have to see to believe), Zero/Zero (a great spot for natural wines, cheap beers and snacky snacks), and Club XYZ – “Knoxville’s Friendliest Gay Place to Be,” offering up a full calendar of events including karaoke, trivia nights and of course drag shows!

Keep the happy vibes going as you travel up Central Avenue towards downtown. Along the way, you’ll find another day’s worth of fun at places like Wild Love Bakehouse, home to made from scratch pastries, quiche, croissants, and more; Mid Mod Collective, Knoxville’s premier mid-century showroom; the Knoxville Children’s Theatre, professional production for children, by children; and Jacks of Knoxville, a delightful space to shop for plants and regional artisans’ wares while you enjoy an espresso!

Set your final GPS stop for Schulz Bräu, Knoxville’s “Beer Castle” with one of the largest Biergartens in the southeast. Hoist a pint of authentic German beer (the owners are from Germany), order from a delectable menu and see what happens next. If you’re in town during Maifest, Oktoberfest or Christkindlesmarkt, you are in for a treat! Locals have also come to love Ritterfest, a German Knight’s Festival, with three-days of battling knights, medieval merchants and minstrels of music in a perfect medieval setting!

Do we have you convinced? Knights, pirates, queens and more – from one end to the other, Central Avenue and Happy Holler will have you coming back time and time again!


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