Photo courtesy of Visit Knoxville

Great Smoky Mountains, Here We Come, N’at

Allegiant Air is looking for a few Volunteers.

The airline is debuting a new nonstop flight from Pittsburgh International Airport to Knoxville, Tenn., beginning May 17, twice weekly. And the home of the University of Tennessee and its nearly 30,000 students bears some striking similarities to Pittsburgh beyond just its academic community.

“Knoxville is a great destination with endless opportunities for Pittsburgh-area travelers,” said Zach Kramer, spokesman for Allegiant. “Since we began service at PIT, we’ve seen great success with each new destination we add and are thrilled to include Knoxville to our growing list of flight offerings from PIT.”

Tennessee’s third-largest city has its own watery confluence, where the Holston and French Broad rivers join to form the Tennessee River (coincidentally, the largest tributary of our own Ohio River).

Both cities trace their origins to forts — we’ve got Fort Pitt and Fort Duquesne, and Knoxville was built on the site of a settlement called White’s Fort. It was named for Henry Knox, the first U.S. Secretary of War, who served under President George Washington. As everyone in Pittsburgh knows, Gen. Washington visited our area many times early in our history. And, well, we have a statue of George in our terminal.

The 266-foot Sunsphere offers beautiful views of Knoxville and its surroundings. (Photo courtesy Visit Knoxville)

Pittsburghers looking for an alternative to sammiches with fries and slaw will find plenty of tasty BBQ joints throughout Knoxville, some near the heart of its downtown, which is called … wait for it … Market Square. No, really.

Hikers looking to work off those calories can find Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which is bisected by the Appalachian Trail, less than an hour away from the city. It gets more visitors than any other national park in the country.

And while we don’t think anything matches the view from Mt. Washington, head up to Knoxville’s 26-story Sunsphere in World’s Fair Park to get incredible views of the city, the river, the university and the mountains.

Kim Bumpas, president of Visit Knoxville, calls her city a “unique getaway destination,” and notes that the Dollywood theme park — also less than an hour away — is driving tourism growth in the area.

“I think (the new flight) could be huge,” she said. “I think there’s a lot of mutual opportunity here, with people from Knoxville wanting to go to Pittsburgh, too.”

Good idea, Allegiant. Now to find all the Steelers bars in Knoxville …

 

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