More than 20 local artisans gather to display their handmade wares at Knoxville Soap, Candle, & Gifts. Their all-natural, bar- or ball-shaped soaps are fully biodegradable and made in Tennessee. Handmade candles give off sweet scents such as cupcake, brownie, and chocolate cake, recreating the smells of a baker's warm kitchen or nightly bath in leftover batter. Upon request, staffers can wrap these and other gifts—such as earrings, necklaces, and scarves—in complimentary wrapping paper any day of the year.
The skilled seamstresses of Gina's Bernina Sewing Center equip threadbearers with the fabric and patterns to create their own masterpieces. More than 5,000 bolts of quality fabric ($6–$24.95/yard) unfurl across the workshop's showroom, with colorful weaves by Amy Bulter, Kaffe Fasset, Clothworks, and Moda. Classic children’s fabrics such as corduroy, batiste, and broadcloth come together to form sturdy mini tuxedos, and minky fabric swaddles babies in plush blankets. Peruse stitching lexicons such as Batiks Inspired by Bali ($24.99), a collection of 15 patterns inspired by Indonesian designs, and Loose Change ($24.99), which teaches the art of sewing pocket change into quilts for safekeeping.
HobbyTown USA’s large supply of models, kits, and games provides hours of creative diversions, fine-scale precision, and gift-giving potential. Model trains race radio-controlled vehicles, slot cars, and aerial conveyances such as the E-flite Blade mCX RTF helicopter ($79.99). Human hands and zoom noises power old-school road hogs such as Mattel Hot Wheels’ Haul and Race Rig ($13.99). HobbyTown USA stocks a rail yard’s worth of model-train supplies and accessories, including how-to books and tiny models of model trains. Complex souls play out psychodramas in safety with board games and puzzles, and brain cells tumble through IQ hoops with science kits such as the hands-on Disgusting Science kit ($19.99). The store’s telescopes allow sneak previews of the impending alien invasion. For objects demanding to be covered in paint, hobby paints and tools and art supplies provide the materials.
At Mr. K’s Used Books, Music, and More’s five locations, funny money is the currency of choice. In exchange for bringing in good-quality books, CDs, and DVDs, customers receive store-issued dollars that they can use toward the purchase of other items. Some in-demand items, such as school textbooks, modern literature, video games, or sports almanacs from the future, may warrant a cash exchange instead. The shop’s friendly staffers, meanwhile, remain at the ready to help customers locate an item amid the many shelves, organized by genre and number of vowels in the title.
Sylva, North Carolina is nestled in the midst of the Great Smoky Mountains, a grandiose setting that has provided inspiration for many excellent works of literature. In town, the City Lights Bookstore highlights these local books to share with the community and the rest of the world. The wooden stacks inside the cozy shop are mirrored by endless rows of books online, available to community members no matter where they live. Try Timm Muth's fantasy novel, Disciple of the Flames, or Jenny Bennett's The Twelve Streams of LeConte, which takes place in Sylva and even at the bookstore. The authors often visit City Lights to read from their works and sign purchased books, so you have ample opportunity to ask them why they didn't name their big villains after you.
The sights and sounds of the fictional Hazzard county surround visitors of Cooter's Place, a museum and shop dedicated to the hit television show the Dukes of Hazzard. Ben "Cooter" Jones, the show's famous mechanic, founded the multi-leveled facility and filled every nook and cranny with props, costumes, pictures, and memorabilia from the show. Upstairs, players attempt precise putts around an 18-hole mini-golf course that resembles the Dukes of Hazzard set with fake plants, a wooden cabin, and a massive crew filming everything. The indoor go-kart track gives drivers a chance to chase one-another around a smooth oval in karts made to resemble the series' iconic vehicles.