Ijams Nature Center is committed to outdoor conservation and recreation, supplying members with rugged nature trails, an eco-friendly learning center, and a wildlife sanctuary spread over 300 acres. The visitor's center reduces energy emissions through passive solar heating, and most of the building's surfaces were constructed using materials made from recycled newspaper, cardboard, and grocery bags. New and permanent exhibits fill this space, such as Ijams Family History—which showcases the traditional preserved birds that highlight their passion for ornithology. Inside the forest exhibit, correct answers to questions light up components inside a giant walk-through tree, and glass cases hold specimens such as a hummingbird nest and snakeskin.
Heading outside, guests enter the raptor enclosure—a sheltered structure and small amphitheater housing a red-tailed hawk and turkey vulture, who read excerpts from their favorite Looney Tunes fan fiction during educational demonstrations. From here, all-ages visitors explore a greenhouse and organic garden. Children can frolic in Jo's Grove—an interactive nature play area replete with hidden spaces and materials for building a nature fort. Hikers and mountain bikers can traverse ten miles of surface trails that wind through mature woodlands, as well as Mead's Quarry and Ross Marble Natural Area.
One runner tucks his laser gun under his arm as he ducks behind an obstacle. Just before he's out of sight, his sister shoots at him from afar, settling the score with her sibling without having to deflate the tires on his bicycle. Within Battlefield Knoxville’s 36,000-square-foot arena, up to 40 players, armed with a selection of futuristic and realistic weaponry, go toe to toe at once. During play, groups embody fantasy action scenarios during games of Capture the Flag, Base Assault, and Rescue the Hostage. The facility also includes a gaming center where players give their limbs a rest at 13 flat-screen gaming stations that offer group bouts on Xbox 360 and PlayStation3 consoles.
From its grand opening in 1962 until its golden anniversary in 2012, Ice Chalet has welcomed visitors with two prominent features as they pass through the lobby on the way to hockey practices and figure skating lessons: the roaring fireplace, a popular gathering place for chilly skaters, and the wall mural of a snowy mountain scene. Each serves to remind skaters of the long, dignified history of the chalet-style building and inspires them to carry on the torch of the sport. Meanwhile, the 75'x175' rink continues to host public skating sessions throughout the week, when its not filled with practicing hockey players, students enrolled in the facility's skating school, or octopi vacationing from Detroit.
Packard’s Games and Movies fuels friendly competition and hours of virtual entertainment with an eclectic abundance of gently used media. Gamers can fire up current consoles with a collection of used games, such as Halo 3 ($9.99) and Fable II ($7.99), which carry the ghosts of past triumphs to challenge their new owners. Those yearning for pixels of the past can dive into a rich selection of retro games ($2.99+) for vintage systems including Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo Entertainment System. Guide virtual superheroes as they jump across flames and elude persistent tax collectors with controllers for the Playstation 2 ($9.99+), Super Nintendo ($9.99+) or the Nintendo 64 ($12.99–$19.99). Stacks of previewed DVDs ($4.99) and Blu-rays ($8.99+) provide ample fodder for future movie nights. Each store has a slightly different selection, so call ahead for specific inquiries or simply browse through the cartridge- and disc-packed aisles in person.
The Blount Mansion Ghosts and Ghouls tour bridges the gap between past and present by taking visitors on a spine-tingling tour of Knoxville's spookiest historical sites. Leaders donning their most elaborate guises will take visitors through the ectoplasm-soaked streets of downtown Knoxville, regaling them with terrifying anecdotes of bloody and supernatural events in the actual places where they once occurred. Past excursions have included stops at the Gay Street Bridge, where criminals were hanged for horrendous crimes such as murder, robbery, and having shifty eyes. Perhaps the most horrendous intrigue is a recounting of the legend of the Wampus cat —an ancient folkloric creature that causes insanity and drags victims to its underground cave beneath the city, where they're forced to drink with the decidedly less frightening ghost of Andrew Jackson and declare their undying hatred of the Whig party.
Alive After Five provides music lovers with an opportunity to hear master melodeers in an unconventional venue. Each installment in the popular Friday-evening series presents the musical stylings of stylists who fall outside of the mainstream’s diet of pop-rock, gangster rap, and Mongolian folk song mash-ups. Come out October 8 to digest the Latin-flavored ear food of Matias-Rocha y Nueva Trova—accompanied by the fancy footwork of Latin dance school Salsa Knox—or swing by November 12 for the jazz, blues, and soul of Bluesette. Many performances also strike a comestible chord with fare from local eateries such as Cocoa Moon and Regas Restaurant, plus two cash bars to keep throats clear in case of a mid-song audience scat wave.