The Knoxville Opera sings most of its notes in a venue befitting the regality of its material: the Tennessee Theatre. The former movie-house and decades-old stage swathes performers in Spanish-Moorish design, a strikingly blue domed ceiling, burgundy velvet seats, and gold accents. But the opera singers don't keep their voices contained there. Education and outreach programs send them throughout the community, performing at schools, shaking the downtown streets during themed festivals, and aiding local construction companies by shattering old glass buildings.
The days of dragons, princesses, and magic wands are revived at MagiQuest, an interactive medieval quest experience for all ages. The course takes visitors through a live-action game that creeps through dungeons, a village, and a fairy forest as players encounter myriad characters, sneak through secret doors, defeat a goblin king, and return jewels to the princess. The fun doesn’t stop when the game ends, as MagiQuest also has an on-site black light mini golf course, a laser spy challenge, and a mirror maze.
For more than 70 years, jewels used to fill the African mahogany cases lining Sapphire's walls. The dark wooden cabinets remain, although they now brim with more than 40 kinds of vodka, Tennessee and Kentucky whiskeys, and rums from Central and South America. Sapphire may no longer drape its customers in precious gemstones, but it does aim to preserve the sense of elegant refinement that characterized the historic building for decades.
This commitment is readily apparent in the menu of upscale southern cuisine, which includes Tennessee cheeses from Sweetwater Farms, bacon and ham from nearby Benton's, and seasonal produce from local farms. These ingredients appear throughout the selection of regionally inspired dishes. Some dishes, such as the Louisiana-crawfish-stuffed hushpuppies with cajun remoulade, assertively announce their southern roots, whereas others show a bit more restraint, such as beef-tenderloin medallions, which arrive with a simple southern succotash.
On Thursday through Saturday evenings, the elegant environment in the long, narrow room becomes livelier as the night progresses and DJs begin their sets. Upbeat rhythms echo off the high ceilings and the vintage mahogany woodwork while patrons enjoy one of the martinis that earned Sapphire a spot on Metro Pulse's Best of Knoxville 2012 list.
This year, approximately 150 performers will contribute to the annual production of Tchaikovsky's exuberant ballet suite The Nutcracker, including members of the Farragut High School Choir, who will make a special appearance in Act I. The Knoxville Symphony Orchestra's bounding melodies will nurture audiences’ ears as toy soldiers leap and lunge vivaciously on stage, battling the giant rat king en pointe and fluttering through a set of snowy trees, shiny presents, thoughtful e-cards, and a gilded grandfather clock.
A squad of professional jokesmiths storms the stage to elicit hearty guffaws during interactive improv performances at Rocky Top Playhouse, a venue TripAdvisor ranked as the No. 1 Nightlife in Sevierville attraction. Audience members can sink into their seats within the intimate theater, armed with enough popcorn to sustain them through an hour of guttural cardio or to glue together into a dapper beard. Facetious cast members call upon suggestions from the audience while putting on fully improvised productions in the vein of Whose Line is It Anyway?. Spectators can try and stump trained performers with absurd sketch-topic suggestions, such as "funeral party” or “seriously, where is the bathroom in this building?”
Tucked away in the Smoky Mountains, Rainforest Adventures Zoo nurtures a diverse family of more than 120 tropical and temperate species, many born in captivity. Brilliantly hued macaws and finches share space with eccentric guests such as lemurs, hissing cockroaches, and reclusive business mogul Howard Hughes. Elsewhere, guests get up close with a cuddly collective of mammals such as a giant porcupine, African servals, and coatimundi, as well as cold-blooded crocodiles, lizards, and snakes.