Knoxville, the largest city in eastern Tennessee and home to the University of Tennessee, serves as a gateway to the tourist and recreation destinations of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park to the southeast. The 400-acre university campus with its 26,000 students is located along the waterfront just to the southwest of downtown, and adds a notable college-town element, particularly during football season.
The economic base is a mix of the active university and Tennessee Valley Authority, which has its headquarters in Oak Ridge about 20 miles northwest. The manufacturing base has declined but the university and related health care facilities and the TVA and a few large corporate employers like Alcoa and Kimberly Clark have brought economic stability to the area.
There are nice older neighborhoods across the river from downtown to the south, and good suburbs mainly west along Fort Loudoun Lake. These suburbs, Farragut being one, offer a good family lifestyle and convenience both to Knoxville itself and to the energy research labs of the TVA. Costs of living and housing are an attraction, and housing values are good. Crime, once a negative, has improved. For a city its size, Knoxville has a number of quality museums, excellent mountain and water recreation, and the area is known for its golf courses.
Knoxville is located in a broad valley between the Cumberland Mountains northwest and the Great Smoky Mountains to the southeast. The two mountain ranges exercise a marked influence upon the climate. In winter, the Cumberland Mountains slow the flow of cold air from the northwest. In summer, moist, warm air from the south and west prevails. Mountain air keeps summer nights comfortable. Most precipitation occurs in the winter with another peak period in the late spring and summer; frequent afternoon thunderstorms are common in summer. Snow does occur but seldom remains for more than a week. Fall is the driest period. The mountains typically shelter the area from strong winds and severe storms.