Original Art by Kristen Combs, 100 Things To Do Before You Die, April 2023
I could not wait to get my hands on this book! I love a list, and when that list is about a place I love, checking things off is even more fun. 100 Things To Do In Knoxville Before You Die, by first-time author Kristen Combs, gave me that and more. I sat down with Kristen recently, just ahead of her first book signing event to get a behind-the-scenes look at who she is and what went into creating this book.
Kristen has been with Visit Knoxville for seven years, five of which have been in her current role as Director of Communications and Social Strategies. Kristen manages the Visit Knoxville blog, social media, and much more. She has also written pieces for the Visit Knoxville Visitor’s Guide. Her natural curiosity and enthusiasm for Knoxville made her an excellent fit for Visit Knoxville and for writing this book.
Kristen is from the metro-Detroit area and went to Eastern Michigan University. She majored in Communications and worked in hospitality for several years after graduation. Kristen is a talented artist and enjoys the outdoors and college towns. These things and more made Knoxville an excellent place to call home. Although she and her husband didn’t move here until 2011, Knoxville was not new to Kristen. Her paternal grandparents are from this area, and she has traced her family line back to the statehood of TN through the East TN History Center and Ancestry.com.
When she was presented with the opportunity to write a book with Reedy Press in their 100 Things series, it was something she could not pass up. It took about a year from start to finish. Her work with Visit Knoxville and having visited the area for many years before that gave Kristen a head start on the 100 Things. The difficult task was narrowing it down to only 100! You will notice several items on the list that suggest more than one place to visit, restaurants to try, or venues to explore. This was her “cheat” to get as much in as possible.
As mentioned, I love a list. As soon as I purchased the book, I marked everything I had already done. So far, I’m at 64! I gave myself a few half points on things I have done, but not enough to feel I experienced it thoroughly enough to share with others—for example, the Urban Wilderness. While I have been on one or two trails, I have not explored even half. Another place is the Knoxville Children’s Theater. My daughter has taken classes with them, but we have not seen a show produced there yet.
Kristen talked with me about that kind of thing as well. You may have attended a Broadway production at the Tennessee Theater, but do you know about Mighty Musical Monday, a free opportunity to hear the Mighty Wurlitzer Organ? Kristen offers tips like this and insights on events, venues, and neighborhoods that make Knoxville unique.
The book also gives contact information for easy research for yourself. In the index, items are grouped to help you form an itinerary. Several locations, like the Greenways and UT Gardens, are constantly changing. So don’t count it out even if you’ve visited a place once. Go back multiple times to get the full experience!
Follow along on more adventures with Kristen through her social media at 100 Things Knoxville on Instagram and Facebook. She also has a website to purchase her art and the book! Check it out here. You can buy the book at the Visit Knoxville Visitor’s Center and on Amazon.