Our little girl Kendall graduated from UT! We’ve lived in Knoxville and visited many, many times. This graduation trip to Knoxville let us experience a few things that we’ve never done before.
Home Sweet Home Knoxville
When Sandra (aka Zuzu) & I got married in 1993, we bought our first home in Knoxville and lived there for about 3 years before moving to Nashville. The University of Tennessee has collected tuition on all 3 of our kids and we’ve been to about 100 football games at Neyland Stadium.
Knoxville really is home to us.
But we’ve never spent the night in a hotel in Knoxville, nor have we attended a graduation ceremony at UT.
Where to Stay in Knoxville
Since we’re elite level with Hyatt, we always first consider staying at a Hyatt for free on points when we travel.
We needed 2 adjoining rooms, for 2 nights. With crowds in Knoxville for graduation, the cash price at the only Hyatt in Knoxville had spiked to over $2000. That’s usually not a problem since we have a process that lets us stay at expensive hotels for free.
Unfortunately, the Knoxville Hyatt Place didn’t have any room available for me to book with points. So what were the other hotel options in Knoxville?
The Graduate Knoxville
If you’re a Vol fan, there’s no better place to stay than The Graduate, Peyton Manning’s hotel in Knoxville.
We had a great stay at the Graduate Hotel in Nashville so we’d love to stay at the Knoxville Graduate Hotel.
While it’s got a great location adjoining campus, prices were over $500 per night, per room, so we kept looking.
Embassy Suites Downtown Knoxville
With no free nights at the Hyatt, I checked rates and free nights at the Embassy Suites in Downtown Knoxville. Cash price for a suite with 2 queen beds was $626 per night or 60,000 Hilton points. $1252 or 120k points for the 2 nights that we needed.
We moved 120k Amex Membership Rewards points over to Hilton and booked this room for free.
Hyatt Place Downtown Knoxville
After booking the Embassy Suites, I got an alert that 2 rooms at the Hyatt Place Downtown were available to book with points. Great!
So I cancelled the Embassy Suites booking and used 9500 points per night to book each of the 2 adjoining rooms.
We had a great stay at the Hyatt Place! But here’s what’s weird.
The rooms and breakfast were perfectly fine. Exactly what we’d expect from a Hyatt Place which is the is the most basic of the Hyatt brands.
Graduation Dinner at Copper Cellar
On the Strip, the Copper Cellar restaurant is a Knoxville institution. Dating back to 1975, it’s one of the few places on the Strip that hasn’t changed in the past 50 years. So it’s odd that I’ve never been to “The Cellar” as locals call it.
We had high expectations when we arrived.
It was a miserable failure.
Our appetizer took over 30 minutes to arrive. After ordering, our server had to come back and tell us they were out of several items that we ordered. About half of our party was disappointed with what was eventually served to us.
The manager came to our table to apologize 2 separate times and eventually gave us a $45 discount.
Not everything was bad. The server was friendly though not as attentive as we’d like. While they didn’t have the Prime Rib that I wanted, the filet was decent, about as good as I’d expect from a steakhouse chain, like an Outback or Logan’s. The drinks were good. And we had a good table to visit and celebrate the impending graduation.
Even with the discount, I wish we had gone somewhere else for graduation dinner.
UT Knoxville Graduation
Saturday was the big day! Kendall actually had 2 graduations because she earned both a BS in Communications and a BA in Sociology.
UT Graduation Parking
Graduation was held at Thompson Boling Arena, the basketball stadium which is known as TBA. UT designated the 2 closest parking lots, G10 & G5 Parking Garages, for graduation parking.
Sunday Mass in Knoxville
My dad will be 90 years old soon. He made it through a long day of 2 graduations and was really looking forward to visiting a Catholic Church that he’s never been to before.
Immaculate Conception Catholic Church
Founded in 1855, Immaculate Conception is the oldest Roman Catholic Church in the city of Knoxville.
The current church was dedicated September 19, 1886. The original stained glass windows were just beautiful.
Graduation Party at SoKno Tacos
Sunday afternoon was the graduation party for Kendall and 2 friends. Had a great time at SoKno Taco Cantina celebrating these 3 ladies and their huge accomplishments!
Graduation Trip Bottom Line
While this wasn’t a cheap weekend, we used our guide to redeeming points and miles to save about $2000 on the hotel rooms that we needed to enjoy this milestone.