By Sarah Baker

Last summer, I had my dream European Vacation paid for by someone who loves me. This summer, I’m back to my own budget. Therefore, I have devised a list of my favorite stay-cation choices for the summer.

1.            Take a picnic and hike at Big South Fork. Located about an hour and half north of Knoxville off 75’s Oneida exit, Big South Fork’s scenic gorges and sandstone bluffs along the Cumberland River make you feel like you’re on at an exotic location far away from the strip malls on Clinton Highway.

2.            You will not see a water park on this list. I just don’t do them, but I do love the water. Therefore, I plan on getting myself invited to spend some time on a friend’s houseboat at Norris Lake this summer. (If you’re reading this, Jo, I am indeed talking about you. I will bring snacks!)

3.            Make sure not to miss Shakespeare on the Square. From mid July to August, the Tennessee Stage Company will present Twelfth Night and Richard III. This year $15 per person could get me VIP seating and a bottle of water to quench my thirst. I better not forget my blanket and my “soccer mom” chair.

4.            Oak Ridge Pool is the best bang for my buck in the world of public swimming pools. The spring water fed pool is one of the biggest in the US. The grassed beach area is awesome and the price of admission, usually about $3, is right!

5.            Grab a friend and head down to the WDVX Blue Plate Special. Monday through Saturday at noon some of the best singer –songwriters in the world perform for a free live broadcast at the Knoxville Visitor Center. This summer’s guests include the likes of Sky Smeed and Austin Miller.

6.            Catch an old movie at the Tennessee Theatre. This summer’s choices include On Golden Pond, Jaws, Rear Window, Smokey and the Bandit, and The Godfather II. Hmmmm….might have to catch more than one.

7.            Go tubing in Townsend. There are lots of places along Tennessee 73 and Wears Valley Road to rent a tube and lifejacket and get your tubing on! Much better than overcrowded, over priced water parks!

8.            Visit the Museum of East Tennessee History. They are open 9-4 Monday through Friday and 10-4 on Saturday. Admission is free on Sundays when they are open 1-5. Guess when I’m going? My personal goal is to learn more about my Melungeon ancestors.

9.            Go see what’s new at the Knoxville Zoo.

10.          Bike Cades Cove. On Wednesday and Saturday mornings, the Cades Cove loop is closed to vehicles until 10 a.m. I’ll grab my bike and get there early enough to avoid the city folks who stop their cars every time they see a squirrel. Also, I never forget to stop at the Campground store before I leave and get the best soft serve ice cream ever found on earth.