Get to Know Downtown
By Alyssa B. Martin
Located in the middle of East Tennessee with a Smoky Mountain backdrop, Downtown Knoxville-home of the Tennessee Vols-contains some of East Tennessee’s most iconic attractions and local favorites.
Once hosting the fairgrounds to the 1982 World’s Fair, the last successful World’s Fair in the United States, World’s Fair Park now remains a free park for locals and visitors to enjoy while preserving a bit of Knoxville history.
Standing 26 stories tall in the middle of the park, the iconic Sunsphere still stands from the original fair. It was constructed a year prior in 1981, made of 24 karat gold, and remained vacant afterwards for many years until 2008. Now serving as a symbol for Knoxville and the remains of the World’s Fair; however, it’s not the only thing still drawing people to World’s Fair Park. The amphitheater was also built for the 1982 World’s Fair and serves as a site for concerts and private events. It was renovated in the early 2000s alongside the Sunsphere and also remains a symbol of East Tennessee history and culture.
The Park has added many different attractions since it was created and has held many events for visitors of all ages. The performance lawn, which covers over 200 yards, is set up to support special events or concerts and serves as a natural amphitheater. While the Court of Flags Fountain area allows children and families a place to cool off on warm days in the splash pad, while getting a glimpse of the area’s origin story.
World’s Fair Park is not the only place drawing people to Downtown Knoxville. Just a few blocks away from World’s Fair Park, Market Square houses some of Knoxville’s favorite events, and it has been a local favorite since the 1860s. With dozens of options for food, drinks, activities and gatherings, it is a no brainer of why locals and East Tennessee visitors love it so much.
Every Saturday from May through November, local artists, farmers and businesses participate in the Farmers’ Market. With fresh produce, beautiful art and local creations, the Farmers’ Market represents East Tennessee’s culture and what makes East Tennesseans proud to call this area home.
While the air is crisp, you may catch a special festival or movie at the stage depending on the day. However, Market Square is also home to part of the infamous Mural Walk and Charles Krutch Park. All over Downtown Knoxville, you can find commissioned pieces of art that represent East Tennessee and its history.
In an alley between the Square and Gay Street, Strong Alley, dozens of local artists have painted graffiti-type murals along the walls, including a portrait of Dolly Parton. Connected to Market Square, you can find Krutch Park; a short, quiet tree covered walkway surrounded by beautiful, thought provoking sculptures. This area is often also rented out for events; however, it is also perfect for a few relaxing moments to yourself taking in a piece of Downtown’s history with the art.
No matter the day, though, visitors can always expect live music, even if it’s just street performers, dozens of delicious restaurants, cute boutiques and a lively, energetic atmosphere while in Market Square.
Downtown Knoxville is full of culture, history and friendly faces. Whether you’re in the mood to relax with loved ones, experience nightlife or take a Saturday morning stroll through the Farmers’ Market, there’s a little bit of something for everyone in or around Downtown Knoxville.
Not directly in Downtown but starting in Knoxville, twisting and turning through East Tennessee into Chattanooga and the Cumberland Plateau and eventually joining the Ohio River, the Tennessee River is a another iconic focal point of Knoxville.
Running 652 miles, this mighty body of water is hard to miss, even if you tried. It forms in the heart of Knoxville, making the Tennessee River the perfect place to spend a fall day with loved ones. On many Saturdays, you can find Tennessee Football Fans sailgaiting before home games outside of Neyland Stadium. Even if you aren’t a football fan, though, there’s plenty of ways to enjoy this East Tennessee wonder.
The Star of Knoxville, a popular riverboat, glides you down the Tennessee River as you experience the beautiful views of Knoxville, without dealing with all the traffic. Able to hold up to 235 passengers, the Star makes for a unique place to hold special events, including weddings, or just enjoy a lunch tour down the River with family and friends.
For those who like to be a bit more adventurous, there are numerous companies offering paddle boarding, canoeing and kayaking near the river. Not only does this chance to paddle down the River offer a bit of a workout, it is the perfect way to see the beautiful trees and colors of changing seasons.
Especially during fall, while the UTK colored leaves hit the River and you drift away with a Smoky Mountain and Neyland Stadium background; it makes for an unforgettable, action-packed family activity. Being surrounded by two of Tennessee’s most prized contributions adds a little bonus beauty and adventure to the day.
Regardless of how you wish to enjoy it, the Tennessee River allows visitors to the area a chance to see what is most loved about Knoxville-the lively yet relaxing atmosphere, the diverse culture, the rich history and the beauty of East Tennessee.