We have your ticket to safely enjoy summer in Downtown Knoxville.
It's not the usual festival or large gathering, but we've rounded up some things even more special: A stroll through a quiet Gay Street. A weekday trip to the Farmers’ Market. Takeout and a picnic.
Experience downtown, make new memories, and be a part of the spirit of the neighborhood.
Order Takeout and Have a Picnic
Grab curbside pickup from one of downtown’s restaurants and retreat to the waterside, a nearby park, or take it home to have a backyard picnic (just don’t forget the s’mores). Takeout ranges from fast and casual to gourmet meals, so you have an endless list to choose from.
Craving crepes? Try the French Market. Happy hour? Cafe 4's bottled cocktails are super refreshing. Breakfast in bed? Swing by Matt Robb’s Biscuits. Outdoor BBQ? Sweet P’s family packs hit the spot. Because summer and picnics go together like ice and coffee, this is #1 on our list. Speaking of, have you tried Awaken's iced blackberry mocha?
Explore Downtown Shops
There are 50+ places to shop within downtown’s .67 square miles, so that means there are probably many unique, local places you haven’t explored – or even heard of – yet!
Willow Creek Gallery, located in the warehouse district of the Old City, is 20,000 square feet of antiques and rare finds from France and England. They personally hand pick each piece, so everything comes with a story! Next, make your way to Earth to Old City in Market Square, whose motto is “Seek the Unique.” You never know what wonderful, local treasures you’ll find in this 20-year old gift shop. Speaking of gifts, Knoxville Soap Candle & Gifts on Gay Street is another great option for made-with-love relaxing items for others, or yourself. Finally, Fizz in Market Square is a great stop for funky fashion and a whole lot of jewelry.
And if you prefer to shop online, you can get lost in Status Serigraph’s mesmerizing limited-edition concert posters, t-shirts, hats, and more, from the Grateful Dead, Van Morrison, Phish, Dave Matthews Band and others. Then hop on over to Pioneer House, which is just as colorful as it is honky tonk vintage!
Explore "Art in Public Places"
The new and epic installation of Dogwood Arts' "Art in Public Places" exhibition has landed in Downtown Knoxville. Exploring each piece of art in Krutch Park is a great way to stay physically distanced, while enjoying downtown. And the art is filled with a whole lotta love. After you view them all, you can cast your vote for your favorites. Voting starts August 1 at dogwoodarts.com and runs through August 31.
Dogwood Arts also has fun coloring pages for Art in Public Places, Chalk Walk, and Downtown Knoxville's seasonal mural that you can download for the kids, or even for yourself.
Snap Some Pics
When was the last time you came downtown just to be in awe of the historical architecture, outdoor art, and landmarks? Now's the time to grab your camera, walk through downtown on foot, and get inspired!
Start at artist Megan Lingerfelt's new "Windows to the Smokies" mural looking out to the haze of the Great Smoky Mountains. Round the corner to Gay Street and make your way to the hidden alleys of the Old City to the north, or the beautiful marquee of the Tennessee Theatre, the Bijou Theatre, and the Gay Street bridge to the south.
Downtown always provides a picture-perfect backdrop for fun family photos, romantic engagement sessions, weddings, senior pics, or just a special afternoon.
Entertain the Kids with a Virtual Summer Camp
Fun and educational virtual summer camps and videos are available from a number of downtown spots! These are perfect for the moms and dads wanting a much-needed break.
First, the Tennessee Theatre is hosting "The Lion King Experience," a camp that introduces students to theater-making through the lens of the classic movie from July 20-24. Next, Knoxville Museum of Art has Summer Art classes like “Art Extravaganza” and “Process Play” that teach children bookmaking, collages, stamping and a whole lot more art fun! Lastly, The Bijou Theatre offers a five-part "Summer Acting Camp" series for your budding actors and playwrights to let loose and bring different characters to life.
Learn Some History
Downtown is filled with stories of our past, while also representing what our future holds. A great way to learn about history is to explore in the present moment!
First stop, the STORIES mural. As you climb the stairs, immerse yourself in stories of writers, celebrities, activists, and space explorers that had a part in creating the unique and vibrant city we call home. You can even go on a scavenger hunt with our 41 Fun Facts to find the visual mural icon for each clue. The STORIES mural is located at the corner of Gay Street and Jackson Avenue. Pro tip: you can also do this online!
Next stop is the Hyatt Place, historically the Farragut Hotel. The building is filled with history, but one especially fun fact is that the SEC was created here on December 12, 1932. Find the plaque at the corner of the building.
Lastly, learn all about the buildings that line Gay Street, Market Square, and the Old City, with a self-guided Historic Walking Tour. You’ll be amazed at what each building holds, like how the Cal Johnson Building was constructed by Knoxville’s first major African American philanthropist and emancipated slave. And, discover our very own “Willy Wonka Factory” – the Peter Kern Bakery and Confectionery, which is now the Oliver Hotel. You’ll be surprised at all the stories these buildings tell.
Enjoy a Small Excursion
Need to night out? We hear you! Good news is that most downtown restaurants and patios are open with limited seating, along with going above and beyond to follow the CDC guidelines to make you feel comfortable and safe.
No matter your mood, there’s a dining excursion for you. Shout-out to Balter Beerworks, Merchants of Beer, Pour Taproom, and Downtown Grill for large outdoor patios that pair well with summer beers. To satisfy your sweet tooth, grab an ice cream cone (or to-go pint) from Kilwins, J.C. Holdway, or Cruze Farm, and stroll down Gay Street. For dinner, Market Square patios can’t be beat!
Get on the Water
We’re so lucky to have the beautiful Tennessee River running through our city, and we invite you to come downtown to enjoy it. Whether you’re up for a relaxing activity or an adventurous one, a downtown greenway is a great place to start. A casual bike ride or leisurely walk with family is a great way to practice physical distancing, while still enjoying a mix of nature and downtown.
For those that want to take it to the next level, you can get right on the water with SUP paddle boarding, kayaking, guided fishing, SUP yoga, and hydrobikes with Knoxville Adventure Collective. There’s nothing like viewing the downtown skyline from the water.
Nourish Knoxville's Farmers' Market
Fully enjoy the summer by bringing your dishes to life with delicious, local produce of okra, tomatoes, green beans, jalapeno cheese bread, and so much more from Nourish Knoxville's Farmers' Market.
Every Wednesday from 10am-1pm and Saturday from 9am-1pm, food and produce vendors bring their best to Mary Costa Plaza. The first hour of each market is dedicated to the elderly and immune-compromised.
Although it looks a little different this year, the passionate farmers are ready to serve you! And we look forward to welcoming everyone back to Market Square when the time is right.
Help Stop the Spread
If you’re ready to come downtown, we welcome you! And most of all, we thank you for helping keep Knoxville businesses open by practicing physical distancing, wearing cloth masks, washing your hands, cleaning and sanitizing surfaces, and of course, staying home if you're sick.
If you're not yet comfortable getting out and about, that’s okay too. We’ll be here when you’re ready!