A few weeks ago we traveled to Knoxville, Tennessee for the weekend. I grew up in Knoxville & my mom still lives there – so we visit frequently – but the city has changed a lot since I left and with young kids, our visits have changed significantly too. One major difference is that my parents moved out of the house we grew up in and into a condo downtown. My mom still lives and thrives in downtown Knoxville where we spend the majority of our time when visiting. Every time we return, we are reminded that Knoxville – home to the University of Tennessee and the gateway to The Great Smokey Mountains – is an awesome city to visit and explore with kids. Here are some of our favorite things to do in Knoxville with our crew.
The Market Square Farmers’ Market is an open-air farmers’ market located in downtown Knoxville. It is open on Wednesdays and Saturdays and we love to bring the girls on Saturday mornings when we are in town to grab some fresh fruit, muffins and stroll the vendors. Everything at the Market is grown or made by the vendor in the East Tennessee region. There are also interactive fountains during the summer months and street musicians year round that are always a hit with kids!
Just past the Farmer’s Market is the winding walking trails of Krutch Park where you can stroll past a small cascading waterfall, a stream, gardens and art sculptures. The sculptures change out fairly regularly and my girls love climbing and exploring among them. On a sunny day, it’s a great spot to bring a picnic too.
A favorite for sure – you can eat in or take-out from this family friendly spot in the middle of Market Square. They serve amazing pizza, salads and pasta – the pizza is a family favorite, for sure!
In the winter, we often stop in this little shop for coffee and hot chocolate to warm up…and every once in awhile we’ll also splurge on a delicious truffle to quench our sweet tooth.
A visit to Knoxville isn’t complete for my crew without a stop at Mast General. According to the website “The Original Mast General Store opened in 1883 in the rural community of Valle Crucis, North Carolina. Storekeepers tried to have everything the community needed…from cradles to caskets.” These days, my girls LOVE the giant barrels of old-fashioned candy – sold by the pound – and the novelty toys. But, you can also find hiking supplies, tents, cookbooks, clothing and cooking supplies, to name a few. It’s definitely a modern day general store.
Located inside the Knoxville Visitor Center in downtown Knoxville, WDVX is an independent, listener-supported community public radio station with a rich history in East Tennessee. Stop in 6 days a week at lunchtime to hear the live blue plate special – a daily lunchtime concert, complete with studio audience. My girls adore hearing this live show and dancing along to the current band – which sometimes happens to be their Uncle Brendon. You can also stream WDVX anytime from anywhere for some great East Tennessee tunes.
I have a weakness for a good Independent book store, and Union Ave Books fits the bill. This book store is small and charming and perfect for finding your next great read or letting your kids discover the children’s section. If you’re lucky, you may stumble upon a story time or author signing too.
Raise your hand if you ever saw The Simpson’s episode where the Knoxville Sunsphere was a wig factory! The Sunsphere was built for the 1982 World’s Fair as a symbol for the Fair and at that time, it housed a restaurant and observation deck. These days, it is a classic piece of the Knoxville skyline and used for offices, but it also has a remodeled observation deck that is free to the public. Visiting the top provides great views of the city and is always a fun activity with kids – plus it is walking distance from Market Square providing a fun and unique Knoxville adventure.
My girls love to jump on the free trolley downtown to people watch and chat with the drivers. Check out the website for trolley maps and times of operation.
The Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame opened in June 1999 in Knoxville. The Hall of Fame is very interactive for kids – you can learn the history of women’s basketball, walk through the Hall of Fame inductees and test your basketball skills on three different courts. There is also a fun photo area where you can pretend to be players from history.
This new-to-me park is a mile southeast of downtown Knoxville. The park sits along the shoreline of the Tennessee River, with a wonderful waterfront play-space for walkers, runners, and children of all ages. The children’s playground is perfect on a sunny day and includes some play features that reflect the regional area like a toy boat that kids can sit in and a tall climbing pine tree structure. There is also a put-in for kayakers, three accessible river overlooks, picnic tables, and a public riverwalk.
Fun fact: The park is named after Cornelius Suttree, a character in the first novel written by Knoxville author, Cormac McCarthy. The story is set in Knoxville in 1951 and follows the life of a man who gave up his wealth and became a fisherman on the Tennessee River.
This beer market is situated on the banks of the Tennessee river – not far from Suttree Landing Park – and in the back yard of the Urban Wilderness and Ijams Nature Center. This is such a unique place in Knoxville – a family friendly, dog-friendly, smoke free market & bar where parents can sip on a beer (or grab a growler to bring home), kids can get a soda and everyone can play board games or draw on the giant chalkboard on the back porch. They don’t have a kitchen, but they do have regular food trucks and a grill on the back porch that anyone can use. And full disclosure – my mom and younger brother are part owners of this amazing place, so when you visit, make sure you tell the bartender (Joe) that you heard about them through The Wandering Rumpus!
Giveaway: This Giveaway is closed! For our Summer Launch Party Giveaway this week – The Trailhead is giving one reader a Trailhead T-shirt, a Trailhead Growler and a $25 gift card to fill the growler or enjoy a couple rounds of beer on the porch while the kids play the giant Jenga or Connect Four!
To enter, just comment on your favorite spot with kids in Knoxville – or if you’ve never been, where would you like to visit? Then, head over to Instagram for another entry. Entries will be accepted until midnight Thursday. You must comment on THIS post to receive an entry. Good luck and happy trails!