About 5 years ago my husband and I started traveling to Knoxville, Tennessee on the weekend of St. Patrick's Day for the St. Paddy's Day on Market Square event. It started on the spur of the moment when we decided we desperately needed to have a weekend away without the kids. We searched for Irish events and this one popped up in our search. Knoxville is around two hours away from our home, so it is a great weekend trip away. Since we started going, we have kept it up as a yearly tradition and we look forward to it every March.
St. John's Cathedral was a beautiful stop on our rainy walk around downtown Knoxville, TN. We weren't about to let a little rain stop us! We only take a trip away from the kids once or twice a year, so we make the most of our kid-free time, even if it means sloshy shoes for a while. The stained glass there is absolutely stunning, as well as the bright painted red door and gorgeous stonework, but the coolest part was the labyrinth. There was an open gate leading into the outdoor courtyard area between the church and what looked like a fellowship hall, and the bricked ground there is laid out in a labyrinth. We followed it to the center, which took us about 10-15 minutes! The winding path looks deceivingly short. I'd love to go for a service there sometime.
The Sunsphere is hard to miss. It has stood in the heart of downtown Knoxville since the World's Fair was held there in 1982. Now it's as iconic to the Knoxville skyline as the space needle is to Seattle and the Empire State Building is to New York City. Except it's in the friendly town of Knoxville, where true southern hospitality still exists, thank goodness. I highly recommend taking a walk around the sunsphere, taking a few goofy selfies with it, and strolling through the rest of World's Fair Park.
After visiting World's Fair Park, The Sunsphere, and St. John's Cathedral, make your way post-haste to the most adorable and awesome center of town ever: Market Square. It's essentially a town square, but way cooler. There are shops, restaurants, and bars all around featuring food and wares that will not disappoint. Stock and Barrel.. I can't think about their duck confit fries without drooling (but more about that in another post) , and Earth to Old City is filled with all sorts of amazing clothing, accessories, toys and housewares, including plenty of gear sporting the "Keep Knoxville Scruffy" motto, which is basically just the way people from Knoxville support their local community. Bliss and Bliss Home have original and gorgeous furnishings for your home and body, so be sure to check them out too. If all this wasn't enough, there are usually street performers offering up their talents to anyone who cares to stop and watch or listen and a stage to host local artists and events. You definitely don't want to miss this destination.
The Bridges. What can I say? Bridges aren't generally a destination, but these bridges are part of the landscape of downtown Knoxville and I couldn't wait to drive over them. They're only a block apart, so drive down Henley Street and back up Gay Street just to say you've done it. We parked and walked around Henley Street Bridge and took some great photos of both bridges. This was actually one of my very favorite things we did in Knoxville. The architecture and the beautiful (finally sunny!) weather made this a great outing.
As we walked all over downtown we saw tons of "street art" or "illegal destruction of property" depending on how you look at it. Personally, I find graffiti fascinating, so we took as many pictures as possible. I saw several of the same names decorating alleyways and there is some serious artistic talent emblazoned in the alleys and on the buildings of this city. And can we just talk about logistics? How do these graffiti artists get to the tops and sides of these building?! Do they take ladders with them? Isn't it hard to stay incognito when carting a ladder through the middle of the town at night? Also, if you are the artist Uh Panda, props.
In addition to all the illegal street art there are beautiful and interesting sculptures throughout the downtown area along with Krutch Park, a piece of property set aside and bequeathed to the City of Knoxville to be used as a quiet retreat. Since the Krutch family had strong ties to the artistic community the city has honored their bequest by using this property to display local sculptures and changes them out periodically so it's always fun to go back and see what has changed.
We usually hit the rowing man on our way back to the hotel after a night of eating and hanging out around downtown. Visiting The Rowing Man is basically the perfect way to end the night in Knoxville. After a drink (or two) at Preservation Pub and Scruffy City Hall, or a glass of wine at beautiful Uncorked, take a stroll back to your hotel, or if you're lucky enough, your beautiful downtown loft, but be sure to go by the rowing man. It's just not as much fun to walk home any other way.
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