Knoxville, Tennessee, is a city with plenty to offer. This southern town has so many wonderful places to explore, including downtown Knoxville. Not to mention, it has been named one of the best places to live, and for a good reason. Knoxville offers plenty to do on the weekend, with its downtown district being a popular destination for locals and visitors alike. There are plenty of restaurants, bars, and boutiques that you can visit. If you are looking for some shopping therapy, this is also the perfect spot! So before you plan your visit or weekend plans, you’ll want to check out this list of 15 things you can do this weekend in downtown Knoxville!
Different Parts of Knoxville
Before you start exploring the area, you’ll want to learn more about the different parts of Knoxville so you know how to get around town better. Knoxville is roughly divided into the Downtown area and sections based on the four cardinal directions: North Knoxville, South Knoxville, East Knoxville, and West Knoxville.
Downtown Knoxville is full of business and cultural attractions. The $105 million convention center is an excellent example of this, and it is situated right next door to the Knoxville Museum of Art. First, spend some time exploring the city’s main street, Market Square. You’ll find many fun boutique shops that offer souvenirs and other knick-knacks. The shops around Market Square are open from 11 a.m.–about seven o’clock in the evening, with some restaurants staying open all night long!
North Knoxville is a neighborhood in Knoxville, Tennessee, United States. North Knoxville was the original settlement of Knoxville and contains attractions such as Fort Dickerson Park, Sharp’s Ridge Veterans Memorial Park, Elst Brewing Company, and Wild Love Bakehouse. Oakwood, located in North Knoxville, is among the richest neighborhoods in the metro Knoxville area.
South Knoxville is a neighborhood of Knoxville, Tennessee, on the south bank of the Tennessee River. In South Knoxville, you’ll find Ijams Nature Center, South Knoxville Community Center (which offers some great classes), Hi-Wire Brewing, and Honeybee Coffee Co.
East Knoxville is situated to the east of downtown on the Tennessee River. It’s one of Knoxville’s most established neighborhoods, with architecture that dates back to the 19th century. East Knoxville has several attractions worth checking out, including Muse, a Children’s Science Museum, the Knoxville Zoo, and the Knoxville Botanical Garden and Arboretum.
West Knoxville is situated to the west of downtown on the Tennessee River. West Knoxville abuts the suburbs of Farragut and West Town in unincorporated Sevier County, while its southern boundary is shared with North Knoxville. West Knoxville has plenty of shopping, good schools, and restaurants, making it a great area to own a home.
About Downtown Knoxville
Downtown Knoxville is the central business district of Knoxville, Tennessee. It is home to much of the city’s commercial activity, including the old City Hall building. The entertainment district includes restaurants, nightclubs, and other attractions.
There are many places to visit in downtown Knoxville, but there are ways to spend the weekend in downtown Knoxville too! You can explore the different parts of Knoxville, and all that downtown Knoxville has to offer by walking around the Square or biking along the Greenbelt Trail. One way you can spend your Saturday is to go shopping downtown at Market Square or check out some live music at The Tennessee Theatre!
The Old City is also a fun area to explore. You can take a stroll down Gay Street where you do some shopping or get something tasty to eat.
Needless to say, downtown Knoxville is a fun area that’s worth exploring.
Things to do in Downtown Knoxville
Just within the downtown area, there is plenty to do and see in Knoxville. The weekends are usually busy with events, live music, the farmers market, or excitement from UT sporting events. To help you discover more about the city and what there is to do around town, below is a list of 15 downtown Knoxville things to do on a weekend that you’ll want to check out!
- Go to Market Square Farmers’ Market
Check out the Market Square Farmers Market on Saturdays starting in May thru November from 9 am-2 pm, and in December on Saturdays, 10 am – 2 pm. Whether you’re shopping for local fresh produce, baked goods, soaps, jewelry, or pottery, the Farmer’s Market has a little bit of everything. Not only is it fun to check out all the local vendors and do a little shopping, but you can also explore the other local businesses or get a bite to eat at one of the restaurants in Market Square. Besides that, make sure to check out the events calendar because there is always something going on in Market Square.
- Visit the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame
Knoxville is home to the very impressive University of Tennessee Lady Vols, but besides that, it is also home to the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame. So whether you’re a sports fan or a Pat Summit fan, you can learn more about basketball at the Hall of Fame, which honors female basketball stars at all levels.
- Check Out the Street Art
While you’re warding the downtown area you may notice the beautiful murals and street art around town. These impressive works of art help tell the story of the city visually and artistically. From stairwells and alleys, you’ll spot art from talented local and visiting artists who used various canvases to enhance the natural landscape of Knoxville. You can either stop by the downtown Vistors Center at 301 S. Gay Street or download this handy map to guide you around the city to catch a glimpse of some of these iconic murals.
- Get Brunch at The French Market Creperie
While you’re exploring the area grab a bite to eat at Knoxville’s first and only authentic French crepe restaurant. They serve breakfast and lunch all week and dinner Tuesday through Saturday nights. Some of their menu items include sweet and savory crepes, delicious croissant and baguette sandwiches, soups, and salads. They use traditional and buckwheat flour imported directly from France and also source Lavazza coffee and espresso, a very popular and bestselling European coffee brand. So if you’d like to try an authentic French crepe or some espresso, visit The French Market Creperie located at 412 Clinch Avenue, downtown.
- Catch a UT Football Game
Knoxville is a college town and home to The University of Tennessee. The city comes alive on Saturdays during the late summer, fall, and winter season, cheering on the Vols football team. Everyone is dressed for the big game in white and orange, and people start tailgating before kick-off. Whether you’re a UT fan or not, it’s fun to watch a football game at Neyland Stadium.
- Climb to The Top of The Sunsphere
Another fun weekend activity includes climbing to the top of the Sunsphere. The Sunsphere was built for the 1982 World’s Fair and has become an iconic feature of the Knoxville skyline. The Sunsphere stands 26 stories tall and has an Observation Deck that offers a breathtaking 360-degree view of Knoxville. Fun fact- the sphere is made of panes of glass made with 24-karat gold, which gives it that reflective gold color.
- Get a Sweet Treat at The Phoenix Pharmacy
Located in the heart of Knoxville is The Phoenix Pharmacy. They are an actual pharmacy and make and serve fresh, premium, small-batch ice cream, house-made specialty desserts, and soda fountain favorites. The idea behind this charming store was to create a central gathering spot for locals and visitors to feel welcome. So make sure to stop by for a sweet treat and for friendly service.
- See a Show at The Tennessee Theatre
Located on South Gay Street in downtown Knoxville is the Tennessee Theatre. This beautiful building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is honored as the Official State Theatre of Tennessee. The theatre has really something for everyone: vintage films, dance, classical music, Broadway shows, and performances by today’s hottest musicians and fan favorites. Several local arts organizations such as the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra, Knoxville Opera, and UT Cultural Attractions use the Tennessee Theatre throughout the year as well. If you’d like to catch a show or performance one weekend, check out their event calendar for upcoming events.
- Enjoy an Evening of Art
On the first Friday of every month starting around 5ish pm, the community hosts an ArtWalk. The streets of downtown Knoxville come alive with art, music, food, and fun. You can explore galleries, studios, and artist collectives, roam through shops hosting open houses and local artist exhibits, catch performance art and live music while getting a bite to eat at one of the restaurants along the way. This event happens every month, year-round. Schedules can vary from place to place, so make sure to plan your evening first by checking out First Friday so that you can experience the arts, warmth, and community of Downtown Knoxville.
- Eat Dinner at Vida and Get a Cocktail in The Vault
Located in the Historic Holston on Gay Street is the restaurant, Vida. Here you’ll discover a new world of fresh, pan-Latin tastes and textures accented with an Asian flair. Besides their globally inspired food, they also offer small-batch cocktails. Vida is open for both dinner and Sunday brunch. After your meal, make sure to check out The Vault below Vida. The Vault is actually located in the former Holston Bank vault and is a swanky cocktail lounge with featured cocktails, wines, beers, and small bites to eat. This spot is great for a date night, couples night out, or a night with the girls or guys.
- Check Out the Shops Around Market Square
Besides the awesome farmers market, Market Square has several brick-and-mortar stores you’ll want to explore. Pop into Earth To Old City for unique gifts. Fruit Jar Alley for apparel, jewelry, and accessories. Proper Popcorn for hand-crafted, small-batch popcorn flavor combinations, candy, and gifts. And FIZZ, a small boutique store offering local designer items and custom-made pieces.
Suppose you happen to get an appetite after all that shopping. In that case, there are plenty of restaurants to try out, including local favorites like the Tomato Head, Oliver Royale, and Tupelo Honey, all in the Market Square area.
- Learn About the Local History
Located in downtown Knoxville is the Museum of East Tennessee History, a small but surprisingly great museum. The museum has permanent and changing exhibits that share the region’s history and heritage. You’ll be able to see local artifacts and read stories about East Tennessee’s rich heritage. So if you’re looking for something to do on a rainy weekend, check out the Museum of East Tennessee History located on South Gay Street. Admission is $5.00 for adults, $4.00 for seniors, and FREE for children 16 and under. Admission is FREE each Sunday, and ETHS Members always receive FREE admission.
- Explore the Birthplace of Knoxville
If you’d like to learn more about the history of Knoxville, then you don’t want to miss visiting James White’s Fort. Restored in 1786 James White’s Fort is the residence of Knoxville’s founder. Following his service in the Revolutionary War, James White was granted the land and named the city after Henry Knox, President Washington’s Secretary of War. Today you can take a guided tour of the historic fort to learn more about how Knoxville got its start.
- Tour the Mabry-Hazen House
Located atop Mabry’s Hill is the Mabry-Hazen House Museum. Built in 1858, three generations of the same family lived in the Italianate-style home overlooking downtown Knoxville, the Tennessee River, and the Great Smoky Mountains. The home, now listed on the National Register of Historic Places is a museum showcasing one of America’s largest original family collections with over 2,000 original artifacts on display. You’ll get a rare view into 130 years of Knoxville history and see decor and furnishings from decades past. While you’re there you’ll learn about the origins of Knoxville’s iconic Market Square, the bitter divisions of the Civil War, the infamous 1882 Gunfight on Gay Street, a mountain city in the New South, the scandalous 1934 breach of promise and seduction trial, and much more through the rich, colorful lives of the Mabry and Hazen families.
- Go Bowling at Maple Hall
To round out the list of 15 downtown Knoxville things to do on the weekend, why not go bowling at Maple Hall? Just so you know Maple Hall isn’t your regular bowling alley, though. This upscale spot features exposed brick walls, leather couches, and a specialty cocktail bar. And after 9 pm, this becomes a 21+ venue. They also don’t offer reservations but come early to put your name on a list because the lanes fill up quickly, especially on the weekends. If you do end up having to wait they do have some tasty food options and life-sized board games upstairs.
Shopping in Downtown Knoxville
If you’d like to check out more shopping in downtown Knoxville besides what Market Square has to offer, definitely explore the area. Some other shops around town you’ll want to visit would include:
- Mast General Store– The Mast General Store has just about everything from outdoor apparel to earth-friendly, apothecary, toys, books & music.
- Nothing Too Fancy– Located on Union Ave is a retail store owned and operated by a family of Knoxvillians. They have a wide variety of screen-printed items, salvaged treasures, jewelry, and one-of-a-kind items you won’t find anywhere else. Whether it’s a vintage-inspired tee, a chandelier made of old flashlights, or artwork for your walls, Nothing Too Fancy has something for everyone.
- Bliss & Tori Mason Shoes– Check out this fun store that has clothing, home decor, beauty and wellness, kids, and baby items. Bliss has won several awards over the years including Best Store in Knoxville.
- Rala– This cute shop sells artwork, ceramics, cards, puzzles, games, and much more. If you’re looking for a unique gift, you’ll definitely find one here!
- Union Ave Books– Looking for a new read, stop by Union Ave Books; their booksellers know books and can help you find your next novel. This book store is located in downtown Knoxville and is a locally-owned independent bookstore with a great selection of newly published titles. They also host a variety of local, regional, and nationally known authors for readings and book signings.
If you are looking for some things to do on the weekend, there are plenty of options located in downtown Knoxville that can help keep your weekends interesting and fun. Whether you want to explore different parts of the city or participate in activities like shopping, these 15 things will surely give you enough reasons why living in the Knoxville area would be an excellent decision!
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