At the very heart of downtown Knoxville Market Square is a one-stop destination for shopping, eating, Christmas lights and decor, and family fun. It’s a great place to visit just about any time of year, but during the Regal Celebration of Lights it becomes a Christmas wonderland. When I spent a week in Knoxville in December one year I would end every evening at Market Square. Here are some of the things I discovered during my adventures.
Christmas in Knoxville
This article is part of the Christmas in Knoxville series, a travel guide I wrote after spending a week in December in Knoxville, TN. The travel guide will help you discover Christmas in the city during a weekend visit for the events, light displays, local shopping, dining, and lodging.
Regal Celebration of Lights
November 26, 2021 from 6-9 p.m.
The Friday after Thanksgiving the annual Regal Celebration of Lights event begins with the tree lighting ceremony. Throughout the rest of the year thousands of lights wrapped around trees throughout Market Square and Kutcher Park light up the night. It makes a beautiful way to end a day exploring, shopping, and eating throughout Market Square.
The Market Square Holiday Market
December 4, 11, and 18 from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
My favorite part of Christmas in Market Square is the Holiday Market. The weekly farmers’ market is replaced with a Christmas-themed market each Saturday between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Dozens of local artists set up tents and tables and put out their arts, crafts, and baked goods for sale. It’s a great way to find a unique gift idea you can’t buy on Amazon.
Along with the arts and crafts there are carolers singing in a corner of the square, food trucks on the side streets with hot coca and fried apple pies, and families window shopping the vendors.
2023 Holiday Gift Guide for Travelers
Find the best gifts for travelers, road trippers, coffee lovers, and stocking stuffers with the annual guide – including my top gift recommendations.
Holidays on Ice
Friday, November 26 – Sunday, January 2
Holidays on Ice is an exciting opportunity to spend an evening ice skating during Christmas in Knoxville. From the day after Thanksgiving until the day after the New Year, a giant white tent dominates one end of Market Square.
Admission is $12 per adult and $9 per children 12 and under.
Aside from the Market Square Holiday Market there are several other places in the square for doing some local shopping. You have a few boutique shops like Bluetique and Fizz, the Earth to Old City shop with some unique gifts, and my favorite: Knoxville Chocolate.
There isn’t a really high turnover rate of shops in Market Square but every once in awhile a new shop does come in. Be sure to check with Visit Knoxville when you arrive (their visitor center is just a couple blocks away) to see what’s new in the square.
I guarantee you won’t go hungry from a lack of options in Market Square. From breakfast through lunch to dinner there are plenty of great local places to enjoy in the square.
One of the staples of a Knoxville visit is to eat at The Tomato Head and try one of their delicious sandwiches or creative salads. Soccer Taco is a great place to get some tacos while watching a sports game on one of their massive televisions. Not Watson’s Kitchen + Bar was the first place I ever tried chicken and waffles, and I’ve been thinking about that amazing meal ever since.
Where to Stay
As home of the University of Tennessee, HGTV, and the largest city in eastern Tennessee, there are a lot of great hotels. Staying downtown would be preferred for convenience, but there are lots of other options depending on your budget.
Located at Exit 108 on I-75, the Red Roof Inn is an excellent budget-friendly choice. The renovated rooms of the motel feature faux hardwood floors, new furnishings, and plenty of outlets to charge all your devices. Choose from rooms with two queen beds, a single king bed, or the Deluxe King Room with a sofa.
Also located at Exit 108, Best Western features an indoor swimming pool and hot tub perfect for those frigid December days. Choose from rooms with two queen beds, a single bed, or a suite with sleeper sofa.
Formerly a Holiday Inn, Marriott Knoxville Downtown is an excellent place to spend a few nights in the city. The hotel is conveniently located within walking distance of downtown Christmas events, shopping, and dining. With an indoor swimming pool, on-site restaurant and bar, and comfortable rooms, you’ll enjoy your nights here.
Hampton Inn & Suites is always a great place to stay. The hotel is located downtown, though it would be a bit of a walk to shopping and dining. Choose from rooms with two queen beds, a single king bed, or an additional sleeper sofa.
Hyatt Place is my top recommended hotel for Christmas in Knoxville. It’s located on Gay Street across from Krutch Park, making it the closest hotel to all the lights, events, shopping, and dining. Choose from rooms with two queen beds, a single king bed, or a suite with sleeper sofa.
The Oliver Hotel is one of the best hotels in Knoxville. Located downtown, some of the rooms offer a stunning view overlooking Market Square and the downtown skyline. Choose from rooms two queen beds, a single king bed, or a suite with sleeper sofa.
The Tennessean is located beside World’s Fair Park at the edge of downtown. The hotel features on-site parking, on-site restaurant and bar, and some of the rooms are designed with marble walk-in showers. Choose from rooms with two queen beds, a single king bed, or the One Bedroom Suite with king bed, sleeper sofa, and stunning city view.