On the first Friday of every month, downtown Knoxville becomes a blur of live entertainment, great food and exciting people. With its First Friday engagement series, the Market Square/Gay Street area is transformed into a market and an art gallery, an open house and a restaurant, a city and a community.
First stop: Magpies Bakery. Every First Friday, Magpies holds a free cupcake tasting where they make mini cupcakes of three specialty flavors and take a poll to see which one is the customers’ favorite cupcake.
This month’s fall-themed treats got the season off to a delicious start — Pumpkin Brown Butter for the win. Cups of locally produced milk nicely compliment the tasty dessert. Though not technically in the Market Square/Gay Street area, Magpies is well worth the quick trip out to Central Avenue.
After the dessert warm-up, the fun-seeking Knoxvillian would then head over to Gay Street where live music and unique art galleries reign. The Emporium Center always holds interesting and thought-provoking art exhibits during First Friday, along with free refreshments.
This area also has many options for dinner; however, the crowds are crazy — a three-hour wait for Downtown Grill & Brewery proved too much for our group, so we opted for Market Square.
Part of Market Square’s charm is the large variety of local restaurants available to the Knoxville community. The unique food is compounded by the ambiance of Market Square during First Friday. The atmosphere is so busy and eclectic that it makes eating at places like Trio (soups and sandwiches) and The Tomato Head (Italian) even better than they usually are.
Another component of attracting people to the downtown area is the Knox County Public Library’s Movies on Market Square. This event occurs on Fridays during September and October and is a great, family-oriented way to bring Knoxville together. This past First Friday, they showed the ’80s mystery-comedy “Clue.”
In the recently redone part of downtown Knoxville, Union Avenue is the home of several boutiques, a photography studio and a bookstore. Union Ave. Books is a new and used bookstore that held an open house this past First Friday.
They featured an art exhibit that raised awareness for mental health and featured paintings made by mentally disabled people. The overall atmosphere (including several squashy couches) makes for a great bookstore, and a special find by those exploring downtown Knoxville.
One of the best parts of First Friday is that it brings people from all different areas in Knoxville together as a community. The city of Knoxville has done a pretty good job fixing up Knoxville’s downtown by making it more beautiful and family-friendly in recent years, and they are encouraging people to explore all that downtown has to offer. With the variety of local shops and businesses and the free things they give away, downtown Knoxville adds a lot to the area.
Whether on Central Avenue, Gay Street, Market Square, Union Avenue or even the Old City, there is always something to do on First Fridays if one just knows where to look.