You can’t experience Knoxville without a stroll down
Historic Gay Street
You can’t fully experience the history and culture of Knoxville without a stroll down historic Gay Street.
This popular thoroughfare runs through a vibrant downtown that features historic theatres, museums, galleries, parks, shops, rooftop bars and more than 75 restaurants within less than one square mile. Several of these buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Gay Street was the site of the 1796 Constitutional Convention that resulted in the founding of the state of Tennessee. Its rich history includes simultaneous Union and Confederate recruiting rallies on the eve of the Civil War. The street and events that took place on it have been mentioned in the works of James Agee, Cormac McCarthy, Mark Twain, and George Washington Harris.
Gay Street also witnessed the early days of live-audience radio, as country stars like Roy Acuff, Chet Atkins, the Everly Brothers, and Dolly Parton got their starts on radio stations WNOX and WROL.
Live music can still be found on Gay Street today at the WDVX studios located inside the Knoxville Visitors Center. The station’s popular Blue Plate Special is a free, live performance radio show that takes place Monday-Saturday at noon with music ranging from blues to bluegrass, country to Celtic, folk to funk, rockabilly to hillbilly, local to international.
Because of its preservation and contributions to Knoxville's economic base and vibrant arts scene, the American Planning Association designated Gay Street as one of 10 Great Streets under the organization's Great Places in America program.
Several downtown streets have been renamed over the years, but Gay Street retains its original name, perhaps because, from the very beginning, the street has been known as the place where Knoxvillians come for fun and entertainment. Hop on a free trolley and experience the culture and history of Knoxville… on historic Gay Street.