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Here are two things you quickly learn after having kids: first, it is imperative you find kid-friendly places you also enjoy (good news: we’re here with the scoop on kid-friendly spots in Knoxville. You’re in the right spot😂); and second, the questions buzzing through your head never stop. Things you never considered fixating on now enter your brain space and multiply daily.
In fact, if you’re not careful, you’ll almost certainly find yourself holding a baby at 2am, red-eyed and sleep deprived, scrolling through fifteen different diaper bags you are now convinced will change the game for you. They won’t, most likely — but that’s okay because what that new bag might attract is one of the greatest things you could ever hope for: a mom friend.
Here’s how easily it can happen:
You’re at the park with your new bag. You’re feeling great, feeling organized; and a kindred spirit who is a few days behind you on the bag search sees that sweet beacon of sanity and says, “How do you like that bag? Tell me everything!” That convo, if you’re lucky, turns to shared struggles and belly laughs, and ultimately a camaraderie unlike any other.
Mom friends are vulnerable, empathetic, and wildly honest – but getting mom friends together with their kids in tow can be challenging no matter how great that tote is. We want to celebrate these budding tribes and raise a glass not only to the women who gave us life, but also to the fellow travelers alongside us just trying to figure it all out. Cheers to you, mamas! Without further ado:
This place has it all: a variety of drinks, frequent food trucks, and a playground! You really don’t even have to like bubble tea to be a regular here (though it’s definitely worth a shot). Their create-your-own menu lets you customize basically any coffee or tea drink you can dream up, but they also have a few bottled and canned beer options too. You can find out more about their weekly events on Instagram and their food truck schedule is available on their website.
I paired these neighbors up because with their forces combined you’ve got everything covered. You want amazing coffee and an indoor vibe? Check out Jacks! Let the kiddos color while you try not to adopt all the house plants. For weekday evenings and weekends, Central Filling Station is one of our favorite spots. They have kid-focused areas with chalk and adorable tiny picnic tables only kids can fit in. Hang out, eat food, even watch live music sometimes. There are always new and different food truck options to try, BUT BE WARNED: (*cue scary music*) Your Sugar Therapy is the most adorable van selling sweets and you will give them all your money. Chocolate covered key lime pie on a stick?? Are you serious?? How are you supposed to not get two of those?
The shared outdoor patio behind Steamboat and ELST Brewing Company is a hidden gem of Knoxville. Grab a sandwich at Steamboat before they close at 3pm Wednesday-Saturday and then head over to ELST for your drinks. Their blondes are light and refreshing and the perfect pair with a sub. The patio out back is fenced in, half graveled, and even pet-friendly. My kids love the picnic tables!
Not a lot of bookstores sell burgers, but we may have beat the system. We love heading to the Bearden Branch Library to check out a couple of new picture books and then popping next door to Abridged for a mouthwatering, award-worthy burger. (The kids love the soft pretzels there too if you’re just looking for a snack.) Just don”t forget to wipe off your greasy fingers before opening those fresh library finds!
Another great combo is in the adorable Fountain City. Get all the wiggles out at the Fountain City Playground and then grab a bite to eat at Littons across the street. This classic diner has been around for more than 25 years, and is just as much a staple of Fountain City as the duck pond adjacent to the park. Their walls are lined with photos of early customers; my kids love to look at the details while we wait.
The waterfront green space at Suttree Landing Park not only has a playground for all ages, but a flat walking path that leads down to a rail end. (Most days you can even spot a parked train or two!) This space has two major perks: it’s rarely overly crowded and it offers *drumroll please* public restrooms. Once your crew is ready for lunch, a whole line up of great options await just two blocks back on Sevier Ave. The closest to the park is South Coast Pizza, which is always a crowd-pleaser. There are also great kid-friendly outdoor seating options at The Landing House, or indoors at Hi-Wire Brewing.
Ijams Nature Center is a resource that just keeps getting better and better. This nature preserve and adjacent quarry continue to add on new activity options, rentals, classes, camps, and even a “primal playground” set up for outdoor workouts. They are growing their walking trails and riverwalk decks – but the best part? Pop in the Visitor Center and ask for materials for their scavenger hunts. (*pause for excited squeel/dance combo*) If you forgot your picnic, not too far away is SoKno Taco. Their indoor and outdoor seating options are almost as good as their food. Almost.
Afternoons at Bearden Beer Market don’t disappoint. Over the years they have carefully maintained the laid back beer garden vibe they started with, but now also offer a permanent food option in a much more polished space. To celebrate what a good time you had at BBM, we recommend heading across the street to grab a milkshake at Long’s Drug store. Long’s has been around since 1956 and is another Bearden gem that has managed to preserve its charm through the years.
You may have seen the light green Tree Top coffee truck around town or heard about their mission to provide monthly monetary relief to different orphan-based organizations — but soon you’ll be able to grab a coffee from their new permanent location just behind the riverfront park in Sequoyah Hills. It’s a major win for Knoxville and any mom looking for much-needed caffeine before heading to the park.
Don’t miss out on all the great options running parallel to Kingston Pike! Here are some highlights: The Third Creek Greenway is a canopy of quiet green. Tyson Park and Safety City playgrounds are both updated and giant! The outdoor patio at Golden Roast Coffee Shop is an option nearly year-round due to their fabulous fire pit. The climbing gym behind Riversports Outfitters is ideal for a rainy day and the covered patio at Dead End BBQ is another great option all year. The outdoor green space behind Albright Brewing Co. and the side patio at The Burgers are perfectly tucked away from the busy street. We (clearly) could go on and on about Knoxville’s most eclectic street.
So get out there mamas! Whether you’re new to the city, new to motherhood, or new to both, Knoxville is full of great places to make and take new friends. Parenthood can be a blur of keeping your head above water (it really does take a village!), but we are lucky to be in a place where many local businesses prioritize and welcome families. Let us know your favorites around town and then share pics of your mom hangs!
Want to make some mama friends? Sign up for a New2Knox Small Group!
Publish date: 6 May.
Images by: Emilie Stooksbury
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