This was another one of those downtown weekends where something fun or interesting was happening at every turn. My weekend, happily, was dominated by family. It was one of those reminder weekends for me of how much fun is waiting for children downtown. And not just when children’s events are happening. Most of it is here all the time.
Illustrative of the level of interesting activities available are the things we didn’t do. Urban Girl really loves the East Tennessee History Center, the Knoxville Museum of Art, the arcade at Harrogate’s Lounge and the Basement Community Art Studio. We didn’t make it to any of those. The whole family would have enjoyed the Kuumba Festival, but we barely skirted the edges of that. I would have loved to have caught the excellent Meadowlark Festival at Ijams and Repeat Repeat at the Knoxville Music Warehouse’s Secret Show. There’s another whole weekend of fun layered on top of what we actually did.
Part of the excitement generated by the weekend was the unusual number of openings. Cruze Farm‘s Milk Bar debuted on Friday and Maple Hall held its soft opening for invited guests. Meanwhile, in the Old City, Tim Love’s Lonesome Dove opened. That’s one day in the city and, while that reflects more openings than a typical week, it is indicative of how we are exploding. It’s almost too much to take in at once.
But we did experience quite a bit in a short amount of time. Urban Girl hit the city at lunch time on Friday and we set out to have hot dogs and ice cream at the Cruze Farm Milk Bar which had opened at 11:00 AM. Not happening. We walked inside and said a quick, “hello” to Colleen, who gave Urban Girl a Cruze Farm Girl headscarf which she proudly wore to Tomato Head for lunch. The line at the milk bar was too overwhelming, by turns reaching the door or flowing down the sidewalk. We made it back later, after it died down a bit.
Urban Girl got her beloved pizza at Tomato Head (ketchup, no sauce) and we enjoyed the fringe of the Kumba festival from a table on the patio. After lunch, Urban Woman peeled off to do some business and Urban Girl and I caught the Trolley to UT. Marveling at the dorms, she asked if it costs money to live there. When I explained the cost of college, she decided it might be good for her to get a summer job. I agreed.
The McClung Museum, always interesting, currently has an excellent dinosaur exhibit. I’m not sure why the fascination among children, but I loved dinosaurs when I was young and the love seems to have continued down the generations. Urban Girl enjoyed the interactive displays and we both learned things we didn’t know. She practiced her dinosaur walk and loved the giant dinosaur footprints.
We also explored the Egyptian and Native American sections and I think she liked these as well as the dinosaurs. She was fascinated with the fact that the lions guarding the front doors have balls in their mouths and we both couldn’t help but repeatedly watch the great video of the evolution of humans in the basement. Skeletons, of course, rock and there are several in the basement that she enjoyed.
We took the trolley back into the city and kept a look out for the Fanboy participants who kept us amused most of the weekend. I’m not sure what would keep adults getting dressed up like super heros and such, but clearly lots of people enjoy it, so that’s cool. And both Urban Boy and Urban Girl enjoyed seeing them. The lineup of stars was pretty impressive, with Barbara Eden and William Shatner sharing the spotlight with others. Micky Dolenz dropped into Preservation Pub. Pretty big stuff and another activity that could have consumed a downtown weekend. It’s also remarkable how many celebrities we’ve had downtown recently.
After arriving back downtown, we reunited with Urban Woman and finally scored the first ice cream of the weekend. Cookies and Cream carried the vote in our family. The place stayed packed Friday and Saturday (they opened after the Market Square Farmers’ Market). We also got a moment of fame on WVLT as they ran stories from the new shop.
Next we walked to Maple Hall for the first of four days of friends and family events. Urban Girl had never bowled, so we weren’t sure how it would go. Fashion shoes secured, we laced up. Pro tip: bring socks. Two of our party didn’t have socks and had to buy them. I showed Urban Girl how to do a granny shot and she took off. Most of her balls made it to the end of the lane and the ones that didn’t were helpfully retrieved for us and she got a do-over. She made it clear before we started this would not be a competition, we would all try to do our best. We agreed, but the girl was pretty proud to cross double digits by the end of her ten frames. She high-fived with the staff as she left, making sure they knew she’d knocked down fourteen of those bad boys.
The opening of the bowling alley seemed to go very well. Some people bowled, while others simply enjoyed the bar and the food and the good vibes. The automatic scoring makes it all very simple once you get going. Meiomi Pinot Noir makes it all that much nicer. Second pro tip: It took the three of us a full hour to play one game. Granted, without a seven-year-old, three people might be able to move a little faster, but I doubt very much if you’re laughing and having fun.
After the visit to Maple Hall, Urban Girl and Woman walked back home to settle in for a movie night, while I walked to the Tennessee Theatre for the Gregg Allman concert. I didn’t really have expectations. I’d heard his health was one of the reason the Allman Brothers called it a day. Jaimoe’s Jasssz Band opened and, while I would say they are pretty clearly a blues band, not jazz, they were excellent. Jaimoe, for those who don’t know, was a founding member and percussionist for the Allman Brothers Band.
Gregg, I thought, was in excellent form. He moved slowly, as a sixty-eight-year-old who’s had a liver transplant might. He played four or so songs on guitar, but remained on keyboards the rest of the night. His voice was strong and he never missed a lyric that I noticed. The arrangements were quite different from Allman Brothers’ shows with a large brass presence taking some spotlight away from guitar, though the band featured a brilliant guitarist. Of local interest, Jamel Mitchell sat in for a couple of songs.
Saturday morning our contingent was joined by the extended Urban family and we all set out for James White Fort‘s Knoxville Homecoming. First stop was Urban Boy’s first trolley ride and a stop at Outdoor Knoxville for Urban Girl to get her feet wet at the bottom of the waterfall. The family also enjoyed the bike sculpture and the views of the city.
The fort was a big hit, though the heat caught up with us. We enjoyed the various demonstrations and Urban Girl did some weaving and wrote her name with a quill pen. We learned about post-colonial era cooking which didn’t seem to appeal to her. Urban Son-in-law and I enjoyed the fire-arms presentation. The fort, along with Blount Mansion and the Mabry-Hazen House are great historical assets to downtown and a great way to introduce local, state and national history to children.
We caught the trolley back downtown, as we all slumped a bit from the heat. Back home, we enjoyed a quiet afternoon filled with chess and more ice cream, Mexican cokes and iced coffee. Having Cruze Farm so nearby may add pounds to my summer, but it certainly added to our fun weekend. I hope yours was a good one, as well. Share with your friends how much fun downtown can be for children. It’s often overlooked among the clamor about bars and restaurants. And everything we did is available year-round.