According to History.com, Memorial Day is an American holiday observed on the last Monday of May, honoring the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. Memorial Day 2023 will occur on Monday, May 29.
Originally known as Decoration Day, it originated in the years following the Civil War and became an official federal holiday in 1971. Many Americans observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries or memorials, holding family gatherings, and participating in parades. Unofficially, it marks the beginning of the summer season.
Memorial Day weekend in Knoxville is a low-key affair, with many having extended time to spend with family and friends. Here are a few picks of things to see and do during the long weekend:
East Tennessee Veterans Memorial
For those looking to honor the fallen, the East Tennessee Veterans Memorial would be a good place to have a moment of remembrance. The physical Memorial is a magnificent formation of 32 granite monuments bearing the inscribed names of more than 6000 veterans from 35 East Tennessee counties who have died in military service since the beginning of World War I. Names are listed by conflict and by county within those conflicts. Find this memorial at the north end of World’s Fair Park in the shadow of the Sunsphere.
Other memorials throughout Knoxville include the 9/11 Memorial and Vietnam Memorial on Main Street, and the War Dog Memorial on the University of Tennessee’s College of Veterinary Medicine campus.
Knoxville is home to the final resting places of many veterans. One of the largest is Knoxville National Cemetery. This circular patterned cemetery was established by Major General Ambrose Burnside whose Union forces occupied Knoxville in September 1863 at the height of the Civil War. It’s adjacent to the Old Gray Cemetery, both points of interest on the Civil War Trails and Divided Loyalties Civil War Driving Tour. Mabry Hazen House and nearby Bethel Cemetery is also on both of those as the final resting place of 1,600 Confederate dead.
There are also two East Tennessee Veterans Cemeteries, one in west Knoxville across Lakeshore Park, and the other in east Knoxville not far from Historic Ramsey House.
One of the largest parks named in memoriam for veterans is Sharp’s Ridge Veterans Memorial Park in North Knoxville. This park offers a great view of the city skyline and the distant mountain peaks. About half way to the top of the ridge, there is an overlook platform providing views of the Downtown Knoxville skyline and the Great Smoky Mountains. There is a 1.2-mile adaptive, all-access nature trail with 4.7 miles of multi-use trails that wind across the wooded hills and range from moderate to difficult in skill range for hiking and biking. The trails can be accessed from several trailheads throughout the park which will be easily identified by the beautiful wooden kiosks and pergolas.
Throughout the county, there are several places to spend time with family and friends on Memorial Day weekend. Plan a picnic at one of these parks, or consider a Tennessee River cruise abord the Tennessee Riverboat or Volunteer Princess.
While there aren’t any Memorial Day fireworks in Knoxville (plan for the fourth of July for those), there are other Memorial Day events and other things happening that weekend. Earlier in the month on May 15, Carry the Load will be in Knoxville National Cemetery to pay respect and honor the sacrifices of our nation’s heroes.
The week leading up to Memorial Day (May 22-28), the Visit Knoxville Open is taking place at Holston Hills Country Club. Experience the excitement as these competitors vie for their PGA TOUR cards that are at stake. Share in the sportsmanship and celebration of the 33-year heritage as a founding event on the Korn Ferry Tour.
On Friday May 26, Yo-Yo Ma, in partnership with the Knoxville-based arts nonprofit Big Ears, has announced a unique, multi-faceted concert presentation, “Our Common Nature: An Appalachian Celebration,” at World’s Fair Park. Conceived and curated by Yo-Yo Ma, the celebration will also include special musical guests Rhiannon Giddens, Chris Thile, and Edgar Meyer, along with other musicians, storytellers, and poets from throughout the Appalachian region. The festival grounds will be a delightful celebration of its own, brimming with fabulous regional cuisines, arts & crafts, puppetry, storytelling, square dancing, and – of course – more music-making, in an exuberant celebration of rich and vibrant complexity of the Smoky Mountains and the many communities who call it home.
On Saturday May 27, DICK’S House of Sport will host the 2023 Outdoor Expo from 10am-4pm. Expect items for camping, kayaking, fishing, climbing, and more with appearances from Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency, CatchCo, Lifetime Sports, and more.