Visitors to Knoxville may find it strange that the city hosted the 1982 World’s Fair. After all, the fair has been held in cities like New York, London, Tokyo, Amsterdam and Rome.

Nonetheless, in 1982, over the course of six months, 11 million people from countries as diverse as Australia, Belgium, China, Egypt, Panama, Peru, Philippines and Saudi Arabia descended on Knoxville to play with Rubik’s Cubes and participate in the fair’s theme of “Energy Turns the World.”

The fair was held on a 72-acre site located between downtown Knoxville and the University of Tennessee campus. You can still spot the area where the fair was held by locating the Sunsphere, a giant gold sphere looming 266 feet above the city’s skyline.

Today the grounds of that 1982 expo are home to the World’s Fair Park. The 10-acre park is located at 1060 World’s Fair Park Drive and is accessible from Interstate 40/75.

The park consists of three major areas: a festival lawn, a performance lawn and a lake area. The Performance Lawn is a maintained open area that is often the site of concerts, festivals, parties, weddings and other events. The Performance Lawn is larger than two football fields and can accommodate more than 6,000 people. The Festival Lawn is a two-acre area of special turf located near the park’s center. The Festival Lawn is bordered by native plants and trees, and by the Court of Flags Fountain to the north.

The Court of Flags Fountain is an interactive water play area that operates seasonably from March until the end of October. The fountain is open from April until September Monday-Saturday from 10 a.m.-9:30 p.m. and from noon-9:30 p.m. on Sundays. During March and October the fountain’s hours of operation are from 11 a.m.-7 p.m.

The park features a variety of native plants and greenery. In addition to Evergreen trees and shrubbery, the park is colored by dogwood, redbud, rhododendron, forsythia and azalea flowers.

Parking is available near the World’s Fair Park in various parking lots and garages, including the Locust Street Garage, Poplar Street Lot and Fort Kid Lot. Click here for a map of parking in the area.

The park grounds are also the home of the 500,000-square-foot state-of-the-art Knoxville Convention Center facility that opened in 2002. Visit its websitehere.

Visitors to the park can also enter the Sunsphere. Admission is free. The Sunsphere’s observation deck is accessible from elevators at the base of the tower and from the convention center level. Hours of admission are April through November from 9 a.m.-10 p.m. and from November through March from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. The observation deck provides a 360-degree view of the city and the East Tennessee area. Also featured are lighted displays detailing Knoxville’s history and culture. There are video presentations and display panels that point onlookers to significant locations from the city’s history, including the Civil War Battle of Fort Sanders and the site where the Treaty of the Holston was signed with the Cherokee Nation.

Also stop by the Skybox bar on the fifth floor to have a glass of wine with your great view.

But if you come looking for the wig shop from the 1996 episode of “The Simpsons,” you’ll spend your day wandering around in circles.

Visit here for a 20th anniversary World’s Fair retrospective produced by the Knoxville News Sentinel. Click here for more information about the park.


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