Sunsphere, Knoxville, Tennessee
Sunsphere, Knoxville, Tennessee | Photo Credit: Pixabay - CanonBaby2016

Take an elevator up to the 4th Floor Observation Deck inside Knoxville’s most iconic building. A landmark left behind from the 1982 World’s Fair, the Sunsphere stands tall as a popular sight among the city skyline. From the 360-degree observation deck, visitors can see for miles around, from the winding path of the Tennessee River to the rugged landscape of the Smoky Mountains. Embark on a journey to discover the history of this famous structure and snap a few photos inside the golden glass sphere!

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The 1982 World’s Fair was held in Knoxville, bringing people from around the globe to experience this charming eastern Tennessee city. In order to create a landmark that would stand out and become a symbol for the event, the Sunsphere was designed. The plans for the unique building were created by Community Tectonics. The idea behind the Sunsphere was to create an iconic architectural landmark similar to other World’s Fair structures such as Paris’ Eiffel Tower (1889) and Seattle’s Space Needle (1962).

Sunsphere, Knoxville, Tennessee
Sunsphere, Knoxville, Tennessee | Photo Credit: Flickr – Brent Moore

By the time the Sunsphere was completed, it had gained quite some popularity. Many local residents and visitors noted the beautiful golden tint to the sphere, especially when the sun shined upon it. The golden tint is actually attributed to the 24 karat gold glass panes that make up the sphere. When the Sunsphere was built, each individual glass pane cost about $1,000. The overall height of the building is 26 stories with the sphere itself being 7 stories.

During the 1982 World’s Fair, the Sunsphere cost $2.00 per person to ride to the top for the observation deck. There was also a restaurant in the sphere that offered amazing views of the city and surrounding landscape. The restaurant was noted for its menu items that played into the “sun” name such as the “Sunburger”. Many people who dined at the restaurant claimed the “Sunburst” cocktail drink (made of fruit juice and rum) was a tasty drink to accompany a meal. The 1982 World’s Fair also unveiled a new toy that would soon captivate the world with its mind-challenging puzzle and 43 quintillion solutions, the Rubik’s Cube.

Following the Sunsphere’s use during the 1982 World’s Fair, the building was closed. Over the years it was occasionally reopened for visitors and some of the floors were rented out as corporate office space. During the construction of the nearby Knoxville Convention Center, the Sunsphere was used as field offices and an overlook for the contractors who were building the new facility.

Recently, the Sunsphere has been renovated and it’s 4th floor, 360-degree observation deck is now open for visitors nearly every day of the year.

How to Visit

The Sunsphere is located within World’s Fair Park in downtown Knoxville at 810 Clinch Avenue.

Today, visitors can take the elevator up to the 4th floor to experience the 360-degree observation deck, see the large 1982 World’s Fair timeline, see memorabilia from the event and learn about the landmarks legacy on the city of Knoxville. Plus, don’t forget to check out the gift shop that is filled with plenty of awesome souvenirs to commemorate your visit.

There are also event spaces in the Sunsphere that can be reserved for corporate functions, weddings, parties or other large gatherings.

For more information about current hours and admission, please visit the official website here.

If you enjoyed reading this post or have visited the Sunsphere before, leave a comment below or share this post on your favorite social media!



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