Big Ears is described as a treat for the open-minded festival-goer and the lineup that graces this unprecedented event every year explains why. Music crosses over and blends beautifully from genre to genre and style to style. Gospel melts into bluegrass, and theatrical performances and cinematic displays follow quiet poetry readings.
What better way to experience this four-day celebration than in an RV? Park your haven on wheels and explore historic Knoxville, seeking out the venues that speak to you most. See a world-traveled choir ensemble, listen to jazz that focuses on the war, or swoon to a melodic saxophone. After a restful night in your RV, pick up the pace the next day with a blend of artists from the electronic music world. Another day can feature the purity of folk and music timed to photography of world events.
Plan your schedule as you move from venue to venue and genre to genre. Big Ears will bring artists together like no other festival can by offering up entertainment in churches, theaters, nightclubs, and museums. This is a not-to-be-missed extravaganza which will include a limited number of free shows.
All-sales-final tickets are required for festival-goers two years of age and up. Wristbands will either be mailed out a few weeks before the start of the festival or, for those who purchase close to the start, a will call pick-up is available. Daily passes can be had for around $100 while weekend passes encompassing General Admission Weekend, Premier Weekend and Sonic Explorer VIP Weekend passes can cost upwards of $1000. Advance notice of exclusive “pop-up” shows, preferred seating in all venues and dedicated “no wait” lines are part of the Sonic Explorer Pass. Show your wristband before entering each venue. Get your Big Ears tickets early.
Knoxville is found in Eastern Tennessee and is just off the I-40 and the I-75, making it a clear destination for those who set the coordinates on their GPS. Despite being an urban center, Knoxville offers plenty for the outdoor loving RV enthusiast, and you are sure to enjoy the scenery as you travel. Are you coming in from Atlanta or Nashville? The festival is a scenic three-hour drive from those areas. Attendees who are driving in from either Cincinnati, Louisville, or Roanoke will have a comfy four-hour road trip in their RV!
There are no designated festival parking areas; however, the options are plenty within close proximity. Downtown Knoxville boasts over 30 parking lots and parking is typically free every evening after 6 pm as well as weekends. There are also paid parking garages, and there are a couple of lots that have free spaces. The accessibility to parking is just one of the perks of attending Big Ears.
A wonderful way to explore Knoxville is the free trolley system that services downtown. The route of the trolley features several stops in the festival neighborhood making for an economical (not to mention fun!) way to get from venue to venue. Check your Big Ears Festival map, and plan where you will hop on and off the trolley, according to whether you are taking in a concert, workshop, or theatrical production.
Being in downtown Knoxville, there is no camping within the festival parameters. There are several marvelous options for camping nearby.
Beauty surrounds Knoxville, Tennessee in grand style. State parks, privately owned campgrounds, and national parks can be found nestled within the Cherokee National Forest, the Great Smoky Mountains, and other stunning locations. Depending on how far you would like to be outside of Knoxville, you can set up your RV oasis as close as one hour away. Plan an extended stay beyond the four-day festival and see some of the natural splendor of the area, including miles and miles of trails, acres of forest, waterfalls, and wildlife.
In between trolley hopping, prepare to walk. There is so much to see in Knoxville that you will want to have your most comfortable walking shoes on so that you do not miss a thing! With over 100 music, film, and art performances to be experienced you don’t want sore and tired feet. Walk and trolley ride all day and then put your feet up in the evening, relaxing in your motor home away from home.
The temperatures at festival time are quite pleasant, but it’s still wise to plan for every eventuality. Rain is not a stranger in March, but neither are warm spring days! A pair of light pants and a short sleeved top can be the base for layers. Wear or bring along a light sweater. Jackets can be added to the mix in the evening, keeping in mind that you can remove layers once inside an indoor venue. If you have children in your party, make sure that they are sporting their favorite comfortable clothes.
Big Ears will require little in the way of gear. Because the venues are easily reached by foot or trolley, essentials include your ticket and yourself! You may want to put a collapsible umbrella in your purse or small backpack. You can bring along a camera with a non-removable lens, but that is about it. You are not permitted to bring food or drink items into any venue. Leave the glowsticks at home, along with tripods and audio or visual recording equipment.
If you are planning to walk a fair amount, be sure to put on sunscreen. Stop for a water break even though you may not feel thirsty. Maintaining hydration will give you the staying power needed to keep up the pace! Pop a small first aid kit into your purse or backpack in case there is need of a band-aid or other minor need while on the go.
Big Ears Festival does not allow for meal preparation at the venue sites. Making a healthy breakfast at camp is the best way to start the day before heading into Knoxville. Bringing food and drink items into the venues is also forbidden. Many of the venues will serve an alcoholic drink to thirsty festival-goers of age. Take advantage of this policy and enjoy the delicious fare of downtown Knoxville! Once back at the RV in the evenings, cook up a homemade comfort dish before relaxing for the evening.
Being right in the center of town, eating in between concerts at Big Ears is a breeze. There are restaurants featured on the festival map and those that are strewn throughout downtown. It’s not a matter of, “Where can we eat?” The question is what do you feel like having! From a casual meal to fine dining, downtown Knoxville has no shortage of excellent eateries. Whether tapas, pub food, café style, or a seafood buffet, every palate will be tempted.
There will be merchandise stands set up at Big Ears and if you are in the mood to shop in between entertainment stops, patronize the artists and performers. Downtown Knoxville will not disappoint either. Wares include clothing, vintage collectibles, jewelry, and imported goods from worldwide markets.
Security staff will be on hand all weekend to assist those who need attention. Attendees will be subject to search if security officials deem it necessary. This pertains to any of the venues throughout the festival neighborhood. Alcohol, firearms, recording equipment, food and drink items, and controlled substances are some of the items that will be confiscated or cause you to be refused entry to a venue if discovered upon search. To fully enjoy Big Ears, keep it simple and clean.
You will want to have cash, credit cards, and debit cards safely stowed on your person. Keep your festival passes in a secure place as well. Lost or stolen passes cannot be replaced. Resale is not permitted; any ticket or wristband found to be resold will not be valid.
Many Big Ears venues are indoors which does not make the weather a big factor; however, in order to stay comfortable as you make your way from place to place be sure to have adequate clothing and gear for every weather type. Stay hydrated, and use sunscreen if you are spending any amount of time outside. When back at the RV or tent, it’s always a good idea to have a shade structure to protect you on hot afternoons and extra blankets on hand for cooler nights.
When making a packing list for traveling, medical needs should be at the top! Have your medications on hand in packaging that clearly states what it is and its purpose. If you need medical attention while at Big Ears, alert staff at any venue or a member of the security team and they will attend to you right away. Accessibility for each site may vary; be sure to take a look at each location to verify ADA specifications.