A unique holiday tradition continues in downtown Knoxville on Dec. 14.

The annual Tour de Lights bike ride is open to bicyclists of all ages and skill levels, and creativity is encouraged!! Hundreds of riders deck out their bikes and themselves in their holiday best as they cruise around the downtown streets.

The organizers have made some changes this year to make it better for both riders and the anticipated crowds.

Here's what you need to know if you want to ride, watch, or not get stuck in a traffic jam!

If you want to ride

There will be two staging areas, one near the Market Square stage (open before and after the ride) and another near the Krutch Park entrance. Starting at 6:15 p.m., both areas will have a photo booth, bike-safety check area, and refreshments.

Bikes are required to have a white front headlight and a red rear reflector, and children under 16 are required to wear helmets, though all riders are encouraged to wear helmets.

At 7:15, riders should head towards one of two staging areas:

  • More experienced riders, those who are confident on bikes and in riding in large crowds , should gather on Wall Ave. between Gay and Walnut streets.
  • Families, themed/costumed groups, and beginner riders will line up on Union Avenue between Gay and Market streets and, as crowds necessitate, down Market toward Clinch Avenue.

The ride begins at 7:30 p.m. The five-mile route starts on Gay Street and takes riders through the Fourth and Gill and Historic North Knoxville neighborhoods. You can see the entire route here.

Riders will end in Market Square where the photo booth and refreshments will be waiting. Judges will announce winners of the Best Themed Group award at 8:45 p.m.

Additional awards for Best Costume (Adult), Best Costume (Child), Best Bicycle and/or Trailer, Best Helmet and Best Overall will be determined by judges after the event based on photo booth pictures taken that night, either before and after the ride. A People’s Choice winner will be named based on the most likes received on the photo shared on the Tour de Lights Facebook page

Want to watch the ride?

Tradition holds that neighbors on the Tour de Lights route line the sidewalks and front yards to cheer on the riders. Anyone can join them along the public parts of the route.

You can see the entire route here.

Vienna Coffee at the Regas Building will be open until 8:30 p.m. to host Tour de Lights observers who want to watch from indoors.

Important info for drivers

Downtown drivers, including those coming for the bike ride, can anticipate closures of several downtown blocks mentioned above and shown on the map here starting at 6:30 p.m. That page also includes suggestions for free parking alternatives to the State Street Garage, which is under construction, and Market Square Garage, which regularly fills to capacity by early evening.

Knoxville Police will establish rolling roadblocks around the parade as it proceeds along the five-mile route. During gaps in the parade, officers will allow cars to cross the parade route at busy intersections, like Broadway at Glenwood or Central Street and Fourth Avenue.