If you’re looking for the best things to do in Knoxville then you’ve come to the right place. Knoxville is a popular city in Tennessee known for it’s Market Square District, historical homes and buildings, and unique museums. There are tons of Knoxville attractions for every age group and interest. It is truly one of the best places to visit in Tennessee!
One of the great things about Knoxville is it’s a pretty centrally located Tennessee city. Not only will you find fun things to do in Knoxville, but you’ll also find fun things to do near Knoxville. Attractions like the Great Smoky Mountains, Pigeon Forge, and Asheville North Carolina are all just a few hours drive away. Between the great day trips from Knoxville options and the activities in Knoxville itself, its a great city in Tennessee to explore.
On this list we’ve made sure to include some of our favorite things to see in Knoxville and some of the best activities in Knoxville. We’ve also made sure there’s something for everyone on this list. Wether you’re traveling as a family, looking for a romantic getaway, or just looking for cool things to do, there is something on this list for you. So, lets take a look at the 15 best things to do in Knoxville you shouldn’t miss!
15 Best Things To Do In Knoxville You Shouldn’t Miss
Knoxville Museum Of Art
One of the most popular places to visit in Knoxville is the Knoxville Museum of Art. The Knoxville Museum of Art specializes in both historical and contemporary art pieces. In particular, most of the museum’s collection is from East Tennessee. So you’ll have the opportunity to see some artwork you may have never even heard of. It’s a cool way to discover past and present local artists.
The museum has a variety of collections on display at all times. They have permanent exhibits that you’ll be able to see any time you visit. But they also have rotating exhibits. The rotating exhibits will typically only be on display for a few months. So if there is a rotating exhibit you really want to see, make sure you head to the art museum. Admission to the museum is completely free, making it one of the best free things to do in Knoxville TN.
Ijams Nature Center And Park
Believe it or not, there is a massive urban nature park in the city of Knoxville. Ijams Nature Center and Park is a little outside of the downtown area. When you get there, you’ll discover beautiful wetlands and unique rock formations. You can explore the park on over 10 miles of trails. If you’re up for it, you can even rent a bike and bike around the park. There is also an area where you can rent a canoe and go canoeing.
In the nature center, you’ll find displays on the flora and fauna that are local to Knoxville. You can walk the exhibit hall and learn what to look out for while you’re on your nature hike. There is also a gift shop and park rangers who can assist you with any questions you may have about the park. Ijams is another one of the coolest free things to do in Knoxville Tennessee. There is no admissions fee and you won’t have to pay for anything unless you purchase something at the gift shop or rent a bike or canoe.
World’s Fair Park
In downtown Knoxville, you can find the World’s Fair Park. The World’s Fair Park was built in 1982. It was the home of the 1982 Worlds Fair, which Knoxville hosted. Today it is a community park with two remaining structures from that World’s Fair event. The two remaining original structures are the Sunsphere Observation Deck and the Tennessee Amphitheater.
The Sunsphere Observation Deck is four levels, and on the fourth level you’ll find 360 degree views of the city of Knoxville. From the observation deck you can see downtown Knoxville, the University of Tennessee, the Tennessee River, and the Great Smoky Mountains. In the Tennessee Amphitheater you’ll often find live performances. If there aren’t any going on, it’s still a great place to sit and rest after a day exploring the city.
Haunted Knoxville Ghost Tour
If you’re looking for fun things to do in Knoxville for adults, we suggest going on a haunted Knoxville ghost tour. There are a variety of companies offering ghost tours of the city. So you’re sure to find one that peaks your interest. Many of them are walking tours, so keep that in mind when you are planning ahead. We suggest doing one on a day where you haven’t been on your feet all day.
You’ll pass by some of Knoxville’s most iconic supposedly haunted homes and buildings. Many of the ghost tours also give you a little bit of history about the buildings and city. It’s a really cool activity in Knoxville and an interesting way to learn about the city. A haunted Knoxville ghost tour is a super fun thing to do in Knoxville for adults that is just a little bit different.
Seven Islands State Birding Park
One of the cool things to do near Knoxville is the Seven Islands State Birding Park. The Seven Islands State Birding Park is just east of Knoxville. It is situated near the town of Kodak along the French Broad River. The park itself was specifically created in 2014 for bird watching. There are over 400 acres of protected wilderness. There you’ll be able to view over 190 different bird species that make their way to the park throughout the year.
It’s a beautiful park full of rolling hills and stunning views of the Great Smoky Mountains. There are also miles of hiking trails you can explore. You can also go kayaking or canoeing in the French Broad River from a small access dock in the park. If you’re looking to escape the city, the Seven Islands State Birding Park is one of the coolest things to do near Knoxville.
Knoxville Botanical Garden And Arboretum
The Knoxville Botanical Garden and Arboretum is one of the best places to visit in Knoxville. It is free to enter and while you’re there you’ll find 47 acres of trees, gardens, and lawns to explore. There are also old walls and buildings scattered throughout the landscape. You will follow trails through the grounds and experience the beauty of the botanical garden.
Throughout the year the gardens and arboretum hold festivals as well. In the spring time you’ll be able to enjoy bright colorful blooms. In the summer the fun continues with a variety of different festivals. They also have fall and winter festivals that are themed around the holidays. The Knoxville Botanical Garden and Arboretum is one of the best free things to do in Knoxville.
In downtown Knoxville you’ll find the Blount Mansion. The Blount Mansion is known as the birthplace of Tennessee. It was the home of William Blount, a signer of the U.S. Constitution. The home was built in 1792. President George Washington sent Blount to govern the Southwest Territory and Blount began the work of making Tennessee the 16th state.
As well as being the family’s home, it was also the territorial capital. Now, it is a house museum that you can tour. In the Blount Mansion you’ll learn about the early history of Tennessee as a state. You’ll also learn about the Blount family, William Blount, and the impact they had on the creation of Tennessee as we know it today. The Blount Mansion is a really interesting thing to see in Knoxville if you are a history lover.
Women’s Basketball Hall Of Fame
The Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame opened in Knoxville in 1999. Since it’s opening, it has become a popular Knoxville attraction for sports lovers. It is the only facility of it’s kind dedicated to all levels of women’s basketball. So it’s a Knoxville attraction that is truly unique to the city. There is a small fee to enter the museum, but it is defintely worth it. They also have seasonal hours, but they are typically open during most weekdays and Saturdays.
During basketball season, you can catch a game by the Lady Vols, the local women’s basketball team. It’s a great thing to do in Knoxville with kids. They’ll love getting to watch a basketball game up close after touring the museum and learning all about the best women basketball players in the US. A day at the Women’s Basketball Hall Of Fame is one of the most unique things to do in downtown Knoxville.
Muse Knoxville is another great thing to do in Knoxville with kids. It is a hand-on science museum. Kids will love exploring the hand-on exhibits and activities. There are daily science presentations and tons of different areas for kids to play and interact with science up-close. Inside the museum there is a planetarium.
There is a small admission fee, but it’s totally worth it. They do also offer a free family night on the fourth Friday of every month. Muse Knoxville is open daily except for major holidays. The museum also aims to be accessible to those who have disabilities. They have sensory aids like ear muffs free of charge and quiet rooms for kids who need less stimulating environments. There are so many reasons why Muse Knoxville is one of the best things to do in Knoxville with kids.
South Gay Street
Gay Street has been a huge part of the city of Knoxville since the 1790s. The historic street is full of original buildings and homes. In fact, it was actually the first paved road in Knoxville! It is a major part of the downtown district, which makes it one of the best things to do in downtown Knoxville.
As you walk the main street, you’ll pass by historic theaters, galleries, shops, and parks. All of this is in less than one square mile! The street is also home to over 75 restaurants in Knoxville and cafes too! While you’re there, it’s a great place to get a souvenir of your trip. If you want to squeeze in as much site seeing as possible, this is one of the best things to do in downtown Knoxville.
Knoxville Food Tours
Foodies will love this activity in Knoxville. especially if you’re wondering what to do in Knoxville. Knoxville Food Tours is a company that opened in 2010. It is a fantastic way to experience a literal taste of East Tennessee. They offer a variety of different tours to fit every need. You can go as a group or plan a private tour.
On all of the tours, you’ll have a guide giving you a little bit of history about each stop. At each restaurant you’ll enjoy a food tasting menu and learn more about the restaurant and food traditions of East Tennessee. If you’d like the opportunity to explore even more restaurants in the area, they offer a bus tour. It’s one of the coolest things to do in Knoxville for adults.
Historic Cherokee Caverns
A visit to the Historic Cherokee Caverns is a fun thing to do in Knoxville with kids. The historic landmark is only open a few times a year to protect it. But to make up for it, the volunteers hosts some really cool events. They are typically open for holidays like Valentines Day, Halloween, and Christmas.
In the past, they have had Halloween trick or treating, caroling in the caves, and an anthropologist who talks about forensic cases. Several times a year they also have movies in the caverns. They range from family friendly movies to more adult classics. If you’re wondering what to do in Knoxville, and the Cherokee Caverns are open, we highly suggest visting!
James White’s Fort
The James White Fort is the birthplace of Knoxville Tennessee. It is considered Knoxville’s first home and was built in 1786. That makes it just a few years older than Blount Mansion. Before William Blount helped create the state of Tennessee, James White founded the city of Knoxville. Today James White’s Fort is a historical home that you can tour. It is a colonial log cabin that truly highlights the humble beginnings of the city.
It is right in the heart of downtown Knoxville, making it one of the best things to do in downtown Knoxville. On your tour of the historic home you’ll see original furniture and decor along with historical artifacts. The grounds also have a blacksmith shop, guest house, smokehouse, weaving house, and many more. It’s a truly unique way to spend the day in downtown Knoxville.
Forks Of The River Wildlife Management Park
One of the things that makes Knoxville unique is its ‘urban wilderness’ areas. The Forks of the River Wildlife Management Park is one of those areas of urban wilderness. In the park, you’ll find several different hiking trails. One of which connects to the Ijams Nature Center and Park. Most of the trails are open year-round.
The major trail is the Will Skelton Greenway. The greenway is a little over 6.5 miles long and is a fairly easy trail to hike. You can also bike it if you’d like. Parts of the paved trail skirt around the edges of the Tennessee River and the French Broad River. So you’ll get to see some really beautiful views of the rivers as you walk. It’s one of the best free things to do in Knoxville.
Beck Cultural Exchange Center
Established in 1975, the Beck Cultural Exchange Center was originally created to preserve the city’s history. However, over the years it’s mission slowly expanded. Now, it’s main purpose is to tell the story, history, and culture of the Black people who shaped the city. Today, it is mainly full of the stories and histories of Black East Tennesseans.
The Beck, as it is often called, is free and open to the public. It is typically open from Tuesday through Friday. Within the museum you’ll find a variety of exhbits that highlight Black history in Knoxville. From artwork by local artists, a research library, archives, and other historical artifacts. If you’re wondering what to do in Knoxville, the Beck Cultural Exchange Center is a great option.
There are so many cool things to see in Knoxville. It is a truly unique southern city that is full of history and charm. Have you enjoyed any of these Knoxville attractions? If you have, we’d love to hear about your experience in the comments!