15 Best Things To Do in Knoxville, Tennessee

When one is visiting a land to lavish that it hosts the Great Smoky Mountains, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the river Tennessee, there cannot be any scarcity in leisure activities that could prove to be once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Destination Knoxville in the state of Tennessee has a vast array of tourist attractions that can be tough to choose from. Take a look at our handpicked 15 best places to visit in Knoxville listed below.

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 Let's explore Knoxville points of interest and 15 best things to do in Knoxville:

1. Learn the local history at East Tennessee History Center 

The East Tennessee History Center showcases award-winning exhibits and offers year round events and educational programs that acquaint participants with the rich history and cultural chronology of East Tennessee. The Center is run by the East Tennessee Historical Society. 

Besides displaying a vast range of exhibits and artifacts from the past three centuries of history of Tennessee, it also conducts well known annual events such as the annual Blue & Gray Reunion in the months of April-May and the East Tennessee History Fair hosted in August. 

2. Pay a visit to the Blount Mansion 

The restored and recreated Blount Mansion in Tennessee tells its visitors the real life stories of the state's formative years. Locally known as the “the house with many eyes", it offers an intriguing and partly scandalous history of its own. 

The mansion is named after William Blount, the then Governor of the Southwest Territory, who constructed this mansion in 1792 after declaring Knoxville as his capital. Almost two centuries later, in 1926, this house was restored by the Blount Mansion Association and turned into a place to showcase the rich history of Knoxville. The mansion hosts events all year long, the highlights of which are the Myths Tour in the month of October and the Merry and Bright Celebration in the last month of each calendar year.

3. Explore the historical James White Fort

The James White Fort, just as the name suggests, is the home of James White, the founder of Knoxville. 

White had earned a huge grant of land for his contribution to the Revolutionary War. He thereafter went on an expedition which resulted in the discovery of the geography. This location soon became the city of Knoxville and later also the capital of the Southwest Territory, as declared by Governor Blount. 

The James White fort, reconstructed in 1970, displays several artifacts that narrate the history of Knoxville. It also showcases interactive and intriguing exhibits about blacksmithing, cooking and spinning.

The Fort hosts special annual events, such as the Cherokee Heritage Day and Christmas open house. It also annually conducts a very interesting and popular ghost tour. The Fort sees about ten thousand visitors every year. 

4. Gorge on more local history at the Old City

No trip to Knoxville is considered complete without a visit to the Old City. This is yet another renovated downtown site housing historic architecture that holds in them interesting secrets from the early Knoxville era.

Visitors can learn more about early Knoxville, take a trip to the quaint art galleries and enjoy delicacies at the well-known restaurants and coffee houses. At night the Old City showcases some of the best musical talents of East Tennessee’s.

5. Take a tour of the Civil War History Walk

To perfectly wrap up a history enthusiast's tour in Knoxville, taking the Knoxville’s Civil War history walk is a must. 

This part of the war history is a complex nuance and the walking tour explains the manners and reasons behind East Tennessee being much divided during the war. Visitors can avail a guided tour or even pick up a brochure at the Knoxville Visitor’s Center if they opt for a self-guided tour.

6. Experience wildlife face to face at the Knoxville Zoo

Zoo Knoxville is renowned for being the world's biggest and wildest zoo project ever undertaken, named the Asian Trek, This Trek offers visitors the unique once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to encounter the whole world's wildlife up close, face to face. 

The zoo houses one of the very rare and endangered Malayan tigers in its Tiger Forest.  The authorities have long announced the inaugural of two other trails, the Langur Landing and Gibbon Trail by Spring 2018. Visitors come face to face with giraffes, chimpanzees, gorillas, elephants and more, strolling along with their young ones through the parts of the zoo named the Grasslands Africa, the Chimp Ridge, the Gorilla Valley and so on. Guests can even ride a desert camel here and splash around in the Clayton Safari Splash wet world section.

7. Play and learn at the Muse Knoxville 

Tourists, especially with children, must pay a visit to The Muse Knoxville, situated in the Chilhowee Park, right beside the Knoxville Zoo. 

It is the children's museum with 4,000 square feet of play space, designed blending together art and science.  Children learn about elementary physical science, construction, human biology, nutrition and more - all while having fun, through interesting interactive activities. The museum also hosts fun field trips for kids all year round. 

The Muse Knoxville also houses the singular public planetarium of the city, offering an attractive range of shows.

8. Enjoy man made lakes and lawns at the World's Fair 

The 1982 World’s Fair site stands tall even today in the heart of Knoxville. Visitors wanting to spend time outdoors and relish Man made landscape, lakes and geysers must visit this site. 

The Fair was renovated and now hosts sprawling lawns, and man made water bodies,  such as fountains and geysers. The lush green lawns of the Fair are used to host annual festivities, functions and live performances all through the year. 

The World's Fair also owns a beautiful Sunsphere observation deck offering a panoramic view of the Great Smokey Mountains and the river Tennessee. 

9. Spend an adventurous day in Ijams Nature Center 

From manmade landscapes to Mother Nature's handiwork - the Ijams Nature Center founded by Harry Ijams is a 300-acres of massive park serving as a leading bird and wildlife sanctuary. It also acts as a center for environmental studies. 

This sanctuary merely three miles away from downtown Knoxville offers tourists the experience of trail trekking, exploring natural creeks and groves, homestead and more.

The park also hosts the neighborhood's only natural rock climbing site.  Visitors can avail of rock climbing experiences, along with canoe trips in the river.

10. Enjoy the scenic beauty of Mead’s Quarry

Though technically speaking, it's part of the Ijams Nature Center, yet Mead’s Quarry deserves an exclusive mention. 

This used to once be a pink marble quarry. Today a 25 acres vast lake situated inside the quarry attracts regular tourists. 

The serene and scenic lake houses a good array of aquatic wildlife ranging from waterfowl to jellyfish.  Visitors, besides taking a dip in the lake, can also rent kayaks, paddle boards or canoes from the River Sports Outfitters there to canoe around or take a casual ride in the lake.

11. Take a trip on the Three Rivers Rambler 

Speaking of canoe trips, Knoxville visitors love this bona fide steam train along the Tennessee River. The round trip is about 90 minutes long and carries people past the varied historic sites of Knoxville and all the lush landscape.

The longer excursion train offers about a 2 hour trip along the River, starting at Downtown Knoxville, traveling past all the historical sites right up to the “Three Rivers Trestle”. The ride offers passengers onboard the sight of lush farmlands, significant quarries, mines and also old Knoxville’s first settlement area. There are conductors and volunteers aboard to guide and answer questions during the trip.

12. Fish or angle with the 3 Rivers Angler

Besides the famous Three Rivers Rambler, one could also enjoy the 3 Rivers Angler. No, they aren't hosted by the same tour organizer, rather share a name based on the three rivers common to Knoxville. While the first is a train trip, the later is a fishing trip on river Tennessee. 

The experience is unique when it comes to fishing in Knoxville. The water bodies and rivers in and around Knoxville teem with species such as catfish, crappie bluegill, paddlefish, striped bass, musky, and innumerable more. Tourists can choose from a wide range of lakes, streams and the rivers for casting. 

Anglers looking for fly fishing can even cast from drift boats sailing on the Clinch River - home to myriads of trout - rainbow, brook, brown. Guides are available to assist inexperienced or new anglers in their fishing quest.

13. Pick up Local art and farm fresh food at Farmer’s Market  

The Project Nourish Knoxville was formulated to aaida healthy symbiosis between the Knoxville community and its farmers and local artisans. It is also Aimee at providing the community with healthy fresh food, the Farmer's Market Square was birthed out if just that vision. 

Situated in the historic Market Square of downtown Knoxville, it is an open-air market selling farm products that are either homegrown, raiser, handpicked or handmade by the sellers themselves. 

This market is a huge favorite of the locals too, Who frequent the place to buy their weekly grocery, grab a good local homemade lunch or to buy some original and handcrafted gift from the local artists. A visit to historical Knoxville is indeed incomplete without a trip to the Former's Market too.

14. Watch a play at the Tennessee Theatre  

The Tennessee Theatre is a historical entity of Knoxville, in action since its inauguration in 1928 as a “movie palace.” Restored in 2005, today it draws a huge crowd all year round. 

The theatre is a huge attraction not only for hosting a wide range of vintage movies, Broadway shows, classical music and rock concert; rather also for its gorgeous Spanish-Moorish architecture, Italian terrazzo floor and ornate interior decoration. The building showcases plush and antic pieces such as Czech crystal chandeliers and some of the finest Asian carpets and drapery. 

The Tennessee Theatre is home to the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra and Knoxville Opera. A visit to this iconic theatre is simply “unmissable” for any Knoxville visitor.

15. Get sporty with Women’s Basketball and Vintage Base Ball

Visiting the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame worth it as it supports girl power!;and also serves as a home to the world’s largest basketball hosted indirectly by the Center for Sport, Peace, and Society, whose mission is “to use sport to change lives, communities, and the world through teaching, research, and service.”

Attending a game of Knoxville vintage baseball and to cheer for the Knoxville Holstons is another favorite sporty leisure available here. Knoxville Holstons, a part of the Tennessee Association of Vintage Base Ball promotes cultural enrichment, local history and community pride. It can be a unique experience to watch teams wearing 19th-century style jerseys and no gloves to play this vintage version of the modern day game.

Add these tourist attractions in Knoxville to your itinerary to make your trip memorable.

Author
Ever since my first trip at the age of 4, I’ve been fascinated to explore places around the world. Lover of world cultures, food, souls and all things blue; I spend most part of my day writing about travel. I also travel with my buddies when my bos...

Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Knoxville, Tennessee

Must see places in Knoxville ranked on popularity. Here is the complete list of Knoxville tourist attractions & points of interest.

  1. # 1 of 1314 Things To Do in Knoxville | Added 301 times in trip plans
    Market Square

    Tags: Square

    Address: Market Square, Knoxville, TN 37902, USA

    Timings: 24-hrs Details

    The Market Square is a pedestrian shopping mall where you can shop for everything from art, clothes, accessories to jewelry. Dating back to the 19th century, today the place offers a rather quaint com...Read more

  2. # 2 of 1314 Things To Do in Knoxville | Added 447 times in trip plans
    Sunsphere

    Tags: Tower, Observation Deck

    Address: 810 Clinch Ave, Knoxville, TN 37902, United States

    Timings: 09:00 am - 10:00 pm Details

    The Sun-sphere Tower was built in 1982 for the World Fair which played an important role in balancing the economy of Knoxville. The Sun-sphere’s classic golden design (and its 300 foot height) i...Read more

  3. # 3 of 1314 Things To Do in Knoxville | Added 311 times in trip plans
    University Of Tennessee

    Tags: Educational Site, University

    Address: Knoxville, TN 37996, USA

    The University of Tennessee is loved for its fabulous campus with historic buildings that embrace the green lawn and trees. Apart from being one of the iconic universities in USA and enviably famous f...Read more

  4. # 4 of 1314 Things To Do in Knoxville | Added 136 times in trip plans
    Breakout Knoxville

    Tags: Entertainment, Games

    Address: 211 Center Park Dr, ste 3040, Knoxville, TN 37922, United States

    Timings: 10:30 am - 11:30 pm Details

    The Breakout Knoxville is an escape game with multiple rooms that follow interesting themes including kidnappings, island escape, hostage escape and other rather intense themes. If you love mystery an...Read more

  5. # 5 of 1314 Things To Do in Knoxville | Added 190 times in trip plans
    East Tennessee History Center

    Tags: Museum, History Museum

    Address: 601 S Gay St, Knoxville, TN 37902, United States

    Timings: 08:00 am - 05:00 pm Details

    The East Tennessee History Center breathes the city’s past into its modern day and you can see everything from pottery, art, textiles, and Civil War items among other historic pieces. The museum...Read more

  6. # 6 of 1314 Things To Do in Knoxville | Added 157 times in trip plans
    Clarence Brown Theatre

    Tags: Entertainment, Performance, Theatre

    Address: 1714 Andy Holt Ave, Knoxville, TN 37916, United States

    The Clarence Brown Theatre offers a rare mélange of high quality production, drama and music, mixed with some of the best talent from all over the country. If you are not a theatre-lover, you w...Read more

  7. # 7 of 1314 Things To Do in Knoxville | Added 256 times in trip plans
    McClung Museum Of Natural History And Culture

    Tags: Museum, History Museum

    Address: 1327 Cir Park Dr, Knoxville, TN 37916, United States

    Timings: 09:00 am - 05:00 pm Details

    McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture explores the history of human culture across the world and its evolution along with other trending exhibits. The permanent collection includes ancient Egy...Read more

  8. # 8 of 1314 Things To Do in Knoxville | Added 233 times in trip plans
    Old City

    Tags: Landmark, Neighborhoods

    Address: Old City, Knoxville, TN, USA

    Timings: 24-hrs Details

    The Old City is part of the ‘The Bowery’ area and even though called the ‘old city’ is not the oldest part of Knoxville. Throughout its history many renovations and refurbishin...Read more

  9. # 9 of 1314 Things To Do in Knoxville | Added 107 times in trip plans
    Bijou Theatre

    Tags: Entertainment, Performance, Theatre, Concert

    Address: 803 S Gay St, Knoxville, TN 37902, United States

    The Bijou Theatre was opened in 1909 as a part of the already existing Lamar house (built in 1817) and still stays true to its classic architecture, acoustics and ‘small-theatre, big feel’...Read more

  10. # 10 of 1314 Things To Do in Knoxville | Added 60 times in trip plans
    Neyland Stadium

    Tags: Sport, Stadium

    Address: Phillip Fulmer Way, Knoxville, TN 37916, United States

    The Neyland Stadium is where the sports pulse of University of Tennessee showcases all its athletic talent- from football, baseball, to running tracks, the stadium has hosted many events over Knoxvill...Read more

  11. # 11 of 1314 Things To Do in Knoxville | Added 24 times in trip plans
    House Mountain State Natural Area

    Tags: Biking Trail, Bird Watching

    Address: Knoxville, TN, United States

    Timings: 24-hrs Details

    The House Mountain State Park is a hiker’s paradise with enjoy trails and pathways which take your through the state park’s beautiful terrain. The trails take you to the highest point of t...Read more

  12. # 12 of 1314 Things To Do in Knoxville | Added 14 times in trip plans
    Women's Basketball Hall Of Fame Image
    ©

    Tags: Museum

    Address: 700 Hall of Fame Drive, Knoxville, TN 37915, United States

    Timings: 11:00 am - 05:00 pm Details

    The Women's Basketball Hall of Fame pays tribute to women’s basketball and all the women who have pushed the game beyond its gender-specific popularity. See old photographs, club rings, historic...Read more

  13. # 13 of 1314 Things To Do in Knoxville | Added 43 times in trip plans
    Knoxville Convention Center

    Tags: Entertainment, Performance, Concert, Convention Center

    Address: 701 Henley St, Knoxville, TN 37902, United States

    The Knoxville Convention Center hosts everything from comic con, Christmas events to regular concerts and live performances and if you are in the city during a trending show, make a point to grab your...Read more

  14. # 14 of 1314 Things To Do in Knoxville | Added 15 times in trip plans
    Knoxville Visitors Center

    Tags: Tourist Center

    Address: 301 S Gay St, Knoxville, TN 37902, United States

    Timings: 08:30 am - 05:00 pm Details

    The Knoxville Visitors Center is the perfect way to see the best of Knoxville in a limited amount of time. The visitor center arranges tours, offers entertainment for children and adults alike and als...Read more

  15. # 15 of 1314 Things To Do in Knoxville | Added 21 times in trip plans
    The Casual Pint Of Downtown

    Tags: Food And Drinks

    Address: 421 Union Ave, Knoxville, TN 37902, USA

    Timings: 03:00 pm - 11:00 pm Details

    The Casual Pint is flooded with beer-lovers unlike any other place in Knoxville. Try any one or all of their special craft beers which will satisfy your beer bang and you have a rather memorable eveni...Read more

Activities And Tours

Explore these activities and tours for awesome experiences in Knoxville:

  • Save 5% Chef's Table Tour in Downtown Knoxville
    Chef's Table Tour in Downtown Knoxville1 Reviews

    Duration: 3 Hrs

    Delight your taste buds witha 3-hour culinary adventure while sampling incredible tasty foodfrom five different, local restau...

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  • Save 5% Bountiful Brunch Tour of Knoxville TN
    Bountiful Brunch Tour of Knoxville TNNew on TripHobo

    Duration: 2 Hrs

    You know you're in the South when Brunch is on the menu! Come and enjoy downtown Knoxville on a wonderful Sunday afternoon. O...

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