15 Best things to do in Knoxville

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 things to do in Knoxville listed below.

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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 a 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 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 upto 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, streamsand 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 home grown, 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 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 base ball 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.

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Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Knoxville, Tennessee

Must see places in Knoxville ranked on popularity. Here is the complete list of best attractions in Knoxville and point of interests to visit.

  1. Market Square

    #1 of 1314 Things To Do in Knoxville
    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. Knoxville Zoo

    #2 of 1314 Things To Do in Knoxville
    Knoxville Zoo

    Tags: Outdoors, Zoo

    Address: 3500 Knoxville Zoo Dr, Knoxville, TN 37914, United States

    Timings: 09:30 am - 06:00 pm Details

    The Zoo Knoxville covers around 53 acres of land and is the biggest year-round attraction in Knoxville. The zoo is home to around 800 animals and birds including African Elephants, African Lions, Bali...Read more

  3. Ijams Nature Center

    #3 of 1314 Things To Do in Knoxville
    Ijams Nature Center

    Tags: Outdoors, Garden, Boating

    Address: 2915 Island Home Ave, Knoxville, TN 37920, United States

    Timings: 09:00 am - 07:00 pm Details

    The Ijams Nature Center is loved for its range of activities. Nestled in the green park, the center offers hiking trails, boating, river Boardwalk, a historic site, a Beer garden and a Historic Mead&r...Read more

  4. Sunsphere

    #4 of 1314 Things To Do in Knoxville
    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

  5. World's Fair Park

    #5 of 1314 Things To Do in Knoxville
    World's Fair Park

    Tags: Park, Leisure

    Address: 525 Henley St, Knoxville, TN 37902, United States

    Timings: 06:00 am - 11:59 pm Details

    The World's Fair Park is loved for its relaxed green corners, beautiful fountains which are a favorite during summers, events held at the auditoriums and its iconic Sun sphere which has an observation...Read more

  6. University Of Tennessee

    #6 of 1314 Things To Do in Knoxville
    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

  7. Tennessee Theatre

    #7 of 1314 Things To Do in Knoxville
    Tennessee Theatre

    Tags: Entertainment, Performance, Theatre

    Address: 604 S Gay St, Knoxville, TN 37902, United States

    Timings: 10:00 am - 05:00 pm Details

    The Tennessee Theatre’s fantastic acoustics and glamourous stage welcomes tourists and locals alike for an unforgettable experience as they see the performances here. The ornately decorated hall...Read more

  8. Breakout Knoxville

    #8 of 1314 Things To Do in Knoxville
    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

  9. East Tennessee History Center

    #9 of 1314 Things To Do in Knoxville
    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

  10. Knoxville Museum Of Art

    #10 of 1314 Things To Do in Knoxville
    Knoxville Museum Of Art

    Tags: Art Museum, Museum

    Address: 1050 Worlds Fair Park Dr, Knoxville, TN 37916, United States

    Timings: 10:00 am - 05:00 pm Details

    The Knoxville Museum of Art is loved for its variety of visual arts of all kinds- from paintings, sculptures, metal displays, lights, glass to everything which oozes the art-pulse of Knoxville. The mu...Read more

  11. Clarence Brown Theatre

    #11 of 1314 Things To Do in Knoxville
    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

  12. McClung Museum Of Natural History And Culture

    #12 of 1314 Things To Do in Knoxville
    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

  13. Old City

    #13 of 1314 Things To Do in Knoxville
    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

  14. Bijou Theatre

    #14 of 1314 Things To Do in Knoxville
    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

  15. Neyland Stadium

    #15 of 1314 Things To Do in Knoxville
    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

Tourist Attractions Near Knoxville

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Top Knoxville Activities And Tours

Explore the best things to do in Knoxville. These are the most preferred tourist activities.

  • Chef's Table Tour in Downtown Knoxville
    Chef's Table Tour in Downtown Knoxville New on TripHobo

    Duration: 3 Hrs

    Delight your taste buds with a 3-hour culinary adventure while sampling incredible tasty food from five different, ...

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  • Bountiful Brunch Tour of Knoxville TN
    Bountiful Brunch Tour of Knoxville TN New 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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Find more places to see in Knoxville

  • Governor John Sevier Farm Home

    1220 W Governor John Sevier Hwy

    Historic and Protected Sites
  • Westwood

    3425 Kingston Pike

    Historic and Protected Sites
  • Historic Fort Sanders Neighborhood

    17TH St

    Historic and Protected Sites
  • Bleak House

    3148 Kingston Pike

    Historic and Protected Sites
  • Craighead-Jackson House

    1000 State St

    Historic and Protected Sites
  • Candoro Marble Works

    681 Maryville Pike

    Historic and Protected Sites
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  • Mead's Quarry

    Lakes
  • Concord Boat Ramp

    Lakes
  • Fort Loudon Lake

    Lakes
  • Knee Deep Cove

    Lakes
  • Nsra Street Rod Nationals South

    Lakes
  • Sinking Creek Cove

    Lakes
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  • Women's Basketball Hall of Fame

    700 Hall of Fame Dr

    Museums
  • Ramsey House Plantation

    2614 Thorngrove Pike

    Museums
  • Blount Mansion

    200 W Hill Ave

    Museums
  • East Tennessee Historical Society

    601 S Gay St

    Museums
  • Knoxville Museum of Art

    1050 Worlds Fair Park Dr

    Museums
  • Mabry Hazen House

    1711 Dandridge Ave

    Museums
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  • Sir Goony's Family Fun Center

    10925 Kingston Pike

    Amusement Parks
  • Players Club Paintball

    125 Dante Rd

    Amusement Parks
  • Veloce Indoor Speedway Knoxville

    9305 Kingston Pike

    Amusement Parks
  • Sir Goony's Go Karts & Minigolf

    10925 Kingston Pike

    Amusement Parks
  • Battlefield Knoxville

    9329 Kingston Pike

    Amusement Parks Arcades
  • Navitat Knoxville

    2915 Island Home Ave

    Amusement Parks
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  • The Casual Pint

    421 Union Ave

    American Bars Night Clubs
  • Willy's Bar & Grill

    2600 Whitten Ln

    American Bars
  • Cazzy's Corner Grill

    2099 Thunderhead Rd

    American Diners Bars
  • Rafferty's

    8906 Kingston Pike

    American Bars Barbecue
  • Wild Wing Cafe

    11335 Campbell Lakes Dr

    Barbecue American Bars
  • Pelancho's Mexican Restaurant

    1516 Downtown West Blvd

    Mexican Bars
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  • Cades Cove Picnic Area

    Natural Parks
  • Friends of Great Smoky Mountains National Park

    3099 Winfield Dunn Pkwy

    Natural Parks Playgrounds
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  • Tommy Schumpert Park

    6400 Fountain City Rd

    Dog Parks
  • PetSafe Downtown Dog Park

    200 S Central St

    Dog Parks
  • Tyson Park

    2351 Kingston Pike

    Playgrounds Dog Parks
  • Holston River Park

    3300 Holston Hills Rd

    Dog Parks
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  • Forks of the River Wildlife Management Area

    Hiking
  • Howard Pinkston Greenway

    Hiking
  • Outdoor Knoxville Adventure Center/gateway Building

    900 Volunteer Landing Ln

    Hiking
  • Secret City Half Marathon

    Hiking
  • Melton Lake Greenway

    Melton Lake Dr

    Hiking
  • Maryville-Alcoa Greenway - N Hall Rd

    1700 Louisville Rd

    Hiking
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  • Smoky Mountain Gillies

    3313 Timberlake Dr

    Hunting and Fishing
  • The Tackle Box

    7020 Asheville Hwy

    Hunting and Fishing
  • Kirkland Desmond Fishing

    6923 Maynardville Pike

    Hunting and Fishing
  • Smokey Mountain Sports

    Hunting and Fishing
  • Fish On! Guided Tours

    Hunting and Fishing
  • Jack Wade Fishing Service

    7928 Quail Run Rd

    Hunting and Fishing
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  • Knoxville Civic Auditorium

    500 Howard Baker Ave

    Music and Show Venues Stadiums and Arenas
  • Sherri Parker Lee Stadium

    2323 Stephenson Dr

    Baseball Stadiums and Arenas
  • Thompson Boling Arena

    1600 Phillip Fulmer Ave

    Stadiums and Arenas Music and Show Venues
  • Neyland Stadium

    1235 Phillip Fulmer Ave

    Stadiums and Arenas Music and Show Venues
  • Lindsey Nelson Stadium

    1511 Pat Summitt Dr

    Stadiums and Arenas Music and Show Venues
  • Neyland Stadium

    Stadiums and Arenas
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What To Do in Knoxville: Day-Wise Ideas

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