The Top 10 Things to Do in Knoxville, Tennessee
I have lived in Knoxville, Tennessee the majority of my life, and it simply never gets old. Knoxville is a medium-size city and the third largest in the state. It is well known for the University of Tennessee and the UT Vols football program (Go Big Orange!), but there's much more to the city than that. It is a wonderful place to live and an even better place to visit.
Knoxville has a lot of things going for it geographically. It straddles two of the biggest interstate systems in the country: I-75, which runs from north to south, and I-40, which runs from east to west. The most visited national park in the country—the Great Smoky Mountains, with over 11 million visitors annually—is only a half hour’s drive away. Knoxville is also within a day’s drive of over half of America’s population, so getting there by car is easily done.
No matter what time of year it is, there is always something exciting to do in Knoxville. Here are 10 of my favorite activities in this fun city.
1. Market Square, Downtown
I love spending time downtown, and Market Square is the heart of downtown. It is full of restaurants and bars and is very entertainment friendly. Culturally, there is always something going on. It is extremely dog-friendly, and many of the restaurants and cafes allow dogs on their patios. There are outdoor concerts and a fantastic farmer’s market on Saturdays. It’s a great place to walk and spend time.
2. Tennessee Theatre, Gay Street
This is the Official State Theatre of Tennessee and first opened in 1928. Over $25 million was spent in 2005 to restore the theatre to its former glory, and it is definitely worth a visit. It is a feast for the eyes, a trip back in time, and small enough for every seat in it to be a good one. On offer are concerts, movies, and Broadway-style musicals.
On a side note, while you are visiting the Tennessee Theatre, plan to stroll up and down Gay Street. There are numerous cafes and unique shops. It has even been declared the Theater District of Knoxville. Along with the Tennessee, there is the historic Bijou Theatre and the modern Regal Riviera Cinemas.
3. World’s Fair Park
Between the downtown area and the campus of the University of Tennessee is the World’s Fair Park. Knoxville hosted the last successful World’s Fair in 1982. There are a few affectionate remnants from that fair, two of which are the Sunsphere and the Amphitheatre. The park is a beautiful area with pathways, fountains, ponds, connecting greenways and lawns. A nice, relaxing way to spend an afternoon.
4. Ijam’s Nature Center
Also close to downtown is an urban greenspace that is Ijam’s Nature Center. The variety of things you can do here is amazing and will satisfy all ages. Beautiful trails that meander for miles, water for fishing, swimming and paddle sports, wildlife viewing and interactive events can all be found at Ijam's. The events calendar has something going on all the time. Be sure to check out their website to plan your day there.
5. Navitat Canopy Experience
Navitat is within Ijam’s Nature Center. It is a park inside the park. On their website, it is described as a tree-based adventure park that includes zip lines, swing bridges and obstacle courses suspended within the trees. You choose how challenging you want your adventure to be. It’s exhilarating and unique. If you are visiting Ijam’s, it is definitely worth a visit.
6. Knoxville’s Greenways
We have over 112 miles of paved greenway and trails in Knoxville. All sections of Knoxville are served by these greenways and the majority all connect to be a tiny, car-less roadway between all parts of Knoxville and surrounding Knox County. It is a cycling commuter’s dream come true. Check out the City of Knoxville website for detailed maps, greenway conditions, and difficulty levels.
7. Zoo Knoxville
Zoo Knoxville is certainly worth putting on your list. The zoo has become historic in its successful breeding of African Elephants, red pandas, and tortoises. People of all ages will love this place—especially the kids.
8. East Tennessee History Museum
Right across the street from the Tennessee Theatre, the East Tennessee History Museum is open seven days a week. Admission is only $5 for adults and free for children 16 and under. On Sundays, admission is free for all. The permanent collection housed here consists of over 13,000 artifacts, and throughout the year, there are traveling exhibits as well. I promise you will come out knowing something very interesting that you probably didn’t know about the region before your visit.
9. UT football game at Neyland Stadium
This is something that cannot be described, it must be experienced. Attend a football game at Neyland Stadium. It doesn’t matter who the opposing team is, for you will not be disappointed by the team spirit of the fans. The stadium seats over 102,000 people, which makes it the fifth-largest stadium in the country and the sixth-largest in the world. If you can snag some tickets, put on your orange attire and get ready for a “spirited” afternoon.
10. Knoxville Visitors Center
We have a really cool visitor center! Monday through Saturday, there is live music being broadcast over the radio. It’s called the Blue Plate Special and features local artists and bands. It’s a unique and free memory to add to your Knoxville trip. Also, the mural on the side of the building is totally photo-worthy.
I hope you will consider my hometown as a vacation destination or at least linger if you are in the area. Knoxville is a growing city that is surrounded by natural beauty, loads of interesting history and so many things to do that you’ll have to return just to see them all.