20 of the Best Things to Do in Knoxville, TN (2024 Guide)

Looking for all the best attractions in Marble City? Our guide to all the best things to do in Knoxville, TN is all you need!

Welcome to the charming city of Knoxville, Tennessee, where Southern hospitality meets a vibrant urban atmosphere. If you’re wondering about the best things to do in Knoxville, you’re in the right place! 

This city is a treasure trove of experiences waiting to be explored, from the bustling streets of downtown Knoxville to the serene natural beauty of places like Ijams Nature Center. Whether you’re a history buff eager to uncover the city’s historic places or a foodie ready to indulge in local delights at Market Square, Knoxville has something for everyone.

There are lots of activities in downtown Knoxville, featuring a lively urban scene with historic architecture, a thriving arts and culture scene, and a palpable sense of community. It’s where you’ll find Market Square, the heart of the city, filled with eclectic shops, scrumptious eateries, and vibrant live entertainment. 

But the fun doesn’t stop there! Knoxville’s downtown area is also home to a plethora of historic places, each with its own unique story to tell. And when you’re ready for a dose of nature, just a stone’s throw away is the enchanting Ijams Nature Center, where you can escape the city buzz and immerse yourself in the tranquility of the great outdoors. 

So, let’s embark on a journey together through this delightful city, as we uncover the top things to do in Knoxville!

Knoxville Scenery
From the heart of the city to the surrounding nature, there are lots of fun things to do in Knoxville!

The Best Things to Do in Knoxville

These are the top 20 things we recommend that you add to your Knoxville itinerary!

The best way to get around is to rent a car and explore on your own! We recommend Rental Cars, which has the largest range of vehicles for the best value on the market.

1. Stroll Through Market Square

Market Square is a vibrant epicenter of things to do in Knoxville. Nestled in the heart of the city, this historic square is a hub of activity, offering an array of shops, restaurants, and live entertainment options for both locals and visitors.

Whether you’re in the mood for boutique shopping, savoring delectable cuisine, or catching a live music performance, Market Square has it all. It’s a place where the city’s rich cultural scene comes alive, and it provides an excellent starting point for anyone looking to explore Knoxville’s dynamic urban environment.

Be sure to check out the various festivals and special events that frequently take place here, adding to the charm and excitement of this iconic Knoxville destination.

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2. Wander Around the Knoxville Museum of Art

The Knoxville Museum of Art stands as a cultural beacon in the city, offering an enriching experience for art enthusiasts and curious visitors alike. This museum houses an impressive collection of regional and contemporary art that showcases the rich artistic heritage of Tennessee and beyond.

With its ever-evolving exhibitions, thought-provoking installations, and engaging educational programs, the Knoxville Museum of Art provides a window into the creative spirit of the region.

Whether you’re exploring the works of local artists or discovering contemporary masterpieces, a visit to this museum is an opportunity to immerse yourself in the diverse and dynamic world of art, making it a must-see attraction for those seeking cultural enrichment in Knoxville Tn.

3. Visit the Zoo Knoxville

Zoo Knoxville is a cherished gem in the city that promises a delightful day of exploration and adventure for visitors of all ages. Spread across 53 acres, this well-curated zoo features a diverse array of animals from around the globe, offering a fascinating opportunity to connect with the wonders of the animal kingdom.

As you wander through meticulously designed habitats that closely mimic the natural environments of its inhabitants, you can observe majestic big cats, playful penguins, curious primates, and an array of other captivating creatures. One of the zoo’s most charming attractions is the Zoo Choo Train, which takes guests on a scenic journey around the park, providing a unique perspective of the animal exhibits and lush landscapes.

Beyond the Zoo Choo Train, Zoo Knoxville offers engaging educational programs, interactive exhibits, and a chance to foster a deeper appreciation for wildlife and conservation efforts, making it a perfect destination for families and nature enthusiasts.

4. Get Outdoors at the Ijams Nature Center

Ijams Nature Center is a tranquil oasis in Knoxville, offering a captivating escape into the beauty of the outdoors. Situated within this urban nature preserve is Mead’s Quarry Lake, a stunning centerpiece known for its clear waters and scenic surroundings.

Visitors can enjoy a variety of activities, from hiking along picturesque trails to birdwatching and picnicking. Mead’s Quarry Lake, in particular, beckons with opportunities for swimming, paddleboarding, and kayaking during the warmer months, while its serene shores provide a peaceful backdrop for relaxation and contemplation.

It’s a place where nature enthusiasts, families, and outdoor enthusiasts can come together to appreciate the natural splendor that Knoxville has to offer, making Ijams Nature Center an essential destination for those seeking a refreshing and rejuvenating outdoor experience.

5. Enjoy Outdoor Activities in Various Parks and Greenways

Knoxville boasts an extensive network of walking trails and greenways, and one of the best places to explore these outdoor gems is within the Knoxville Urban Wilderness. This expansive natural area, encompassing over 1,000 acres, offers a range of recreational opportunities for hikers, bikers, and outdoor enthusiasts.

With over 50 miles of multi-use trails, visitors can embark on scenic adventures through diverse landscapes, including forests, rivers, and quarries.

Trails like the Ijams River Trail, Baker Creek Preserve, and the South Loop offer varying levels of difficulty, ensuring there’s a suitable path for everyone, whether you’re a seasoned hiker or just out for a stroll. Sequoyah Park is another stunning green space to explore near the water.

The Knoxville Urban Wilderness is a testament to the city’s commitment to preserving its natural beauty while providing a haven for those seeking outdoor adventure and peaceful walks amidst nature.

Sequoyah Park
Go for a stroll in Sequoyah Park and admire the lovely views.

6. Check Out the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame

The Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in Knoxville is a must-visit destination for sports enthusiasts, particularly those with a passion for women’s basketball. This unique museum is dedicated to honoring the outstanding contributions and achievements of women in the sport.

Visitors can explore a wealth of exhibits and displays that showcase the history and evolution of women’s basketball, featuring memorabilia, interactive exhibits, and tributes to legendary players, coaches, and contributors. The Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame not only celebrates the game but also serves as an inspiration to future generations, highlighting the incredible impact women have had on the sport.

It’s a place where fans can pay homage to their favorite players and gain a deeper appreciation for the remarkable history of women’s basketball, making it a must-see attraction in Knoxville TN.

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7. Explore the East Tennessee History Center

The East Tennessee History Center is a captivating destination for history enthusiasts and curious minds alike in Knoxville. This institution is dedicated to preserving and sharing the rich history and heritage of East Tennessee.

Visitors can explore a wide range of exhibits, artifacts, and archives that offer insights into the region’s past, from its early settlement days to its role in pivotal historical events such as the Civil War. The center’s engaging exhibits and interactive displays bring history to life, making it an educational and enlightening experience.

Whether you’re interested in local history, or genealogy, or simply want to gain a deeper understanding of the area’s cultural roots, the East Tennessee History Center provides a fascinating journey through the past of this captivating region.

8. Take in Panoramic Views of the City from SunSphere

World’s Fair Park is a central attraction in Knoxville, offering a variety of exciting things to see and do within its confines.

Dominating the park’s landscape is the iconic SunSphere, which not only provides breathtaking panoramic views of Knoxville but also serves as a symbol of the 1982 World’s Fair, which put the city on the global map. The park itself features beautifully landscaped gardens, walking trails, and an interactive splash pad, making it a delightful place for leisurely strolls and family outings.

The nearby Tennessee Amphitheater hosts various events and performances, while the Knoxville Convention Center often hosts exhibitions and conferences. World’s Fair Park is a dynamic hub of culture, art, and recreation that truly encapsulates the vibrant spirit of Knoxville.

9. Explore the Historic Old City District

Downtown Knoxville’s Old City is a vibrant and historic district that embodies the essence of things to do in Knoxville. This bustling neighborhood is a hotspot for both locals and visitors, offering a dynamic blend of entertainment, dining, and cultural experiences.

With its charming cobblestone streets, eclectic mix of shops, art galleries, and vibrant nightlife scene, the Old City has something to offer everyone. Whether you’re in the mood for live music, craft cocktails, or perusing unique boutiques, this district is a testament to Knoxville’s cultural diversity and creative spirit.

It’s a place where the city’s rich history meets contemporary energy, making it a must-visit destination for those looking to soak in the vibrant atmosphere of downtown Knoxville.

10. Stroll Through the Knoxville Botanical Garden and Arboretum

The Knoxville Botanical Garden and Arboretum is a serene and picturesque destination that beckons nature enthusiasts and those seeking tranquility in Knoxville. This hidden gem spans 47 acres and offers a delightful blend of natural beauty and horticultural wonders.

Visitors can meander through lush gardens, admire a wide variety of plant species, and relax in the serene ambiance of this green oasis. The garden features themed sections, including a stunning rose garden, a wildflower meadow, and a water garden with koi ponds, all of which provide an opportunity to immerse yourself in the soothing embrace of nature.

Whether you’re looking to learn about native plants, enjoy a leisurely stroll, or simply escape the hustle and bustle of the city, the Knoxville Botanical Garden and Arboretum offers a peaceful respite and a chance to connect with the natural world.

Related: Here’s our guide on all of the fun things to do in Gatlinburg!

11. Stroll Along Gay Street

Gay Street, a bustling thoroughfare in the heart of Knoxville, is a vibrant and historic destination that encapsulates the city’s unique charm and character. Lined with a diverse array of shops, restaurants, galleries, cafes, and entertainment venues, it beckons locals and visitors alike to explore its lively streetscape.

As you wander along Gay Street, you’ll be greeted by a mix of architectural styles, from historic facades to modern structures, offering a visual journey through time. The street comes alive with festivals, events, and live music, creating a dynamic atmosphere that showcases Knoxville’s cultural vitality.

If you’re in search of delectable cuisine, unique boutiques, or a memorable night out on the town, Gay Street has something to offer every traveler, making it a central hub for experiencing the essence of Knoxville’s urban life.

Art Market
The Art Market on Gay Street is a gallery beloved among locals.

12. Take a Scenic Cruise with the Tennessee Riverboat Company

The Tennessee Riverboat Company offers a unique and enjoyable experience for visitors to Knoxville. Embarking on a scenic cruise along the Tennessee River is a fantastic way to soak in the beauty of the region while learning about its history and culture.

The riverboat, typically a paddlewheel-style vessel, provides a leisurely journey with stunning views of the surrounding landscape, including the Great Smoky Mountains in the distance. Depending on the time of day, you can choose from daytime sightseeing cruises or evening dinner cruises, both of which offer a relaxing escape and a chance to unwind while enjoying the tranquil waters and fresh river air.

Whether you’re a history buff or simply looking to enjoy a peaceful and picturesque outing, the Tennessee Riverboat Company provides a memorable experience in Knoxville, TN.

Related: Plan your stay in Nashville with this action-packed Nashville itinerary!

13. Check Out the Science and Art Muse Knoxville

Muse Knoxville is a vibrant and educational gem offering an array of engaging things to do in Knoxville for visitors of all ages. This dynamic science and art museum serves as a captivating hub of discovery, featuring interactive exhibits and hands-on experiences that ignite curiosity and inspire learning.

Whether you’re exploring the wonders of space in the planetarium, experimenting with science at the various stations, or unleashing your creativity in the art studio, Muse Knoxville provides an immersive journey through the realms of science and creativity, making it an ideal destination for families, students, and inquisitive minds seeking a blend of fun and education during their stay in Knoxville Tn.

14. Visit James White’s Fort

If you’re a history enthusiast or simply curious about the city’s origins, James White Fort offers a captivating journey through Knoxville’s historical roots, making it an enriching and educational experience.

James White Fort is a historical gem and a testament to Knoxville’s rich heritage, making it a must-visit attraction among the many things to do in Knoxville. This well-preserved homestead provides a fascinating glimpse into the city’s early days and the life of its founder, James White.

As you step onto the grounds of this 18th-century fort, you’ll be transported back in time, exploring log cabins, stockades, and period-authentic artifacts that tell the story of Knoxville’s frontier history. The site also hosts various events and educational programs that allow visitors to immerse themselves in the culture and traditions of the past.

15. Go Bowling at Maple Hall

Maple Hall is not your typical bowling alley; it’s a one-of-a-kind destination that adds a touch of sophistication to the list of things to do in Knoxville. Housed in a beautifully restored historic building, Maple Hall offers a unique and stylish setting for bowling enthusiasts and anyone seeking a memorable evening out.

With its sleek lanes, comfortable lounge seating, and a delectable menu of food and craft beverages, it redefines the concept of a bowling alley. Whether you’re a seasoned bowler or a novice, Maple Hall provides a fantastic atmosphere for socializing, enjoying delicious bites, and engaging in friendly competition, making it a must-visit spot in Knoxville for a blend of entertainment and gourmet delights.

16. Visit Blount Mansion

Blount Mansion, nestled in the heart of Knoxville, is a cherished historical landmark that beckons visitors to step back in time and immerse themselves in the rich heritage of Tennessee. Constructed in the late 18th century, this meticulously preserved mansion, once home to William Blount, a prominent signer of the U.S. Constitution, offers a captivating glimpse into the early days of America.

As you explore its elegantly furnished rooms and lush gardens, you’ll gain a profound understanding of the pivotal role it played in shaping the state’s history. Blount Mansion stands as a testament to Knoxville’s enduring connection to its past, making it a must-visit attraction for history enthusiasts and anyone seeking to delve into the roots of this vibrant city.

17. Tour the University of Tennessee Campus

The University of Tennessee, located in Knoxville, is not only an educational institution but also a significant cultural and sports hub in the city. This sprawling campus is a must-visit for those interested in exploring the university’s history and beautiful architecture.

Visitors can take a leisurely walk through the campus, admiring historic buildings like Ayres Hall and the Hodges Library. If you happen to visit during football season, experiencing a game at Neyland Stadium, one of the largest and most iconic college football venues in the country, is a memorable experience that brings the whole city to life.

Whether you’re a sports enthusiast, a history buff, or simply looking to enjoy a scenic walk, the University of Tennessee campus offers a diverse range of attractions and activities for all to enjoy.

University Of Tennessee Stadium
Catch a game at the University of Tennessee stadium!

18. Enjoy Delicious Knoxville Food

Knoxville Food Tours offer a delectable and immersive culinary experience, making them a must for food lovers exploring the city. These guided tours provide a delightful opportunity to savor the diverse flavors of Knoxville’s vibrant food scene.

Led by knowledgeable guides, you can embark on a gastronomic adventure through the city’s neighborhoods, sampling a wide array of dishes and beverages from local restaurants, cafes, and specialty shops.

Whether you’re indulging in Southern comfort foods, tasting artisanal cheeses, or sipping craft cocktails, Knoxville Food Tours promises a mouthwatering journey that not only tantalizes your taste buds but also introduces you to the culinary talent and culinary culture of the city.

It’s a fantastic way to discover hidden culinary gems and gain insights into the local food traditions that make Knoxville’s dining scene so remarkable.

19. Attend the Tennessee Theatre

The Tennessee Theatre is a cultural gem and one of the most captivating things to do in Knoxville. Nestled in the heart of downtown Knoxville, this historic theater offers an array of entertainment options for locals and visitors alike.

Its opulent interior, adorned with grand chandeliers and ornate detailing, provides a glimpse into Knoxville’s rich architectural heritage. Attending a live performance at the Tennessee Theater, whether it’s a Broadway show, a classical concert, or a film screening, is a memorable experience that immerses you in the city’s vibrant arts scene.

As you step inside this beautifully restored venue, you’re transported to a bygone era of elegance and entertainment, making it a must-visit destination for those looking to appreciate the cultural offerings of Knoxville Tennessee.

Read Next: Check out our post on all of the best activities in Chattanooga!

20. Check Out the Girl Scout Museum

The Girl Scout Museum in Knoxville is a hidden gem that celebrates the remarkable legacy and contributions of the Girl Scouts organization. This museum provides an insightful journey into the history of the Girl Scouts, shedding light on their empowering mission and the positive impact they’ve had on generations of young girls.

With an engaging collection of artifacts, memorabilia, and interactive exhibits, visitors can learn about the inspiring stories of Girl Scouts past and present.

The museum offers an opportunity to appreciate the values of leadership, community service, and empowerment that the Girl Scouts have instilled in countless individuals, making it a destination that resonates with those who believe in the power of girls and their potential to shape a better future.

Where to Stay in Knoxville, TN

These are our top-recommended places to stay in Knoxville for any budget.

High-End Luxury Hotel: The Oliver Hotel

The Oliver Hotel is a luxurious boutique hotel located in the heart of downtown Knoxville. This elegant and historic property offers beautifully designed rooms, top-notch amenities, and personalized service. Guests can enjoy the sophisticated ambiance, upscale dining at the on-site restaurant, and easy access to downtown attractions, including Market Square.

The Oliver Hotel provides a refined and indulgent experience for those seeking a high-end stay in Knoxville

Mid-Range Family Accommodation: Hilton Knoxville

The Hilton Knoxville is a popular mid-range choice, perfect for families looking for comfort and convenience. Located near the Knoxville Convention Center and World’s Fair Park, this hotel offers spacious rooms, an outdoor pool, and an on-site restaurant.

It’s a family-friendly option with easy access to downtown Knoxville and attractions like Zoo Knoxville, making it an ideal base for exploring the city without breaking the bank

Budget Hostel/Hotel: Red Roof Inn Knoxville Central – Papermill Road

For budget-conscious travelers, the Red Roof Inn Knoxville Central – Papermill Road is a reliable and affordable option. This budget hotel offers clean and comfortable rooms with essential amenities, including free Wi-Fi.

While it may not have the frills of higher-end accommodations, it provides excellent value for those looking to save on lodging costs. The hotel is conveniently located near major highways, making it easy to access various Knoxville attractions while keeping your travel expenses in check

Wrapping Up

Knoxville Tennessee, is a city that offers an eclectic blend of attractions and experiences that cater to a wide range of interests. From the vibrant energy of downtown Knoxville to the family-friendly fun at Zoo Knoxville, this city has an abundance of things to do and explore. 

Market Square stands out as a bustling hub of culinary delights, shopping adventures, and cultural immersion. These Knoxville attractions, steeped in history and Southern charm, provide a glimpse into the city’s rich heritage. 

As you venture through the streets of Knoxville, you’ll find that it’s a destination where the warmth of hospitality meets the excitement of urban life, leaving travelers with lasting memories.

So whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast, a history buff, a food connoisseur, or simply seeking a memorable getaway, Knoxville TN, beckons with open arms. It’s a place where the essence of the South shines brightly, and every corner is filled with opportunities to create cherished moments. 

As you bid adieu to this captivating city, carry with you the echoes of its vibrant culture, natural beauty, and the countless adventures that make Knoxville a truly remarkable destination.

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About the Author - Alesha and Jarryd

Hey! We are Alesha and Jarryd, the award-winning writers and professional photographers behind this blog. We have been travelling the world together since 2008, with a passion for adventure travel and sustainable tourism. Through our stories and images we promote exciting off-the-beaten-path destinations and fascinating cultures as we go. As one of the world's leading travel journalists, our content and adventures have been featured by National Geographic, Lonely Planet, CNN, BBC, Forbes, Business Insider, Washington Post, Yahoo!, BuzzFeed, Channel 7, Channel 10, ABC, The Guardian, and plenty other publications. Follow our journey in real time on Facebook, YouTube and Instagram.

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