22 Best Things to Do in Knoxville, TN | 2024 (with Photos)

Staša Petrović

Staša Petrović - Travel Writer

Published: June 29, 2023

Hey there! I'm Stasha, a passionate traveler who has explored Knoxville, TN extensively. Based on my personal experiences and love for this vibrant city, I've curated a list of the 22 best things to do in Knoxville for an unforgettable adventure. Happy exploring!

Thrilling Things to Do in Knoxville, TN

Located in the eastern part of Tennessee, Knoxville is a bustling city that offers a wide variety of exciting activities for locals and tourists alike.

Knoxville's rich history, including its significant role during the Civil War, is highlighted through various historical attractions that are sure to fascinate history enthusiasts.

Whether you're interested in hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains, exploring world-class museums, or enjoying live music, Knoxville has got you covered.

In this article, we've rounded up 22 thrilling things to do in Knoxville, TN, so you can make the most of your visit to this dynamic and captivating city.

Most Recommended Thing to Do

Visit the Knoxville Zoo

Top Choice Hotel

The Oliver Hotel

Our Top Choice Restaurant

Our Top Choice Bar for Nightlife

Best Time to Visit

Spring and fall seasons offer ideal visit opportunities.

Average Temperature

Moderate to warm climate with mild winters.

Transportation Options

Car, bus, trolley, bike, walk, rideshare, taxi, scooter

Average Cost ($, $$, $$$)


My Top Recommendation

Indulge in mouth-watering southern cuisine at the local eateries, soak in the charming atmosphere while strolling through the farmers market, or catch a live music performance that will lift your spirits and make you feel right at home.

Also take a leisurely stroll by the Tennessee riverfront, a picturesque spot in Knoxville that offers breathtaking views and peaceful moments. Immerse yourself in the captivating beauty of the river as you watch the shimmering water flow gently, take a calming boat ride or enjoy a picnic on the riverbank while basking in the warm sun.

What You'll Need to Bring

  1. Comfortable walking shoes
  2. Weather-appropriate clothing and layers
  3. Travel guidebook or map

What Not to Miss

  1. Market Square
  2. Tennessee Theatre
  3. Sunsphere
  4. Knoxville Zoo
  5. Knoxville Museum of Art

What to Avoid

  1. Rush hour traffic
  2. High crime areas
  3. Overpriced tourist traps

1. Experience the Wonders of the Tennessee River in Knoxville

Tennessee River

The Tennessee River is a defining feature of Knoxville, TN, as it winds its way through the heart of the city.

With its calm waters and stunning scenery, the Tennessee River provides a picturesque backdrop for many of the city's top attractions and activities.

Visitors can take a leisurely cruise on a riverboat, try their hand at fishing or paddleboarding, or simply stroll along the riverwalk and take in the sights and sounds of the waterway.

Whether you're a nature lover, or simply seeking a relaxing escape, the Tennessee River in Knoxville is a must-see destination.

2. Discover the History and Beauty of the Mabry Hazen House Museum

Mabry Hazen House Museum

Mabry Hazen House Museum in Knoxville is a perfect place for history buffs and architecture enthusiasts. The museum is a fine example of an East Tennessee house that has been preserved and maintained since its construction in 1858.

Visitors can take guided tours of the house and its surroundings, learning about the history of the Mabry and Hazen families who lived there during the Civil War.

Mabry Hazen House Museum also hosts educational events and activities, making it an ideal destination for families and students alike. Don't miss the chance to visit this fascinating piece of history in Knoxville.

3. Explore the Historic Old City of Knoxville, TN

Historic Old City of Knoxville, TN

The Old City in Knoxville, TN, is a vibrant neighborhood that has a rich history and is home to a variety of unique shops, restaurants, and nightlife.

Once a neglected area, the Old City has been transformed into a hub for artists, musicians, and entrepreneurs.

Old City is a great place to explore during the day with its eclectic mix of galleries, specialty shops, and cafes, and at night with its lively music scene and popular bars.

The Old City also hosts a variety of events and festivals throughout the year, including the annual Rhythm N’ Blooms music festival.

4. Visit the East Tennessee History Center

East Tennessee History Center

The Visit the East Tennessee History Center is a museum and research library located in downtown Knoxville, TN. It is dedicated to preserving and sharing the history of the 35-county region of East Tennessee.

Exhibits in the East Tennessee History Center feature artifacts and interactive displays that tell the stories of the people who have shaped the region's culture and history.

The research library contains over 500,000 items, including books, manuscripts, and photographs, that provide a wealth of information for scholars, genealogists, and history enthusiasts.

The East Tennessee History Center is a valuable resource for anyone interested in learning more about the fascinating history of this region.

5. Experience Fun, Culture, and History at World's Fair Park

Sunsphere Tower

The World's Fair Park is a 70-acre urban park located in Knoxville, TN.

The World's Fair Site (now World's Fair Park) was built for the 1982 World's Fair and features several attractions, such as the Sunsphere Tower, which provides a panoramic view of the city, and the Tennessee Amphitheater, a popular venue for outdoor concerts and events.

Visitors can also enjoy walking and biking paths, a splash pad, a fountain, and a playground. World's Fair Park is a popular destination for locals and tourists, and its unique design and history make it a must-see when visiting Knoxville, TN.

6. Shop, Dine, and Explore at the Market Square

Market Square

Market Square is a vibrant and historic public space located in downtown Knoxville. The Market Square is home to numerous locally owned shops, restaurants, cafes, and bars, making it a popular destination for tourists and locals alike.

Market Square also hosts a variety of events, including outdoor concerts, art fairs, and farmers' markets. Visitors can enjoy the beautiful historic architecture and public art displays, as well as the lively atmosphere of one of Knoxville's most iconic gathering spots.

Market Square is a must-visit destination that offers a unique and memorable experience for everyone.

7. Experience the Excitement of Women's Basketball at the Hall of Fame

Women's Basketball at the Hall of Fame

The Women's Basketball Hall of Fame is a museum and hall of fame located in Knoxville, TN. The Women's Basketball Hall of Fame was established in 1999 to honor and celebrate the accomplishments of female basketball players, coaches, referees, and contributors.

The museum features interactive exhibits where visitors can test their own basketball skills, explore memorabilia, and enjoy a collection of inductee plaques. The Hall of Fame also hosts special events, such as basketball clinics and tournaments.

Whether you're a basketball enthusiast or simply curious about the history of women's sports, the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame is a destination that you won't want to miss when visiting Knoxville, TN.

8. Discover the Beauty of Nature at the Ijams Nature Center

Ijams Nature Center

The Ijams Nature Center is a 300-acre wildlife sanctuary located in South Knoxville, TN. The center offers a variety of outdoor activities, such as hiking, birdwatching, canoeing, and biking.

Visitors can explore numerous trails at the Ijams Nature Center, which wind through forests, meadows, and wetlands. Moreover, the Ijams Nature Center features a visitor center, a gift shop, and several educational exhibits, including live animal displays.

Ijams Nature Center is a great destination for families, outdoor enthusiasts, and anyone looking for a peaceful retreat in the midst of nature.

9. Unleash Your Child's Inner Scientist at Muse Knoxville

Muse Knoxville

Muse Knoxville is a hands-on children's museum located in Chilhowee Park. Muse Knoxville offers a variety of interactive exhibits and programs that engage children in learning about science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM) topics.

Visitors can explore the museum's exhibits, such as the STEAM Bus, the MakeSpace, and the Little Pioneers, or participate in one of the museum's many educational programs, including workshops, camps, and birthday parties.

Muse Knoxville is a fun and educational destination for families with children, and a great way to encourage a love of learning in young minds.

10. Visit the Girl Scout Museum in Knoxville

Girl Scout Museum

The Girl Scout Museum in Knoxville is a must-visit destination located in the Knoxville Service Center. It features an extensive collection of Girl Scout memorabilia, including vintage uniforms, badges, and camping gear.

The museum also offers interactive exhibits that allow visitors to experience the Girl Scout life, such as setting up a campsite, cooking over a campfire, and learning basic survival skills.

Additionally, the museum has a gift shop where visitors can purchase Girl Scout merchandise, such as patches, t-shirts, and jewelry. The museum is located in the historic Mabry-Hazen House, which is also open for tours.

Whether you're a former Girl Scout or just interested in learning more about this iconic organization, the Girl Scout Museum in Knoxville is a great place to visit.

11. Embark on a Wild Adventure at Zoo Knoxville

Zoo Knoxville

Knoxville Zoo is a 53-acre zoo located in Knoxville, Tennessee. Zoo Knoxville features over 800 animals from around the world, including African elephants, red pandas, and Bengal tigers.

Visitors can explore exhibits at the Knoxville Zoo, such as the Boyd Family Asian Trek, the Black Bear Falls, and the Wee Play Adventure.

Zoo Knoxville also offers a variety of educational programs, including zoo camps, classes, and field trips. In addition to educational programs, Knoxville Zoo also features the Zoo Choo Train, providing visitors with a unique and fun way to explore the zoo and its wildlife.

Zoo Knoxville is a fun and educational destination for families, animal lovers, and anyone looking for an adventure in the heart of Knoxville, TN.

12. Explore the Majestic Beauty of the Smoky Mountains

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a must-visit attraction located just outside of Knoxville. This stunning mountain range boasts incredible hiking trails, breathtaking vistas, and diverse wildlife.

Visitors can explore the park's many attractions, including historic buildings, scenic drives, and camping grounds. In the fall, the park is particularly popular, as the leaves on the trees turn into brilliant shades of red, orange, and gold.

The Smoky Mountains are also home to some of the best wildlife watching in the region. Visitors can hike to waterfalls, explore caves, and take in the natural beauty of the mountains.

The park is also a popular destination for outdoor sports enthusiasts, offering opportunities for hiking, fishing, horseback riding, and more.

Whether you're looking for adventure, relaxation, or simply a chance to connect with nature, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a must-visit attraction in Knoxville.

13. Visit McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture

McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture

Located near Knoxville, TN, the McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture is a national historic landmark.

The extensive collection of artifacts and exhibits in the McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture showcases the area's unique cultural heritage, including exhibits on Ancient Egypt, Native American history, the Civil War, and regional geology and ecology.

With interactive exhibits and educational programs for all ages, the McClung Museum is a great way to experience the rich cultural and natural history of Knoxville and its surrounding region.

14. Experience the Magic of Knoxville Children's Theater

Knoxville Children's Theater

Knoxville Children's Theater is a local treasure that provides quality theatrical experiences for children and families in the Knoxville area.

Established in 2008, the theater has become known for its professional productions and educational programs that encourage creativity, self-expression, and teamwork.

Featuring a diverse range of productions, from classic children's stories to contemporary plays, the Knoxville Children's Theater is a great destination for families looking for a fun and enriching activity.

Whether you're a seasoned theatergoer or new to the arts, the Knoxville Children's Theater is sure to delight and inspire audiences of all ages.

15. Experience the Heart and Soul of Knoxville on Gay Street

Gay Street

Gay Street is one of Knoxville's most vibrant and historic streets, lined with shops, restaurants, and entertainment venues.

Visitors can take a stroll along the street and admire the beautiful architecture of the historic buildings, such as the Phoenix Pharmacy and soda fountain, or stop at one of the many cafes or bars for a drink or a bite to eat.

Gay Street is also home to several festivals and events throughout the year, including the Big Ears Music Festival and the Knoxville St. Patrick's Day Parade.

16. Step Back in Time at Blount Mansion

Blount Mansion

Blount Mansion is a historic house museum in downtown Knoxville, offering visitors a glimpse into the lives of the city's early pioneers.

Blount Mansion was built in 1792 and served as the home of Constitution signer William Blount. William Blount was also a governor of the Southwest Territory.

Visitors can explore the 10 rooms of the Blount Mansion, which feature original furnishings, decor, and artifacts from the 18th and 19th centuries.

The site also includes a visitor center, museum store, and gardens that are available for events and weddings. Guided tours of the mansion are available, and visitors can learn about the Blount family, early Knoxville history, and the political and social climate of the time.

Blount Mansion is a fascinating destination for history buffs, and anyone interested in Knoxville's past.

17. Escape to a Tranquil Oasis at Mead's Quarry Lake

Mead's Quarry Lake

Meads Quarry is a scenic recreation area located in Ijams Nature Center and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Visitors can enjoy a range of activities here, including fishing, kayaking, canoeing, and paddleboarding, as well as hiking and biking along the many trails that surround the lake.

The trails lead through dense forests, rolling hills, and rocky outcroppings, providing breathtaking views of the surrounding countryside.

For those looking for a more leisurely experience, there are plenty of picnic areas and benches scattered throughout the park where visitors can relax and take in the scenery.

Mead's Quarry Lake is also home to a diverse range of wildlife, including bald eagles, great blue herons, and numerous species of fish, making it an excellent destination for nature lovers of all kinds.

18. Experience the Magic of Music with Knoxville Symphony Orchestra and Knoxville Opera

Knoxville Symphony Orchestra

The Knoxville Symphony Orchestra (KSO) and Knoxville Opera are two must-see cultural institutions in Knoxville, TN.

Knoxville Symphony, founded in 1935, is the oldest continuing orchestra in the southeast region of the United States. It performs more than 250 concerts a year, including classical, pop, and family concerts.

Knoxville Opera was established in 1978 and is now recognized as one of the most vibrant opera companies in the southeast. The opera puts on four productions each season, ranging from classic works to contemporary pieces.

Together, the KSO and the opera have collaborated on numerous productions, including the annual "Pops on the River" concert and the "Opera Goes to Church" series.

Whether you're a music aficionado or simply looking for a memorable night out, a visit to the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra or Knoxville Opera is an experience not to be missed.

19. Experience the Charm of Maple Hall

Maple Hall

Maple Hall is an iconic entertainment venue in Knoxville, Tennessee, that was originally built as a bowling alley in 1954. After extensive renovations, it reopened as a boutique bowling alley in 2016.

It has since become one of the city's most popular destinations for both locals and visitors. The bowling alley features eight lanes and a full bar, making it a great place for a night out with friends or family.

One of the most unique features of Maple Hall is its attention to detail. From the vintage bowling shoes and balls to the custom lighting fixtures and artwork, every aspect of the venue has been carefully curated to create a one-of-a-kind experience.

In addition to bowling, Maple Hall hosts a variety of events throughout the year, including live music, comedy shows, and trivia nights. The venue also offers private party packages for those looking to host a memorable event.

Whether you're a seasoned bowler or just looking to enjoy a night out with friends, you're sure to have a great time at Maple Hall.

20. Discover Artistic Treasures at the Knoxville Museum of Art

Knoxville Museum of Art

Knoxville Museum of Art (KMA) is a contemporary art museum located in Downtown Knoxville, TN.

The museum was founded in 1961 and moved to its current location in 1990. The Knoxville Museum of Art features a diverse collection of art, including American and regional works, as well as international pieces.

In addition to its galleries, the Knoxville Museum of Art also offers educational programs, community outreach initiatives, and special events.

The museum is a cultural hub for the Knoxville community, and its exhibitions and programs reflect the city's dynamic and diverse arts scene.

21. Discover the History of Knoxville at James White Fort

James White Fort

The James White Fort is a historic site located in downtown Knoxville, TN. Built in 1786, it was the home of James White, who founded Knoxville.

Today, James White Fort serves as a living history museum, showcasing what life was like for early settlers of the area.

Visitors can explore the fort's reconstructed buildings, including a kitchen, a blacksmith shop, and the White family's living quarters.

Costumed interpreters demonstrate 18th-century activities and crafts, providing an immersive experience for visitors of all ages.

The James White Fort also hosts special events throughout the year, such as reenactments and seasonal celebrations.

22. Step Back in Time and Experience the Grandeur of the Tennessee Theater

Tennessee Theater

The Tennessee Theater is a historic theater located in downtown Knoxville. Built in 1928, the Tennessee Theater is a stunning example of the Spanish-Moorish architectural style and has been beautifully restored to its former glory.

The Tennessee Theater hosts a range of events throughout the year, including concerts, theatrical performances, comedy shows, and film screenings. Visitors can take a tour of the theater to learn about its fascinating history and see behind the scenes.

The Tennessee Theater also has a small museum with exhibits about its history and the history of theater in Knoxville. With its stunning design and rich history, this is a must-visit attraction for anyone visiting Knoxville.

FAQs about things to do in Knoxville, TN

Let's look at some of the most frequently asked questions about things to do in Knoxville, TN.

What are the best things to do in Knoxville, TN?

The best things to do in Knoxville, TN include visiting the Knoxville Convention Center, exploring historic attractions, relaxing in a public park, experiencing hands-on exhibits at local museums like the McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture, connecting with the local community, and enjoying the beautiful scenery of the Cumberland Mountains.

What to do on a day trip to Knoxville?

If you're planning a day trip to Knoxville, some must-visit attractions include catching a Tennessee Volunteers game, exploring historic sites like James White's Fort, wandering the downtown area to see the street art, admiring the Miller's Building Mural, checking out the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame, and taking a stroll along the Tennessee River.

Is Knoxville worth visiting?

Knoxville is definitely worth visiting. Explore the Knoxville Botanical Garden, admire the vintage décor at Phoenix Pharmacy, marvel at the Knoxville mural, and discover the historic Old City. With fun things to do like visiting the Knoxville Zoo and its exotic animals, or exploring the Market Square, there's something for everyone.

What is Knoxville famous for?

Knoxville is famous for its diverse attractions. It's home to the Knoxville Museum of Art, the Tennessee Valley Authority, and the Bijou Theatre, which is the official state theater. The city boasts several walking trails, Knoxville food tours, a national register of historic places, and an observation deck. Visitors can also explore the city's oldest operating museum.

Summing up: Best Things to Do in Knoxville, TN

Knoxville has an abundance of historic places, attractions, and things to do for visitors of all ages. We have listed 22 of the best Knoxville attractions to help you plan the perfect trip.

Special events occur throughout the year in this city so be sure to look for them when you visit Knoxville. Also, Knoxville Food Tours offer visitors a unique culinary experience in the heart of the city.

With its beautiful display gardens, downtown area, observation deck, walking trails, and city's history, Knoxville is a must-visit destination for anyone looking to experience a blend of natural beauty, and urban culture.