Are you looking for things to do in Knoxville, Tennessee? Knoxville is the largest city in East Tennessee and has many great things for visitors of all ages.
There are museums, parks, tours, and other great activities, including many free and low-cost options. Keep reading for a list of thirteen fun things to do in Knoxville, Tennessee.
Things to do in Knoxville, Tennessee for Foodies
1. Knoxville Food Tours
On a Knoxville food tour, not only will you get to try some delicious food from fantastic local restaurants, but you’ll also get a tour of several historical sites around Knoxville.
Local historian Paula Johnson leads all Knoxville food tours. You’ll learn about the history of Knoxville as you sample food from some of the city’s best restaurants.
Tours are approximately one mile, all walking. Ticket prices include the tour, all food, and gratuities for the servers in the restaurants. Compensation for your tour guide is not included or required but is certainly appreciated.
3. Market Square Farmer’s Market
Support local farmers and sample delicious homegrown fruits and vegetables when you shop at the Market Square Farmer’s Market located in the heart of downtown Knoxville. You’ll be able to create a delicious and nutritious meal with the freshest in-season produce available.
In addition to fresh produce, you can also find handmade products from local artisans, including baked goods and other prepared foods, clothes, and handmade gifts.
The market is part of a program called Nourish Knoxville that seeks to support local farmers and artisans while providing high-quality, nutritious food options for consumers.
The market is open every Wednesday and Saturday.
4. Peter Kern Library Speakeasy
Hidden inside the historic Kern building and behind the lobby of the Oliver hotel, you’ll find the Peter Kern Library, Knoxville’s one, and only speakeasy.
This charming bar features rich, dark wood, rows of books, and a menu of cocktails named after famous literary characters.
An excellent location to sit and have a drink, but the cocktails are also some of the best you’ll find in Knoxville.
5. Bruster’s Ice Cream
If you have a sweet tooth, you won’t want to miss Bruster’s Ice Cream. Bruster’s has several locations around Knoxville, each offering premium, homemade ice cream made fresh on-site each day.
You can get classic and unique flavors like chocolate, graham central station, cinnamon, cotton candy explosion, chocolate raspberry cheesecake, etc. They even have some dairy-free and sugar-free options.
Get your ice cream in a waffle cone, as a sundae with toppings, in a milkshake, or in a hand-packed pint, quart, or half-gallon to take home. However you want to enjoy your ice cream, you can’t go wrong at Bruster’s; they are all delicious!
Things to do in Knoxville, Tennessee for Museum Lovers
6. East Tennessee History Center
The East Tennessee History Center is a museum celebrating the unique people and culture of East Tennessee. The permanent and temporary exhibits tell the story of life in East Tennessee during the last 300 years.
Children and adults alike will feel like they’ve stepped back in time as they browse interactive exhibits around the museum.
The museum offers special events throughout the year, such as genealogy workshops and a history fair.
They are open seven days a week.
McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture
The McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture seeks to collect, preserve, study, and exhibit artifacts and information to increase understanding of the earth and its people.
There are many permanent and special exhibits to browse, including geology and fossil history of Tennessee, native peoples of Tennessee, and the civil war in Knoxville.
The museum is part of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and is located at the heart of campus. It is open to the public Tuesday-Saturday and offers free admission and parking.
7. Knoxville Museum of Art
The Knoxville Museum of Art promotes local art throughout the state with a special focus on Southern Appalachian culture.
You can see a wide variety of art exhibits at the museums, including a permanent collection of art, special exhibits, and sometimes private collections that have been loaned to the museum.
The Cycle of Life permanent exhibit is the largest figural glass installation globally.
Stop by the gift shop to find one-of-a-kind gifts, including books, children’s items, and art pieces and jewelry made by local and regional artists.
Admission is free for everyone.
Things to do in Knoxville, Tennessee for Families
8. World’s Fair Park
Located on the edge of downtown, you’ll find the World’s Fair Park, and the park was originally home to the 1982 World’s fair.
The park’s focal point is the Sunsphere, a giant gold ball that looks like a disco ball set on a large stand. The Sunsphere symbolized the 1982 World’s fair and has stood proud and tall ever since.
Kids and adults will enjoy going up to the observation deck on the 4th floor of the Sunsphere. It is $5 to visit the observation deck; children under twelve are free with a paying adult.
You can take a picnic to enjoy on the large performance lawn. Kids will enjoy playing on the playground or splashing in the fountains during the summer.
9. Zoo Knoxville
Animal lovers will have a great time visiting the Knoxville zoo. Over 900 different animals worldwide live at Zoo Knoxville, including Komodo dragons, African lions, red pandas, and many more.
Guests can enjoy all kinds of activities as they visit the animals, including riding the train called the “zoo choo train” and carousel, animal encounters, behind-the-scenes tours, and keeper talks.
The zoo is open 9:00 am – 5:00 pm daily.
10. Knoxville Children’s Theater
The Knoxville Children’s Theater strives to foster a love of theatrical arts for children in East Tennessee. They offer professional productions for children, with children as the stars.
The theater provides experiences for children to watch and enjoy live theater and learn about and perform in it. Classes are offered throughout the year where children learn about theater arts, gain skills, and have fun.
The schedule of shows features familiar classics like Snow White and Romeo and Juliet and more recent stories like Frozen jr. You can visit their website to see the schedule of upcoming shows and purchase tickets.
Things to do in Knoxville, Tennessee for Nature Lovers
11. Knoxville Botanical Garden and Arboretum
The Knoxville Botanical Garden and Arboretum is another great free activity in Knoxville.
The garden is set on forty-seven acres that were originally owned by a revolutionary war veteran named David Howell. Today, the garden is privately owned and is supported by membership and donations. Thanks to the garden’s generous support, offering free admission to the public.
Visitors can walk through the gardens and arboretum to enjoy all the space’s natural beauty. There are walking trails, display gardens, unique plants, historic buildings, and over two miles of distinctive stone walls.
The garden is located just five minutes away from downtown Knoxville.
12. Ijams Nature Center
Ijams Nature Center inspires lifelong learning about nature. Visitors of all ages can engage with the natural world in meaningful ways at Ijams.
The nature center connects visitors to nature through educational programs, recreational activities, and volunteer opportunities.
There are 315 acres of green space where you can walk, hike, bike, and play. Ijams also features a small lake where you can enjoy watersports like swimming, kayaking, and stand-up paddleboarding.
If you want more outdoor fun, check out the next item on the list, located at the Nature Center.
13. Navitat Canopy Adventures
Navitat Canopy Adventures is a great outdoor activity for the whole family. Situated in a wooded area overlooking the Tennessee river, the tree-based adventure park offers challenging obstacles like bridges, swings, nets, and ziplines.
Adventurers can challenge themselves on six different trails that range from easy to extreme. Guests as young as seven years old can try their hand at climbing and maneuvering the obstacles.
For a unique and unforgettable experience, try Navitat at night, where you will climb and play under a canopy of stars and twinkling lights.
Navitat Canopy Adventures is located at the Ijams Nature Center.
Wrapping up Things to do in Knoxville, Tennessee
Whether you want an outdoor adventure, a hidden-away bar, or something in between, Knoxville has plenty of activities and experiences to keep you busy and having fun. For more things to do in Tennessee, check out this list of the best antique stores in Tennessee. If you need somewhere to stay on your adventure, check out this list of the best hotels in Tennessee.