Things to do in Knoxville TN
If you are looking for free things to do in Knoxville TN, you have found the best listing of things to do in the 865 area code! Go through the categories and find something that fits your desire below! If you do a simple online search for things to do in Knoxville, TN you will come across very common places like Dollywood, Pigeon Forge, Sevierville, Gatlinburg, and The Smoky Mountains. But, there is so much more to Knoxville than these tourist traps. Knoxville has many nick-names including Queen City of the Mountains, Heart of the Valley, Gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains, K-Town, and Marvel City.
Many people gravitate to Downtown Knoxville, so I will share a few places there. But, you must visit some other areas to really say you have visited Knoxville, TN. There is a deep culture here and many “old timers” that are still in the area. Some folks were born and bred here (like me) but more than 70% of the population of Knoxville, TN are not truly from here. They, like you, are visitors or were at one time. They loved it, so they stayed.
Something you should know: Lots of websites will refer to Knoxville TN as the location for a person, place or things. Check the location city name to find out where you are truly going! Knoxville’s metropolitan area includes Knox County and 8 or 9 surrounding counties. Example: The “Knoxville” airport is not located in Knoxville. If you fly in, you will find yourself in Alcoa TN. Know the actual town you are in so you don’t get confusing directions from a local when you are asking!
Knoxville is a sweet place to live, work, play and visit. I hope you take time to enjoy all the amazing things here and enjoy engaging with the people native to the area. Enjoy the twang when we talk, hear our fabulous music when we play and dance with us as we sing. Come on in and sit a spell… We will treat you like family! If ya ain’t sure what were say’n – don’t be ‘fraid to keep talk’n. You’ll ‘ventually figure it out.
Downtown K – Town
Visit the World’s Fair Park – Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last few years, I’m sure you’ve either heard about the great World’s Fair of 1982 or you’ve at least seen the Sunsphere on an episode of the Simpsons! Yes, folks, this large tower glistens in the sunlight and appears as if it were a huge disco ball of glory. While you are in Knoxville, head of over to the Sunsphere and take advantage of a photo opportunity! This little gem is not hidden by no means, it’s visible from I-40 as you near downtown Knoxville. There’s an elevator that you can ride to go further up and get a good view of K-Town and if you are super lucky, maybe the upper floors will be open to visitors when you arrive! This is the best address I can give you to get there and find some decent parking: 810 W Clinch Ave, Knoxville, TN 37902
While you are already in downtown Knoxville checking out the Sun Sphere, why not head on over to my favorite coffee shop Cafe 4! They have the best coffee around town and a small loft upstairs where you can sit, relax, cool off and sip a lovely cup-o-joe. They also have a bakery where you can get some of the best brownies ever. Here’s where they are located on Market Square: 4 Market Sq, Knoxville, TN 37902
Knoxville Museum of Art
Yes, believe it or not, there’s an art museum! It’s a wonderful way to cool off when you’re hot and need some cool new photos for your travel album! Come see some budding artist from the area and become engulfed with the beautiful works of art on display. There is something for everyone here! Here’s the address: 1050 Worlds Fair Park Dr, Knoxville, TN 37916. They are not a 24/7 kind of place so here are their hours of operation:
Tuesday – Saturday open 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM and Sunday open 1:00 PM – 5:00 PM
You have to eat at Dazzo’s Pizzeria. Not only is the food exceptional, it’s a history lesson as soon as you walk in the door. The smell of Italian seasonings will meet you on the sidewalk before you even get inside this little hole-in-the-wall eatery. This place is quite small for the amount of customers they serve, so be prepared to wait… while standing at the door. There are just simply not enough tables and chairs to sustain the massive amount of people who come from all over to eat some of the best pizza in the downtown area! If you are lucky, you may find a seat right away. Oh, and don’t worry about being seated. They have plenty of staff, but most days, just go in and seat yourself. An over-the-top happy (yet tired) server will come to your table. I highly recommend the pizza made to order! In case you are wondering, the pizza style is Italian, so it’s not like Chicago or New York style. It’s just good! Here’s their address: 710 S Gay St, Knoxville, TN 37902
You will find sweet living when you venture North! After driving through the traffic get to the north side, you surely will be a little hungry. Stop in at a small mom & pop restaurant to get one of the best burgers and milkshakes in Knoxville. The name of this diamond in the rough is Knox Burgers. Knox Burgers has a huge burger selection allowing you to customize your experience no matter your dietary restrictions or concerns. Every burger is made to order with your choice of toppings and condiments. My favorite is the Veggie burger with the Knox Sauce. The portions are large and I can never finish my burger in one sitting. My husband has the Knox Deluxe (because he’s a meat lover) and is always stuffed afterward. They have a giant board of milkshake options on the wall to the left when you walk in. There are literally 1000 milkshake options available and each one is so good… Check them out online for open hours. Here’s their address: 4877 N Broadway St, Knoxville, TN 37918
Fountain City Lake & Fountain City Park
While you are on the North side, stop in at the Fountain City Lake (or Duck Pond as we locals call it). This is a small pond type area that is super historical and very romantic …if you know the backstory. The Fountain City Lake (or Fountain City Duck Pond) is located very near the Fountain City Park. The best address I can give you for parking is 5400 North Broadway, Knoxville TN 37918. If you can get here, you’ll see a gravelled parking area. Most of the parking for this park is on the side of the road, which I don’t recommend – so use the gravelled parking area. This is a romantic park where you can take a stroll, watch the squirrels, children play and sit by a gently flowing brook on a swing.
Secret City – Oak Ridge
North of Knoxville (but in the metropolitan area) is one of the most Historic places in all of US history. Oak Ridge is a special place dubbed as the secret city. It was secret for many years for a good reason. At one time armed soldiers barricaded the city and there was no admittance unless you had clearance to enter.
From 1942 until 1949, Oak Ridge a city of 75,000 people did not exist on ANY map. The 100,000 people working here to both build and operate the world’s first successful uranium separation facilities were locked in a battle with Germany and Japan, although they did not specifically know exactly what the true nature of the “battle” was, they only knew THEY HAD TO WIN IT. Read more here.
We all know how this story ends… the US dropped its massive bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We ended the War that Japan brought us into with some of the leading minds in the scientific community. Japan gave the US a gift after the war as a symbol of forever peace between the two countries. (Check out the link above for more information as you are planning your trip.) The beautiful symbol of peace is located in Oak Ridge TN and named the International Friendship Bell. This is also where the Secret City Walk is located. Here’s the address: A. K. Bissell Park, 1401 Oak Ridge Turnpike, Oak Ridge, TN..
While you are already this far north, stop in at the Appalachian Museum in Clinton TN. You will take a walk back in time, taste some of the country cooking that I grew up on and hear the back-woodsy twang of the old timers of my home. Admire the simplicities of Appalachia and feel the people. Their prices and hours of operation change with the seasons, so check ahead before you go. By the way, October is the best time to visit! Here is the address: 2819 Andersonville Hwy, Clinton, TN 37716
On the east side of Knoxville, you will find many things to do as well. The Knoxville Zoo or Zoo Knoxville (as it was recently renamed) is located on the east side of town. If you are looking for a long walk with some interesting sites along the way, head on over here. Lock your car, take your valuables with you and enjoy your day. You will have to pay to park and pay to enter, but you’ll get to view about 800 animals and the kids will get to play in the newly designed Kids Cove area. Here’s the address: 3500 Knoxville Zoo Dr, Knoxville, TN 37914Phone: (865) 637-5331 Area: 2,308,680 sq feet
Knoxville has an odd assortment of bridges scattered throughout. If you are looking for photo opportunities and free things to do, you can go on a leisure driving tour around East Knoxville and find several. Click here to find bridges where you are!
Did you know that Bush Beans got it’s start East of Knoxville (in the Knoxville Metropolitan area) in Dandridge TN? While you are driving out east of Knoxville stop in to the see the Bush Beans Museum! This is where the giant company started and why those beans are so yummy! After all, no one can cooks beans like an East Tennessean! Here’s the address: 3901 Highway 411, Dandridge, TN 37725
Oaks Farms has something for everyone! In the fall they host their annual events which include a corn maze, great food, music, a Haunted forest and Haunted maze, and Hayrides. You can even pick out your own pumpkin! Here is more information so you can plan to visit! 8240 Corryton Road, Corryton, TN 37721 Call (865) 688-6200 (October 15, 2017 to October 29).
Just so you know, when you cross the Tennessee River in Downtown Knoxville, TN – you are officially in South Knoxville. South Knoxville is a historical place of many Civil War sites, forts, and events. There are many we could talk about, but I am telling you about the lesser known. One of my favorite places (for an excellent view) is up on Fort Dickerson. This area has small covered picnic areas and is surrounded by beautiful trees. There is an arsenal depositary area preserved with markers explaining the relevance to the war. The city is “cleaning” up this park, so go in a group or at least not by yourself to see this one. From the far pavilion, if you walk around the backside, you can see from downtown Knoxville straight through the gap to Halls Cross Roads in North Knoxville. You can see while Knoxville was a hub for travel by foot and by buggy back in the day. The TN Valley is gorgeous from here with a view of the TN river as well. Here’s the address: 3000 Fort Dickerson Rd, Knoxville, TN
Eat! – Szechuan Garden Chinese Restaurant
While you are cruising on the South Side, stop in and treat yourself to a bite to eat at Szechuan Garden! This place has the best food in the area. It’s hot and fresh and everything on the menu is made to order! It is O. M. G. delicious and you will not regret eating here. Call ahead to make sure they are open. Here’s their address: 4211 Chapman Hwy, Knoxville, TN 37920 and phone number (865) 579-0889.
Entertainment – 411 Dragway
If you are looking for some serious entertainment on the southern spectrum, look no further than the 411 Raceway! It’s drag racing at it’s best and their fall schedule is already up! 411 Motor Speedway in Seymour, TN is a fast, exciting 3/8 mile banked dirt track nestled in the foothills of beautiful Chilhowee Mountain. Built by a local businessman, the 411 Motor Speedway opened on Easter Sunday of 1960 making 411 Motor Speedway Tennessee’s oldest motorsports facility. Here is the address: 632 Maryville Hwy, Seymour, TN 37865Phone: (865) 888-5901
Knoxville offers some of the most unique trails and byways in the US. The White Lightning Trail is a driving tour that will take you through history on the famous White Lightning Moonshine Trails. This famous trail can actually be driven with a tour hosting educational pieces along the way using the app. Here’s more information.
Eat –Altruda’s Italian Restaurant
for some amazing Italian food. This Mom & Pop place is specific only to West Knoxville and should be a bucket list item for everyone! Here’s their address: 125 N Peters Rd, Knoxville, TN 37923 Call ahead or you will be waiting for hours for a table! Here’s the number: (865) 690-6144
There are many more things I could tell you about but these highlights are the special out-of-the-way things that no one will tell you about.
Side note: There are NO affiliate links on this post. I have no reason to share these with you except the fact that you should have a great list of things to do to really get to know Knoxville Tennessee!!