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 tourist 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. So come on, let’s adventure Knoxville.
Something you should know: Lots of websites will refer to Knoxville TN as the location for a person, place or thing. 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, adventure 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 adventure Knoxville, head on over to the Sunsphere and take advantage of a photo opportunity! This little gem is not hidden by no means. It is 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
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 check their hours of operation.
You have to eat at Dazzo’s Pizzeria while you adventure Knoxville! 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 to 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 or otherwise named Museum of Appalacia 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 37914 Phone: (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! It’s on the northeast side of Knoxville. This is a great place to adventure Knoxville! In the fall they host their annual events which include a corn maze, great food, music, a Haunted forest and Haunted maze, and hay rides. 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).
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 37865 Phone: (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
In the mood for some amazing Italian food? Altruda’s is the best in Knoxville! This Mom & Pop place is specific only to West Knoxville and should be a bucket list item for everyone! Here’s the 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
These highlights are just a few special out-of-the-way things and places that no one will tell you about and if your are going to adventure Knoxville, you need the secrets. 😉
I love everything about Tennessee. Sad to say that I have not gotten much time in Knoxville; though I know I would love it!
I was never heard of this place before !! It is good that you shared the same ., Hope you had good time at Knoxville
It all looks pretty interesting. I love all of the places that you have there. I would have to try out that pizzeria there. The park also looks pretty cool. I never considered visiting Knoxville but now it will be added to my list of places to go.
Oh, you so should!
That was quite an extensive list of things to do. Surely the place looks interesting. I hope someday i could get to visit too! 🙂
Please do. You’ll love the way we speak 😉
I know if I went to Knoxville, the first place I’d head to is the BURGER place because my husband is A LOVERRRRRRR of all things in a BUN! 😉
Ha! That’s perfect.
Dang! There is so much fun to be had there. We were only there for less than a day travelling through and I want to go back for a week!
For sure! It takes several days to really see Knoxville!
Looks like a great place with a ton of stuff. Isn’t too far from where I’m located!!!!
Stop in and see us!
I haven’t gone to Knoxville in so long! I forgot about everything that you can do there! Thanks for the guide, it’s pretty awesome and helpful as well.
Thank you Carol!!
We recently traveled to Knoxville, but only to stay the night. I want to go back so I can do and see some of these things.
Oh goodness, only 1 night? Were you just passing through?
Knoxville sounds like a great place to visit. Its great to learn about different places. I hope to get a chance to visit this place soon.
Definitely add it to your travel list 💗
This is a great post! I need to visit Knoxville and use your recommendations!
You so should 😉
Wow Knoxville looks so interesting, I now have a new Bucketlist item. That Art Museum is calling me! 🙂
Thanks for sharing with us!
This looks awesome! Every day is an adventure!!!! We have not made it to Knoxville yet but can’t wait to go TY for sharing your adventure with us!
This looks like such the perfect trip! I have always wanted to go to the Knoxville area 🙂
Looks like a beautiful place to explore rich with history. I enjoy checking out new places to eat.
I went to Knoxville earlier this year to visit family for a few days. We didn’t get to venture out to see all these places.
How sad. I do hope you get an opportunity to come back and visit soon and explore!
Knoxville sounds like a very interesting city! I have heard of Dollywood and wanted to go so bad when I was a little girl! The world fair sounds familiar, but I can’t remember where have I heard of it before…
This is very interesting coz i haven’t been to Knoxville. Your post helps me to gain more ideas about the place, and things to do 🙂
Plan a trip! You’ll love it ❤
Knoxville looks like a great place to visit and live. I love learning about different places and you certainly highlighted all the great things about this city. I hope I get a chance to visit.
Me too! Let me know if you make it in!
Oh it looks like so much fun! I have been crossing states off of my US map, but still haven’t made it to Tennessee. Looks like Knoxville is not to be missed.
Knoxville is a great city and I always enjoy myself when I visit. You have highlighted some really great places to see and things to do. I have yet to eat at Dazzo’s Pizzeria but I have added it to my list for next time!
I love the idea of going to Knoxville Zoo and getting to meet 800 animals! That is a superb place to visit 🙂
having lived in the south for many years, i can honestly say i miss it! i love to travel back any chance i get. i havent visited tennessee yet but it is on my bucket list!
Definately stop in sometime!
I don’t know if I’ll ever find myself in Knoxville, TN but I’ll have to keep this in mind just in case! lol…looks like a fun city..thanks for the suggestions.
Fun post! I don’t have an intention to visit TN any time soon, but it’s fun to read about the highlights of the area and vicariously live through you.. 🙂
Well… If you are ever in our neck of the woods, stop in and holler!
That museum in Knoxville sounds fabulous. I’m a fine art kinda gal..but the restaurants you mention would be a perfect way to refuel after a day of intensive art viewing!
There are two other museums very close by the Knoxville Museum of Art. You could look them up if you ever make it to town. One is called the McClung Museum and the other is the East Tennessee Historical Museum. The McClung Museum is right around the University of Tennessee area and the East Tennessee Historical Museum it’s just on the other side of Market Square in downtown. Enjoy!
I do want to see the worlds fair. I have hear many great things about it. I always love to check out museums in different areas because they are packed with information. That burger place sounds fantastic.
The World’s Fair Park in Knoxville Tennessee is definitely a bucket list item! I hope you make it one day.
I like that you included a pizza place. I love eating pizza when traveling
Me too! I love Mom & Pop pizza joints and Greek restaurants. Some of the best food I’ve ever had while on the road has been at one of these types restaurants.
Great post. I had no idea that there were so many cool things to do in Knoxville. I stopped eating meat a few months ago….and I got stuck at the burger joint for some reason. LOL!
Hahaha… I don’t like meat either. I could tell you about every veggie burger in K-Town!
I am planning a trip to Knoxville TN in the spring. I will have to go to the Knoxville Museum of Art while I am there.
I hope you enjoy every second of it like I did!