Knoxville Scaled

A Day In Knoxville: Best Things To Do From Locals

Knoxville, Tennessee is close to the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. Knoxville has plenty to offer in both in the city, and nearby.

Views Of Knoxville Tennessee Downtown And Neyland Stadium. Knoxville Best Things To Do.
Views of Knoxville Tennessee downtown and Neyland Stadium

If you’re in the Knoxville area for a vacation on your next trip, we recommend spending time in or near the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, or Townsend.

Starting The Day in Downtown

Start your day right in the middle of all the action that is downtown Knoxville. There’s something for everyone in this vibrant community, which has everything from renowned cultural institutions to hip eateries and microbreweries. Take a stroll down Union Avenue, the main drag, and you’ll be treated to performances by talented locals. If you want to pick up some souvenirs, there are a lot of boutiques and specialty shops where you can buy unique, handcrafted items made by local artists. 

The site of the 1982 World’s Fair, World’s Fair Park, is a great place to visit and learn about the fair’s significance. Spectacular fountains, verdant gardens, and a viewing platform with cityscape vistas may all be found in this park. The park also hosts special events like 5Ks and the Wing Festival. Knoxville also features several museums, including the Knoxville Museum of Art, which features the works of regional and local artists. 

If you want to see all that Knoxville offers, you should begin your adventure at the Knoxville Visitor Center. The Visitors Center in downtown Knoxville is staffed by ambassadors who are happy to answer any questions you may have about your trip.

Next, explore the Old City, a quaint area home to many historical landmarks as well as modern restaurants and shops. Here is the spot to go if you’re hungry and curious about the city’s best art and craftsmanship.

Top Downtown Knoxville Lunch Spots 

Knoxville Downtown

A lunch break is required when you are in Knoxville for the day. We recommend these restaurants as some of the best in Knoxville’s central business district: 

  • Tomato Head is a Knoxville institution known for its relaxed environment and delicious selection of salads, pizzas, and sandwiches. You can’t go wrong with this Knoxville staple, which has not one but two locations in the city center.
  • Schulzes Schnitzel Kitchen, located just north of downtown, has some of the best German food.
  • Downtown Grill & Brewery. Traditional bar fares like burgers and wings sit alongside more creative dishes like the avocado-stuffed chicken sandwich. 
  • You can get a more refined dining experience at Lonesome Dove Western Bistro. This restaurant serves up modern interpretations of traditional Western fare in a stylish setting. 
  • The Plaid Apron is a quaint eatery serving you everything from breakfast pastries to salads and sandwiches. The Plaid Apron is committed to providing a sustainable dining experience by using only the freshest foods available.

If your visit takes you to other areas around Knoxville, here are some of our local favorites

  • Foothills Milling Company. This old Studebaker dealership has been converted into a restaurant and is a great spot for fine dining and special occasions. It features a takeaway for lunch and a great dinner menu. Located 20-30 minutes from Knoxville in Maryville.
  • RT Lodge: Formerly owned by the Ruby Tuesday family, this hotel and restaurant hidden away in the woods near Maryville College is a great place to stay or eat.
  • Local Goat: If your trip takes you to Pigeon Forge this is one of our favorite spots for lunch. American food featuring locally sourced ingredients, this local favorite often has long lunch lines, and a reservation is recommended.

Other Knoxville Downtown Attractions & Fun Things To Do

Spend the rest of the day checking out one of these other Knoxville attractions. All of these are excellent options for sightseeing in Knoxville. This attractive and lively city has everything you might want: educational experiences, cultural activities, outdoor adventures, or just a good time.

Neyland Stadium and Volunteer Landing

A Day In Knoxville. Downtown And Neyland Stadium
View of the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.


Sports fans should check out Neyland Stadium, the home of the University of Tennessee Volunteers football team. If you happen to be in town on a game day, you don’t want to miss the tailgating and game excitement in this packed, loud stadium.

A lot of people visit Volunteer Landing when they’re in downtown Knoxville. A marina, a park, and several restaurants can all be found at this great spot, which is located on a picturesque riverbank. In addition to its beautiful setting on the Tennessee River, Volunteer Landing is also a fantastic spot for various water sports. The park’s huge open space is ideal for hosting large crowds for outdoor events and concerts.

Ijams Nature Center

If you need quiet time, look no further than Ijams Nature Center. This 300-acre nature preserve is a great place to get away from the city and enjoy the outdoors since it has a variety of activities available, including hiking paths, birdwatching spots, and scenic vistas.

Local Farmers Market

Visit one of Knoxville’s many farmer’s markets for a one-of-a-kind shopping adventure and a taste of authentic regional cuisine. Local farmers, artists, and craftspeople gather at these thriving outdoor markets to sell and buy their wares directly from customers. 

Farmers’ markets are great places to taste the local harvest, sample artisanal cheese and bread, and stock up on homegrown necessities like soaps, candles, and jams. The farmers, artists, and business owners you encounter will be happy to tell you about their work and share the inspiration behind their products. 

A visit to the Knoxville farmers market is an excellent idea for anyone searching for a pleasant way to spend a morning or afternoon. Grab some pals and a few reusable bags, and go to one of the city’s farmers’ markets; you won’t be disappointed.

Zoo Knoxville

Knoxville Zoo

The Knoxville Zoo is home to more than 800 types of animals worldwide, making it a must-see attraction for animal enthusiasts. This world-class zoo is home to various animals, from African elephants to red pandas. The zoo also has state-of-the-art exhibits where visitors can see some of the world’s most exotic animals in places that look like where they would live in the wild.

Top Golf & Indoor Family Entertainment

A Day In Knoxville. Top Golf.

Now Open! Top Golf is a state-of-the-art driving range with arcade-style games and a cafeteria serving tasty treats.

Visit Defy Knoxville or Urban Air, the best indoor trampoline park in the region. Freestyle jumping, basketball, and dodgeball are just some fun games available. Challenge yourself on obstacle courses, climb walls, or have some good old-fashioned trampoline fun to get your blood pumping.

Main Event Entertainment is the place to go for a good time and some participation. This place is great for families because it provides bowling, arcade games, and laser tag activities.

History Center

The East Tennessee History Center is an excellent place to visit if you have an interest in history or want to learn more about East Tennessee’s rich history. This museum in downtown Knoxville gives an exciting look at the long and eventful history of the area, from the time when Native Americans first settled it to the present day.

The rich history and culture of the area are shown through exhibits and hands-on displays at the East Tennessee History Center. You’ll get a sense of the past in East Tennessee by viewing items and images from that era and learning about significant historical personalities and events. 

Visit the East Tennessee History Center for a fun afternoon, whether you’re a native Tennessean or just passing through town. This museum is entertaining and informative; don’t miss it if you’re visiting Knoxville! We guarantee you will not be disappointed!

Pick Up Some Knoxville Craft Beer

For parents or adults, Knoxville’s craft beer culture is robust, and the city is home to numerous excellent watering holes where you may try some of the region’s finest creations. It doesn’t matter if you like IPAs, stouts, or sours; you’ll find a beer you adore in Knoxville. Stop by some of the area’s best breweries, like Blackberry Farm, Alliance, and Pretentious. 

One of the best places to experience the vibrant nightlife of Knoxville is Union Avenue, the main thoroughfare that runs through the city’s heart. This famous thoroughfare features various entertainment options, from busy bars featuring free live music and nightclubs to more intimate music venues.

Botanical Gardens

A trip to the Knoxville Botanical Garden is in order to get away from the noise and bustle of the city. From the hustle and bustle of downtown Knoxville, you may escape to this beautiful green spot on the banks of the Tennessee River. 

There is a diverse ecosystem in the Knoxville Botanical Garden, from tranquil ponds and streams to well-kept gardens and lush woodlands. Here, you can stroll along winding roads while taking in the sights and sounds of nature. 

The Knoxville Botanical Garden is a must-see for anyone interested in gardening, appreciates the beauty of nature, or is simply searching for a peaceful place to unwind. Put together a picnic, call up some friends and family, and make the trip to this lovely park; you won’t be sorry.

Muse Art Museum

Muse Knoxville is an absolute must-see for any art lover passing through town. Located in the center of downtown Knoxville, this modern art museum features a wide variety of exhibitions and events that highlight the work of artists worldwide. 

You may find anything from digital media and installations to modern paintings and sculptures at Muse Knoxville. There is always something fresh to see and learn about at the museum because the displays rotate frequently. There is something for everyone at Muse Knoxville, whether you’re an art connoisseur or just seeking a good time. 

Muse Knoxville hosts many informative activities and programs in addition to its exhibitions, such as artist talks, workshops, and more. Visiting Muse should be a priority if you are searching for a cultural experience in Knoxville. We guarantee you won’t be let down!

History Museum

The McClung Museum of Natural History is a fantastic place to visit if you are interested in the natural world. Located on the University of Tennessee in Knoxville grounds, this museum showcases and interprets the planet’s natural history. 

From prehistoric fossils and minerals to modern fauna and ecosystems, the McClung Museum displays the whole gamut of Earth’s biological diversity. You may visit some of the museum’s outstanding exhibits, such as dinosaur bones and meteorites, and hear about the latest findings in natural history.

The McClung Museum of Natural History is a fantastic destination for anyone, whether science or history buffs or simply seeking something new and informative to learn.

Peter Kern Library

The Peter Kern Library, in the center of Knoxville, is a mecca for bookworms and history lovers. This one-of-a-kind library is in a lovingly renovated 19th-century structure committed to protecting and showcasing East Tennessee’s diverse cultural legacy.

The Peter Kern Library is notable for its vast collection of local history and culture materials. There are many resources and relics to unearth here, including first-edition books, old postcards, and photographs. 

The Peter Kern Library is home to a remarkable collection and a stunning and historic structure. It’s not hard to understand why this building is so revered in Knoxville’s downtown—it has lofty ceilings, beautiful stained-glass windows, and detailed woodwork.

Opera in Knoxville

The Knoxville Opera is a must-see for any culture vulture or music lover visiting the city. The Knoxville Opera, established in 1981, is a professional opera company that performs operas for East Tennessee and beyond. 

The Knoxville Opera has established itself as an industry pioneer via its dedication to producing groundbreaking new works. The company performs works ranging from the traditional (Puccini’s “La Bohème”) to the contemporary (Philip Glass’s “Akhnaten”). 

The beautiful Tennessee Theatre, widely recognized as one of the best theaters in the South, is where the shows occur. The Tennessee Theatre is an elegant venue that boasts cutting-edge lighting, sound technology, and superb acoustics, making it ideal for a night at the opera. 

No matter how familiar or unfamiliar you are with opera, a trip to the Knoxville Opera will leave you with beautiful memories. If you want something entertaining and educational in Knoxville, I highly recommend checking out one of the company’s future performances.

Worlds Fair Park

Visit the observation deck at World’s Fair Park to get sweeping vistas of the city and the surrounding area. Downtown Knoxville, the Tennessee River, and the surrounding hills are all visible from this tower’s vantage point. You may get a feel for the city’s layout and enjoy the city’s natural beauty from this vantage point.

The tower at this park even made it into an episode of The Simpsons.

Blount Mansion

If you’re interested in Knoxville’s past, you should check out the Blount Mansion, a historic home in the city’s heart. In addition to being one of the oldest buildings in Tennessee, this 1792 mansion is also historically significant.

Blount Mansion is known as “The Birthplace of Tennessee”. It served as the home to U.S. Constitution signer, William S. Blount

The mansion and its stunning grounds are open to the public for tours. 

Where To Stay

Before spending the day in Knoxville, here are some ideas for where to stay. Knoxville isn’t a huge city, and most of it is close to the interstate for easy access to hotels, including downtown.

Consider staying downtown. In this area, there’s a wide selection of hotels, as well as some of the city’s best restaurants and nightlife. 

One of our favorite hotels is the Hyatt Place Knoxville Downtown, which is one of the nicest Hyatt Places we have stayed at. It has a reasonable price, and a great location on South Gay Street, close to restaurants.

Another great local option and one of our favorites is The Tennessean Personal Luxury Hotel.

Here are some other great downtown area hotels and VRBOs (for longer-term stays). Our suggestion would be to spend a night or two in Knoxville and more time in the scenic areas of Gatlinburg, Townsend, or Pigeon Forge.

Other Places To Stay

If you’re not attached to staying downtown Knoxville, there are some unique and amazing places to stay within a short drive of Knoxville.

RT Lodge: Formerly owned by the Ruby Tuesday family, this hotel and restaurant hidden away in the woods near Maryville college is a great place to stay or eat.

Rt Lodge Maryville Tn

Dancing Bear Lodge, this lodge in peaceful Townsend, is located on the scenic drive between Knoxville and Gatlinburg. It features individual villas and cottages, and a great restaurant. Click here to learn more.

VRBOs in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. Featuring amazing views and amenities, like 51 amazing cabins with indoor pools in the mountains.

Other Things To Do A Short Drive Away

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Cades Cove, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Visitors to Knoxville often take a short trip to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The park’s 520,000 acres contain some of the region’s most breathtaking scenery and are home to a rich variety of flora and fauna, making it a must-see for ecotourists.

Hiking, camping, fishing, and birdwatching are just some of the many enjoyable outdoor pursuits that can be enjoyed in this park, which is known for its beautiful landscape of rolling mountains, virgin woods, and sparkling streams. The park’s roughly 800 miles of trails ensure visitors never run out of ways to experience its natural splendor.

The Clingmans Dome walk is a favorite because it ascends to the park’s highest point, where visitors can view panoramic Smoky Mountains vistas and beyond. Cades Cove is another must-see, a gorgeous mountain valley teeming with animals like black bears, deer, and turkeys.

The park features several historical landmarks and buildings, such as the Mingus Mill, a water-powered grain mill from the 18th century, and the Cable Mill, a museum dedicated to the technology and equipment utilized by the area’s first settlers.

You can visit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park any time of the year and have a unique experience. The summer’s verdant terrain is stunning, while the fall’s vibrant foliage is a photographer’s dream. Snow-capped mountains and rushing brooks create a picturesque winter scene in the park during the colder months.

Pigeon Forge

Pigeon Forge Top Things To Do

Click here to read our complete guide to Pigeon Forge.

Not far from Knoxville, Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, is known as the “Center of Fun in the Smokies” because of its many tourist attractions. The fact that Pigeon Forge is in the middle of the area, close to the Smoky Mountains, and has a busy downtown makes it a great place to start exploring the area.

Attractions in Pigeon Forge benefit significantly from its proximity to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, where visitors may go hiking, camping, and fishing, among other things. The Dollywood theme park is a significant tourist destination in the area, and Pigeon Forge has its share of activities. 

Pigeon Forge is also well-regarded as a fantastic place to go shopping and eat. Pigeon Forge features various retail establishments, from quaint boutiques to massive malls. In town, there are many different kinds of restaurants, from small, locally owned cafes to more upscale dining experiences, where you can get real Southern food. 

The Smoky Mountain Opry, the Titanic Museum Attraction, and the Hollywood Wax Museum are just some exciting and engaging attractions that call Pigeon Forge home. 

Pigeon Forge is one of the most frequented sites in Knoxville, and it’s easy to see why. The town and its surroundings are both picturesque and rich in attractions. Whether in Pigeon Forge for the day or planning a more extended trip, you won’t get enough of East Tennessee’s natural beauty and vibrant culture.

Gatlinburg

Click here to read our complete guide to Gatlinburg.

Top Things To Do In Gatlinburg
Gatlinburg, Tennessee, in the Smoky Mountains.

Gatlinburg, Tennessee, is a popular tourist destination. Gatlinburg is an ideal home base for exploring the surrounding area thanks to its scenic beauty, rich history, and plenty of outdoor activities.

Gatlinburg visitors really must check out the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The park covers more than 800 square miles and is rich in wildlife and beautiful scenery. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park in nearby Gatlinburg is an absolute must-see for any nature lover. 

Gatlinburg itself is a big tourist hub because of all the lodging options, dining establishments, and entertainment options it provides. Whether you’re looking for authentic souvenirs, handcrafted crafts, or a satisfying meal, Gatlinburg has you covered. 

Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, the Mystical Mirrors Maze, and the thrilling SkyBridge, the largest pedestrian suspension bridge in North America, are some of the more unusual things to see in Gatlinburg. 

Visitors vacationing in Knoxville often take day trips to Gatlinburg to see the many activities there. Gatlinburg is a great place to stay, whether you’re in town for the day or planning a more extended trip to East Tennessee so that you may experience all the region’s natural beauty and cultural attractions.

Townsend Tubing

Tubing In Townsend

Click here to read our guide to tubing and other things to do in Townsend.

When visiting East Tennessee, a fun and relaxing activity is tubing down the Little River in Townsend. This beautiful body of water is a welcome respite from the bustle of the city, thanks to the verdant forests and hills that frame it on all sides.

Townsend businesses like River Rat Tubing provide tube rentals and transport services to the Little River so visitors can enjoy this popular pastime. During the two-hour journey, you may relax in the soothing current and take in the stunning vistas. 

Picnic sites and sandy beaches dot the Little River, providing welcome rest stops and swimming opportunities for those wishing to make a day of it. Hiking, fishing, and other outdoor pursuits abound in the immediate area, and visitors to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park can reach those pursuits in minutes. 

Tubing in Townsend is one of the best ways to enjoy the beautiful East Tennessee scenery with friends or family. Whether you’re an area resident or just traveling through, a trip down the Little River on a tube is necessary.

Check out our complete guide to Tubing in Townsend with kids.

Asheville, North Carolina

Asheville Nc, Close To Knoxville Tn
Asheville, North Carolina, USA, downtown skyline at dusk.

If you’re looking for your next stop, traveling to or from Knoxville or a day trip from Asheville, North Carolina, is a fantastic option. Asheville is just two hours away, and its natural beauty and cultural offers are well-known. Some of the highlights of your trip are as follows:

Location of the Biltmore House: The Biltmore Estate, a mansion that is now a museum, is a fantastic destination for anyone interested in the past or buildings. This spectacular estate, which has more than 250 rooms, provides a look into the luxurious lifestyle of the Vanderbilt family, who once called it home. 

The Blue Ridge Parkway is a great road to experience nature and enjoy stunning scenery. An unforgettable journey up the Blue Ridge Mountains’ crest awaits you on this route. 

Asheville’s downtown is a beautiful spot to spend the day, with its thriving arts community, excellent dining options, and eclectic assortment of independent retailers. You may find everything from street entertainers to local brews and specialty coffees. 

Over two hundred artists call this redeveloped industrial area home, making it a must-see for anybody interested in experiencing the city’s creative energy firsthand. You may discover every kind of artist in the River Arts District, from painters to sculptors to glassblowers.

Getting to Knoxville

Knoxville Airport

Knoxville, a bustling metropolis in eastern Tennessee, can be reached through several methods. McGhee Tyson Airport (TYS) is the primary airport serving the Knoxville area and is the most popular means of air travel to the city. Knoxville is easily accessible from everywhere in the country thanks to the numerous daily flights to and from major cities. 

When flying into Knoxville, a rental car is almost always needed if you’re doing much exploring, especially if you are traveling to the Smoky Mountains or Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, which are approximately an hour away.

Click here for some of the best car rental deals in Knoxville

Find Your Rental Car Day In Knoxville Img 65A898E0A20B2

If you choose to drive to Knoxville, the city’s location at Interstates 40 and 75 crossroads makes it a helpful transit hub for travelers heading elsewhere in the southeast. Traveling to Knoxville by automobile is a quick and easy alternative for those going from far away or nearby cities like Atlanta and Nashville.

Conclusion

It doesn’t matter if you’re passing through or staying for a while; Knoxville, Tennessee, has plenty of exciting activities and cool things to entertain you. This city has something for everyone because of its extensive cultural offerings, breathtaking scenery, and storied past. You’ll never run out of intriguing and exciting things to do in Knoxville, from exploring the Tennessee River and Neyland Stadium to the Knoxville Museum of Art and the Ijams Nature Center.

A road trip to Knoxville is ideal for individuals who want to see more of the surrounding area. The city is a great jumping-off place for a road trip in the Southeast because of the beautiful scenery of the mountains, hills, and valleys that surround it. There is so much to do and see in the area that a road trip to Knoxville is an exciting and memorable way to explore.

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