Thinking about a trip to Knoxville? We spent a fun week in the city and loved how much there is to see and do. And the best part is a lot of it is free! Below we share the top 5 best things to see, places to stay, and more!
Over the summer break, the kids and I visited Knoxville with some friends of ours. Living in metro Atlanta meant it was only about 4 hours away and just right for a mini-vacation that was kid-friendly and fun. Travel in Knoxville is easy with kids as it is a walking city and even offer three trolley routes FREE for all passengers.
We stayed at the Holiday Inn: World’s Fair Park which put us in the heart of the city with a few attractions literally right outside the front door.
Located right next door to the Holiday Inn you can’t help but notice this large orange ball-like thing in the sky. The Sunsphere was constructed for the 1982 World’s Fair and during that time, it served as the symbol to the Fair. It was also home to a full-service restaurant. The Observation Deck used to cost $2.00 for the elevator ride up to visit. The Sunsphere closed to the public with the Fair’s end. This iconic feature of the Knoxville skyline is the only structure of its kind and is one of only two remaining structures from the historic 1982 World’s Fair.
The Observation Deck re-opened to the public in 2007. It features a gallery of Knoxville images, as well as information on Knoxville and the World’s Fair. You will experience a breathtaking 360-degree view of Knoxville. And it is now FREE.
World’s Fair Park
World’s Fair Park is divided into three sections — a festival lawn, a performance lawn, and a lake area. The fountains are favorites for summer-time play and the playground area is open year-round. There are paved walking trails throughout the Park that connect to the Second Creek Greenway, which carves a route down to the riverfront, passing along the edges of the UT campus before connecting with the Neyland Greenway over to Volunteer Landing Park.
- Festival Lawn – Two acres of special turf designed to withstand a large crowd, the Festival Lawn can accommodate a variety of events. This multi-purpose and carefully manicured lawn is centrally located within the park and is a favorite location for festival promoters. The Festival Lawn is bordered on the west by native plantings and to the east by a tree-lined plaza. The Court of Flags Fountain is located on the northern end of the lawn.
- Performance Lawn – Greater in size than two football fields, the Performance Lawn is a carefully maintained open area providing a natural amphitheater-like setting perfect for concerts, festivals, parties, and other special events.
- Lake Area – This is where you find the Tennessee Amphitheater. Constructed for the World’s Fair in 1982 but it too closed down with the end of the fair. Like the Sunsphere, the Amphitheater reopened in 2007.
Volunteer Landing Park
This small linear park stretches along the Tennessee River providing ample fishing and paddling opportunities. The Park features year-round fun on the swings but during the summer months, the water splash pads are irresistible to the children strolling through the park with their parents. Walkers, runners, and cyclists utilize the Neyland Greenway that winds through the Park.
Since 1860s, Market Square has been one of Knoxville’s most popular places to shop, work, play, eat, drink and live. Market Square is home to outdoor concerts and movies, Shakespeare on the Square and much more.
Market Square is what I’d call the hub of the city.
There is always something to do, see or eat.
But nights are when it really get lively with bands and a variety of artist.
Charles Krutch Park is a scenic park located in the middle of downtown Knoxville, adjacent to Market Square. The park features a beautiful water feature with small falls and a flowing stream.
Winding walking trails will take you past a small cascading waterfall, a gentle stream, gardens, art sculptures and benches where you can relax and take it all in.
The extension includes water play fountains, benches, shady trees and open space perfect for play.
The park is also filled with art sculptures.
McClung Museum of Natural History
The McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture is a general museum located on the campus of the University of Tennessee. Enjoy adventurous tales of years past and even of years to come.
Exhibitions showcase the geologic, historical, and artistic past of Tennessee, and also highlight cultures from around the globe. Parking and admission are free.
Permanent Exhibitions include:
- The Archaeology & the Native Peoples of Tennessee
- Ancient Egypt: The Eternal Voice
- The Decorative Experience
- Human Origins: Searching for our Fossil Ancestors
- The Civil War in Knoxville: The Battle of Fort Sanders
- Tennessee Freshwater Mussels
Knoxville Museum of Art
The Knoxville Museum of Art celebrates the art and artists of East Tennessee, presents new art and new ideas, educates and serves a diverse community.
The Knoxville Museum of Art presents the rich visual culture of East Tennessee and explores the region’s connections to the wider currents of international art. Attractions include Richard Jolley’s Cycle of Life, the world’s largest figural glass installation.
Whether you’re with a family or by yourself, Knoxville’s Museum of Art gives everyone the opportunity to have fun. Don’t forget to explore the museum grounds which include a water-wall feature.
Knoxville Chocolate Factory
Knoxville Chocolate Co. is a chocolate manufacturer that specializes in small-batch, made from scratch gourmet confections located in downtown. Who doesn’t enjoy chocolate? My kids sure love it.
Here you will find cases of hand-dipped confections–white, milk, and dark chocolate varieties. Not to mention blocks of fudge, truffles, and taffy, a counter of nut clusters and plenty of peanut brittle.
The kids really enjoyed being able to see them make the chocolate.
More Fun in Knoxville:
- Muse Museum – although not free it is very cheap.
- Knoxville Zoo – we all had a great time exploring this 53-acre zoo.
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