- Brush up on your history at a local museum.
Knoxville is full of museums for learning about the state and region, including the McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture. (Locals affectionately call the dinosaur out front Monty.) Several of its exhibits focus on Tennessee’s history and archeological background, so displays range from Civil War items to fossils and dinosaur bones. Other permanent collections feature decorative art and ancient Egyptian objects. Another popular spot is the James White Fort for learning about frontier life and visiting the home of the founder of Knoxville. Other nearby history museums include the Mabry-Hazen House Museum, Historic Ramsey House, Blount Mansion (once home to a signer of the US Constitution), and East Tennessee Historical Society.
- Take a self-guided art tour around the city.
If you have good weather, a self-guided tour of the city’s murals is a great way to spend an afternoon. In particular, the vibrant street art in Strong Alley is a crowd-pleaser for both visitors and residents! When you need a break from the sun (or to avoid the rain), the four-story Knoxville Museum of Art is well worth a visit, with no charge for admissions and artwork from artists across the state. If you plan ahead, you can also check out Knoxville’s varied art galleries and markets on the first Friday evening of every month for the city’s First Friday events.
- Explore Knoxville’s parks, gardens, and nature centers.
Enjoy the beautiful outdoors by spending time in World’s Fair Park, Lakeshore Park, or one of the many other parks and green spaces that total thousands of acres in the Knoxville area. (Throughout the year, these parks frequently serve as the site of local festivals and outdoor events.) Stroll through the walking trails, gardens, and butterfly meadow in the Knoxville Botanical Garden and Arboretum. Go hiking, biking, kayaking, canoeing, paddle boarding, or rock climbing at Ijams Nature Center. Better yet, make a plan to visit as many of these outdoor spaces as you can!
- See a show at a local theater.
Love the performing arts? Knoxville has some amazing venues with a constantly updated list of shows that are sure to impress. One of those venues is the stunning and historic Tennessee Theatre, opened in 1928 and renovated in 2005. The Knoxville Symphony and the Knoxville Opera perform here as well as Broadway shows and countless other types of performers. Built in 1909, the Bijou Theater is another historic downtown theater that hosts numerous music and performance arts events every year.
- Familiarize yourself with the downtown culinary scene.
Find your new favorite dish at one of downtown Knoxville’s delicious restaurants. Whether you’re seeking a fun breakfast or brunch spot, a quick but filling lunch, an elegant high-end dinner, or a lively venue good for any time of day, you can find it here. Seasonally inspired, simple but amazing, or complex and surprising – Knoxville’s talented chefs have what it takes to please your tastebuds! Whether you’re craving American, French, Mexican, Asian, Greek, or Italian cuisine (to name just a few options), start exploring your options in Knoxville. (If you prefer being a home chef, stop by the Market Square Farmer’s Market to buy some fresh produce and support a local farmer!)
- Enjoy an evening out in Old City.
Old City is the name given to the historical downtown area where you can pop into quirky coffee shops, artisan bakeries, art galleries, and trendy restaurants all housed in some of the city’s oldest buildings. Nightlife options include classic Irish pubs, cocktail lounges, beer gardens, and craft breweries, and this area is a great place for live jazz, blues, rock, folk, country, and alternative music from independent musicians and bands.
- Take a day (or weekend) trip to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Less than an hour from Knoxville is the most visited national park in the country: the Great Smoky Mountains. Once you’re in the park, you’ll need to decide how to spend your time. If you prefer to stay in the car and stop at overlooks, you can go on a scenic drive along the Cades Cove Loop Road, where, along with astounding views, you’re likely to spot some wildlife. Another great option is to hike to the highest point in the park at Clingman’s Dome with a 1-mile round trip, but only do so if you’re prepared for a steep trail. Other highlights include hikes to the 80-foot tall Laurel Falls and 90-foot Hen Wallow Falls and driving the scenic Newfound Gap Road.
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