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Top 10 Things to do Knoxville

Tonya Prater, Owner

Is Knoxville on your list of places to visit? We’ve made it easy for you to plan with this post that highlights the top 10 things to do in Knoxville.”
The photo on the top shows a boardwalk over water and the bottom photo is a cityscape of Knoxville.

Thanks to Danielle for providing this guest post. 

My family has spent a lot of time in the East Tennessee area, Knoxville included. It is one of my favorite places to come and just take in the area. You have the city and Civil War history. Then just steps outside the city you have so many amazing things for nature lovers!

Try these Top 10 Things to do Knoxville for an amazing trip. 

1. Star of Knoxville Riverboat

You can take a ride on this authentic paddle wheeler down the Tennessee River. They offer a Civil War sightseeing cruise and a Know Knoxville tour that includes Cherokee Indian sites. 

They have brunch, lunch and dinner cruises and many themed cruises all year long along with many events. Make sure to check their calendar because they do a cruise for every holiday and the leaf seeing cruise down the water with the leaves changing is on the top of my list! 

The World Fair Park Knoxville

Photo used with permission from @Canva

2. World Fair Park

This is the site of the 1982 World’s Fair. It’s a great way to spend time outdoors while in the middle of the city. The park includes many water features, man-made lakes, and streams. 

There are many live events during the year as well. This is also where you can take in the sunsphere’s observation deck and get 360-degree views of downtown.

While there head into the Holiday Inn and visit the World’s Largest Rubik’s Cube. It stood at the Hungarian Pavilion at the 1982 Knoxville World’s Fair. The cube is 10 feet high and over 1,200 pounds. 

This is one of my favorite Free Things to do in Knoxville TN

3. Girl Scout Museum

Learn all about the history of this group known for their cookies (Thin Mint fan here!). They offer guided tours and have hands-on exhibits. They also have an Archival Library that includes many of the printed material for the Girl Scouts dating back to 1912. 

A boardwalk that runs alongside a river.

Photo used with permission from @Canva

4. Ijams Nature Center

This nature center started off as a bird sanctuary and has grown to a wildlife sanctuary park that is over 300 acres! There is so much to explore everything from creeks, trails, a boardwalk, a homestead and more to explore. 

They offer many different programs from homeschool days and preschool days to day camps and even birthday parties. 

Nature-lovers should also make it a point to head east toward Gatlinburg and the Great Smoky Mountains

5. Appalachian Museum

Located just north of Knoxville is the Appalachian living history museum and a Smithsonian Affiliate museum. This is a pioneer farm village of homes and artifacts from all over Southern Appalachia brought to this location over the last 50 years. 

You take a self-guided tour around the museum and they give you a great map with so much info on it, and each building has more info as well. 

The museums is on 65 acres and is a recreated Appalachian community. This includes 35 log cabins, farms, barns, schools, churches and live animals including their famous peacocks.

A few notable buildings include the Mark Twain Family Cabin and the Daniel Boone Cabin from the TV show. 

An aerial view of Norris Dam in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Photo used with permission from @Canva

6. Norris Dam State Park

Just outside Knoxville is the beautiful Norris Dam, State Park. While they offer campsites and cabins to rent they are most known for the huge dam. 

There is a visitor center at the dam with info on the whole park. There are several places to take photos on both sides of the dam and you can drive over or walk over the dam as well. You can also drive down to the bottom and take in the dam from a new point of view. 

The park also has boating, swimming, hiking, fishing, and more. In the park, there are several preserved historical buildings including a threshing barn and an 18th Century Rice Grist Mill. 

There is also a museum in the park that centers around Tennessee state history and includes the famous Antique Barrel Organ. During restoration of this organ, they found a German newspaper dated 1826!

7. Zoo Knoxville

This zoo has over 900 animals and many different activities from riding camels and feeding the giraffes to canopy ziplining and nighttime safaris at the zoo.

Knoxville’s largest splash pad is also featured here and they have many zookeepers talks about different animals.  There is also a fun play area for kids where they can catch a view of the zoo’s komodo dragon.

Some animals you can expect to see are red pandas, red wolves, penguins, rhinos, black bears, zebras, otters, elephants, giraffes and more. 

If Aquariums are more you thing head into Gatlinburg for the Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, the best in the state, 

8. Fraterville Miners’ Circle and Museum

This is a little known location but one my family loves to visit. There are basically 2 locations here. I suggest starting with the Coal Creek Miners Museum to learn the mining history of the area. 

You will also learn about the Fraterville Miners Disaster. On May 19, 1902, the mine near Fratterville exploded killing 216 people. It killed every adult male in town except 3. Women lost their husbands and their sons in a matter of minutes. 

Then head over and visit the Fraterville Miners’ Circle at Leach Cemetery just down the road from the museum. 89 of the miners are buried in a circle around a monument to the disaster. 

The monument has the names of the 184 men who were identified. There were 32 men that couldn’t be identified. The youngest buried here is a 12-year-old boy and the oldest was 55 years old. 

While walking the circle you can tell who had money and who were the ones working for every penny. There are two brothers buried side by side and just outside the circle their mother is buried right in front of them and her headstone makes note how she is their mother. 

A wooden fort that can be seen in downtown Knoxville.

Photo used with permission from @Canva

9. James White Fort

James White earned a land grant after the Revolutionary War and came west with it.  He discovered the fort site that later became the capital of the southwest territory and what we now know as the city of Knoxville. 

The fort was reconstructed in its current location in the 1970s and has a great display of frontier life. The original home of James White is on the property.

You can visit the graves of Jame White and his wife at the First Presbyterian Church Cemetery in Knoxville. 

10. The Muse Knoxville

If you have kids this should be on your list. The Muse is a mixture of art and science mixed with hands-on experiments for kids. They even have a kids space for younger kids and the whole building is hands-on. 

They also have a planetarium for ages 4 and up. They offer a show that plays once an hour, a guided tour explaining the night sky, and two different program one geared toward younger kids and one geared for older kids so everyone can participate. 

This is just the tip of the iceberg of things to do in Knoxville and the surrounding areas. Knoxville is a very family-friendly area with lots of history and these top 10 things to do in Knoxville are just the beginning. 

Find cheap hotels and Airbnb’s on our map and book your Knoxville getaway today! 

If you’re looking for things to do a short drive from Knoxville, check out Mt Airy NC for some small-town fun and those interested in military history will enjoy our post on things to do in Fayetteville NC

Danielle is a mom of 5 and blogs about her travels and her family’s RV adventures on Our Roaming Hearts. She specializes in National Parks, State Parks, and small town America. You can follow them on Facebook and Instagram Protection Status
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