Summer is an exciting and active time in Knoxville, and whether you’ve stayed in town for summer classes at UTK or you’re now a yearlong resident, you’ll want to take advantage of the wealth of local things to do in Knoxville this summer and all year long.
Whether you’re hitting up the lesser-known Knoxville attractions on your own insider excursion or you’re new to the Knoxville dating scene and are looking for a unique first date spot, this list is sure to bring you closer to the heart of the Marble City without breaking your budget!
Spend Time in Downtown Knoxville
Market Square in downtown Knoxville is a lively and eclectic place to visit year ‘round! With a variety of shops and restaurants, you’ll find something that strikes your fancy. The Square hosts a number of concerts and performance art, and you’ll be tempted to walk through one of the water-play fountains to cool off on those sunny days. The Market Square Farmers’ Market is also a great attraction for people who find it important to support the local economy. The parking garage is free after 6 p.m. weekdays, so this might be a spot you’ll want to frequent to get a true taste of downtown K-town!
Be One With Nature
If you require fresh air and green surroundings, then the Ijams Nature Center will be the place for you to stretch both your legs and your knowledge of the natural beauty that surrounds the city. There are so many things to do here, from programs designed to teach responsible stewardship of natural resources, to an amazingly beautiful canopy zipline experience, to music festivals, to hours and hours of climbing, kayaking, and hiking opportunities — just to name a few!
Travel Between 1982 and the Present
One of the more iconic and fun things to do in Knoxville is to visit the site of the 1982 World’s Fair. World’s Fair Park is acres upon acres of beautiful landscaping, festival areas, and water-play areas. Home to a number of festivals, the park’s most visible feature is the Sunsphere, a gilded tower that shines like a beacon over Knoxville. The observation deck on the fourth level is free, save for a $2.00 ride on the elevator, and is a great place to visit and take photos of the surrounding town below.
Visit the Top of the House
Arguably the most scenic view surrounding Knoxville is from the top of House Mountain in the eponymous state park. The trail to the summit is not necessarily long nor difficult, but there are certainly some steep spots that careful climbers will want to take more cautiously. From the 2,100-foot summit, visitors will appreciate views of the Cumberland, Smoky, Unaka, and Clinch mountain ranges along with a beautiful view of the city’s skyline, making this one of Knoxville’s most fun things to do! Don’t forget to pack a picnic lunch — perhaps pick up carryout from Saddle Bags Bar & Grill off of Rutledge Pike on the way.
Immerse Yourself in Hoops History
Sports aficionados will know that one of Knoxville’s top attractions is the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame. The 32,000 sq. ft. facility features tremendous displays highlighting the skill and athleticism of some of sport’s most unbelievable and inspiring women. As any Vol worth her salt can tell you, the Pat Summitt Rotunda is an impressive tribute to the dynamic career of the late, great coach of Lady Vols’ basketball. Inside, you’ll discover the history of women’s hoops — from the All American Redheads to the rise of the WNBA — and explore how women have impacted the game of basketball for generations!
Take a Trip to the Old City
One of our favorite things to do in Knoxville is to spend some time in the district known as the Old City. This stretch of several blocks just north of true downtown has itself had many lifetimes, from being an undesirable swampland, to the symbol of Knoxville’s industrial boom in the early 20th century, to a onetime red-light district and den of vices, to today’s stronghold of creativity and art. A concentration of graphic design shops, trendy restaurants, and art galleries give way as the day wanes to a center of clubs and venues featuring live music and libations. Whether you come for the architecture or the art, this piece of Knoxville is a can’t-miss.
Explore James White’s Fort
If your love of history matches your love for the outdoors, White’s Fort might be the perfect blend of both for you. The grounds themselves have historical significance as the homestead of James White, the man credited for discovering the land that would eventually become the city of Knoxville. White’s Fort museum offers tours at very reasonable prices, but it’s worth visiting if only to enjoy the natural beauty of the grounds.
Tour a Historic Mansion
Blount Mansion is Knoxville’s only National Historic Landmark. The building has been restored and preserved as the capitol of the Southwest Territory and home of its only governor William Blount. Blount was a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and this home is the only recognized home of a signer that is not within the original colonies. The tours are an affordable and enjoyable thing to do any time of year in Knoxville.
Tiptoe Through the Tulips
Some of Knoxville’s most picturesque locales are found within the grounds of the Knoxville Botanical Garden and Arboretum. From beautiful stonework to lush gardens to seasonal displays of colorful flowers, this is one of the more calming spaces in all of Knoxville.
Knoxville Visitors Center
After all these ideas, if you’re still looking for even more things to do around our fair city, stop by the Knoxville Visitors Center to discover a near-comprehensive set of entertainment and tour schedules as well as information on the history of K-town. You’ll also find a bunch of really neat gift ideas — mostly locally made, so you’re giving the gift of Knoxville to your friends and family.