When you think of Tennessee you think of high traffic areas like Nashville, Gatlinburg, or Chattanooga. Knoxville doesn’t seem to be high on the tourist list, but it should be. Knoxville is the third largest city in the state of Tennessee. Sparkling with energy and charm, better known for their historic sites and museums.
Below is a small compiled list of places to eat and things to do while enjoying a weekend trip in Knoxville.
Pictures are from the Strong Alley Mural Walk
- Book a hotel located in the downtown area. Most of their well-known attractions are within a 3-15 minute walking distance from one another.
- Downtown parking garages offer free parking on weeknights & weekends.
- Free Trolley Rides – Knoxville has 3 different trolley routes to take you throughout the Downtown and UT area.
For more beneficial tips check out our previous post on tips for traveling on a budget.
Market Square is the cornerstone of excitement in Knoxville, TN. Housing many of the cities best restaurants, bars, and unique places to shop. With its vibrant and bolstering nightlife, the square host many live concerts and outdoor movie events.
Don’t forget to visit the farmer’s market, on North Market Square near Wall Ave., for a taste of locally grown goodies.
The Sunsphere stands 26 stories tall, paneled with 24-karat gold glass windows. Making this the largest gold ball in the world. The observation deck offers 360-degree views of Downtown Knoxville, World Fair Park and the Smoky Mountains. This iconic attraction has become the “Free Thing to Do in Knoxville” Staple. Be prepared if you’re scared of elevators or heights it will give your anxiety levels a little jolt.
Tupelo Honey Café
When trying to decide what to eat for breakfast or brunch the Tupelo Honey Café should be your first option. The food here is beyond good! Ambiance, Presentation, Flavor…Tupelo is the place to go!
I ordered the Shoo Mercy Griddle which consisted of brioche French toast topped with buttermilk battered fried chicken, apple cider bacon, pecans and sprinkled with a hint of powdered sugar. Whew, it gives me flash backs just writing about it. My husband ending up deciding on the southwestern omelet with chorizo, avocado, cheese, salsa, sour cream & rosemary potato cracklins. If you have never heard of cracklins just come to Knoxville, and try Tupelo’s version.
I would suggest making a reservation online for this establishment, if you decide not to the food is well worth the wait.
Looking for something sweet after one of your gut busting meals visit Kilwin’s. Kilwin’s chocolate confectionery shop has locations throughout the eastern coast of the United States. Making over 75 delicious chocolate based treats. How can any person go wrong when chocolate is involved?
After a relaxing night stroll on Market Square we finished our night with a Georgia Peach Cobbler Milkshake, Rocky Road Marshmallow, and a Caramel Dipped Rice Krispy Treat with a chocolate drizzle. The yummiest sugar rush ever!
Stock and Barrel
Stock & Barrel has a retro, speak-easy atmospheric vibe to it. The food here is soooo good, I ended up ordering the spicy crab dip and wedge salad. The balsamic reduction on the wedge salad is absolutely divine. I could eat that all by itself, it was so good. While the food is delicious the drinks are even better. Do yourself a favor and order a glass of bourbon, you’ll thank me for it.
Don’t take my word for it just look at the reviews. No matter which platform you research they are all good!
In the mood for some good sushi give Kabuki a try. Customer service here is excellent and super friendly. I was pleasantly surprised with the fast speed of service. My favorite was the house soup, which is a beef broth based soup with green onions and mushrooms. This is one of my go to soups at any sushi restaurant I visit but I can definitely say that Kabuki’s was by far the best I’ve ever tried. For the sushi, we tried the California and the crispy tempura rolls.
Calhoun’s on the River
Calhoun’s is where you go when you want a hearty meal. Something that will stick with you throughout the day while you sightsee. Once we were seated, we told our waitress that this was our first time visiting and she immediately preceded to tell us the history of the restaurant. Calhoun’s is voted the “Best Ribs in America”, that’s a pretty big award. We had to see if she was telling the truth, so we ordered a nice slab, and she wasn’t lying. They are deliciously flavorful and fall off the bone tender. Another must try is the Spinach Maria and Pulled Pork Nacho’s. The Pulled Pork Nacho’s were pilled high with moist pork, cheese and jalapenos.
We visited at night but I can assure you the river views are just as pretty at night as they are in the day. There is a nice little river path next to the restaurant for you to walk so that you can burn off some of those BBQ calories.
Tennessee Theater, located on Gay Street, slaps you back into the 1920’s with its Spanish-Moorish style. The theater features many grand chandeliers, striking interior décor and an impressive stage. The theater offers free movies throughout the year, please check their calendar for availability.
Bijou Theater is similar in nature to the Tennessee Theater, by being another landmark theater in Knoxville, built in 1906. This theater features an abundance of various artists and film festivals. After a good show visit the Bistro at the Bijou, which is connected to the theater, for a light fine dining experience.
Ijam’s Nature Center
Ijam’s Nature Center offers 10-miles of walkable nature trails and a 25-acre quarry lake. This park is ideal for the ultimate nature lover. Ijams offers hiking, zip lining, swimming, fishing, cycling, paddling and canoeing.
While there we noticed many people and their families taking professional photos. There were so many optimal locations within Ijam’s that I could definitely see getting the family dressed up to showcase those beautiful smiles.
Knoxville Museum of Art
Knoxville Museum of Art should be top on your list of places to visit while in Knoxville. The museum is so relaxing and beautiful. Lovely exhibits which features a video documentary of the artists and their creations in the making. After visiting take a look through their gift shop which features lovely pieces from local artist.
Don’t let me forget the best part…the museum is free! Take a look at our visit in the video below.
East Tennessee Historical Society
Start this museum tour with a short video of East Tennessee before you venture onto other rooms full of valuable, interesting information. The Historical Society takes you all the way from the civil war on to modern day living. Enjoy viewing collections of old newspapers, city directories, maps, vintage memorabilia and more. You will spend at least 3 hours at this museum because of all of the exhibits and information available.
World’s Fair Park
Home to the Sunsphere, Tennessee Amphitheater and East Tennessee Veterans Memorial. World’s Fair is a peaceful park to have a picnic, listen to music, play with the pets (lawn areas only), etc..
The park is a great location to bring your family during the spring & summer months because of their splash pad fountains. Kids and adults can spend time running through the fountain sprinklers. Please be sure to read the splash pad rules before arriving.
Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame
Opened in 1999, the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame features many artifacts, highlights, memorabilia and activities for the whole family to engage in. We had a blast learning about women that paved the way like Lisa Leslie, Pat Summit, Teresa Edwards, “Magic Paula” and so many more.
It was pretty cool to be able to test our basketball skills on their skilled basketball courts. I can honestly say I’ll leave this up to the pros because I suck. This place is so big that you can easily spend 3 hours here just having fun with the entire family.
This article was written by: