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10 Fun Things To Do in Knoxville, TN

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In this Tennessee Vacation Guide, we give you a list of fun things to do in Knoxville, TN for a weekend getaway.

Knoxville, TN is just a short two hour drive from our home so it makes for a great day trip or weekend getaway when we feel the need to get into the city. (Yes, that can be a thing for a country girl…sometimes I just gotta pound the pavement of a cool & hip city like Knoxville!) 


We know most of you will only think of football when you hear the words, “Knoxville, Tennessee”, but there is so much more to downtown Knoxville than Neyland Stadium. 

We recently took the opportunity to stay one night with our kids, and discover all that Knoxville, TN offers on the weekend.  What we discovered is that visiting Knoxville on the weekend is a great idea!  Here are ten fun things to do in Knoxville that will make you want to spend the weekend visiting Knoxville, TN.

If it’s too far to drive, the local airport has non-stop flights to several US destinations.  You can check airline rates here. 

1. Start The Day With Breakfast in Market Square

Knoxville’s Market Square is the place to be downtown on the weekend so why not hit the ground running with breakfast right in the middle of the action.

We chose to have chicken and waffles at Myrtle’s Chicken & Beer and it did not disappoint.  As you know, we are always happy when a restaurant can accommodate our kid’s food allergies and Myrtle’s Chicken & Beer did just that.  Word of warning, better get some water as the chicken is S-P-I-C-Y. 

2. Grab Some Great Local Goods at Knoxville’s Farmer’s Market

knoxville farmers market

Knoxville’s Farmer’s Market is teeming with so many great local goods and foods.  It’s a great place to stock up on your favorite produce or grass fed beef if you have the means to keep it until you get home.  Maybe take a great rotomolded cooler with you so you can stock up.  I have done this a time or two. 

However, my favorite local good is to stock up on local honey. 

The kids were also excited to find a local dark chocolate vendor producing nut free chocolate. Always a plus!!  

To be honest, mom really liked Lirio Chocolate too! So, yeah, we bought honey and chocolate! No judgment, please!

3. Enjoy the live music (or play along if you like ?)

Live Bongo Drums Downtown Knoxville

Throughout Market Square there is plenty of live music to enjoy. Just watch out you don’t end up like my daughter and get snagged to join in. 

Fiddle Player in Knoxville's Market Square

4. Refuel At A Knoxville Food Truck

Knoxville Downtown Food Truck

Before setting out to explore the rest of downtown Knoxville on foot, stop by one of the food trucks and refuel!  So many great options.

If you like brisket, grab a brisket basket at the Tootsie Truck.

5. Stroll Through Old City Knoxville

One of my absolute favorite city tripping activities is to find the historic neighborhoods.  Old City Knoxville has some great architecture and some very colorful history.  We enjoyed taking a short stroll and capturing some images after our morning in the Knoxville Farmer’s Market.

Click here to learn more about touring Old City Knoxville

strolling through knoxville tn
Old City Knoxville Architecture

6. Take in the Knoxville Cityscape from the top of the Sunsphere

Knoxville Sunsphere

Way back in the dinosaur days, my mom took my brother and me to the 1982 World’s Fair in Knoxville. I don’t have many memories from the event, but it was fun going up to the 4th floor of the Sunsphere and viewing images from the exciting time.

It’s reported that nearly 11 million visitors attended the 5 month long World’s Fair which was themed, “Energy Turns The World”.

A few facts about the Sunsphere:

  • It stands 266 ft high and 25 stories
  • Each pane of glass is made of 24-karat gold
  • The 4th floor observatory was re-opened on May 5th, 2014 and free to the public
  • President Ronald Reagan opened the fair on May 1st 1982
  • A band played on the top of the Sunsphere during the ceremonies
1982 World's Fair Sunsphere Band

Click here to learn more about visiting the Sunsphere. 

View of Knoxville from Inside Sunsphere
View From Inside the Sunsphere

7. Let The Kids Splash in Knoxville’s World’s Fair Park Fountains

Worlds Fair splashpad
Worlds Fair Park Knoxville Waterfront Fountains
Waterfront Knoxville Park

If the kids are beginning to get hot in the humid Tennessee sun, you can let them splash around in the World’s Fair Park Fountains.
We decided against that, but enjoyed strolling along the water before heading over to Gay Street for shopping and cooling off with some ice cream instead.

8.Shop on Knoxville’s Gay Street

Tennessee Sign Gay Street Knoxville
Mural on Knoxville Visitor Center

It’s time to shop!  I haven’t officially been to a southern city, until I’ve strolled through the Mast General Store.  The Gay Street location has been in business since 1898 after a major fire known as the “Million Dollar Fire” burned most of that side of the street’s buildings.
You will also find the Knoxville Visitor Center on Gay Street, art galleries, micro-breweries, cafes, and the famous Phoenix Pharmacy & Fountain (more on that below).

9. Visit The Phoenix Pharmacy & Fountain For A Sundae

Cookie Monster Sundae Phoenix Pharmacy & Fountain
Service Counter Phenix Pharmacy & Fountain Knoxville
Service Counter Phoenix Pharmacy & Fountain
Great Service at Phoenix Pharmacy & Fountain on Gay Street in Knoxville

If I had to pick 1 thing to do in Knoxville from this list of ten, this would be it!  Maybe it’s because I am a pharmacist or maybe it’s because I love history, but most of all it’s because they have GREAT SERVICE and amazing ice cream!  Again, they were very accommodating of our food allergies and my kids really enjoyed their cookie monster sundaes!  They also serve “cane sugar” made to order sodas including ROOT BEER for amazing root beer floats!! (Might want to plan on walking a bit more after your visit here!)

Phoenix Pharmacy & Fountain is so fun!! The decor is classic old school pharmacy and soda fountain.  Stop in for a visit when on Gay Street in Downtown Knoxville, you won’t regret it!

Read more reviews on the Phoenix Pharmacy & Fountain here.

10. Relax at the Tennessean Drawing Room with a smoked Old Fashioned

Step 1 Smoked Old Fashioned
Hooking up the smoke to a smoke Old Fashioned Cocktail
Smoking Process at The Drawing Room Tennessean on an Old Fashioned Cocktail

Okay, I know this last one isn’t exactly something for the whole family, but if you (or your hubby) are a fan of the cocktail known as an “old fashioned” you might consider a relaxing evening in The Drawing Room atop the newly opened luxury hotel, The Tennessean. 

After Mr. VeraVise read about their “smoked old-fashioned”, he had to try one.  We actually spent the night in The Tennessean (read more below about our experience) so it was convenient to stop in for one after checking in. 

I remarked upon entering the Drawing Room that is smelled like a campfire.  After watching the bar tender make his drink, I concluded we could accomplish the same thing at the campground.  Essentially, the cocktail is placed in special box and infused with smoke.  Hubby’s response was, “Meh.” 

Regardless, the Drawing Room is a nice relaxing spot even if you just order a soda. 

Where To Stay In Knoxville, TN

WOW! Luxury Accommodations: The Tennessean A Personal Luxury Hotel


As this was a last minute stopover for our family, we snagged a great last minute deal. We can highly recommend it as a great place to stay in downtown Knoxville.  If you are like us, when we arrive in a city to explore, we like to put away the car and do as much on foot as we can.  The Tennessean is as close to the main downtown Knoxville attractions as you can get.  We especially loved that the skywalk could be easily accessed just outside the hotel and takes you straight to market square.  If you have spent much time in a big city with littles, you know that the fewer times you have to traverse heavy traffic on foot, the better.

The staff were very friendly and the room was impeccable.  On checkout day, they gladly kept our bags so we could continue to explore the city for a while.

Check Rates On The Tennessean

Family Friendly Moderately Priced Accomodations

Here are few other family friendly options to consider.

If you get tired of the city,  don’t forget, you can be in the Smoky Mountains in just under an hour. Be sure to read our comprehensive guide to these Things To Do In The Smoky Mountains for some great ideas and book a great cabin in the Smokies for an extended weekend!

We also have a review of a great family hotel just outside of Dollywood. Check out our Home 2 Suites Pigeon Forge Review.

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Monday 11th of April 2022

Great article on a great city! I moved to East Tennessee 6 months ago and Knoxville was the runner up for a new home city. There is a lot to do in and around the city. Fir anyone interested, there are a few museums to explore as well. The Tennessee Historical Society and Museum was one that I enjoyed!

Up and Coming US Travel Destinations to Visit in 2019

Saturday 18th of May 2019

[…] If you’d like more ideas about visiting Knoxville with your family, read our 10 Fun Things to Do in Knoxville,┬áTennessee. […]

Mary {The World Is A Book}

Monday 15th of October 2018

We haven't been to Knoxville yet but this post is inspiring. It's alway great to read about family-friendly destinations especially ones with a variety of delicious food. You had me at the chicken and waffles and that mouth-watering sundae. What a fun weekend trip to do.


Monday 1st of October 2018

I've never been in Knoxville Tennessee, so it's good to know there are so many things to do there. I wish I had more time to visit all the states of the US. That Sundae looks so yummy! #TheWeeklyPostcard

Rob+Ann @TravelLatte(.net)

Sunday 30th of September 2018

So far, every trip to Knoxville has been spent in hotel conference rooms. Boooo! It's high time we took a trip just to enjoy all that Knoxville has to offer! Thanks for the great ideas, and for sharing on #TheWeeklyPostcard!

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