Knoxville is considered to be Tennessee's top hidden gem by many, the city providing guests with classic Tennessee scenery, traditional southern cuisine, and charm, and truly unique history and attractions everywhere you look. This is the perfect city to take a group of travelers looking for adventure, looking for education, and looking for a really great time, and here are the top 10 reasons why!
Sunsphere - Take in the very best views of Knoxville in this iconic city landmark, the gold-dusted dome spanning an impressive 75 feet. Learn about its history from the 1982 Worl'ds Fair and how it has become a symbol of Knoxville since then. Onsite you will find a gallery, observation deck, and excellent Italian eatery.
Sunsphere Pixabay Public Domain
Market Square - One of the most visited spots in the whole city, as well as one of the most historic, is Market Square, the farmers market and pedestrian mall located in the heart and soul of Knoxville's downtown area. Your group will find dining, entertainment, shopping, and regular events in this area, as well as the highly impressive and expansive farmers market, fresh produce and craft selling staple in the city since 1854.
Zoo Knoxville - 53 acres, 800 animals, and over 400,000 guests make this zoo one of the best in Tennessee, a legacy it has upheld since first established in 1935. Explore the lush botanic gardens, take a camel or carousel ride, or sit in on any of the many educational presentations or behind the scenes animal encounters. With many different animals, from African elephants to yellow-backed duikers, this spot will teach you much about biology, ecosystems, and conservation.
Knoxville Museum of Art - Located within the World's Fair Park, this attraction will provide you with a rich visual legacy of eastern Tennessee, with new art from the region and surrounding areas. Since 1961 KMA haw been providing concerts, classes, tours, workshops, lectures, and special programs for its eager art-loving guest, each activity an excellent celebration of the art and artists of the southern Appalachian region.
McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture - Head to the University of Tennessee's campus to visit McClung, one of the most popular local museums displaying the local history, natural history, archaeology, anthropology, and even decorative arts. Some of the most interesting things you will get to learn about here are locally discovered fossils, ancient Egyptian civilizations, and the Civil War and its implications in the area. Head to the nearby Einstein Brothers Bagels for a snack afterward!
Knoxville Chocolate Company - The 'South's Finest Chocolate Factory' (VisitKnoxville) and only full-line chocolatier in Knoxville, the Knoxville Chocolate Company is a must stop while in World's Fair Park. Within this candy shop you can get a true taste of Tennesee with the Knoxville Map Bars, Sunsphere Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Bar, or Sweet Ole Rocky Top Mountains of Almonds in a Valley of Milk Chocolate Bars. There are also several different 'Tennessee Bars', Corn Pop, and a local favorite, Tennesee Walking Sticks (pretzel covered in caramel, chocolate, and pecans).
Ijams Nature Center - For a naturally great time head to Ijams, the urban nature center holding 315 acres of outdoor recreation and relaxation. Participate in any environmental education programs taking place while here, visit the education center to learn more info on pollinator gardens and host plants, or enjoy a picnic at any of the several outstanding overlooks throughout. Your group can also hike, bike, paddle or climb, or opt-in for a few hours at the Zipline and Ropes course here onsite.
Knoxville Walking Tour - Take a walk around the city's most popular, historic, and entertaining spots with master storyteller Laura Still as you dive into stories of pioneers, soldiers, outlaws, and fictional characters from Knoxville's past. You will have the choice of taking the Shadow Side Ghost Tour, Old City Tour, Botanic Garden Tour, Civil War Tour, Musical History Tour, Literary Heritage Tour, or Old Gray Cemetary Tour, so there will certainly be something that piques your interest here! If you are around during the holidays be sure to opt-in for the highly popular Holiday History Tour.
Knoxville city skyline is backlit by the orange hues of sunrise Stockfresh
Volunteer Landing - Be sure to make time during your visit to take a stroll along Volunteer Landing, one of the most popular and most historic public park areas in the city. This is the original Holston Treaty site, development beginning here around 1995. A task force was put in place to begin a 3 phase, 3-acre park project that would improve the landscape, establish historic markers, and create lighting along the 7 mile stretch of Tennessee Riverfront. Today you can fish, paddle, row, kayak, hydro bike, or much more along the water, just head to the Outdoor Knoxville Adventure Center to rent any water rec equipment or greenway bike (Neyland Greenway and James White Greenway connect along this parkway).
Tennessee Amphitheater - Another World's Fair Park staple attraction is the Tennesee Amphitheater, one of only 2 remaining structures from the 1982 fair itself. This 82 foot long 56-foot wide open-air theater space holds 1000 guests, making it the perfect outdoor event venue. There are mostly country and classical music concerts here, as well as a few blues and rock features mixed in. The design will be quite noticeable, with large tensile fabric membranes floating atop the stage and seating areas.