Knoxville is equal parts college town, big city, and gateway to outdoor adventure. Home of the Volunteers of the University of Tennessee and the out-of-this-world Sunsphere, Knoxville has countless things to do for the whole family. Whether you decide to explore World's Fair Park or go to the Old City district, be sure to grab some delicious barbecue and sweet tea for a taste of southern comfort. Speaking of which, you may want to stop for a sip of Tennessee’s favorite spirit at the Knox Whiskey Works or any of the other fine local distilleries.
The bustling city center was home to the 1982 World's Fair and is Knoxville's heart. Head to the top of the Sunsphere for dramatic views of the city, the Tennessee River Valley, and Smoky Mountains. If you want to learn a bit about Appalachian culture, visit the Knoxville Museum of Art to see works from local artists dating from the present back to pioneer days.
Once known as a den of sin, this neighborhood has seen a wave of more wholesome redevelopment. The area's youthful vibe is apparent as you explore the eclectic shops and trendy dives.
The University of Tennessee is just a short drive from downtown, and it offers a unique insight into the Southern college lifestyle. If you're lucky enough to be in town during football season, enjoy some local flavor at a tailgate party. You can also go for the gusto and buy a ticket to the game. Hint: wear orange.
While the city has plenty of stuff to do, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Gatlinburg, and Pigeon Forge are just a short drive away. You could conceivably go on a guided tour of Gatlinburg, make a stop in Dollywood, and enjoy the Hatfield & McCoy Dinner Feud all in enough time to make it back before the Sunsphere closes for the night.
Um, the Sunsphere. While it may seem a bit kitschy thanks to its gold-dusted dome, this iconic building offers up the best views in town—and admission to the observation deck is free. From these great heights, you can spot the next stop on your Tennessee adventure.
Market Square is probably the single best place in the city to get a feel for the true nature of Knoxville. For more than 150 years, Knoxvillians have come here for fresh produce, talented street performers, and people watching. Join the locals as they browse the peaches and listen to the sweet twang of the banjo. Since you are definitely going to the Sunsphere, you will also inevitably go to the surrounding World's Fair Park, which offers a glimpse into the city's history. If you get a chance to go to a show at the Tennessee Theater, you should. This former movie palace features walls covered with gold filigree, comfortable seats, and world-class entertainment.
There are so many family-friendly things to do in Knoxville and the surrounding area that it's hard to list them all, but here goes. Dollywood offers up thrilling rollercoasters, gastronomical wonders like corndog nuggets, and entertaining shows for everyone in your group. If you're looking for some laughs, you can make the short trip to the Comedy Barn for some good clean fun. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is super close too, which means it's easy to fly through the treetops or rage down a river. No matter where you go in the Knoxville area, you are sure to find friendly folks, great food, and tons of fun.