Knoxville is a seriously amazing city. I’m a born and raised Knoxvillian and I love living here. The city is charming, fun, and beautiful, with plenty of festivals and events happening all the time. There’s something to do for everyone in Knoxville: from amazing restaurants, a happening bar and brewery scene, great outdoor areas to explore, and interesting local attractions, you’re sure to find something to fit your interests in this Knoxville TN Travel Guide.
In this guide, you’ll find suggestions for Where To Stay, What To Do, Where To Eat & Drink, Local Events & Festivals, & Outdoor Places To Explore.
Knoxville TN Travel Guide
Awesome Places To Stay
The first item for planning a great trip to Knoxville is finding the perfect place to stay. I’d recommend staying in downtown Knoxville because you’ll be in the heart of the city.
The Oliver Hotel – Located in the heart of downtown Knoxville, The Oliver Hotel is a stunning, beautifully designed boutique hotel.
Hyatt Place Downtown Knoxville – This newly renovated hotel has a swanky, modern design and is in a great downtown location. You can easily walk to dozens of restaurants, bars, and shops. They also have a rooftop bar with gorgeous views of the city.
The Tennessean – Also in downtown Knoxville, this luxury hotel is steps away from World’s Fair Park and is in walking distance to many restaurants and bars.
Fun Things To Do In The City
There are so many fun things to do and great places to check out in the city. Here are a few that shouldn’t be missed.
Visit the Sunsphere at World’s Fair Park – The Sunsphere is a Knoxville icon. You can take in great views of the city from the observation deck. Afterwards, you can stroll around World’s Fair Park.
See the animals at Zoo Knoxville – There are a lot of great animal exhibits at Zoo Knoxville. Plus, they have fun events happening a few times a year, like Feast with the Beasts and Brew at the Zoo.
Walk around downtown Knoxville – specifically Market Square, Gay St, and the Old City. There are so many cute shops, great restaurants, and interesting bars in the area.
While you’re downtown, bowl a few games at Maple Hall – Located on Gay St, Maple Hall is a beautiful and fun bowling alley with a full bar and food menu. It’s a great spot to spend a couple of hours.
Check out art at the Knoxville Museum Of Art – The KMA is a smaller art museum but they usually have some interesting exhibits. It’s a great place to check out on your trip to Knoxville.
The Best Local Places To Eat
Knoxville knows what’s up when it comes to food. Here are some fantastic local eateries.
Taste Of Thai (Location: West Knoxville) – The place to go for Thai food. My favorite is the Taste Of Thai curry. It’s the best curry ever.
Sunday Brunch at Lakeside Tavern (Location: West Knoxville) – This brunch spot is seriously awesome. They have a large selection of high quality food.
Stock & Barrel (Location: Downtown, Market Square) – The place to go for a great burger. Perfect downtown location and great atmosphere.
Sweet P’s BBQ (Location: Downtown Knoxville) – A personal favorite BBQ joint with some of the best banana pudding ever.
The Tomato Head (Locations: West Knoxville & Downtown Knoxville, Market Square) – Really good pizza and sandwiches with vegan friendly options. If I’m not getting a pizza, then I usually order hummus and the Oh Boy sandwich.
Nama Sushi Bar (Locations: West Knoxville & Downtown Knoxville) – Nama is probably the best sushi spot in town. It’s a little pricey, but so dang good!
Yassin’s Falafel House (Locations: West Knoxville & Downtown) – Great little restaurant that serves falfels, gyros, hummus, and baklava, plus other items.
Aubrey’s (Locations: Multiple locations throughout Knoxville) – This is a local chain restaurant but the food is really good. They have a separate bar area that’s fun for weeknight bingo or trivia while enjoying a beverage. The menu has a range of options from burgers to seafood to pasta.
Copper Cellar (Locations: West Knoxville & Downtown) – Great local restaurant servicing high quality food. Steak, seafood, and a full bar… this is a perfect location for an upscale dinner.
Pete’s Restaurant (Location: Downtown) – The best diner in town, serving breakfast and lunch Monday-Saturday. Come early or be prepared to wait on Saturdays. It can get a little cramped and busy inside but the food is totally worth it.
Hard Knox Pizza (Location(s): West Knoxville) – Fantastic wood fired pizza joint. They use fresh, local ingredients for their pizzas and they are delicious.
Farmacy (Location: West Knoxville) – Farm fresh southern food with daily specials. The food here is seriously tasty.
Wild Love Bakehouse (Location: Downtown/North Knoxville) – The best place to get baked goods in town.
Unique Spots To Grab A Drink
If you’re looking for somewhere to enjoy an alcoholic beverage in town, then look no further. Here are a few interesting bars/breweries/beer gardens where you can wet your whistle.
Check out some of the local breweries in town – One of my favorite ways to grab a drink in town. View my Knoxville Brewery Guide for the all the details + map of local breweries.
Stop in at The Peter Kern Library Speakeasy – Located right off of Market Square in The Oliver Hotel, this Speakeasy is a truly unique place. It’s a intimate space, with limited seating inside, but the wait is worth it for the experience. All the details are fantastic and the drink menu is like nowhere else.
Try a new cocktail at PostModern Spirits – This craft distillery has an ever-changing cocktail menu that utilizes seasonal, local ingredients. A perfect spot for the adventurous cocktail drinker.
Play arcade games with a drink in hand at Token Game Tavern – Token is such a fun place to spend a few hours. The drink menu is classic yet fun, and they have plenty of arcade, video, and board games to enjoy.
Have a drink and take in city views at Preservation Pub – If you’re into a more typical bar experience, Preservation Pub is the place for you. They have daily drink specials, live music, and a rooftop bar that overlooks Market Square.
Have a craft beer in a chill beer garden at Bearden Beer Market – You can buy craft beers here and enjoy them in a beer garden environment with outdoor games and seating. This is a really chill, dog-friendly spot.
Outdoor Places You Don’t Want To Miss
Knoxville is wonderful for many reasons, but one of those reasons is that there are so many beautiful, outdoorsy places to experience. Here are a few suggestions for you to get out and explore Knoxville.
Visit The Smokies! – Ok, I know The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is not in Knoxville proper, but I would truly be doing you a disservice if I didn’t mention it. It’s a short drive from Knoxville, so it really should be at the top of your must see list if you’re in town. Check out my GSMNP page for more info on some of my favorite hikes in the park.
Ijams Nature Center – Ijams is probably the best place to enjoy nature in the city. (Just a short drive from downtown Knoxville!) There are hiking trails, Meads Quarry, Navitat Adventure, kayak/canoe/paddleboard rentals, and so much more. A great spot to dip your toes into the natural beauty of Knoxville.
Forks Of The River Sunflower Fields – If you happen to visit Knoxville during the few weeks these sunflower fields bloom, then you really don’t want to miss it! Otherwise, the Forks Of The River is a nice place to walk and enjoy nature.
Local Events & Festivals
Knoxville is home to some interesting events. If you love food, beer, and music, then here are a few events you want to make plans to attend. You can also view a Knoxville events calendar here.
International Biscuit Festival (Yearly in May) – If you live in the south then you gotta love biscuits! Every year, Knoxville hosts the International Biscuit Festival. Many local restaurants create their own biscuit creations and attendees vote on their favorites.
Big Ears Music Festival (Yearly in March) – Music lovers, this is your time to visit Scruffy City. Various musical artists preform around the different music venues in town.
Tennessee Valley Fair (Yearly in September) – The fair is always a fun place to visit. They have some good musical acts every year along with good food and fun rides.
Market Square Farmers’ Market (May-November, Wednesday and Saturdays) – The best farmers’ market in town. They always have great produce and other local goods.
First Friday (Monthly) – The first Friday of every month, you can walk around various businesses in downtown Knoxville and experience some great art. For free! You could do this every month and always experience something new.
There ya have it.
I hope this Knoxville TN Travel Guide helps you plan your perfect trip to Knoxville. It’s an amazing city with some truly unique places to experience.