Must-Visit Attractions in Knoxville, Tennessee
Home to the University of Tennessee, Knoxville is known for its college-town vibe. But there’s more to explore in Knoxville than just academic landmarks. Whether you’re traveling solo, with your family or for business, make sure you check out these Knoxville attractions.
Constructed for the 1982 World’s Fair, the Knoxville Sunsphere is a 266-foot high steel structure with a 75-foot gold glass sphere. While private businesses make up the fifth-eighth levels of the Sunsphere, the fourth level has an observation deck that gives visitors a 360-degree view of downtown Knoxville, the Tennessee River, and the Smoky Mountains. Get a Knoxville energy drink for your vacation to keep your energy levels up to enjoy 100 percent of your time.
Accredited by the National Association of Zoos and Aquariums, Zoo Knoxville opened in 1971. It was the first zoo in the world to hatch endangered northern spider tortoises and has birthed more red pandas than any other zoo in the world.
With more than 2,000 original artifacts on display, the Mabry-Hazen House is where three generations of the same family have lived since it was built in 1858. The home takes visitors through 130 years of Knoxville history. You’ll find the museum, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, atop Mabry’s Hill.
Located in the historic J.C. Penney building is Maple Hall. It’s an 11-lane bowling alley with a full-service bar, a live stage, and a 2-lane private VIP room. The facility is also available to host parties and private events.
Knoxville Museum of Art
The Knoxville Museum of Art was designed by American architect Edward Larabee Barnes. It offers tours, workshops, outreach programs, artist residencies and more. In 2014, the museum unveiled a monumental glass installation by Knoxville artist Richard Jolley. The work is the largest figural glass installation in the world.
Crescent Bend House and Gardens
In 1832, Drury Paine Armstrong built a home on a farm for his family just west of downtown Knoxville. He named the property “Crescent Bend,” since it had a stunning view of a crescent bend of what is now the Tennessee River. This home was likely a safe house on the Underground Railroad, as descendants of Armstrong’s say that a hidden trapdoor beneath the main staircase may have led to a room where runaway slaves were kept. Crescent Bend House and Gardens have five fountains, nine terraces, and formal Italian gardens. The inside is filled with 18th-century antique furniture.
Historic Ramsey House
The Ramseys were one of the first families to settle in Knoxville and were very involved in the local community. In 1797, Knoxville’s first builder, Thomas Hope, constructed the Historic Ramsey House using Tennessee pink marble and blue limestone. Today, the home sits on over 101 acres and has been restored and furnished to reflect the period of the Ramsey family’s occupancy.
Ijams Nature Center
This was originally known as the Bird Sanctuary until the 1960s, when the Knoxville Garden Club, Knox County Council of Garden Clubs and the City of Knoxville partnered up to turn the sanctuary into the Ijams Nature Center. The center was developed by Knoxville bird expert Harry Ijams and Alice Yoe Ijams, known as the “First Lady of Knoxville Garden Clubs.” Ijams Nature Center has plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy, like hiking, biking, and paddling.
Knoxville Botanical Garden and Arboretum
Located in East Knoxville, the Knoxville Botanical Garden and Arboretum was founded to preserve the history of the Howell family, who once owned the property in the late 1700s. American Revolutionary War veteran David Howell planted an orchard, where he began selling fruits and vegetables to local families. He also began selling trees, seeds and small plants to westbound settlers. In addition to display gardens on the property, there are also walking trails, historic horticulture and more than two miles of stone walls to explore.
Historic Market Square
The pedestrian square in Knoxville, Historic Market Square, is a downtown spot that attracts locals and visitors. There are restaurants, shops, and entertainment, as well as annual events like the Biscuit Festival and ongoing events like First Friday.
James White’s Fort
The founder of Knoxville was James White, who named the city for President George Washington’s Secretary of War, Henry Knox. He built the first log cabin in 1786, which was restored and opened to the public as James White’s Fort in 1970. More than 10,000 visitors tour the fort each year, which offers hands-on frontier living demonstrations such as blacksmithing, spinning, and open-hearth cooking.
The Muse Knoxville
Created to provide educational opportunities for children and adults, The Muse Knoxville seeks to inspire and empower through science and art. The museum spaces and outdoor play areas include two exhibits that opened in 2016, called LIVE SMART: Stay Well! and STEM Station, as well as an outdoor playground within Chilhowee Park.
General Robert R. Neyland was the head football coach at the University of Tennessee from 1926 to 1952. Today, Neyland Stadium serves as the home of the Tennessee Volunteers football team and also hosts large conventions. Since it was constructed in 1921 it has undergone 16 expansion projects, making it the fifth-largest stadium in the United States and the sixth-largest in the world.