For this post on things to do in Knoxville TN I’m collaborating with the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development and Made in Tennessee. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
When one first hears Knoxville, Tennessee, United States their mind might go to things like football, college town, or the color orange. History buffs think of the Civil War, the World Fair Park, McClung Museum, or Blount Mansion. What outsiders don’t know is Knoxville is a city that’s dedicated to art, music, and the outdoors.
Knoxville is about three and a half hours from Nashville and is a beautiful drive. On the fall weekend I drove up, the trees were rich with color. The scenery alone is worth the drive! So grab your coffee, put on your glasses, and read about all there is to see and do in The Marble City area.
THINGS TO DO IN KNOXVILLE TN – BREAKFAST
This cozy spot is next to Market Square and as the name suggests, serves coffee and chocolate. Order a mocha and blueberry a muffin for breakfast and get some chocolate for later. (The pumpkin spice chocolate changed my life.)
This breakfast spot is located in Knoxville’s ‘Old City’. Their take is simple; simple food, local ingredients, seasonal menu. The Olibea Chicken Biscuit and Olibea Pancakes were my favorites with some yummy hot chocolate to drink.
Located in Market Square, I’ve heard about how good Tomato Head was for years! You need to try their brunch. The table got coffee and waffles all around and Tomato Head did not disappoint. The food was delicious and it was a great place to sit and brunch with friends.
THINGS TO DO IN KNOXVILLE TN- LUNCH
After a morning of exploring and walking around Knoxville, you’re bound to work up an appetite. We stopped in Sweet P’s Barbecue and Soul House and boy did it hit the spot. We dined on pulled pork sandwiches, ribs, mac n’ cheese, tater salad, green beans, and sweet tea. If we lived in Knoxville I have a feeling I’d be a regular here.
If you want to have a really good affordable lunch in a laid-back environment, Yassin’s is the place to go. I love gyro’s so I got their delicious chicken gyro with french fries and coke. It hit the spot on a cold, rainy day! There’s 30-minute parking on that street, so it’s easy to drop by and pick up some food.
THINGS TO DO IN KNOXVILLE TN – DINNER
Don’t know about you but to me, dinner is the best meal of the day. Knoxville definitely delivers in the dinner department! Emilia Italian is the best Italian since going to Italy. Start with an order of the Grilled Romaine Salad and Bruschetta as an appetizer. Then order the Bolognese and Meatballs. Then you need Tiramisu for dessert.
The Bistro at the Bijou is a cute, intimate setting with delicious food. A lot of the products served are local. The Bistro at the Bijou Restaurant is located in one of the most historic buildings in downtown Knoxville. The Bijou also has a speakeasy for specialty drinks and plays live jazz. The Bistro at the Bijou is perfect for date night.
If you want to grab a coffee and a croissant sometime during your stay as a mid-day snack, stop by Wild Love Bakehouse. This is a great place to hang out, check emails, or catch up with a friend over coffee.
Some other bonus food suggestions are the French Market Creperie and Knoxville Food Tours.
If you’re hanging out in Market Square eating at Tomato Head or Emilia’s, there’s a ton of great shopping.
Earthbound is a lifestyle shop for the nomadic spirit who embraces individuality and craves exploration. This boutique sells a bunch of different things from apparel and accessories to home decor. Each piece ignites adventure and celebrates diversity.
Bliss is one of my favorite places to shop when I’m in Knoxville. This store sells trendy women’s apparel with accessories and home decor thrown in. When you walk in, there’s a table of UT apparel and gear to the left. Just in case you need a last-minute thing for the big game! When I visited they had begun to put up holiday decor, which was so cute and perfect for a Christmas lover.
Earth to Old City was such a fun boutique to visit. There are gems on every shelf and I got so much Christmas shopping done! From nic nacs to socks to cute home decor. You’ll find yourself spending so much time in here laughing at the funny items you find and Instagram-ing them.
Fizz is another boutique in Market Square. They have tunics, hats, and tons of jewelry. This store reminded me of a place my mom and grandmother would love, so I picked up a few gifts for them while I was there.
Tori Mason Shoes
Next to Fizz is Tori Mason Shoes. Tori Mason is a division of Fizz so the decor and shoes were darling. The summer sandals were all on sale and the boots were on full display. They had a variety of styles, colors, and heel heights, and anyone would find a shoe they love in Tori Mason.
Nothing Too Fancy
Around the corner from Market Square is Nothing Too Fancy. This store had the coolest local tees and hats! If you want a UT or a vintage tee/tank top, stop by Nothing Too Fancy. My husband picked up an awesome tee here that said “You’re the only Tenn I See”!
THINGS TO DO IN KNOXVILLE TN – DRINKING
Blue Slip Winery
Want to spend some time drinking local wines and spirits? Knoxville has plenty of places. In fact, it’s fun to do a crawl and do a lot of it together! Start at the Blue Slip Winery. This winery is located at a historic railroad station and is Knoxville’s first winery and Tennessee’s first urban winery. The wine is made from all locally grown fruit from Tennessee growers, which we make at our location at the Historic Southern Railway Station in downtown Knoxville.
Blue Slip also has fun events like Train Car dinners on Valentine’s Day, Food Truck nights, events, parties, you name it! The cool thing is you can go and walk around in the train cars. We had the place to ourselves when we went and had a great time tasting wine and exploring the train car.
Knox Whiskey Works
After the winery, go to Knox Whiskey Works next. Knox Whiskey Works (KWW) is Knoxville’s first (legal) distillery. Established in 2015, they craft award-winning Old City Heirloom Corn Whiskey from local corn. Once distilled, it is placed in new charred oak barrels to rest until it becomes bourbon. Along with corn whiskey, KWW produces Jackson Ave Gin, barrel-aged Marble City Pink Gin, Cold City Old Brew Coffee Liqueur, Fleur de Vie Liqueur, Tennessee Tailgate Orange Vodka and new products are always “in the Works.”
It was so fun getting a tour of their distillery, learning how each drink is made, and then testing each drink. My favorite was the Marble City Pink Gin and Fleur de Vie. The staff was also so much fun and very knowledgeable.
If you’re up for a walk, leave your car in the parking lot across the street from KWW and walk 5 minutes to PostModern Spirits down the road.
PostModern Spirits is a newer distillery with a cocktail bar in a fun, modern setting. You can sit at the bar, at a table, or in a comfy chair and enjoy a signature cocktail or try all their spirits. Out of all the gin, vodka, and liqueur we tried, the Cacao Liqueur was my favorite. It’ll be a hit for the holidays!
If you have time, go tour their distillery and learn all about their spirits!
Knoxville Museum of Art
Knoxville is full of places that offer you to go look at art for free. If you’re visiting on a rainy, cold day, hit up all of the great museums in Knoxville. One of my favorites was the Knoxville Museum of Art. Their current exhibits are American Impressionism, Higher Ground, art from local artists, and a glass exhibit. You can read all about these exhibits here.
Art Market Gallery
The Art Market Gallery is around the corner from Market Square and down the road from the Tennessee Theatre. If you’re looking to buy or see some local art, you can do all these things at the Art Market Gallery. The Art Market Gallery is Knoxville’s one-stop shop for local art, ceramics, jewelry, and other mixed media.
Knoxville Emporium Center
A five-minute walk from the Art Market Gallery on South Gay Street is the Knoxville Emporium Center. The Emporium Center is free, self-guided, and a part of the Arts & Culture Alliance. The bottom level is office/studio space for local artists and photographers, the second level is exhibit/offices and the third floor is the symphony office and exhibitions. We saw exhibits on the Arrowmont Experience, Anthropomorphize, the Love of Nature, and Painting with Light.
The Emporium has an open house with music and light bites once a month. Check for upcoming events here.
THINGS TO DO IN KNOXVILLE TN – MUSIC
The most iconic landmark in Knoxville is the Tennessee Theatre. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places and honored as the Official State Theatre of Tennessee, today’s Tennessee Theatre has something for everyone: classical music, vintage films, dance, Broadway, and stellar performances by today’s hottest musicians and yesterday’s favorites. Local arts organizations such as the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra, and Knoxville Opera, at UT Cultural Attractions, use the Tennessee Theatre throughout the year. The Theatre is also the site of special events like wedding receptions, private parties, corporate meetings, and other functions.
I didn’t get to see any shows at the Tennessee Theatre but did get to drive by during the day and at night to see the amazing sign!
If you’re short on time and have an hour to spare the WDVX Blue Plate Special is the way to go. This day’s guests were Papa Vay Landers and Tellios. WDVX is a local radio station and every weekday from 12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m. EST two artists come in and play for half an hour each. Snacks are available for purchase there or you can bring your lunch. A word of advice: get there early because seating goes quickly!
There’s also a cool and colorful mural outside of WDVX. Stop and see it for yourself!
THINGS TO DO IN KNOXVILLE TN – OUTDOORS
This time of year, the outdoors are irresistible. The temps are cooler and the trees are full of color. Set some time aside to hike at Ijams Nature Center. Ijams has anything and everything for the outdoor lover; hike, bike, paddle, climb, shop, relax, you name it! No matter your time limit, there’s a hike and a trail for you to enjoy.
THINGS TO DO IN KNOXVILLE TN – WHERE TO STAY
Located next to the Knoxville Convention Center, you couldn’t find a better location for your hotel. The Tennessee used to be a state government office and is not a chic, boutique hotel. The hotel is near the University of Tennessee and Neyland Stadium, making it an ideal urban getaway with the added bonus of scenic mountains and park vistas.
Authentic East Tennessee folkways are found in every detail. The carpets depict the Tennessee River, the logo portrays the state flower, and the room finishings are designed by Tennessee craftsmen.
Knoxville is a city full of fun things, rich in East Tennessee history, and you can find random places like the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame. It’s a great place for kids and children and there’s always something to do, no matter the time of year.
Two days or a weekend trip is plenty of time to explore Knoxville and all it has to offer.
That would be the University of Tennessee Knoxville. The football team is the Tennessee Volunteers and their colors are orange and white.
Depending on traffic a 45 to 1 hour drive.