Why Go To Knoxville
Tennessee's third-largest city, and the site of its first capital, often flies under the radar, but once visitors get acquainted with the historic and charming Knoxville and its accessible downtown, as well as its proximity to the Great Smoky Mountains, they often become fans. One of Knoxville's most famous landmarks is the gleaming Sunsphere, a 266-foot-tall, gold-tinted tower built for the 1982 World's Fair. Now an observatory, located in the World's Fair Park, it's just one of the city's many attractions.
Downtown Knoxville is full of interesting independent shops and restaurants, many radiating out from popular Market Square. The Tennessee River runs alongside downtown, so many locals and visitors get out on the water by kayak, canoe or river boat cruise. Historic attractions abound, especially Civil War sites, battlegrounds and homes. Furthermore, friendly residents with a genuine welcoming attitude, lots of green spaces, tasty southern cuisine and an-easy-to-navigate downtown make Knoxville an appealing city to visit.
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Best Months to Visit
The best time to visit Knoxville is March through June and September through November. While Knoxville experiences four distinct seasons, the beautiful dogwoods in spring and the bright foliage in the fall make visiting during these months especially appealing. Summer can get quite warm and is the busiest season for tourism in Tennessee, which leads to higher hotel prices. Winter is typically pretty mild, though can get chilly, making it a less popular time to visit, which can lead to lower room rates.
Weather in Knoxville
Data sourced from the National Climatic Data Center
What You Need to Know
- Walk Seriously, park your car and explore on foot. You'll see much more and won't have to deal with directions or parking.
- Find live music Nashville and Memphis aren't the only cities in Tennessee with a great music scene. Knoxville has several venues to catch a live show.
- Get on the river The Tennessee River forms Knoxville's east side and runs parallel to downtown, so there are plenty of opportunities to get on the river. Try canoeing, kayaking or cruising on a paddlewheel riverboat.
How to Save Money in Knoxville
- Take the trolley Skip renting a car and use the free trolley to get around the city if you get tired of walking.
- Visit free attractions Knoxville has so many free attractions, from the museums to botanical gardens, you can easily enjoy some of its best offerings without paying a cent.
- Listen to the music Make time for the WDVX Blue Plate Special, a live performance radio show held at noon at the WDVX studio inside the Knoxville Visitor Center Monday through Thursday and on Saturday. On Friday, "The Big Plate," is at Barley's on Jackson Avenue. Local musicians perform everything from bluegrass to country music.
What to Eat
While fried chicken and barbecue are acclaimed (rightly so) in the south, there are plenty of other of tasty foods to eat in Knoxville. That said, if you are craving fried chicken or soul food, make a beeline for Jackie's Dream, where you can get tasty hot chicken, smothered pork chops, ribs and more.
A great place to start a Knoxville food quest is at Market Square, which has a wealth of dining options. In fact, there are more than 75 places to eat in one square mile downtown and every type of cuisine can be found. Pearl on Union (a coffee and pastry shop), Tupelo Honey (a Southern restaurant) and Cruze Farm Dairy are popular spots within walking distance of Market Square. If you're willing to explore a bit more of downtown Knoxville, try breakfast at Olibea, pizza at A Dopo and Middle Eastern fare at Yassin's Falafel House. J.C. Holdway, helmed by James Beard award-winning chef Joseph Lenn, is a more upscale spot to dine in town.
And if you're a beer fan, you'll want to check out Knoxville's Ale Trail, which features more than a dozen breweries.
Getting Around Knoxville
The best way to get around downtown Knoxville is on foot, though if you want to travel farther afield (like to Great Smoky Mountains National Park), you'll need a car. Knoxville's McGhee Tyson Airport (TYS) is the closest airport to Knoxville and is located just 13 miles from downtown. There are several car rental agencies at the airport, as well as taxi and ride-hailing options, such as Uber and Lyft. If you choose to rent a car, you'll find that there are plenty of free places to park around the city. Keep in mind: There is no public transportation option that will take you from the airport into downtown Knoxville.
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