Free Things To Do in Knoxville
- #1View all PhotosfreeMarket Square#1 in KnoxvilleFree, Cafes, Neighborhood/Area, Shopping, SightseeingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDFree, Cafes, Neighborhood/Area, Shopping, SightseeingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
Since the 1860s, Market Square has been a community center of Knoxville, with shops, restaurants, cafes and bars drawing a large number of locals and visitors. Recent travelers said it's a lively and fun place to walk around, with plenty of places to eat or just hang out. From outdoor concerts and movies to Shakespeare on the Square and other live entertainment, the area is usually bustling. There are also two water play fountains, a magnet for kids in warm weather.
From May through November on Wednesday and Saturday, the open-air Market Square Farmers Market offers products grown or made by vendors in the East Tennessee region. Products, which vary by the seasons, include eggs, honey, herbs, pasture-raised meat, baked goods, coffee, crafts and much more.
- #2View all Photos#2 in KnoxvilleFree, Parks and Gardens, SightseeingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDFree, Parks and Gardens, SightseeingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
Once the fairgrounds of Knoxville's 1982 World's Fair, today the space is a public park and home to the Sunsphere and the Tennessee Amphitheater, the two remaining structures from the exposition. Visitors and locals say the park is a great place to see a show, have a picnic or just take a walk.
The two-acre Festival Lawn accommodates a variety of events, from concerts to festivals, while the enormous Performance Lawn, another open area, provides a natural amphitheater-like setting, also perfect for concerts, festivals, parties and other events. The Splash Pads, a fun water feature, are usually available from mid-April to early October, but availability can depend on the weather conditions.
- #3View all Photos#3 in KnoxvilleFree, Parks and Gardens, Hiking, RecreationTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDFree, Parks and Gardens, Hiking, RecreationTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Spanning more than 300 acres in Tennessee's Knox County, this nature center offers plenty of rock climbing opportunities and more than 10 miles of trails to walk or hike. What's more, visitors can paddle on Mead's Quarry Lake via canoe, kayak and paddleboard. Start at the visitor center, where you can pick up a trail map, grab a snack and use the restroom. In addition, the exhibit hall at the center is home to a number of non-releasable animals, including a variety of owls and snakes. You can learn more about some of the animals who live in the ecosystems in the area and learn how to spot them throughout the nature center.
Recent visitors said the nature center is a great place to bring kids, but all ages will enjoy the beauty of the region. Patrons particularly enjoyed the River Boardwalk, which overlooks the Tennessee River.
- #7View all Photos#7 in KnoxvilleMuseums, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDMuseums, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
The Knoxville Museum of Art highlights the art and artists of East Tennessee with both permanent and temporary exhibits. "Higher Ground: A Century of the Visual Arts in East Tennessee" is the museum's permanent exhibit. It aims to highlight artists who spent the majority of their careers in the eastern Tennessee area and it features objects from the museum's own collection, along with works borrowed from public and private collections. Another popular permanent exhibit is the "Thorne Rooms," a set of intricate miniature dioramas created by Narcissa Niblack Thorne. Rooms depicted include a 19th-century Victorian parlor and a late 18th-century English dining room.
A major draw of the museum is the enormous sculpture called the "Cycle of Life: Within the Power of Dreams and the Wonder of Infinity" by Knoxville resident and internationally known artist Richard Jolley. The work is one of the largest figurative glass and steel sculptures in the world.
- #8View all Photos#8 in KnoxvilleMuseums, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDMuseums, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
Located on the campus of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, this museum offers exhibits on everything from the native peoples of Tennessee to "Monty," a 2,400-pound, 24-foot-long bronze skeleton of a hadrosaur (duck-billed dinosaur), which once roamed the coastal plains of Tennessee.
Recent travelers said the museum is small, but fascinating, and well worth visiting for its interesting exhibits, especially "Ancient Egypt: The Eternal Voice." This exhibit features a collection of objects, most manufactured more than 2,000 years ago, including everday items like shoes and hair combs to ceremonial pieces, such as a coffin and animal mummies.
- #9View all Photos#9 in KnoxvilleFree, Parks and GardensTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDFree, Parks and GardensTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
This 47-acre property dates back to 1786 when it was a private family-owned horticultural business. In 2001, it was founded as the Knoxville Botanical Garden and Arboretum. Today, visitors will encounter eight display gardens, including a butterfly meadow, walking trails and 2 miles of distinctive stone walls.
Recent travelers said the garden is a tranquil and beautiful place to visit. Others praised the knowledgable staff.
- #11View all Photos#11 in KnoxvilleFree, Parks and GardensTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDFree, Parks and GardensTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
The official botanical gardens of the state of Tennessee boasts more than 4,000 annuals, perennials, herbs, tropical plants, trees, shrubs, vegetables and ornamental grasses, and are part of the UT Institute of Agriculture. Scenic walking trails weave throughout the various gardens and greenhouses.
Recent visitors said the gardens are pretty, well-kept, and equipped with informative signage for the curious. Art exhibits, seasonal events, lectures, plant sales and more are offered at the gardens throughout the year.
- #14View all PhotosfreeSunsphere#14 in KnoxvilleMuseums, Free, Monuments and Memorials, SightseeingTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPENDMuseums, Free, Monuments and Memorials, SightseeingTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPEND
Constructed for the 1982 World's Fair, the 266-foot-tall Sunsphere offers a great view of the city from its observation deck on the fourth floor. It's one of the last remaining relics of the 1982 World's Fair and features information and images about the historic event. What's more, it offers a 360-degree view of the original 1982 World's Fair site (now World's Fair Park), downtown Knoxville, the Tennessee River, the University of Tennessee and the Smoky Mountains. It's worth stopping in to take photos, according to visitors. However, a few complain that the venue could use some updating and cleaning.
The Sunsphere, located in World's Fair Park, is open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and is free to visit. World's Fair Park is best accessed via the Knoxville Trolley's orange line. For more information, visit the observatory's official website.
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