The 8 Best Ways to Experience Knoxville Tennessee

Put a little spring in your step exploring Rocky Top Tennessee!
Visit downtown Knoxville
Photo by Bruce McCamish Photography
Suffice to say, there’s no wrong way to experience Knoxville, the city where the Tennessee River begins and home to the University of Tennessee. However, for both old hats and newcomers, we’ve come up with a list of eight ways to spring into Knoxville that are so awesome you’ll be humming “Rocky Top” by the time you get to number four.

1. Cultivate your appreciation for beauty at Knoxville Gardens

Visit the beautiful Knoxville Botanical Garden in Knoxville Tennessee
Knoxville Botanical Garden

The first thing you must realize is that Knoxville is a true renaissance city. There’s a little bit of everything, and all that characterizes the gem of Knox County is the crème de la crème. Natural beauty is prevalent during the springtime and can be enjoyed to the utmost in two spacious gardens: the Knoxville Botanical Garden and Arboretum and the University of Tennessee Gardens at Knoxville.

  • Knoxville Botanical Garden: As you walk around in downtown Knoxville, take a scenic detour to the botanical gardens where you’ll be treated to hiking trails, display gardens, and unique and historic horticulture. Over two miles of distinct stone walls are part of the scene at this former 47-acre nursery—open free to the public. You can even experience a real-life “Secret Garden”, modeled after the mysterious garden in The Secret Garden by Francis Hodgson Burnett who lived in Knoxville when she began writing professionally.
  • University of Tennessee Gardens: Delight in multiple gardens such as the Kitchen Garden, the Rock Garden, the Fruit Trees, the Beall Family Rose Garden, the Evolution Garden, and more in this exotic free-to-the-public space located off of Jacob Drive. 

2. Stomp (or chomp) your way through Knoxville festivals

Enjoy fun events like Bike Boat Brew and Bark in Knoxville
Bike, Boat, Brew & Bark

What better way to get into the local culture of Knoxville than by attending local festivals? The city comes to life at these—and other—awesome events.

  • Rhythm N Blooms: With Knoxville’s Old City as its stage, Rhythm N Blooms is one of Knoxville’s most popular music festivals, taking place this year April 7-9 in downtown Knoxville. The Americana fest celebrates the sounds that set the scene for the city’s vibrant culture.
  • Big Ears: World-class music, talks, discussions, workshops, film screenings, and more in stunning historic theaters, clubs, galleries, and more make Big Ears one of the most unique artistic events in the country, created by the founder of Bonnaroo.
See top performers at Big Ears music festival in Knoxville
Rhiannon Giddens performs at Big Ears; photo by Brock Caldwell
  • International Biscuit Festival: Biscuit, please … if you like to eat, then the International Biscuit Festival is for you. Selected Best Food Festival in Tennessee by National Geographic Traveler Magazine, this popular event draws thousands of biscuit lovers to downtown Knoxville to sample biscuit creations on Biscuit Boulevard and cheer on competitors in the Miss or Mr. Biscuit Pageant and the Biscuit Baking Competition.
  • Bike Boat Brew & Bark: If you love the outdoors, then head to Volunteer Landing June 3rd for Bike Boat Brew & Bark. Bring the dog, enjoy a craft beer, ride your bike, and watch the Knoxville Powerboat Classic.

3. Dine with all of your best friends on pet-friendly patios

Enjoy dining with your favorite pup at these Knoxville restaurants with patios

Four-to-two-legged guests are welcome all around Knoxville (for example, feel free to take your leashed pup to the University of Tennessee Gardens, and it’s a no brainer that Fido is guest of honor at Bike Boat Brew & Bark), but you might be surprised to learn that much of Knoxville’s dining scene has “gone to the dogs” in the best way possible. Seriously … there are more than 50 restaurants with patios around Knoxville that are more than happy to see you and your pooch rolling or strolling up for a nosh.

4. Monkey around at Zoo Knoxville

See the new Tiger Forest exhibit at the Zoo Knoxville in Knoxville Tennessee
Zoo Knoxville

With acres of creative habitats, Zoo Knoxville is as fun as it is educational for animal lovers of all ages. Three baby gorillas, giraffes you can feed, red pandas and more are among the animal population residing at this zoological wonderland. And don’t miss the newest addition to the zoo debuting this spring: Tiger Forest. The Tiger Forest habitat offers visitors the opportunity to encounter beautiful Malayan tigers, a critically endangered species, while the breeding facility component will work to rebuild this delicate population.

5. Get wet and wild in the Urban Wilderness

Go biking in Knoxville at parks and greenways

While Knoxville has countless national historic landmarks, less than a mile from downtown is the Knoxville’s Urban Wilderness, which comprises 1,000 acres of parks, trails, and forests with two special destinations: The South Loop and the Battlefield Loop. Adventurers of all skills and ages enjoy 10 parks, 50 miles of trails, four Civil War sites, abandoned rock quarries, and riverbanks. This region is also home to Baker Creek Preserve, home to the region’s only double black diamond mountain biking trail.

6. Come alive on Knoxville’s parks and greenways

Over 50 miles of greenways are perfect for walking, running, cycling, skating, and more. Wind along streams, rivers, and ridges. These areas are perfect nature-scapes for getting outdoors and living and loving life.

7. Spring paddle first into Knoxville’s Blueways

In addition to endless greenways, Knoxville is just as flush with frothy blueways. Paddle, sail, and explore the lakes and rivers that flow through and around the vibrant city of Knoxville.

8. Birds of a feather spend spring in Knoxville together

Enjoy birding in Knoxville Tennessee

As seasons change, birding becomes quite the hobby in this beautiful, historic outdoors city. Migratory birds are making their way home from a fun winter down south, and Seven Islands Wildlife Refuge is a picturesque flyover space for strolling and for spotting over 180 resident bird species and others passing through.

So, make like a bird and migrate toward Knoxville this season. With rich history, blueways, greenways, festivals, flavors, culture, and natural beauty, this city will surprise you.

Ready to spring into adventure and experience? If so, check out the visit Knoxville website for where to play and stay, where four-legged friends are welcome, and what to go see and do season after season.