Knoxville, TN. My weird, little hometown, juxtaposed by The Great Smoky Mountains on one side and Oak Ridge(“Secret City”) on another end. Knoxville is the 3rd biggest city in Tennessee, but even so, it surprises me how many people from all different walks of life end up here.
I say it’s a weird city because…we’re known for a lot of…random things. Dr. Bass’s groundbreaking “Body Farm”, a place where there’s a legit waiting list to donate your body to science and have it dropped out of helicopters, frozen in a block of ice, or put under other harsh tests to see just how nature chooses to decompose us under the weirdest circumstances.
We hosted the 1982 World’s Fair and we got a cool, futuristic monument known as The Sunsphere out of it. RC Cola and Moon Pies are big around here, though I don’t care for either of those things…😝
Knoxville has had famous natives such as James Agee, Cormac McCarthy, Quentin Tarantino and Johnny Knoxville. Yeah. We don’t get to claim Dolly Parton, however, since she was born out yonder in Sevierville, our neighbors to the east.
Knoxville is just…weird. We’ve had everything from talented writers to the creators of Jackass, so…I’d say our city is a big contradiction in and of itself.
Like most cities, there are free things to do if you ever find yourself here, and my brother and I set out to do them the other day! We pretended to be tourists in our own town. Here are a few free things to do in the fair city of Knoxville!
1. Go up in The Sunsphere.
It’s cliche, but we did it. 🙌🏻 Believe it or not, my grandfather told me he’s never been up in it! 😱 It’s like The Sears Tower(or whatever they’re calling it now) for people in Chicago. The Empire State Building for Manhattan. There’s an observation deck on the lowest floor where you can see Neighland Stadium, The World’s Fair Park, and pretty much everything else.
There’s also an Italian restaurant, but we couldn’t get up there. 😫💦🍝 Also, it wouldn’t have been free, soooo…
2. The Bluffs
For another cool view, you can check out The Bluffs at 1121 Cherokee Trail. It looks like a “no trespassing” area, but you just park in the dirt lot and follow the trail for a good skyline view of the city. Photographers take pictures up there a lot and in the summer, people hang hammocks in the trees.
Thanks to my brother for helping me find this one. I put it in Maps and then got there and was like, “Ahhh! I don’t know where it is!” You have to do some walking, but it’s worth it. Just don’t go alone ’cause Cattywampus. 🙀 Don’t ask. It’s some stupid urban legend about a screeching cat/humanoid thing that tries to get people. Just avoid large areas that resemble litter boxes and you’ll be fine. 😂 (Trust my city to have a dumb urban legend the likes of Chupacabra.)
3. Knoxville Art Museum
The Knoxville Art Museum is also free. (Might I suggest hitting The Chocolate Factory just down the road also? You have to pay for the chocolate, but it’s good. 🍫) If you have kids, they would also appreciate Fort Kid, right across the street. It’s a huge playground of timbery, treehouse goodness.
The art museum has changing exhibits, a gift shop and some cool interactive features as well.
4. Market Square
Market Square—one of the best places, especially in the summer. There are usually lots of events in the summer, like The Farmer’s Market, Shakespeare or Movies on The Square, The Rossini Festival, concerts and more. I loved The Asian Festival I went to back in August!
Restaurants aren’t free, but there are a ton to choose from down there! Stroll around and soak in the atmosphere.
5. Ijams Nature Center
For the nature lover, if The Bluffs wasn’t a long enough hike for you, check out the trails and quarries at Ijams, all free and easy to access. This forest oasis is right near downtown and definitely worth checking out!
6. Knoxville Riverfront
The Knoxville Riverfront is another thing people forget about that’s totally free. It’s a great place to see the changes going on in South Knox—they tore down Baptist Hospital and while it looks really creepy right now, it’s going to be the headquarters of Regal Cinemas. Oh! Which, Regal is based here also, fun fact. Knoxville is home to a ton of businesses, including The Scripps Network, responsible for HGTV.
All the things on this list are free to do in Knoxville and can give you a feel for the city!