Weekend Guide to Knoxville, Tennessee

November 3, 2021

North America

North America, Tennesee, USA

A few weeks ago, Ryan and I spent the weekend in Knoxville, Tennessee, and we were both so surprised by how much we loved it! It’s such a fun southern city with so much delicious food, charming streets, a unique art scene, and beautiful outdoor spaces! There’s truly something for everyone in Knoxville, and it really is a-nature-loving-adventure-seeking-artsy-kinda-town. It’s the perfect place to spend a weekend getaway, so here’s our guide to what to do during a weekend in Knoxville:

A Weekend Guide to Knoxville, Tennessee:

Day 1:

Explore Gay Street:

Once you arrive, drop off your bags at the Embassy Suites in Downtown Knoxville and go explore Gay Street! There’s so many cute shops and fun restaurants, and it’s such a lively street that really captures the charm of downtown Knoxville.

Eat dinner at Chivo Taqueria:

Toward the end of Gay Street, you’ll find Chivo Taqueria. It’s a gourmet taco restaurant with a trendy Mexican vibe. Our favorite tacos were the Party Fowl, the Piggy Smalls, and the Tators Gonna Tate. And you have to get the churros for dessert! They literally melt in your mouth and the combination of the churros with the chocolate sauce is seriously divine!

Day 2:

Explore the Market Street Farmer’s Market:

Every Wednesday from 10 am – 1 pm and Saturday from 9 am – 1 pm, there’s a local farmer’s market on Market Street. From local grown produce to local artisans handmade soap, you can find just about anything at the farmer’s market. It’s a fun way to spend your morning and support the local businesses! We got the most delicious cookies and definitely wish we’d left with some fresh sourdough bread too!

Ijam’s Nature Center:

Knoxville is surrounded by nature with beautiful lakes, quarries, and hiking trails. Ijam’s Nature Center is a stunning wildlife sanctuary with over 300 acres of protected wildlife and nature areas. You can go mountain biking, hiking, paddle boarding, fishing, or on a canopy adventure (which is an aerial course in the trees!)! It’s the perfect place to spend the day outdoors exploring! We went on the River Trail and it was the perfect short hike that ended at a beautiful overlook of the river!

Mead’s Quarry:

Mead’s Quarry used to be the site of a marble quarry, but it’s now part of Ijam’s Nature Center and the perfect place to relax and cool off after hiking and exploring through the rest of the preserve. Mead’s Quarry is a lake where you can kayak, paddle board, or just jump in and swim! We loved swimming, relaxing, and taking in the view from this historic Knoxville landmark.

Grab Dinner at A Dopo Pizza:

I love a good, fresh sourdough pizza and A Dopo Pizza definitely did not disappoint! We loved the Pizzicletta and the Soppressata with the local honey added to it! They also have these cute vintage plates, which I just loved because it added to the whole vibe of the restaurant. Be sure to grab a scoop of their gelato before you leave too!

Enjoy the Evening at Peter Kern Library:

Peter Kern Library is such a fun and unique experience! It’s a speakeasy in the back of the Oliver Hotel. Walk down the back alley, and when the red light is on, it means it’s open. When you get to the door, you have to say the password of the day in order to get in (you can find it on their Instagram account). There is a dress code, so dress up and have fun! And get there early, because there’s limited seating and the line can get pretty long on the weekends. The bartenders are really creative and you can either choose a drink from the menu or leave it up to the them to decide what you should have for the night, just be sure to leave room for the s’mores dessert! This was one of Ryan and I’s favorite things we did in Knoxville! It was the perfect date night!

Day 3:

Eat Brunch at Oli Bea:

Oli Bea is a true southern brunch experience. You can’t go to Tennessee without eating flaky buttery biscuits, and the biscuits from Oli Bea are absolutely delicious! The lemon and cruz farm buttermilk pancakes were delicious, or if you’re really feeling up for a southern brunch, order the Oli Bea Chicken Biscuit!

Zoo Knoxville:

Spend the morning at Zoo Knoxville! This is the perfect family friendly activity. There are elephants, rhinos, giraffes, monkeys, black bears, red pandas, and so many more animals! It’s such a fun place to explore and learn about these beautiful creatures. Zoo Knoxville is the Red Panda Capital of the World! More red pandas have been born there than anywhere in the world and they are dedicated to saving them from extinction, so be sure to visit the red panda exhibit while you’re there. We also loved watch the white-handed gibbons jump and swing across the park!

Grab a Treat from Cruze Farm Ice Cream:

Cruze Farm Ice Cream offers fresh churned ice cream from the local dairy farm! It is truly some of the best soft serve ice cream I’ve ever had in my life! They have incredible flavors like pumpkin and brown butter, peanut butter chocolate, and pineapple dole whip. But the Nutella soft serve was my favorite! They also have ice cream shakes, churns, and floats. The aesthetic is fun too, because it feels like a 50’s diner.

Knoxville Museum of Art: 

I absolutely loved the Knoxville Museum of Art. There are so many beautiful exhibits and it’s free. It’s also the perfect size of a museum in my opinion, because there’s just enough art where you feel like you can see it all without it feeling completely overwhelming. There’s also a beautiful patio with a view of the Sunsphere where you can sit and relax for a bit. It’s the perfect place to spend an hour or two and enjoy art from eastern Tennessee.

Sunsphere at World Fair Park:

Take in a 360º view of the city at the top of the Sunsphere at World Fair Park. It was built in 1982 for the World’s Fair, and it’s an iconic part of Knoxville’s skyline. *It’s currently closed for renovations, but be sure to check on their website and see if it’s open for your trip. 

where to stay:

Embassy Suites by Hilton Downtown Knoxville:

We stayed at Embassy Suites by Hilton Downtown Knoxville, and we absolutely loved it! It’s such a beautiful property, and it’s right in the heart of downtown Knoxville. It’s located on Gay Street, so it’s the perfect location, so you can easily walk to the best restaurants, shops, and right on over to Market Street. The rooms are updated, spacious, and comfortable and the perfect place to come home and relax after a long day exploring the city. There’s also a beautiful rooftop, the Radius Rooftop Lounge, with a bar, lounge area, and pool. They host a cocktail hour in the evenings with hors d’oeuvre and drinks for hotel guests. Plus there’s a 360º view of Knoxville from the roof, so it’s a great spot to watch the sunset over the city. We loved our stay and would definitely recommend it for your stay in Knoxville!

There are so many fun things to do, places to eat, and events going on in Knoxville, so be sure to check out Visit Knoxville’s website for the most up to date information on everything happening in the city when you’re planning your trip!

*Thanks to Visit Knoxville for sponsoring this post! As always, all opinions are our own. 

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