15 Best Things to Do in Knox County, TN

Knox County, TN

Knox County, Tennessee, became vital to the state's marble industry in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

It has massive quarries that produce some of the finest marbles in the United States.

Knox County, home to over 486,677 residents in its 2021 census, remains a progressive region in Tennessee.

The county spans over 1,362 square kilometers, with Knoxville, Mascot, Powell, and Farragut as its major cities.

Besides its rich marble history, this county is known for its unspoiled natural beauty, unique heritage and culture, and a major educational institution.

I was deeply fascinated by this county's outdoor beauty and recreation.

So, let's explore this gorgeous region in Tennessee with this post about the best things to do in Knox County, Tennessee.

About this article: This article was written by a local contributor based on their own experiences and those around them. While this list showcases some remarkable places, it's important to note that this is an opinion piece, and there are many other exceptional places to visit that are not featured here.
Our aim is not just to guide you to popular places but to encourage you to venture out and experience the county for yourself.

Be a Nature Lover at the Ijams Nature Center

The waters of Ijams Nature Center
Ilia Krivoruk / Shutterstock.com

The Ijams Nature Center is a massive outdoor destination in Knoxville.

Visiting this nature center was one of the best things I did after arriving in Knox County.

This 275-acre outdoor attraction was originally established and developed by Harry Ijams as a bird sanctuary.

However, it grew bigger and became a major outdoor attraction in Knox County.

Today, this former bird sanctuary features over 12 miles of natural trails, perfect for various outdoor activities, including hiking and biking.

A bird at Ijams Nature Center
Matthew L Niemiller / Shutterstock.com

Of course, I didn't waste time and explored its unspoiled natural wilderness.

I saw its vibrant local flora and fauna up close, including native bird species and other animals.

I also headed to its lake, perfect for kayaking and canoeing, especially during the summer.

Besides outdoor activities, the Ijams Nature Center organizes nature-related workshops, classes, and relevant events.

A trail at Ijams Nature Center
Karlsson Photo / Shutterstock.com

Browse Through the Farragut Museum

For a fascinating historical side trip, head to the Farragut Museum.

This local museum is a treasure trove of the backstory of Farragut and the entire Knox County.

This museum contains artifacts, artworks, and photographs detailing the county's history and Concord communities.

Like most museums, it preserves the history and heritage of the communities that thrive in the area.

During my visit to this museum, I had the privilege to see its collection up close.

It was a fascinating historical experience, especially when I browsed through the personal collection of Civil War hero and United States Navy admiral David Glasgow Farragut.

I enjoyed everything this museum has to offer through its guided tours.

Of course, I didn't miss visiting Farragut Museum's gift shop, where I bought souvenirs.

Step Inside the McClung Museum of Natural History & Culture

Exterior of the McClung Museum of Natural History & Culture
Walker Kinsler, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The McClung Museum of Natural History & Culture is another fascinating place to explore Knox County's history and culture.

It's situated within the University of Tennessee campus in Knoxville.

It's widely known for its museum exhibits, which the public can see for free.

I was amazed to see the 2,400-pound and 24-foot-long hadrosaur skeleton made from bronze which roamed Tennessee during the prehistoric age.

I never thought there were more of these amazing things as I wandered inside this museum.

I also visited other exhibits that display artifacts from Ancient Egypt, fossils, and other exhibits displaying the region's natural history.

So, I highly recommend visiting the McClung Museum of Natural History & Culture for a trip back in time.

Take a Bite of the World Famous Gus' Fried Chicken

Gus's World Famous Fried Chicken doesn't need a lengthy introduction.

It's one of the nation's most popular and long-running fried chicken chains, which I love.

Gus's World Famous Fried Chicken menu items include fried chicken meals.

Those who haven't tried this fried chicken chain before must try them, especially those visiting Knox County.

One of its branches is in Knoxville, where I can dine for lunch in the city.

My favorite menu items are chicken sandwiches, wings, nuggets, potato salad, and other delicious menu items.

Travel Back in Time at the Historic Ramsey House

Exterior of the Historic Ramsey House
BrineStans at the English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Historic Ramsey House is a 1797 mansion known for its well-preserved pink marble and blue limestone structure.

I visited this house in Asbury.

Back in the day, the house was often called the "Finest House in Tennessee" because of its elegant design from the marble and limestone used in constructing it.

It boasts architectural sophistication, which drew many diplomats and relevant guests during its glory days.

I joined one of its tours inside the house and saw the original and elegant furnishing up close.

Historians taking care of the Historic Ramsey House gamely tour me inside and tell me fascinating stories about its history.

While touring inside the house, I saw the fine details of the glamorous past of its original owners, the Ramsey Family, which was a worthwhile experience.

Take a Break at the Apple Cake Tea Room

The Apple Cake Tea Room in Farragut is one of those hidden gems I discovered and eagerly visited.

This quaint and charming café is situated in Farragut, which serves Knox County's countryside.

It's notoriously popular for its delicious meals, snacks, and drinks.

Visiting this café embraced my senses with its cozy interior and calm vibes.

It was until I saw and tasted its menu.

This café takes pride in making its meals and menu items at home, such as jams, jellies, sandwiches, and pastries.

The Apple Cake Tea Room's specialties include its signature chicken salad, banana nut bread, beef and gravy quiche, and stuffed croissant, which I ordered.

So, book a reservation at this local favorite to taste what Knox County locals rave about.

Watch the Vols in Action

Exterior of Neyland Stadium
Hendrickson Photography / Shutterstock.com

One of the reasons why Knox County and Knoxville became popular nationwide is the Tennessee Volunteers.

The Volunteers, known by many as Vols, is the official varsity team name of the University of Tennessee based in Knoxville.

The Neyland Stadium, which has a capacity of 101,000, is packed with Vols fans from all over Knox County.

They're always there to cheer for the Vols' football team competing in the NCAA Division 1.

One of the reasons why the Vols are so popular nationwide is its huge fanbase.

A Tennessee Volunteers player
Lswineha, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Its fanbase numbers millions and is often noticeable for its orange jersey and the clothing they wear every time the team plays.

Also, cheering for the Vols became a University of Tennessee tradition in 1891.

In addition, the Tennessee Volunteers are the most successful teams in the NCAA, winning multiple national championships.

So, I didn't miss the chance to witness how Knox County locals cheer for their favorite college team at Neyland Stadium.

Of course, I didn't forget to wear orange and scream at every successful possession of the Vols' home games.

Pump Up the Adrenaline at the Ashway Speedway

The Ashway Speedway is a quarter-mile dirt oval track in Strawberry Plains.

This dirt oval race track hosts some of the most intense dune buggy and 4x4 off-road races in Knox County.

As a racing fan, I can't help but drive to Strawberry Plains to watch one of its highly-entertaining racing events.

I had an exhilarating time watching the drivers outrace each other more thrillingly.

So, remember to drop by the Ashway Speedway and join locals to cheer for their favorite racer.

Have a Wholesome Time at the World's Fair Park

Waters at World's Fair Park
Dee Browning / Shutterstock.com

World's Fair Park is Knoxville's official and most popular outdoor attraction.

What started as a venue for the World's Fair in 1982 grew big and became home to major establishments and attractions.

It eventually became one of Tennessee's most prominent outdoor recreation and leisure destinations.

I particularly enjoyed the free activities at this place and its gorgeous upscale landscape.

It features plenty of walking areas, water features, and enjoyable sceneries.

Aerial view of World's Fair Park
Dee Browning / Shutterstock.com

It also hosts various activities and annual festivals.

I discovered some of its main attractions as I wandered through the World's Fair Park.

It includes shopping malls, restaurants, public art installations, and galleries, which I visited to get acquainted with.

Also, I posed for a photo with the famous Sunsphere as one of my souvenir photos.

This massive and magnificent architecture standing over 266 feet or 26 stories tall, is made from steel, and parts of it are made from 24-karat gold.

Sunsphere at World's Fair Park
Joseph Creamer / Shutterstock.com

Climb the House Mountain State Natural Area

The House Mountain State Natural Area in Corryton offers everyone a sweeping view of Knox County and its surrounding areas.

This mountain which stands 2,100 feet, is 30 minutes from Knoxville's downtown area, making it an accessible attraction.

I traversed a trail to reach its highest point that rewarded me with a sweeping view of Knox County, Cumberlands, and the Unakas ranges.

Besides climbing and hiking to the top for sightseeing, I also enjoyed various outdoor activities in this area.

I also enjoyed worthwhile birdwatching and cycling activities at House Mountain State Natural Area.

Of course, I basked in the gorgeous view of the overlook while passing the time, which was my best experience at this place.

Spot Local Wildlife at the Seven Islands State Birding Park

A trail at Seven Islands State Birding Park
Melinda Fawver / Shutterstock.com

The Seven Islands State Birding Park is another must-visit stake park in Knox County's Kodak Community.

This area, situated east of Knoxville, meanders along the French Broad River.

Those who have visited this place know it's a premier birdwatching destination.

Its landscape, comprised of vast grasslands stretching about 425 acres, is a perfect place to spot various wildlife, especially birds.

This birding park is home to over 180 species of birds; some are native, while others are migratory.

A bird at Seven Islands State Birding Park
Melinda Fawver / Shutterstock.com

So, I headed out and hiked through eight miles of natural trails just to find the best birdwatching spot at this park.

I wasn't disappointed after I spotted plenty of birds while still hiking.

Along the way, I encountered Barn Owls, songbirds, waterfowl, birds of prey, and other bird species freely roaming the park.

I had a worthwhile birdwatching experience at the Seven Islands State Birding Park.

Besides birdwatching, I learned this park also offers fishing, boating, and cycling activities.

Take a Bite of Johnny Brusco's New York Style Pizza

Johnny Brusco's New York Style Pizza is a local favorite that has served everyone with its delicious pizzas for many years.

This pizza chain has branches in Knoxville and Farragut.

They're well-known for their New York-style pizza, made fresh every day.

Plus, they serve my favorite sub sandwiches, Italian dishes, and craft beer.

It takes pride in using the finest and freshest locally-sourced ingredients in making its pizzas in Knox County, which I tasted during my visit there.

I enjoyed its casual eatery setting, where everyone enjoys pizza without getting fancy.

Also, those who don't have the time to dine at this place can order their favorite pizza for takeaways.

So, look no further in Knox County when finding the finest pizza because Johnny Brusco's New York Style Pizza has everything.

Discover the Past at Tennessee Theatre

Exterior of Tennessee Theatre
ZC Photography Concept / Shutterstock.com

The Tennessee Theatre is arguably the oldest entertainment venue in Knox County.

I found this historical theatre in Knoxville's downtown area.

It was constructed in 1928 in Knoxville's first skyscraper, the Burwell Building.

The theatre remains open today and hosts various shows, mostly stage performances from regional artists.

It includes its in-house Knoxville Symphony Orchestra.

Marquee of Tennessee Theatre
Rob Hainer / Shutterstock.com

Back in the day, locals refer to this theatre as a movie palace with a capacity of over 1,600 patrons.

Due to its historical significance in Knoxville and Tennessee, this theater was officially listed in 1982 on the National Register of Historic Places.

During my visit to this theater, I was impressed by its well-preserved Spanish-Moorish architecture with gorgeous interiors and furnishings.

With that in mind, my visit to the Tennessee Theatre was worthwhile, especially since I was eager to learn more about local history.

Ticket booth at Tennessee Theatre
Sabrina Janelle Gordon / Shutterstock.com

Descend into the Depths of the Historic Cherokee Caverns

For more outdoor adventure, check out the Historic Cherokee Caverns.

This historic cavern is situated in Knoxville.

It's one of the most unique natural attractions in the area.

Historically, the caverns served as sacred grounds for Cherokee Indians back in the day.

So, I joined one of its guided tours for those like me who are curious to explore the cave.

While exploring inside, I was amazed by the high cave ceilings dotted with well-preserved stalactites.

At the same time, the surface is equally filled with stalagmites.

Adding more fascination to my visit to the Historic Cherokee Caverns' was its local folklore.

According to locals, the caverns have haunted stories and encounters that, instead of spooking people to visit, draw more curiosity instead.

Wander Inside the Zoo Knoxville

Red panda at Zoo Knoxville
Lisa Crawford / Shutterstock.com

Lastly, head to the Zoo Knoxville before returning home.

This local zoo, formerly known as the Knoxville Zoological Gardens or the Knoxville Zoo, features a 53-acre facility.

It houses over 900 animals of various species.

A giraffe at Zoo Knoxville
Deborah Ferrin / Shutterstock.com

As I wandered this zoo, I saw firsthand and even up close giraffes, monkeys, tigers, camels, bears, red pandas, Komodo dragons, and other exotic animals.

Spending my day at Zoo Knoxville was a great experience and a fitting finale to my Knox County travel adventure.

Final Thoughts

Knox County may lack in size, but this region in Tennessee is packed with outdoor adventure, leisure, and fascinating history.

Whether hiking through its unspoiled nature preserves or perhaps indulging in its leisure activities at its shopping malls, everyone's guaranteed a blast visiting this county.

Those undecided about which places to visit first in Knox County.

Everyone can always refer to this travel post about the best things to do in Knox County, Tennessee.

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