Fun Things to Do, Sight Seeing

Downtown Knoxville - Fun Things to Do All Summer Long

Downtown Knoxville Tennessee
Published on May 15, 2018

Folks looking to live near one of the most happening downtowns found in the South, can find fun just beyond the austere Great Smoky Mountains, in Knoxville, Tennessee.  Beautifully developed along the banks of the Tennessee River, this city is filled with “old world” historic landmarks, unique and captivating architecture blending Art Deco with Victorian and Greek Revival, picturesque mountains with tons of outdoor adventures, pristine lakes near Knoxville TN and an eclectic combination of Neoclassical culture blended with the tradition of good ole’ Southern hospitality.  Put it all together and discover that this is the perfect retirement destination. Add some first-class eateries, incredible artwork, regional and international festivals, and lots of free eclectic entertainment to enhance this active adult lifestyle.

Throughout the season, Knoxville, known for its affordable waterfront retirement communities, is the place where there are non-stop activities. Many who discover the region have found that Knoxville real estate offers not only great value but also provides the perfect place to call home.  Here are a few of the upcoming festivities to look forward to:

First Fridays (first Friday each month) – Celebrate the work of local artists, live jazz, flamenco dancing and great regional cuisine on First Fridays from 5 to 9pm.  Each month locals and tourists flock to the great music venues and fine eateries that line the streets providing the ideal evening out with friends and a fun way to celebrate life every month at this amazing mountain retreat.

MARKET SQUARE FARMERS’ MARKET-May 3rd through November 18 – Wednesday 11am to 2pm/Saturday 9am to 2pm.   Every week locals and tourists enjoy shopping for some of the best home grown produce, pasture-raised meat, eggs, herbs and handmade goodies at the open-air farmer’s market found on Market Square.  Downtown is the place to shop for some of the freshest regional dishes and seasonal veggies making this a weekly anticipated shopping excursion.

Open Streets Knoxville (May & October) – May 20th, 2018 - 2pm to 6pm –  Join in the fun when the city shuts down traffic on Sevier Avenue for the bi-annual event designed to allow folks to walk, bike and dance in the streets allowing attendees to enjoy time with neighbors and visit local merchants.  This is a great way to explore the community and share the good life offered in downtown Knoxville.

Concerts on the Square – Free Concerts starting May 3rd through August 28th.

Jazz Tuesdays - Market Square in downtown comes alive every Tuesday night from 8 to 10pm to enjoy this outstanding ensemble of musicians from the Knoxville Jazz Orchestra.  Free parking after 6pm at the Market Square, State Street and Locust Street city-owned garages.  There are a wide collection of mouth-watering restaurants and bars surrounding the concert as there is no food or alcohol sold at the event.  Come listen to some of the best jazz musicians found in the state of Tennessee throughout the summer season.

Variety Thursdays offers music ranging from Classical, Blues, Soft Rock to Country from local artists.  The show runs from 7 to 9pm every Thursday at the stage in Market Square.  Bring the kids, lawn chairs, and pets to listen to live music, eat some awesome food, and have fun dancing the night away under the starlit nights of downtown Knoxville.

Bike Boat Brew and Bark - Saturday JUNE 2nd, 2018 – The Volunteer Landing on the Tennessee River is the host for this outdoor adventure appealing to dog lovers, craft beer enthusiasts, cyclists and speed boat thrill seekers. This family-friendly event will feature the Knoxville Powerboat Nationals along with a plethora of festivities.  In addition to the race there will be the Annual Volunteer Landing Riverwalk Tour with Historian Jack Neely, Guided Brewery Slow Rides to Volunteer Landing, Pet Photo Contest by Young-Williams Animal Center, TVA Expo, Guided Urban Bike Ride to Suttree’s Landing by Bike Walk Knoxville, and the Guided Urban Hike to Suttree’s Landing from Market Square with Alan Sims.  Folks are invited to explore the beautiful terrain while cycling throughout the 85 plus miles of paved greenways of urban wilderness that connects the city with the surrounding Knoxville neighborhoods. Bring your pets and come enjoy some fabulous local craft brews and tasty treats while watching speed boats race along the river.  This a signature event for the season.  Imagine living the healthy and happy lifestyle that Knoxville represents and while visiting take the time to explore the premiere waterfront retirement communities that are scattered around this magnificent city.

The 6th Annual Big Kahuna Wing Festival -June 16, 2018 12-8 pm- WORLD'S FAIR PARK - KNOXVILLE, TN– Want to sample some of the finest wings of the South?  If so, plan on attending this spectacular eating frenzy which features over 15,000 pounds of wings of all varieties.  Contests, cookoffs, and live musical performances makes this festival one of the most popular of the season.  Kid’s Corner, local vendors and a silent auction add fun for the whole family.  Tickets are available for $20 in advance, and $25 at the gate which includes entrance to the event along with 25 complimentary wing samples.  Kids under eight are FREE!  Lawn chairs are allowed but no backpacks or large bags.  No pets are allowed due to bones.  Bring your “wing man” or woman and celebrate this funfest.

The 8th Annual Knoxville Brewfest - June 16th, 4:00 to 8:00 pm –This year the event will be held at the fountains surrounding the base of the Sunsphere and the Tennessee AmphitheaterBeer lovers flock to this seasonal gathering that offers craft and local beers from over 2 dozen breweries that call Knoxville home.  Add some great samplings from a variety of food trucks and the day is complete! This is the perfect way to enjoy a warm summer afternoon while supporting this worthwhile benefit for “CureDuchenne” which is a not-for-profit that dedicates it efforts towards curing this muscular disease that affects children.  Come sample Knoxville’s finest brews for this meaningful cause.

Knox Pride Festival 2018June 23rd from 12pm to 8pm at the Mary Costa Plaza/Knoxville Civic Coliseum lawn downtown.  Considered the largest Pride Festival in the state, this venue provides an open celebration of music, entertainment and speakers focused on promoting Equality and Inclusion of ALL people. The Pride Parade is at 11am.  This festive day draws folks from all over Tennessee recognizing the freedom of expression.  Let the rainbow shine over this colorful summer event.

The Kuumba Festival (KUUMBA means Creativity in Key Swahili) - June 21 through June 24th showcases local African American artists and is a tradition dating back to 1989 by local Knoxville artists, musicians and community activists.  This highly cultural display of talent, crafts and unique entertainment allows the African American Appalachian Arts Inc. (AAAA) the chance to expose their culturally seeded art forms to the community.  The event will be held in three primary locations including: Market Square/Downtown, Haley Heritage Square, and Morningside Park.  This is considered the largest event in East Tennessee that celebrates African Culture.

Festival on the 4th - World's Fair Park 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. – There is no better place to celebrate Independence Day than this event that features upbeat music, awesome food and family themed activities making this the ideal spot to celebrate the 4th.  The event is free and offers live musical performances, a Kids Zone and a wide selection of regional cuisine from local vendors. The festival begins at 4 p.m. with live music from the highly talented local artists.  The Knoxville Symphony Orchestra will close the event which ends at approximately 10 p.m. upon the conclusion of the fireworks display. This event is RAIN OR SHINE. Fireworks start at 9:35 p.m. There are no pets or alcohol allowed.

Shakespeare on the Square July 13 – August 13, Thursday to Sunday, 7:00 PM nightly – Each year this highly anticipated cultural event offers two plays written by William Shakespeare presented outdoors on Market Square from mid-July to mid-August.  Bring along a blanket or lawn chair to share the performances with friends or enjoy VIP seating for just $15 per person which includes a bottle of water and goodie bag.  While there is no admission fee, donations are appreciated at a suggested $10 offering.

5th Annual Knox Asian Festival August 26th, 2018 - 11am to 6pm – Come celebrate the diversity of Asian culture that is represented in Knoxville with a purpose of spreading peace and harmony in the community.  Market Square explodes with exotic music, fashion, food and a colorful display of tradition from multiple Asian heritages.  Dance performances, Asian cuisine, handcrafted artwork, colorful costumes and martial arts demos make this one-of-a-kind celebration a major attraction that represents the diversity that radiates throughout the region.  Market Square will debut the event with each participating country showcasing their unique talent throughout the day. This event offers a spectacular fun-filled outing for the entire family.

HoLa Festival Saturday, September 29th, from 7pm-10pm/Sunday, September 30th, 2018 from 11am-6pm – Come celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month and enjoy this annual festival that offers authentic dishes, vibrant Latin music and some amazing performances from the 2 dozen Latino countries who are connected to Knoxville.  Enjoy traditional costumes at The Parade of Nations and be energized by the wide collection of talent displayed representing the rich culture of Latin history.  Great food, fabulous authentic fashion and dancing to the beat of energizing rhythms makes this festival a highly popular event in Knoxville.

There are lots of reasons why Baby Boomers have decided to choose waterfront retirement communities in Knoxville after comparing the best places to live in Tennessee.  Did you know Knoxville’s Urban Wilderness is where you can hike, bike, climb, paddle, or meander throughout the woods found within the heart of this historic yet progressive mountain town? There are over 50 miles of hiking trails and over 112 miles of greenways that connect residents to nature centers, crystal clear lakes, historic landmarks, 5 city parks and a preserved 500-acre wildlife area.  Additionally, there are two big water lakes located just outside of Knoxville that provide incredible water sports, boating, fishing and some amazing waterfront retirement communities.

Tellico Lake is a massive 15,000-acre body of fresh water that boasts 357 miles of preserved shoreline and connects to the Tennessee River that flows through the city of Knoxville.  Considered one of the best boating lakes in the country, this big body of water is ideally situated at the base of the Great Smoky Mountains and only an hour away from the world famous Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Cherokee National Forest is also a popular destination for outdoor adventurers offering hiking, biking, fishing, hunting, bird watching and horseback riding adding more reasons for seeking out the properties still available in the prime Knoxville real estate locations.  Many of the affordable master planned waterfront retirement communities that have been developed in the captivating basin of crystal blue water lakes surrounded by the lush topography that decorates the region.  There is no other place to find the best of both worlds, both mountains and the lakes near Knoxville TN.

Norris Lake Tennessee is yet another water playground near Knoxville that covers nearly 35,000 acres of shimmering aqua waters reflecting Cumberland Mountain and the majestic ranges of the Great Smoky Mountains.  Considered one of the cleanest lakes in the Southeast, this lake is surrounded with imbedded natural forestry and has 3 parks, over 20 marinas, well-kept campgrounds, incredible wildlife and hiking trails that imbibe the spirit.  There are multiple dining options both on and off Norris Lake that offer superior fresh regional cuisine.  The blue waters of Norris Lake offer an ideal setting for boating, fishing, swimming and getting away from reality.  Enjoy watching deer frolic while wild turkey, blue herons and eagles fly overhead.  This is just one of the many reasons Knoxville real estate offers some of the most sought-after lakefront properties in the country.

Affordability is yet another component for seeking properties in Knoxville.  The average homes are less than $200,000, the cost of living is 11% below the national average and there is no state income tax.  Ranked on the list of the “Top 25 Best Bang for the Buck Cities” by Forbes Magazine, this city that offers fine dining, unique and progressive cultural events with lots of fun annual festivals is unmatched by any other Tennessee town making this city highly appealing for Baby Boomers looking for the ultimate place to retire.  The city boasts a proud collection of artists, retired professionals and students from the University of Tennessee making this an exuberant place to live while enjoying the captivating surroundings of the awestriking landscapes that embrace the city.  Residents love the heartbeat, the healthy lifestyle and the youthful energy that makes Knoxville the place to be in Tennessee.

Active seniors, families and young entrepreneurs love the healthy lifestyle that is offered in Knoxville, in addition to mountain escapes, nearby lakes, the Outdoor Knoxville Adventure Center offers boating, biking, stand-up paddle boarding and The Knoxville Urban Wilderness Center which has over 1,000 acres of green space with 10 parks and 40 miles of multi-use recreational trails scattered along the downtown waterfront.  The Ijams Nature Center is yet another hot spot for residents and tourists to enjoy.  With over 300 acres of protected woodland and 12 miles of impressive trails, this is a great place for bird watchers to view the exotic wildlife species that are native to the area located just minutes from downtown.

Besides the scenic surroundings, cultural enrichment, shopping, exquisite dining and year-round festivals here are a few more things to do in Knoxville:

  • The Knoxville Opera which has been led by Don Townsend for over 20 years
  • The Knoxville Symphony Orchestra which is the oldest continuing orchestra in the southeast established in 1935.
  • The Children’s Theatre of Knoxville which offers 10 productions annually for children and families.
  • The Clarence Brown Theatre at the University of Tennessee produces eight plays a year from September through May and ranges from musicals to drama.
  • Botanical Gardens and Arboretum which is a 200-year-old 47-acre garden that boasts walking trails and “secret” garden paths throughout the property
  • Knoxville World Fair Park houses the infamous 26-story bronze glass “Sunsphere” which decorates the skyline.
  • Knoxville Zoological Gardens offers events throughout the year including the Giraffe Encounter and Budgie Landing in the spring and summer months.  Meet Khakesi, the infamous female Komodo dragon at the zoo which is open 7 days a week, 365 days a year from 10am to 4:30pm.
  • Knoxville Food Tours located on Gay Street in Market Square is an innovative culinary tour designed by regional food expert Paula Johnson who will guide guests to some of the best “hidden” local eateries offered in Knoxville.
  • Tennessee Theatre on Gay Street is a century old and is called the “South’s most beautiful theatre.  Performances are held here year-round and a visit to this majestic venue should definitely be included on the “to do” list.
  • Turkey Creek Shopping Mall offers over 200 brand stores, restaurants, hotels and entertainment venues on 800,000 square feet of retail space and is the perfect place to get some quality exercise and enjoy the day.

When scheduling your visit to Knoxville, here are just a few more freebies to enjoy while exploring this beautiful country town.  There is so much to do here, the possibilities are endless!

Free Things to Do in Knoxville

The WDVX Blue Plate Special features FREE live music every Monday through Saturday at noon at the Downtown Visitors Center with local host Red Hickey Monday through Friday and Doug Lauderdale on Saturday.  Genres range from blues to bluegrass, country, folk, funk, Celtic, good ole’ toe-tapping hillbilly, rockabilly, you name it and you will find it at these fun free lunch concerts held daily.  The Blue Plate Special® is supported by Visit Knoxville, First Tennessee Bank, Sugarlands Distributing Co, Old City Wine Bar and Downtown Knoxville.

Art Market Gallery at 422 South Gay Street downtown is an exclusive collection of original fine art in mixed mediums from over 65 juried regional artists.

Beck Cultural Exchange Center at 1927 Dandridge Avenue offers a historic collection of artifacts representing the contributions of the rich culture of African-Americans in East Tennessee with a purpose to educate individuals on the impact of the past, present and future generations of their imbedded presence throughout the ages.

Emporium Center for Arts & Culture on 100 South Gay Street is considered the city’s first true art center originally built in 1898.  The 28,000 square foot space structure houses fabulous art galleries displaying the meticulous works of local and regional artists.  The Arts & Culture Alliance and seven other arts groups are housed here.  Self-guided tours are offered Monday through Friday 9am to 5pm.  First Friday the hours are 9am to 9pm and the center is closed for holidays.

Girl Scout Museum at Daisy's Place located at 1567 Downtown West Boulevard boasts an impressive collection of vintage Girl Scout uniforms, badges, and even a former Smithsonian exhibited “one-of-a-kind” Girl Scout doll.  Admission is FREE.

Ijams Nature Center at 2915 Island Home Avenue is part of the Knoxville Urban Wilderness incorporating 1,000 acres of forested topography along downtown’s south waterfront.  This is the ultimate adventure for outdoor enthusiasts with over 40 miles of trails, 10 parks, four civil war sites and a 104-acre abandoned quarry offering miles of natural walking and biking trails while enjoying the wide variety of wildlife than inhabit the area.  This is one of the reasons that active folks are flocking to explore Knoxville real estate and Boomers are quickly buying up properties found in the waterfront retirement communities and lakes near Knoxville TN.

Knoxville Museum of Art located at 1050 World’s Fair Park Drive is a place to come and admire the great works of artists from East Tennessee.  The museum is a great place to enjoy concerts, painting workshops for kids while enjoying World Fair Park.  Opened in 1990, the Museum prides itself in offering an ever-changing exciting schedule of exhibitions. ‘‘The Cycle of Life: Within the Power of Dreams and the Wonder of Reality’” sculpture by internationally acclaimed artist Richard Jolley is a permanent fixture at the Museum.  Admission is FREE.  The museum is closed on Mondays.

McClung Museum of Natural History & Culture found at 1327 Circle Park Drive on the campus of the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.  There is a wide array of eclectic exhibitions found here.  Admission and parking are free.  The permanent displays include:

  • The Archaeology & the Native Peoples of Tennessee
  • Ancient Egypt: The Eternal Voice
  • The Decorative Experience
  • Human Origins: Searching for our Fossil Ancestors
  • Tennessee Freshwater Mussels

Sunsphere is an easy landmark to spot at 810 Clinch Avenue.  Known for its resounding presence in the Knoxville skyline, this remarkable structure allows folks to view the entire city from the observation deck of this world-famous structure.  There is no charge to the public for this awesome vantage point of the beautiful city and the majestic mountainous terrain that embraces the region.

World's Fair Park located at 963 World’s Fair Park Drive cover 10 acres and is divided into three sections, a performance lawn, a festival lawn and a lake area.  It is here that visitors will find the Sunsphere and the Tennessee Amphitheater which are the only remaining structures from the 1982 World Fair.  The Park hosts numerous concerts and festivals year-round and is iconic to the city of Knoxville.

Getting around by bicycle Knoxville is a breeze whether you are a local or a visitor with a sophisticated network of greenways in place, Pace Knoxville offers the ideal bike share experience where riders can rent and return bikes throughout the hubs scattered around downtown and from the public bike racks located across the metro.  Currently, there are 250 bike rentals available and can be easily accessed through the Pace app which is free.  Pace rides cost $1.50 per half four and the first 30-minute ride is FREE for every new user.  This is not only economically sound but provides great exercise exploring this majestic region.  That is why Knoxville is setting the pace and a new standard for living the ultimate healthy and active lifestyle now and after retirement.

Travelers looking for the ultimate vacation, or perhaps permanent staycation, should take a journey to Knoxville where the possibilities of good times, great memories and outdoor adventure are endless.  There is never a dull moment living in this fabulous, fun and beautiful mountain town tucked within the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains.  While planning your visit, make sure you discover Knoxville real estate found within the waterfront retirement communities and while enjoying all the fun water festivities offered at the lakes near Knoxville TN.

One visit and you too will want to call this urban oasis home. If you're exploring the area for the first time, our for our complimentary Knoxville relocation information. It's our pleasure to help!