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Things to Do in Knoxville, Tennessee

Delectable dining, inspired bars, outdoor adventure galore — the creative capital of East Tennessee is blooming and waiting for you to explore. Welcome to Knoxville!

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Photo: Jade Broadus

Welcome to Knoxville

Knox Vegas, K-Town, Marble City, Scruffy City, Big Orange Country — Knoxville’s nicknames reflect the diversity of its personality. This big little city has a thriving arts and music scene, and a culture of entrepreneurship embodied in its bustling boutiques, chef-driven restaurants and unique bars. Perfectly positioned in the rolling hills of East Tennessee, there are mountains to do outside, whether your preference is hiking, biking or flower-gazing. Knoxville’s population is close to half a million people when you include the county, and we do include the county because it has so much to offer. HGTV is headquartered here, but we swear we’re not biased. Stick around and we’ll prove it!

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Photo: Visit Knoxville

Head Over to the World’s Fair Park

The World’s Fair Park was the site of the 1982 World’s Fair in Knoxville. Now, this central greenspace is an enormous public park with water features, courtyard areas and an amphitheater, making it suitable for everything from solitary sky-gazing to rocking out at a festival with friends. It also serves as a befitting introduction to the uniqueness of the city. An unexpected and very cool bronze statue of Sergei Rachmaninoff commemorating the composer’s final recital in 1943 presides over a small pocket park. An enormous 10-foot-tall Rubik’s Cube from the Fair premiere is on display in the Knoxville Convention Center. And the jewel of the park is the iconic, 26-story Sunsphere, constructed for the Fair with 24 karat gold-infused glass lending its regal color.

Purchase an elevator ticket online to use the Sunsphere’s panoramas for an overview of the area. This 360-degree perspective takes in downtown, the University of Tennessee (UT), the Tennessee River, the Great Smoky Mountains and other Knoxville neighborhoods you’re likely to visit.

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Photo: Bruce McCamish Photo

Stroll the Streets Downtown

When you come down to earth, you can start your Knoxville exploration on downtown’s historic Gay Street. Bustling shops and galleries join unique restaurants and bars that cater to residents and visitors around the clock. For a real taste of East Tennessee, drop into the Visitors Center at noon Monday through Thursday, when it hosts the Blue Plate Special, a live performance radio show put on by local station WDVX. Admire the works of local and regional artists at The Emporium on Gay Street, with multiple galleries in one enormous building. Do a little shopping for handmade crafts or curated clothing before dinner and a show. Get your ice cream fix after — either a Phoenix Pharmacy milkshake or a soft-serve Cruze Farm cone.

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Photo: Visit Knoxville

Take in a Show

Two premier venues on Gay Street showcase a variety of live theater, music and performance art. The Moorish Revival Tennessee Theatre is opulence from top to bottom, literally — with a handpainted ceiling and a red Mighty Wurlitzer organ that dramatically rises out of the floor during special performances. The Tennessee retains its movie theater origins, showing classic films as part of its Summer Movie Magic series, and has added to its repertoire touring bands, Broadway productions and performances by the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra and Knoxville Opera. Across the street, the beloved Bijou Theatre has been offering up a diverse sampling of music and arts for more than a century. The calendar includes national acts plus performances by Knoxville Jazz Orchestra, UT Opera and other homegrown talent. In addition, Clarence Brown Theatre on UT campus is the university’s worthy contribution to the performing arts scene. Nonprofit community theater Theatre Knoxville Downtown presents original comedies and imaginative dramas in an intimate setting a couple of blocks away.

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