I love the Smokey Mountains so when we visited Knoxville, Tennessee, I wanted to find as many free things to do in Knoxville as possible. We loved the area so much that we try to get back to visit whenever we can. If you’re planning a visit to Knoxville, you’ll want to make sure to add these free things to do in Knoxville TN to your list. They’re fun, educational and you won’t want to miss them!
25 Can’t Miss Free Things to do in Knoxville TN
When you are in Knoxville you are a little less than an hour from Gatlinburg and the National Park and I highly recommend taking a day to spend out there! I have included a few items out there that make the drive 100% worth it, this is why they make the list!
Now on to the free things to do in Knoxville TN!
Market Square – If you’re looking to get out and about, visiting Knoxville’s Market Square is a great way to spend some time outdoors while taking in the sights! What started out as a simple farmer’s market is now a fully fledge area full of markets, statues, and other excellent sites. The area plays host to some festivals throughout the year too so be sure to check the event calendar!
Old City – If you like good music and great food, take a stroll down through Knoxville’s Old City. While you take in the atmosphere and older buildings, you’ll have the chance to listen to everything from jazz to rock!
Gatlinburg Scenic Overlook – If you’re looking for a place to take a fantastic photo, the Gatlinburg Scenic Overlook is it! Admission is free, and the overlook will give you a fantastic view of downtown Gatlinburg and the mountains behind it. The overlook is open year round, so it is an excellent option for snapping amazing photos and taking in nature any time of year!
Knoxville Visitors Center – It may seem silly to put a visitors center on your list of things to do in Knoxville, but the Knoxville Visitors Center isn’t like others! Not only can you find information about other free things to do in Knoxville, but every day between 12:00 and 1:00 pm, there is a free live concert by the Blue Plate Special! They even have a kids corner! Every third Friday of the month they have a special event planned in the Kids Corner that your little ones are sure to love!
Bush’s Baked Beans Visitor Center – Who would have thought that walking through a gigantic replica of the Bush’s Baked Beans can would be a tourist attraction, but it is when you visit the Bush’s Baked Beans Visitor Center! Not only can you walk through that can, but you can watch the entire process of the beans being made and learn the history of the company. Hungry? They also offer a cafe that you can pick up lunch at if you want to spend a few bucks.
Great Smokies Flea Market – If you love flea markets, you’ll want to take the time to visit the Great Smokies, Flea Market. It’s over 2,000 square feet with over 1,000 vendors! Aside from the window shopping part, they offer free live entertainment, free wifi and even a church service on Sunday morning!
James White Fort – James White was an explorer who discovered the site where Knoxville sits. To honor him for donating the land, Knoxville built the James White Fort in the 1970’s. The museum is free to visit and full of great history on White and Knoxville.
Fraterville Miners’ Circle at Leach Cemetery – This is the memorial and grave sites of the men who died in the 5th worst mining accident in US history. ON May 19, 1902, at 7:30 AM that morning; an oil lamp sparked a methane explosion which killed every adult male in the town but three. There are 184 graves here, while 214 miners died. The other 30 bodies were unidentifiable and were buried in a mass grave down the road from the mine.
Clinton Twelve Statue – Head down the road to Clinton, TN and you can take in the Clinton Twelve Statue. This memorial statue commemorates that 12 African American students who walked to school together each day to Clinton High School. In 1956, Clinton High School was the first officially integrated school in the US, The statue stands a reminder of that time and helps to remind of where we have come from as a society.
World’s Largest Rubik’s Cube – It may be broken and no longer moving, but if you’re looking for something kitschy to see, why not stop and see the world’s largest Rubik’s Cube? It is left over from the 1982 Knoxville World’s Fair but is still a curious sight to behold.
Sunsphere Tower – Want a birds-eye view of downtown? The Sunsphere tower is free to take a ride up to the observation deck and take a look around!
Sultana Memorial – You’ve heard of the Titanic but have you ever heard of the Sultana? The Sultana was a shipwreck that killed more people than the Titanic. While you’re visiting Knoxville, you can stop at the Sultana Memorial to learn about the shipwreck and find out the story behind it. One of the best history lessons on this list of free things to do in Knoxville TN.
Knoxville Massacre Memorial/Cavett Blockhouse – 14 white settlers versus 1,000 Creek and Cherokee warriors, might seem impossible, but it happened on the day in September 1793. Not only that, but those 14 settlers put up such a fight that the city of Knoxville was never attacked. When you visit Knoxville, take the time to visit the Cavett Blockhouse to learn about what happened that day and how it happened.
Great Smoky Mountain National Park – Most National Parks have an admission fee, but the Great Smoky Mountain National Park is free to enter. Take a day or two and spend time in nature, go fishing, find a waterfall and more. Different attractions within the park may have an entrance or other fees, so be sure to check ahead before you go. This is one of my favorite free things to do in Knoxville TN (well in the general area!)
Art Market Gallery – With art from over 65 local artists this gallery is worth a walkthrough. I always find art from the Smoky Mountains to be unique and just beautiful.
Beck Cultural Exchange Center – This is a museum with free self-guided tours. They do offer guided tours for a fee. This museum focus on African American history is east Tennessee.
Emporium Center for Arts & Culture – This building was built in 1898 so there is a history just in the building, but it is also a 28,000 square foot that showcases multiple artists, is the studio for ten individual artists and is open for free self-guided tours of the building and the art!
Related: Top 10 Things to do in Gatlinburg TN
Girl Scout Museum at Daisy’s Place – This museum has all sorts of vintage girl scout items including a one of a kind doll that was once in the Smithsonian. This is a fun museum to visit and one of the must on this list of free things to do in Knoxville TN.
Knoxville Museum of Art – Each month this museum has a sponsor who helps them provide free admission. They specialize in promoting art from East Tennessee and the local area. It’s worth a stop for sure, and there are so many talented people in the Smoky Mountains!
McClung Museum of Natural History & Culture – Located on the University of Tennessee this museum of Natural History is free and worth the visit. While it focuses on Eastern Tennessee history, it does showcase other cultures around the world. Permanent exhibits you must see are the native people of Tennessee, Knoxville and the Civil War, and Ancient Egypt.
World’s Fair Park – This is a 10-acre park in downtown Knoxville and features the sunsphere tower mentioned above and the world’s larges Rubix cube, also discussed above. There is also a lake, a splash pad, and an area for events.
The University of Tennessee Gardens – The gardens form a 1-mile loop of beauty to take in. Admission is free, but the gardens will close or charge during hosted events. While there are fewer people at the gardens during the week, parking is limited due to classes on campus, so it’s a trade-off.
Knoxville Walking Tour – Take a walking tour of some of the most historical buildings in Knoxville. Get all the info on the website.
I know this is a list of free things to do IN Knoxville Tn but if you are willing to make a bit of a more extended drive. Check out these freebies!
Cherokee Indian Reservation – The Cherokee Indian Reservation is about 40 minutes from Knoxville which makes it the perfect addition to your trip to Knoxville. Here you can learn about Cherokee culture or for a few dollars, visit a real, working Cherokee Indian village. Of course, we know many make the drive for the Indian Casino…
Mingo Falls – Love waterfalls? Make sure to visit Mingo Falls while you’re in Knoxville. It is located on the Cherokee Indian Reservation and for beginner hikers is a super easy hike at only .04 miles long. The waterfall is 120 feet high which makes it the tallest waterfall in the Appalachians and well worth the drive.
Do you know of any other free things to do in Knoxville TN that I missed? Leave me a comment and let me know!