Families can enjoy a variety of free and low-cost attractions in Knoxville that'll entertain and engage all ages. Whether everyone is in the mood for an outdoor adventure or want to stay indoors and explore, no one will be bored and your wallet will stay full.
Here are five attractions that fit the bill.
Enjoy a 360-degree view of Knoxville from the Observation Deck on the 4th floor of the Sunsphere. What is perhaps the best-known landmark in Knoxville, the 266-foot tower is one of two remaining relics from the 1982 World's Fair. It’s located at the World's Fair Park along with the Tennessee Amphitheater, the second relic. Kids will want to check out the playground and then cool off in Court of Flags Fountain. Everyone can stretch their legs and get in their steps on the paved walking trails. Admission: Free.
Near the World's Fair Park is Knoxville Museum of Art. The locally-quarried-Tennessee-pink-marble building houses works from regional artists. Children can release their inner artist at the Creative Corner. Don't miss Knoxville-native Richard Jolley's Cycle of Life: Within the Power of Dreams and the Wonder of Infinity, the largest assembled figurative glass-and-steel in the world. Stop in the Thorne Rooms, which Knoxville Art Museum is one of five museums to have this collection. In addition, the museum hosts monthly events, such as Second Saturday Art Activity Day. Admission: Free.
For active families, fall in love with Ijams Nature Center, minutes from downtown. Even those who aren’t active will be under its spell. The 300-acre urban playground offers more than 10 miles of fun and challenging trails with plenty of scenic views. Don't miss the Ross Marble Quarry Loop to see the "Keyhole." Younger children will enjoy playing at Jo's Grove, custom-made for them. There is plenty more to see and do. Simply check out their events calendar. Admission: Free. A trail map is $1. Other activities have fees.
Ijams Nature Center is also part of Knoxville's Urban Wilderness. Incorporating 1,000 forested acres and providing more than 50 miles of trails, 10 parks, four Civil War sites and beautiful views, locals and travelers can take advantage of the unmatched scenic beauty in Knoxville’s backyard. Journey just three miles from downtown to get to Urban Wilderness to spend a day trail running; hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing and even paddle boarding.
Knoxville Botanical Garden and Arboretum is another natural spot that isn't far from downtown. The 47-acre site was the former home of Howell Nurseries. Today, it's open year-round and features walking trails, various gardens, “Every Child Outdoors” youth garden and more. Pack a picnic and enjoy some time on the grounds while taking in the scenery. Admission: Free.
The East Tennessee History Center tells visitors the region's history with the help of more than 13,000 artifacts. Exhibits highlight everything from the Civil War to Great Smoky Mountain National Park, mountain music and more. Admission: $5 per adult, $4 per senior, free for children ages 16 and under. The museum is free on Sunday.