Knoxville Summer Activities and Adventures for Visiting Families

Located in East Tennessee near the Great Smoky Mountains, Knoxville provides a place to enjoy outdoor recreation. Visitors come from all over to explore the area and immerse in culture. To start planning a fun-filled trip, check out the top Knoxville summer activities for adventure.

Fun Knoxville Summer Activities to Try During Vacation

knoxville zoo family fun

Knoxville’s Zoo

Zoo Knoxville dates back nearly 50 years and cares for dozens of animals in a safe, loving environment. Upon arrival, visitors will find 12 habitats dedicated to creating an experience for both resident animals and guests. Animals include elephants, lions, chimps, hogs, beavers, bears, rhinos, cranes and dozens more.

In addition to exploring exhibits, guests can plan custom adventures. Take behind-the-scenes tours, book nighttime safaris, ride the train, plan live encounters, zipline and watch educational presentations.

Hike the Trails

Warm temperatures and open space welcome outdoor lovers to hike trails in Knoxville and nearby areas. Thousands of miles – including trails near the Tennessee River and Great Smoky Mountains – welcome all abilities to stay active and connect to nature.

Those looking to stay in Knoxville will find hiking trails at Cove at Concord Park, Holston River Park, and Knoxville Botanical Garden and Arboretum. Those who want a day-trip option can drive one hour to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This park features more than 150 trails covering 800-plus miles.

tennessee hiking cities itrip

Explore the Outdoor Nature Center

Ijams Nature Center operates as a non-profit outdoor center with 315-plus acres of protected land. This not only provides a place to enjoy nature but also serves as a safe haven for local wildlife.

Popular activities include biking and hiking 12 miles of trails, outdoor rock climbing, and exercising on the natural playground. Yes, this green space even welcomes all ages to stay active. For a different adventure, paddle and swim at Ijams. Visitors can rent kayaks, canoes and paddleboards to explore Toll Creek, Mead’s Quarry Lake, and Tennessee River.

Pick a Knoxville Park … Or a Few

The Knoxville area houses dozens of parks. From sprawling nature centers to urban green spaces, the city has 4,500 acres of spaces for outdoor recreation and retreats.

Families with children have access to playgrounds, sports facilities, ball fields and pet-friendly spots. Other parks have paved pathways and nature trails hidden in remote areas. Top spots include World’s Fair Park, Concord Park, Fort Dickerson Park, Lakeshore Park, Sequoyah Hills Park, UT Gardens and House Mountain State Natural Area.

knoxville summer activities sports

Catch a Game

Many vacationers associate Knoxville with University of Tennessee and the bright orange than dons their athlete’s uniforms. Sports fans come from all over the U.S. to watch UT’s football, basketball, baseball and other athletes. However, the city also supports professional golfers, women’s roller derby, NHL’s Knoxville Bears, and minor-league baseball. There are always reasons to cheer in Knoxville.

Attend Some Festivals

If sporting events aren’t enough entertainment, attend one of Knoxville’s summer festivals. The community celebrates everything great about Knoxville such as the history, food, music and spirit.

Top summer events in Knoxville include Festival on the 4th, Bike Boat Brew and Bark, national cycling championships, Firefly Nights in Market Square, and international festivals. Other events honor arts and crafts, history, Shakespeare, and different cultures.

knoxville summer farmers market

Shop Local Farmers Market

Summertime also brings the opportunity to shop local. Visitors are in luck because the city hosts a Market Square Farmers Market from early May until late November. Plus, everything sold at the farmers market is grown by East Tennessee vendors. While shopping, browse fresh fruits and vegetables, honey, herbs, baked goods, meat, coffee, crafts and more products.

Day Trip to Dollywood

Dollywood ranks among the top Knoxville summer activities because it’s one of the best amusement parks in the U.S. The park was founded by Pigeon Forge native Dolly Parton and now includes an amusement park, water park, resort, and other entertainment.

Dollywood is located about an hour’s drive east of Knoxville. Visitors can drive and ride in one day, but should arrive early to get a good spot in lines. In the summer, guests should get tickets to both parks and make a weekend of it. Get more information about Dollywood.

Learn more about vacationing in Knoxville and why it’s a top destination in Tennessee.