Tour Guide Tips: What To Do in Knoxville With Visitors

By water, land, board or bike, there are plenty of ways to tour your town
By water, land, board or bike, there are plenty of ways to tour your town Billy Lush
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Summer will likely bring visiting friends and family into your beloved city, and as the host, you may be feeling the pressure to show them the best that Knoxville has to offer. But the good news is that with so many great restaurants, buzzing bars, outdoor activities galore, and free stuff, you'll have plenty to choose from. It's all here, if you know where to look.

Whether you’re showing off your town to friends or just want to see Knoxville through fresh lenses, here's how to be the best tour guide in town.

1. Start early to savor solitude.

Knoxville can be a bit slow to rise, especially on the weekends. We like to sleep in, take our time, and organize the day pack we promised ourselves we'd put together the night before. This means early risers can have many of our parks and wilderness areas all to themselves. Set the alarm, grab a cup of coffee from Three Bears , and head toward the  Knoxville Urban Wilderness .

2. Do breakfast right.

Market Square offers a wide variety of breakfast and brunch options.
Market Square offers a wide variety of breakfast and brunch options. David Wilson, mods made

Of course, if your group is moving at the slower speed of locals, you can always indulge in a great breakfast to kick off whatever you've got planned. Here in Knoxville, we know the first meal of the day is important—an important excuse to put gravy on., well, everything. And while we do the classic Southern fare very well, Knoxville's culinary prowess is expanding to the point where you can opt for time-honored classics or lighter, but still tasty brunches.

If you're looking for the latter, check out the Oliver Royale on Market Square. You can satisfy your craving for the former downtown at Pete's—though you may have to wait for a while, especially on busy weekends. If you need a sure thing, check out Pete's brother's place, Rami's, in northern Knoxville. The food is just as good, there's never a wait, and you can pop in at Lost & Found Records across the street. To work off breakfast, continue north for about 30 minutes and arrive at Norris Dam State Park or Big Ridge.

3. Take a new path to the Urban Wilderness.

Most people park at the Ijams Nature Center or Mead's Quarry  when setting out for a day in the Urban Wilderness, but for a different experience, try starting off at Island Home Park. This neighborhood recreation area is typically a bit quieter than the main hubs in the Urban Wilderness, and it's a great place to stretch, finish your coffee, or do a little early morning yoga in the wide open fields. When you're ready, you can bike, walk, or jog down the Will Skelton Greenway, the lovely riverside passage to Ijams and Mead's Quarry. You can decide spend a whole day here, or go grab breakfast and return in the afternoon to explore nature trails, challenge yourself on the Navitat aerial trekking park, rent a stand-up paddleboard on the quarry lake, or rock climb at the Ijams Crag.

4. Know how to wait out the rain.

If you can wait out the summer storms, they usually bring some of the most beautiful sunsets.
If you can wait out the summer storms, they usually bring some of the most beautiful sunsets. Logan Mahan

Wet weather doesn't have to put a damper on your fun. Often the storms are short-lived, and there's plenty to do while you wait out the rough weather. OnSight Rock Gym offers the best indoor climbing around, with great rates for beginners, or you can flex your cultural muscles at the Knoxville Museum of Art—and admission is free! Afterward, catch a beautiful sunset from Sharps Ridge or the River Bluff Wilderness Overlook.

5. Or, get your feet wet.

Looking for a fun respite from the summer heat? Bring the gang to one of the many rivers, lakes, and swimming holes  in the Knoxville area. You can also whitewater raft with one of the many nearby outfitters, take a lazy drift down the Pigeon River, or search out hidden pools along our numerous area trails.

6. Pack (a) light.

Summer in the Southeast brings fireflies and star-studded night skies.
Summer in the Southeast brings fireflies and star-studded night skies. Mike Lewinski

Don't let sunset end the fun with family and friends: There's plenty to do after hours around Knoxville , as well. So grab a flashlight and head out into the night for a unique take on some of our best outdoor areas. You can seek out fireflies in the Smoky Mountains, camp in the wilds of Big South Fork, or follow other evening explorers on a guided night hike at Seven Islands State Birding Park .

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