Wanting To Know More About What Knoxville Has To Offer?! Read below to find our "best picks" for the city and places we recommend you visit while here!
You've found East TN Tours list of THE BEST places in and around Knoxville to eat, drink, shop, hike, bike, and more! We've made this list to help and guide our tour guests that may be new to the area (whether your're only visiting here for a short time or maybe just moved here) or anyone that may have lived here for a while (or their whole life!). We hope it gives you some insight on our personal opinions on the best things to do here in our scruffy little city, and please note all these recommendations are owner-operator Lauren Quinn's own personal suggestions, and no money has been given to be promoted on this page!
For Breakfast:The French Market Creperie (it's sure to have something for everyone, from savory crepes like ham and cheese, monte cristo, and roast beef and swiss to ones on the sweeter side like salted caramel, nutella, blueberry lemon and cherry cheesecake)---Olibea (a somewhat "southern tex-mex" flavor on staple items like tacos, tostadas, burritos, and local meat and veggie bowls)---Pete's (not your typical greasy or mediocre "diner fare" while still serving things like pancakes, french toast, bacon, eggs, and home fries)
For Brunch: TheTomato Head (you MUST try the cinnamon roll and/or monkey bread! Other brunch favs include things like pizza dough "egg rolls", huevos rancheros, and build your own waffles and omelettes)---The Bistro at the Bijou (located "inside" the historic Bijou Theatre, yummy food items include things like chicken fried steak with gravy, burger with a fried egg and Red Flannel Hash with poached eggs)
For Dinner:The Stock and Barrel (the BEST burger place anywhere in town HANDS DOWN...and be sure to upgrade to the duck fat fries (you won't regret it!). My fav burgers include The Elvis, The Farmhouse and The Hurt Locker. Also one of the most massive bourbon selections you'll find around!)---Sweet P's Barbeque and Downtown Dive (if you want some good ole' Southern BBQ, look no further! You'll find staples here like pulled chicken, chopped pork and those all important sides like mac n' cheese, tater salad, coleslaw, sauteed greens and banana pudding)---Chivo Taqueria (also the largest tequila selection in town, delicious food items include things like Mexican street corn and guacamole, and tacos with funny names like The Limp Brisket, Frying Nemo, Clusterduck, Party Fowl, Taters Gonna Tate and Big Shrimpin')---Yassin's Falafel House (pretty much what the name says...delicious falafels, gyros, pita and hummus and a big-hearted Syrian immigrant with a love for this city bigger than you can imagine)---Lonesome Dove Western Bistro (don't let the word "bistro" throw you off and let you think this place is either small, quaint or cheap (it is none of those) this was opened by locally "famous" chef Tim Love, serving things to excite the palate and bring out your adventurous side like rabbit-rattlesnake sausage, blue corn crusted catfish, lobster hushpuppies, elk-foie gras sliders, pheasant meatballs, and basically any form of meat you can think of!)---Not Watson's Kitchen + Bar (sort of your "typical Southern fare" but done in a more upscale way, serving things like fried pickles, short rib sliders, fish and chips, pork medallions and my personal favorite chicken and waffles in town made with cheddar cheese waffles, chilled spiced watermelon (on the side) and bourbon maple syrup)
For Dessert:Cruze Farm Ice Cream(a "woman run" working dairy farm--yes, they literally have their own cows, milk them, and all that jazz!-- with a whole cult-culture revolving around it, this incredible soft serve ice cream parlor takes you back to a time of checkered plaid dresses and diner-style dining. They serve an assortment of goodies like shakes, swirled flavors, churns, floats, and more, all given with a dash of "Cruze-Farm-Girl" style)
For Cocktails/Drinks:Peter Kern Library (this speakeasy inside (or outside, depending on how you look at it) of The Oliver Hotel is not "too fancy" like some speakeasies that require you to have a special passcode or membership...you just gotta know how to find it! Though you can technically get to it from inside the hotel (staff does discourage this), the true way to is to go to the alley behind the hotel in Market Square (don't worry, it's 100% safe) and when/if you see a red light on above an inconspicuous door, you're there! Drinks are little on the pricier side (about 10 bucks for everything) but totalllllyyy worth it! The drink menu is in old encyclopedias and are all names after famous literary characters or titles, and I'd definitely suggest (sorry, I can't remember the names) the drink like a lemon meringue pie, something with lavender in it, or the watermelon jolly rancher one!)---Sapphire (with an excellent food menu as well--that's just a bonus for you--they serve tons of great drinks with any kind of spirit there is, and best of all is their signature martinis)---Knox Whiskey Works (now technically this place is usually a quick "pit stop" of sorts on your tour where you can try flights (straight up spirit or predetermined cocktails) and buy bottles of locally made whiskey, vodka, gin, bourbon and more, I cannot NOT mention this place still, because sometimes on tours we do unfortunately have to skip going here due to time constraints or other reasons. I will mention on my tour you'll get a 15% off discount on any tasting flights and/or bottle purchases, so if you can wait to see if we'll be swinging by on your tour (which again, we usually have time for) and try and/or buy bottles then, great! If we happen to not be able to make it in, please do try to go back if (hopefully) you have time afterwards or any other time you can get there! And hey, if you want to be safe and still go there BEFORE your tour at any point, there's no such thing as too much booze, right?!---Knox Brew Tours (this also fits in perfectly with the "For Fun" category below, because it is a PERFECT mix of drinks and fun! Owned by a super chill and beer loving young local guy, his tours take you around on of two awesome large transport vehicles (so you don't have to worry about drinking and driving!) and takes you to several local breweries where you'll taste numerous samples at each, learn some fun beer facts, and have a whole lotta fun!)
For Fun: Maple Hall Bowling Alley (now PLEASE don't let you mind automatically think and see the words "bowling alley" and just write this place off like another cheap and "slimy" bowling place...because it's not! Maple Hall considers themselves a "concierge" business, delivering your shoes, food and drinks right to your bowling station (where you sit on comfy couches with pillows I might add), and promises food wise to deliver you "above average" plates that you'd never find at your typical bowling alley, like maple glazed mixed nuts, stuffed mushrooms, hummus and pita trio, quesadillas, chicken salad wraps, and the locals favorites "stacks of fries". And the best part about bowling here is that you pay by the hour, not the game! Basically that means you pay $20 every time but Friday and Saturday night (when it's $30 instead) for one hour of bowling, bowling as many games as you'd like/possibly can, for UP TO SIX people on one lane....that's usually cheaper than paying by the game! Oh, and did I mention Maple Hall is UNDERGROUND?!)---The Parlor at Maple Hall (okay, maybe this should have been up under the "cocktails/drinks" section, but oh well...). Situated literally "above" the bowling alley part of Maple Hall, you'll find it by going down the stairs into Maple Hall, walking to the back, and going up a set of stairs to a loft of sorts above the hustle and bustle of the alley. You'll find a super chill vibe, with a giant magnetic Scrabble board and chalkboard on the wall, board games laying around to play, an old vintage record player, and the same food and drinks/cocktails as downstairs in Maple Hall PLUS a whole different set of "special drinks" you can only get in The Parlor)---Sunsphere Observation Deck (placed here during Knoxville's infamous 1982 World's Fair, this iconic golden globe has a FREE observation deck on the 4th floor with 360 degree views of the city.)---Tennessee Theatre (the actual theatre of the entire state of Tennessee (how cool is that?!) that hosts world famous shows and even shows movies every so often. Just try to see something here if you can, that is all I have to say!)---Knoxville Museum of Art (this place is completely free, so there's no reason NOT to go!)---Pretentious Beer Co. (once again, maybe this should have been up in the "cocktails/drinks section), but like some other places downtown Knoxville has to offer, this is SO MUCH MORE than a drinking pub, it's literally an experience! and is the only place in the country you can drink a beer out of a glass that was made/blown on site! A great outdoor patio with yard games and giant picnic tables)---Pour Taproom (again, maybe this should have been in the "cocktails/drinks" section above, but this place is so much more than just a "drinking bar"! I call it the "froYo for grown ups" where you pour your own drinks from 68 different taps on site! There's bound to be something for everyone as they have several wines, ciders, meads and beers on tap where you just pay by the ounce and scan a fancy-pants bracelet above the tap handle and start the flowing!)---Women's Basketball Hall of Fame (if basketball is your thing, this is the place to visit!)
For Shopping:Nothing Too Fancy (famous in the area for their super-soft tees, vintage-esque designs and other small gifts and knickknacks, this place has something for all!)---Tailgate Tennessee (if you're looking for anything and (basically) everything to do with the University of Tennessee, all things orange and old timey memorabilia, this is the place to go! They are bountiful in men's and women's clothing, shoes, socks and accessories, and even have a super cute coffee bar inside with handmade coffee and a grab-n-go case with waters, juices and more!)---Mast General Store (in the historic block of Gay Street that once was completely destroyed by the "Million Dollar Fire" of 1897, this store is your stop for all things Southern, nostalgic and outdoorsy, like men's and women's clothing, shoes, hats, etc., home decor and cutesy home items, and my personal favorite section...the CANDY! Old timey and, of course, delicious, nostalgic candies you can just grab as much or as little as you'd like and just pay by the pound!)
For History/Historical Education: James White Fort (I mean, this place is named after the founder of Knoxville, so it's gotta be great, right!? A tiny but cute little gift shop to get some local goodies and tours given frequently in this fairly large historical land plot)---East TN History Center/Museum (we'll give you a special hint here too....this great place offers 1/2 price admission to all my tour guests when you show them your food tour confirmation printed out or on email, so you can still go before OR after your actual food tour, as long as you have that email to show them, you're golden and get discounted admission! Along with being an actual historical society where they conduct genealogical research, they have a great historically pertinent gift shop with awesome take home souvenirs, and the museum portion is always a blast to walk through and get some A/C if you're ever walking around and need a break from our (often) sweltering sun!)---Blount Mansion (William Blount was a signer of the constitution and choose to make his home here in Knoxville, and his mansion actually served as the territorial capitol of the area after the Treaty of the Holston was signed. They hold tours every hour and have an awesome welcome center as well)
For A Day Outside/Outdoors Activities:Outdoor Knoxville Adventure Center (get yourself outdoors and on the water if you can and this place will help you along! They offer paddle board, kayak and canoe rentals and do paddle board classes and even SUP yoga!)--Ijams Nature Center and Navitat Canopy Adventures (these are listed together because they're in the same location...Ijams is basically a massive "urban wilderness" complete with walking/hiking trails more numerous than you can count, and Navitat is one of the MOST FUN things I've done in like, forever! Imagine about 7 different ropes courses all dang;ed and hung throughout the tree tops with different skill levels, where you're in a harness and hooked on with carabiners and simply have a blast completing obstacles and fun courses (and get somewhat of a workout, too!)---Worlds Fair Park (if you're looking for a lovely, leisurely stroll around the edge of the "main downtown" just walk through our festival lawns, look at all the flags of the countries that were present during our 1982 Worlds Fair, and watch, or play yourself, in the fountains!)---Volunteer Landing (a beautiful walk along our gorgeous Tennessee River with plenty of green scenery, benches to soak up the views and just quality time all around)
Now the next list will not be nearly as extensive as my Downtown list, as I'm just not in many other areas of town that often, and I'd pick Downtown as a place to be over anywhere else :)
Shop and/or eat at one of the many stores and restaurants in Turkey Creek
"I hope this lists finds itself to be helpful to you, and I hope you enjoy everything Knoxville has to offer and much as I love this great city! Please feel free to email me at Info@EastTNTours.com or call 865-410-TOUR (8687) at any point if you'd like any more suggestions on things to do or places to see...I'm more than happy to help you out and get you immersed in our city!" ~~Lauren Quinn, Owner of East TN Tours