Beat the heat in a splashpadBack to Top of List
There are several splash pads all over the city. The biggest is at the World’s Fair Park. Squeeze in a quick history lesson by taking the kids up the Sunsphere, which was built for the 1982 World’s Fair. And some geography too – you can see 360 degrees from the Observation Deck; a great time to point out landmarks from north, south, east, to west. Back to the splash pads – another favorite is the one in Market Square; you’re sure to come across this one on your visit to Knoxville. And don’t forget the one at Volunteer Landing for a great view of the Tennessee River!
Explore the Knoxville Museum of ArtBack to Top of List
Since you’re already at World’s Fair Park, dry off and enjoy this incredible cultural institution – the Knoxville Museum of Art. This one is great for the entire family, and it’s free! They have an area dedicated to creativity for the littles, and the museum itself is the perfect size to explore without getting overwhelmed. They also have special events, including Second Sunday Art Activity Day for grades K-6 (FREE again!). They have permanent exhibits, rotating exhibits, and even art outside in their garden area, so you’ll want to come back often.
Take a Stroller Tour or enjoy Family Day at McClung MuseumBack to Top of List
This one is really geared towards the younger set, it’s the perfect setting to introduce your little to the concept of being in a museum. McClung Museum offers something with even babies in mind with their stroller days, once a month on Tuesdays. Enjoy a short gallery tour with activities and crafts. Don’t worry if your baby cries and the toddlers squirm! For older kiddos, they also feature Family Days held once a semester. If planning around a stroller tour or family day doesn't work for your schedule, you can always enjoy scavenger hunts through the galleries and other fun experiences for kids anytime. Oh yeah, this one’s free too!
Try a new veggie at the farmer’s marketBack to Top of List
Even kids can be excited about trying new green things when surrounded by the hustle and bustle of the Market Square Farmers Market. No need to be sneaky when they get to make their own choices. Peruse the stalls and empower junior to learn how to pick out the freshest produce of the season. If you’re down on the second Saturday of the month, you can catch the Old City Market to enjoy and purchase local art.
Story Thyme in the GardenBack to Top of List
Wednesday mornings from 10:30-11:30 am is a nice time to enjoy the Knoxville Botanical Garden & Arboretum Story Thyme in the Garden with your preschoolers. Read a story, check out the plants, and even make a fun craft. It’s free for members and a suggested $5 donation for non-members. Takes place rain or shine so throw on some galoshes and get out of the house!
A day at the MuseBack to Top of List
Speaking of rain, sometimes it’s just nice to spend the day inside. Enter: The Muse. A hands-on museum dedicated to all things STEAM for crawlers to age 10. They have so many programs and activities you could fill up your calendar with visits there alone. Only $8 for kids, and free for 65+ so perfect to wear them out on the grandparents’ watch!
A trip to the ZooBack to Top of List
No summer bucket list would be complete without a trip to the zoo. Zoo Knoxville recently welcomed a baby giraffe and we all wait with bated breath to see when she will be out and about for the public to catch a glimpse. The zoo has lots of other programs and events for the whole family to enjoy. In 2018, the Asian Trek area opened with Malayan tigers, white cranes, gibbons, langurs, and more! Georgie the gibbon is a real ham – be sure and give him a wave as he swings through his obstacle course.
In 2021, the Clayton Family Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Campus (ARC) opened; allowing visitors to get close to and learn about exciting species like the radiated tortoise, king cobra, Cuban croc, sloth and more! Additionally, in 2022, a new river otter habitat opened - the perfect chance to see these busy creatures at play. Another must-see is Einstein the African Grey parrot. She is quite the genius and puts on a fantastic show. Children under 4 are free, with $16.95/$19.95 for kids/adults.
Adventures at IjamsBack to Top of List
Spending time outdoors is integral to childhood memories. Ijams Nature Center in SoKno (that’s South Knoxville to the uninitiated) is the perfect place to make those memories. They have a calendar that will suit all ages. From paved trails to bring out the BOB stroller to kayaking and rock climbing for the older kids, there’s truly something for everybody here!
Where’s WaldoBack to Top of List
Where's Waldo is everyone’s favorite free community-wide scavenger hunt! Where's Waldo is hiding in over 3 dozen locations in downtown Knoxville, and it’s your mission to find him. Grab a passport from the participating locations and get searching. But better hurry, this is a one month only deal – you’ve got until July 31! If you’re a big fan of scavenger hunts, plan a trip to come in December – Elf on the Shelf will return!
And no trip would be complete without a visit to the Sunsphere! This 26 story tall structure from the 1982 World's Fair boasts 24-karat gold windows and a beautiful 360-degree of downtown Knoxville, the University of Tennessee and the Tennessee River. From the 4th floor observation deck, you may see people having picnics, throwing frisbees, walking their dog or playing music on the lush, green lawn of World's Fair Park. Additionally, children, and some adults, too, are likely to be cooling off in the World's Fair Fountain. Don't forget to take some pictures!