Staycation in the Knoxville Area

We’re not planning a family vacation this year, but we still want to make memories. Knowing that thousands of other families are in this boat, we’re all teaming up to give you ideas for your area!!  If you’re like I am, you’ll want to visit the host website for all the information anyway, so I’ve linked to site for specific information and only included a short summary here that includes our favorite family friendly characteristics. Almost everything I’ve listed is FREE, and I’ve noted where that is not the case. If you’re in the Knoxville or surrounding area, here are some of the things we’re going to do this summer:

In Knoxville

Ijams Nature Center is a wildlife sanctuary on the Tennessee River that offers tons of fun! Nature trails, lots of wildlife to view, picnic areas, a river boardwalk, and so much more! Here is Ijams’ MUST SEE list! (A few activities require a rental fee, but admission and the majority of the activities are free.)

The Knoxville Zoo is a beautiful zoo that includes a large kids area for when the little ones need to be free to roam, play and even get wet! (Not free. Group Rates are available.)

The Sunshphere is not really an all day attraction, but if you live in the area, a trip to the Sunsphere and Court of Flags Fountains area would at least wear the kids out having fun! The observation deck of the Sunsphere boasts a 360 degree view of Knoxville, and the water fountain area is always a hit for my children!

The Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame is located in downtown Knoxville.  We’re not sports enthusiasts here, but I didn’t want to neglect those of you who are! (This is not free, but all tickets are under $8.)

Smoky Mountains

The list of free things to do in the Smoky Mountains is obviously very long, so I’m just including a few of our family friendly favorites.

Cades Cove is a beautiful spot for wildlife viewing and Smoky Mountain scenery, but our favorite thing to see is the homes, churches and even a working grist mill built in the early 1800s. My kids thoroughly enjoyed seeing their Little House on the Prairie books come to life. (Not the right location, I know, but it worked for us!)

Clingman’s Dome is the highest point in the Smoky Mountains and Tennessee, and if your kids are like mine, they love things that are the highest, fastest, biggest, … you get the idea!  You can also see three states from the observation tower at the top! (Take a jacket, even if you might not think you want one.) Because of their proximity to one another, we also do Newfound Gap on the same day.

Laurel Falls is a 2.6 round trip mile hike that culminates at a beautiful waterfall. One of our favorite parts is that you can get in the water! (Don’t think swimming, think wading.) It’s paved and taking a stroller is possible, though it’s not flat at all, so I’d recommend a backpack for your little one instead.

Sugarlands Visitor Center is a newly renovated visitor center including a gift shop, movie, and an area full of Smoky Mountain wildlife on display. But what we love is the FREE ranger led programs they offer! (Did you know the Smoky Mountains is the Salamander Capital of the world?!)

Surrounding Area

The Children’s Museum of Oak Ridge is a modest museum that opened in an old junior high school in 1973. You’ll definitely want to check out their site for all they have to offer but I have two favorite things about this museum: they have a LOT of exhibits so you can go there over and over again, and the best part: they want your kids to touch almost all of it! Tell me that’s not worth going for! (Tickets cost up to $7.)

Wetlands Waterpark is one place we’ve not been but are going this summer, probably more than once! It’s a smaller waterpark than the large theme parks offer, but I like that because I’m less likely to lose my kids! There are slides that all kids can ride and a few larger slides for children 48″ and taller. My favorite part about this park is that you still get all the waterslide fun without that unaffordable cost of the larger parks.

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