One of the reasons we started this website is that we love to spend time doing things in East Tennessee. We love parks, drives, hiking, museums, shopping, and more. Since we started working on this site in July 2021, we’ve been spending even more time finding things to do, which we’ll share with you very soon. We wanted to start by sharing 10 of our favorite things to do in East Tennessee before starting this site. They’re in no particular order.
Dollywood is the largest theme park in Tennessee. The main attractions are the multiple rides at various thrill levels (River Rampage is our favorite) and musical shows. It also includes lots of restaurants, snack stands, and gift shops. Some of the shops have handcrafters that you can watch work. Decorations and events change based on the season, and rides and shows get changed around so there’s always a reason to go back. See our review from our recent trip.
Cades Cove is a scenic drive loop in the Great Smoky Mountains with lots of cabins, Churches, and animals to see. Walk through the cabins, Churches, and barns, or just enjoy a slow beautifully scenic drive. The visitor’s center includes a gift shop and many other buildings to explore. There are also plenty of hiking trails and waterfalls.
Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies has fish from all over the world with over 10,000 sea creatures in 350 individual species. Play with horseshoe crabs, touch a stingray, watch the penguins play, and ride the moving sidewalk through the shark lagoon. They have live shows, a cafe, and a nice gift shop. There are a few add-on experiences like riding the glass bottom boats or a penguin encounter and various kinds of aquarium sleepovers are hosted throughout the year.
Knoxville Zoo is the largest zoo in East Tennessee. It has hundreds of animals that live in areas that match their natural habitats. The elephants and other savannah animals are among our favorite exhibits and we look forward to making a trip to see the recently added ARC (Amphibian and Reptile Conservation) Campus. They host a wide number of fun and educational events so it’s good to keep a check on them or sign up for their newsletter.
Tennessee Aquarium focuses on fish, but they also have birds, reptiles, and amphibians that are part of the waterway ecosystems. You can follow the path of a raindrop from the mountains to the sea in their River Journey exhibits focusing on several freshwater ecosystems. The nearby Nickajack Lake is one of the highlighted exhibits. They also have an Ocean Journey set of exhibits that include a tropical cove, penguins, and a secret reef. It’s recommended right now you purchase your timed entry tickets online before arriving (especially on weekends) and combo tickets for one of the shows at their IMax theater are available.
Farragut Putt Putt Mini Golf
Farragut Putt Putt Mini Golf has two well-maintained 18 hole courses. On Saturdays, you can purchase an all-day ticket and play as many courses as you want. This is our favorite way to golf. Various other daily deals are offered. Farragut Putt Putt also has batting cages, air hockey, video games, and a snack bar.
McKays is our favorite used bookstore and one of our favorite places to shop. We’re lucky enough to have one in Knoxville and Chattanooga. Both are excellent stores and have lots of used books, CDs, DVDs, games, musical instruments, and more. We rarely go to Knoxville or Chattanooga without stopping at McKays.
Bald River Falls
Bald River Falls is a 90-foot waterfall in Tellico Plains. View the waterfall from the bridge, below the bridge, and at the top. It has a short hiking trail to the top with an open area and several other trails that are great for hiking. There are lots of other waterfalls nearby, including Baby Falls which has a picnic area. See our review from our recent trip.
Fort Loudoun State Historic Park
Fort Loudoun State Historic Park is a fort built in 1756 on the Little Tennessee River. It was used during the French and Indian War (1754-1763). It has a fort, museum, hiking trails, and a picnic area. You can rent kayaks and paddleboards. Various outdoor events and classes are held here. The Fort Days and Reenactments have been scarce since the Covid-19 outbreak but have been some of our favorite events in the past (we hope everything is safe enough for them to return soon).
Ijams Nature Center
IJams Nature Center is an urban wilderness near downtown Knoxville. You can hike, swim, bike, paddle, climb, and enjoy nature. We’ve enjoyed hiking here several times. The visitor’s center has a gift shop, rotating gallery for local artists, and an exhibit hall with animals you can view. Lots of events are hosted here so it’s a good idea to keep an eye on their event calendar.
Ending Thoughts on Our Favorite Things to do in East Tennessee
We’ve only scratched the surface of things we like to do in East Tennesee. This is by no means an exhaustive list. We plan to review each of these in detail and bring you lots more ideas of places to go and things to do here in East Tennessee.
We want to hear from you. Have you tried any of these 10 things to do in East Tennessee? Let us know about your experience in the comments. Also leave us suggestions for other places you would like us to visit and write about.