Knoxville, Tennessee was the original state capital and boasts such accomplishments as home to the Tennessee Valley Authority, the 1982 World’s Fair, and its role in the Manhattan Project. Whether you are skipping town to see new sights or avoid the madness of game day, these locations are sure to impress. It’s easy to pick up your rental car downtown or at the airport and return to your hotel in the evening.
This post contains affiliate links.
Distance from Knoxville: 2 hours
Chattanooga, Tennessee is an easy day trip down the highway from Knoxville. With countless options for family fun like Rock City, Ruby Falls, the Tennessee Aquarium, or the Incline Railway this destination can be covered in a day or an extended stay. For those who want to skip the attractions, the city is easily walkable and no visit is complete without a stroll along the Riverwalk or over the Walnut Street Pedestrian Bridge. Chattanooga is also a destination for numerous events and festivals throughout the year; they even host the Ironman!
- Chattanooga Hop-on Hop-off Trolley Tour
- Chattanooga Art Tour
- Chattanooga Pedaling Bar Tour
- Chattanooga Cycle Boat River Cruise
Distance from Knoxville: 47 minutes
Sweetwater, Tennessee is best known for its main tourist attraction, the Lost Sea. Enjoy a boat ride on America’s largest underground lake and check out the general store, gem mine, and glassblowing. While in town visit the historic depot and the revitalized downtown’s Main Street. With small-town charm, Sweetwater is a great day trip to get away from the bustle of the city and remember days gone by.
The Smokies, Tennessee & North Carolina
Distance from Knoxville: 1 hour
The Smokies are a great destination for families and adults alike. Poised along the border of North Carolina and Tennessee these lovely mountains are sure to provide a reprieve for any visitor. Visit in the fall for leaf-peeping or in the winter to ski at Ober Gatlinburg or nearby Cataloochee. Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg, and Townsend all have a variety of restaurants and places to grab a drink after a long day of hiking.
- Zorbing at Outdoor Gravity Park in Pigeon Forge
- Titanic Museum Pigeon Forge Admission Ticket
- Day Tour: Moonshine and Wine Tasting from Gatlinburg
- Hidden Cascade Hike in Great Smoky Mountains from Gatlinburg
- Sights of the Smokies All Day Tour
- Upper Pigeon Smoky Mountain River Rafting
Johnson City, Tennessee
Distance from Knoxville: 1 hour 40 minutes
Johnson City, much like Asheville is an adventure lover’s dream. With whitewater rafting on the Nolichucky, hiking along the balds at nearby Roan Mountain, or fly fishing at some of the south’s most pristine riffles, Johnson City is not to be missed. The historic downtown has a thriving art scene, breweries are popping up daily, and East Tennessee State University attracts a young and funky population. If you visit in season be sure to catch the Johnson City Cardinals play a game.
Asheville, North Carolina
Distance from Knoxville: 2 hours
Asheville found a place on everyone’s radar when it landed the coveted title of “Beer City USA” back in 2009. Since then, visitors from across the country have ventured to this gem in the Blue Ridge Mountains to sample some brews, take in the scenery, and enjoy a thriving culinary scene. Music festivals abound and a fantastic climate makes this day trip worthy any day of the year. Take a drive along the historic Blue Ridge Parkway and be sure to save time for a hike or stroll. Plan to visit in the late summer to sample wild blueberries on the trail or spring to see the blooming rhododendron, azalea, and mountain laurel. And don’t miss the Biltmore Estate!
- Guided Stand-Up Paddleboard Tour in Asheville
- 3-Hour Small Group Downtown Asheville Brewery Walking Tour