Fun things to do in Knoxville this Christmas: A complete holiday guide
This article was done in partnership with Visit Knoxville to highlight the best holiday activities for travelers. All opinions and recommendations are our own.
Experiences are one of the best parts of the Christmas holidays.
These are the presents we should all be giving one another. This season, forego the trinkets…the mugs, candles, and Christmas PJs, and use your money to give experiences to your loved ones.
Get out of town one weekend this month.
Take a friend on a drive through holiday lights.
Grab hot cocoa and dessert in a new city.
Take a leisurely stroll to holiday brunch at a new restaurant.
If you head to Knoxville, about a 2.5 hour drive from Nashville, you can do all those things AND more this season!
Here are the things to see and do in Knoxville, TN, during the holiday season through early January.
We’re gifting you this complete holiday guide of things to do in Knoxville, TN, this Christmas:
what to eat,
where to stay,
and where to play.
Where to stay
We stayed in the heart of downtown Knoxville and that was such a treat. Everywhere we went, we used the old-fashioned way of getting around…our feet. We walked to dinner. Walked to the movies. My kids were actually bummed to get back in the car for some errands we had to do outside of downtown. Staying at the Hilton Downtown Knoxville was so convenient.
Perks: Starbucks coffee shop in the lobby (but skip it and walk a few blocks for some local java at Coffee and Chocolate), on-site restaurant and lounge
Look out: There’s a parking fee. Self-park is less expensive than valet.
Where to eat
When you visit downtown Knoxville for the first time, you need to understand something. Your taste buds are as much of a tourist as you are. One of the best things to do in the Knoxville, TN, area is explore by EATING! The foodie in me was thrilled with the options in town.
On-the-go breakfast option: Matt Robb’s Biscuits
Be sure to make a pit stop here in the morning and design your own breakfast biscuit sandwich. Then, ask Matt how he decided to open a business selling homemade biscuits downtown. His story is an inspiring one of risk and community, with a beautiful payoff.
Brunch and Bloody Marys: Scrambled Jake’s Breakfast Co.
Admittedly, this restaurant is 10 minute drive outside of downtown, but the atmosphere alone is worth it if you like chic country-styled breakfasts in front of a fireplace. The best thing I enjoyed about this restaurant was the cinnamon roll the size of a small child’s head. It made me want to fight my children for the last bite, I’m not going to lie.
Deli sandwich lunch bites: Frussies Deli and Bakery
Sounds like fussy, but with an r…and named after the owner’s frog…this downtown spot is across the street from the historic Bijou Theatre. For a quick bite and a ton of Christmas cheer, bring the fam into the deli and choose from a large selection of bread baked fresh that morning by the owner and chef, Jay Brandon.
Dinner and brews: Blackhorse Pub and Brewery
The dark, wood-paneled pub vibe, accentuated even more by the white, twinkling lights hung for the holidays can be found here at the Blackhorse Brewery. One of my husband’s favorite stops along the trip was this location on popular Gay Street. We happened to visit on $2 beer day, a gift straight from Santa to my ale-loving guy. We shared the rib eye steak and our kids halved the shrimp taco entree and that was plenty for my little tribe. Besides, we were saving room for dessert. (see below)
Mind-blowing desserts: Phoenix Pharmacy
Can I just tell you about these old-fashioned desserts through pictures? Please enjoy this moment of silence for these monumental desserts. Word of caution…just order one and share.
Where to play
Elf on a Shelf Adventure
One of the best things to do in Knoxville, TN, this Christmas is the Elf on a Shelf Adventure. You might think this was only for kids, but we saw couple’s doing it, too! It’s a great way to get your shopping done, chat with business retailers, and get into the magic of the holiday spirit. Some stores gave out presents and samples of goods. Others, like Bloomers Company had a full blown apple cider and hot cocoa bar for store visitors.
How does it work? There are elves to find in about 30 local, downtown stores and restaurants. You can grab a North Pole Passport from the Visitor’s Center or any participating business in order to collect stamps for every elf you find. At the end, you can turn in your stamp-filled passport to Mast General Store for a prize. The Elf on a Shelf Adventure takes you to places all over Knoxville, like the art museum, Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame, the library, and a unique brewery and glass blowing company!
Did we mention that we think elf hunting is one of the best free things to do in Knoxville, TN, this Christmas season? Ok, just checking.
Holidays on Ice, Market Square
While not free, this open-air ice skating experience is wintry fun that helps you get lost in the holiday spirit. If you’re nervous about skating, the rink is not very big.
Who is this good for? Obviously families with kids! But also, those with teens. As the rink is set in the historic Market Square, older kids can skate while parents have dinner nearby. It’s also good for couples! Star in your own Hallmark Christmas movie by having a mushy date night on the ice. Or just hang out with friends under the Christmas sky. Whatever your crowd, consider stopping by and checking it out.
I don’t normally wuss out on activities like this, but it was in the 20’s when we visited and there were no heaters in the waiting area, so I hid out (happily) in a coffee shop with a peppermint latte while my husband took the kids skating.
Speaking of peppermint, the Peppermint Trail is another holiday favorite in Knoxville. While walking in downtown, be sure to keep an eye out for these sidewalk stickers in front of businesses. When you see it, be sure to stop in and try the minty treat of the day. During our visit, we had a piping hot peppermint latte at Coffee and Chocolate, homemade peppermint bark at Knoxville Chocolate Company, an old-fashioned peppermint milkshake at the Phoenix Pharmacy and Fountain, and an eggnog latte with peppermint flakes at Matt Robb’s Biscuits.
Ok, you’ve got your list of things to do in Knoxville this holiday season. Get going before it all ends and you have to wait a whole other year to see it again!