Chattanooga, Tennessee is a bustling city with a cool college town vibe just 2 hours outside of Atlanta, Georgia. Whether you are looking for a quick couple’s getaway, planning a bachelorette party, desire a shopping day in the city, or are traveling with kids, Chattanooga offers everything you need for a fabulous trip. With plenty of outdoor play space, hiking, nature trails, and water sports, or indoor activities everyone can enjoy, Chattanooga, Tennessee has something for everyone – from the youngest to oldest, the most laid back to the most adventurous, in your crew. Before you go as you are creating your list of Chattanooga things to do, make sure to add these awesome adventures to your travels this year!
What to do in Chattanooga, Tennessee
Towering rock gardens located at the top of Lookout Mountain filled with wonderous cracks, crevices, and caverns, Rock City is a must-see outdoor experience when visiting Chattanooga, Tennessee. Just like something out of a fairytale, this 4,100 foot enchanted trail winds and weaves through some of nature’s most gorgeous massive rock formations shaded by towering trees and gives you panoramic views of seven states! With over 400 native plant species thriving in Rock City and incredible features such as stone footpaths, swinging bridges, and lookout points over the mountain, Rock City is a great way to spend your day outdoors when visiting Chattanooga, Tennessee.
From incredible rock formations and sculptures that will amaze to Fairyland Caverns, Mother Goose Village, and Gnome City, Rock City blends the natural and fantastical for a fun and awe-inspiring trip through the great outdoors that both adults and children will enjoy. Easy to walk for all ages, this outdoor venture is a place you can go to wander quietly with your thoughts as you listen to the sounds of water dripping through the rocks, leaves swaying the breeze, and squirrels chittering as they scurry by.
Pack a lunch, or grab one there, pick a bench hidden in a nook or one overlooking the state lines, and plan a day to leisurely explore the wonders of Rock City when making a list of Chattanooga things to do.
Take a trip back in time with the historic Tennessee Valley Railroad. Whether you are a history buff, lover of romance, or just have a kiddo obssessed with Thomas the Train and friends, the Tenneesee Valley Railroad offers a variety of ride options on their beautifully restored, historic Tenneesee Valley trains. Travel the rails on a full-size vintage train, on select dates you can even travel by steam engine, across the rails and through the tunnels of the Tennessee Railroad.
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This interactive museum experience takes travelers on a trip to the train yard where you will see tons of trains, real life, working steam engines, and even watch your train be turned on a turntable which is a truly incredible experience. See the world from a different, slower paced vantage point while your conductor regals you with tales of train rides, robberies and romance.
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Both fun and educational, a trip on the Tennessee Valley Railroad is one you won’t forget. Add this trip to your list of Chattanooga things to do and learn all about the history of the railroad, the trains, and the development of the surrounding lands, thanks in large part to the railroad itself. On select dates and holidays, you can even view Christmas lights or enjoy dinner in one of the restored, vintage dining cars that are part of the Tennessee Valley Railroads collection. One of the last historic railways and railyards in the country, the Tennesee Valley Railroad is home to a huge collection of vintage trains from all over the country dating back to the 1850s and the beginning of train travel in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Journey deep into the center of the earth at Ruby Falls in Chattanooga, Tennessee. This epic adventure takes you to the tallest and deepest underground waterfall accessible to the public in the United States! Ruby Falls is a must-see cavern and mountain tour when visiting the Chattanooga, Tennessee area and making your list of Chattanooga things to do.
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Head into Lookout Mountain where you will descend 260 feet into the mountain in a glass-front elevator and then traverse the path where the original explorers descended on their bellies for hours and hours underground. The easy walking path is accessible for most people where you will discover the hidden wonders of the world. From incredible rock formations to breathtaking stalagmites, hidden streams, and natural mineral formations you won’t see anywhere else, Ruby Falls takes you on an exploration of a hidden landscape like you’ve never seen before. Finally, the highlight of your journey to the center of the mountain will be the view of Ruby Falls, a naturally formed waterfall in the midst of this limestone cave.
Don’t worry, when you exit your Ruby Falls cave tour, your journey does not have to end, there is still plenty of fun to be had at Ruby Falls. Climb the tower for amazing views of Lookout Mountain and the surrounding area, or head over to High Point Climbing for a Zipline adventure.
At the Ruby Falls High Point Climbing Tower, you can experience climbing an outdoor rock wall with varying difficulty levels and then zipline through the trees! Soar through the treetops on 700 feet of rushing ziplines as you gaze out over the uneven and beautiful terrain of this mountain landscape. Both adults and older children will love this fun-filled thrill ride through the trees.
Located on the outskirts of downtown Chattanooga, the Chatanooga Zoo is a fun and easy day trip for the family. Feed the giraffes, check out the chimpanzees, and watch the jaguars prowl in this easily accessible zoo. Featured exhibits include reptile rooms, big cats habitats, and more. Spend the day at play at the zoo with everything from animal meet and greets to educational showtimes; eat lunch, ride a camel, take a trip on the Chattanooga Zoo Choo Train or head to the playground for a full day of fun right in the Chattanooga Zoo.
Little ones will love seeing the animals in their habitats, petting goats in the Warner Park Ranch, and learning all about their favorite furry friends. With an easy walking path throughout the zoo, this fun family experience can be enjoyed by children and adults of all ages, making it the perfect day trip for those visiting Chattanooga, Tennessee.
The Walking Bridge/Downtown Waterfront
Built alongside the Tennessee River, downtown Chattanooga features plenty of year-round outdoor activities right on the riverbank. From taking a stroll along the historic Walnut Street Bridge, built in 1890, to venturing out in a kayak or paddleboard, the Tennessee River is a hub of activity in the downtown area.
No matter the season there is always a way to explore the Chattanooga Riverwalk. Stretching over 16 miles, you can grab a coffee while you walk, talk a stroll after dinner, or bike the beautiful paths running alongside the water. With everything from outdoor concerts to various watersports events, there is always something to see and experience in this scenic part of the city. Whether you simply want to enjoy a quiet outdoor walk, check out the Hunter Museum of American Art, or head into the Tennessee Aquarium the riverfront can offer everything from solitude to the sound of music and more.
A must-stop along the Chattanooga Riverwalk is the Passage, an outdoor exhibit featuring a stairwell waterfall leading to the river and a weeping wall representing the Trail of Tears and the journey of the Cherokee and other Native American Tribes as they were driven from their lands. Full of culture and the history leading our country to what it is today, the Chattanooga Riverwalk pays homage to our ancestors with displays of art and education about this area and what it once was.
Whether you are in the city for a week or just a quick weekend getaway, the Chattanooga Creative Discovery Museum is a fun spot for the family. This interactive children’s museum is the perfect place to spend a chilly or rainy day indoors, but you won’t want to miss it, no matter the weather. With hundreds of interactive exhibits, multiple floors, and even a lookout tower and rooftop garden and play space, you can easily spend your entire day at the museum.
Both an educational and fun experience, the Creative Discovery Museum exhibits feature hands-on activities where children will learn through play, exploration, and creativity. From their music room to the builder’s workshop, take-home instructor-led art activities, STEM workshops, special events, and more, there is something for every age child to learn, discover and explore at the downtown Chattanooga Creative Discovery Museum.
One of the largest aquariums in the United States, the Tennessee Aquarium brings you face to face with some of nature’s most fantastical creatures. From the ocean floor to the bottom of the Tennessee River itself, the Tennessee Aquarium consists of two buildings, the ocean and the rivers taking you on a journey to see the underwater mysteries from the mountain streams to the oceans and their shores. Whether you begin your journey at the giant touch tank full of stingrays and sharks or head straight to the 6-story freshwater aquarium, the Tennessee Aquarium is full of creatures that will amaze.
In the oceans you will see and learn all about everything from the tiniest plankton to the sharks; jellyfish and giant lobsters amaze while the electric eel and humongous sea turtles swim about in harmony. Children will love watching these fantastic sea creatures from all different angles in the underwater caves, nooks, and crannies you will discover on your visit.
After that head over to the swamplands where you will see everything from alligators to turtles, birds, beasts, and plants that all live together symbiotically. Follow the freshwater fish around their 6-story tank as well where you will see things you’ve never seen before! Freshwater fish are incredibly elusive and these strange-looking creatures, many with big eyes and long snouts that live in the deep rivers and lakes all around us, are interesting to see up close. Count how many species you can find as you learn about those you never even knew existed. Big and small, the freshwater fish at the Tennessee Aquarium are some of the most intriguing creatures you will discover on your trip.
With opportunities to see, touch, learn, and explore, the Tennessee Aquarium is a must-visit location right in the heart of downtown Chattanooga. Whether you want to take a leisurely stroll through their exhibits or get up close and personal with the creatures they have on display, there is something for everyone to see at the aquarium.
Do you have kids who love to climb? Need a new and exciting way to work out? High Point Climbing and Fitness is the premier indoor rock climbing experience for all ages! Learn to climb, belay, boulder, and more in this enormous and fun location located right in the riverfront district of downtown Chattanooga, Tennessee. With lessons, free climbing, and fitness classes available, High Point Climbing and Fitness is both a great way to spend the day and get in your workout.
Featuring a variety of rock climbing walls and experience based on skill level and climb type, High Point Climbing and Fitness has plenty of space for everyone, beginners to experts. From serious climbers prepping for their next outdoor exploration to those wanting a workout or even just looking for a fun and entertaining way to spend the day, High Point Climbing and Fitness offers a challenging and exciting environment to try your hand at rock climbing, both in and outdoors.
Traveling with little ones? A day indoors at High Point Climbing and Fitness is a great way to let your little travelers expend all of that pent-up energy! From bouldering to rock climbing, rope climbers to ladders, the Kids Zone at High Point Climbing and Fitness will be the high point of their trip. Teach them to tackle their fears and take on a challenge with the walls at High Point. Once they get started, they’ll never want to stop. Whether they are racing each other to the top or swinging from the tower jump like a superhero, this unique and challenging experience is also tons of fun and a great way to spend a day at play!
No matter what brings you to Chattanooga, Tennessee, this great city is a bustling hub of activity with enough space to keep you from feeling crowded. From southern comfort food and nearby cabins to five-star dining and swank hotels, Chattanooga, Tennessee offers its visitors whatever luxuries they seek. Beautiful and serene outdoor riverwalks and sculpture gardens are gems in this city for couples, honeymooners, or those looking for a bit of romance, while the wide variety of family-friendly indoor activities make the city a must-visit location for those with kids.
Whether you are seeking water sports and mountain hikes, love visiting museums and shops, want a quick weekend getaway, or a weeklong family vacation, Chattanooga, Tennessee blends the mountains and the city seamlessly within in one convenient location. Literally offering something for everyone, the Scenic City is a conveniently located, easily accessible, vacation destination you must visit right here in the United States.
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