It may not be the first place that crosses your mind when thinking of cities to take a weekend trip to, but Chattanooga, TN is a hidden gem in the south. With its southern charm and an abundance of food and fun, it’s a city that should definitely be on your list of places to visit. Just a short 117 miles or 1 hr 45 min drive north of Atlanta, Chattanooga has plenty to offer families. Here is a list of the top 10 things to do in Chattanooga with kids.
One of the most popular attractions in Chattanooga is aquarium which sits on the Riverfront. It is split between two buildings, one called River Journey that houses, you guessed it, river animals and Ocean Journey where all of the ocean animals live. There is also an IMAX theater about a block over. With floor to ceiling aquariums and engaging exhibits, the kids will be able to journey through the Mississippi Delta, visit Penguins’ Rock and touch stingrays in Stingray Bay. They’ll also be in awe of Butterfly Garden just to give an example of the amazing exhibits. Plan to spend at least a few hours or maybe more here in order to see everything.
Creative Discovery Museum
The creative discovery museum is one of the best children’s museums we have visited. There is literally something for everybody. I found myself immersed in many of the activities with the kids and learning right along with them. This museum is truly a child’s playground with everything from an actual playground, to a fossil digging site, to art projects and an outdoor science area.
Lookout Mountain Incline Railway
The Lookout Mountain Incline Railway is one of the steepest passenger railways in the world. It is an approximately one-mile long single track system, except for the passing loop in the middle. Leave from the lower St. Elmo station and take the ride up to the top of Lookout Mountain enjoying the beautiful views of the Chattanooga area.
Missionary Ridge Local Train Ride
If you have a train enthusiast or just want to learn more about the history of trains in our country, this is a great family activity. At just under an hour, this 6-miles round trip has enough excitement to keep even the little ones entertained as it crosses over bridges and through a pre-civil war tunnel. Kids will also love seeing the historic turntable demonstration at the half way point.
Ruby Falls Cave Tour
Ruby falls is a waterfall located over 1,120 feet below Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga. While the cave tour is definitely touristy, it’s one of those things that is great to do at least once. It is a fairly easy hike and your reward is a few minutes at the pretty waterfall. While we only did the cave tour, they also have the Zip Stream Aerial Adventure park at Lookout Mountain. Zip Stream is an outdoor ropes course with bridges and zip lines.
Also located at Lookout Mountain Rock City features massive rock formations, gardens and provides scenic views. Walk along the trails and see the unique rock formations and hundreds of species of flowers and plants.
Southern Belle Riverboat Cruise
See the city from the river on a Southern Belle Riverboat cruise. The cruise takes you to the foot of Lookout Mountain, then turns around Moccasin Bend, the slowly cruises back through downtown Chattanooga. Lasting about an hour and a half, you can take a sightseeing cruise, a lunch cruise or a dinner cruise.
Ross’s Landing Park
A great place to just enjoy the riverfront. There is a playground, walking path and bikes for rent if you want to take a ride around. This is also where the pier to load the river cruises is located.
Another riverfront park, this one located on Chattanooga’s north shore, Coolidge Park overlooks the river and has an antique carousel, interactive water fountain for playing when the weather is warm and rock climbing. You can also take a stroll along one of the world’s largest pedestrian bridges-the Walnut Street Bridge.
Highpoint Climbing and Fitness
Located right downtown in the middle of the action High Point offers a kid zone where young climbers can try their hand at the climbing wall. Kids as young as 3 can participate. Great if you happen to run into a rainy day or just want to get some extra energy out for an hour or two.
Chattanooga Travel Tip: Stay in downtown Chattanooga where you can ditch the car and walk or catch the free shuttle to several of the main attractions and many restaurants. We recommend the Hampton Inn Chattanooga Downtown.
If you’ve been to Chattanooga, what was your favorite activity?