While Chattanooga is known for its outdoor adventures, it still offers plenty of fun in the chillier weather. Fortunately, winters in the Southeast are relatively mild and snow is rarely seen, making Chattanooga an ideal getaway even in the colder months. With outdoor adventures for those who don’t mind cooler temps and plenty of indoor activities for people who prefer to stay cozy, Chattanooga has chills and thrills (the good kind!) for everyone this season.
1. Explore the Tennessee Aquarium
The Tennessee Aquarium is a must-do activity on any visit to Chattanooga. You can browse the exhibits safely with the implementation of masks, regular sanitizing, and the 10 new HVAC units the Tennessee Aquarium just installed with ultraviolet light filters intended to help disinfect the air. This nationally acclaimed aquarium is unique in that it is divided into two buildings: one for freshwater and one for saltwater. Within each, visitors can connect with the natural world and have an exciting educational experience. And since there’s nothing quite like a warm movie theater on a cold day, bundle your aquarium pass with a ticket to the nearby IMAX theater to continue your adventure. With ever-changing movies and more than a dozen exhibits, new wonders await you each time you step inside the aquarium.
2. Run the Three Bridges Downtown
A favorite route of local runners and walkers, combining the Market Street Bridge, the Walnut Street Bridge, and the Veterans Bridge makes for a fun and varied jogging tour of Chattanooga’s city center. The whole circuit is around four miles and can be started from just about anywhere downtown. From the bridges, you’ll catch views of the aquarium, the mountains, and, of course, gorgeous all-angle views of the Tennessee River.
3. Self-Guided Art Tour: Experience Art Map
This is for the art lover in you. Explore Chattanooga in a whole new way with the Experience Art Map! The map includes several pieces of public art, art galleries, and murals that are near and around the downtown area and include several of our local talented artists. Within the detailed map not only will you find information about the artist, location, and an overall description, but the map is intended to assist any art lover with authentic cultural finds in Chattanooga.
4. Hike to Snoopers Rock at Prentice Cooper
With its many panoramic views and miles of trails, Prentice Cooper is the perfect place to do some winter hiking near Chattanooga. While many trails become icy in the colder months, the trails at Prentice Cooper generally stay dry and easy to navigate all year round. For a nice day hike, begin at the Cumberland Trail parking lot and wind your way down through Indian Rock House and along the bluff to Snooper’s Rock. The view of the river from this overlook is unparalleled in Chattanooga. The round trip will be about six miles—just the right length to get you rosy-cheeked and ready for a steamy cup of hot chocolate.
5. Visit the Hunter Museum of American Art
If you’re looking to soak up some beauty and culture on a cold winter day, duck into the Hunter Museum in the Bluff View Art District near downtown. Advanced ticketing is required so make sure to get your tickets ahead of time! The museum’s modern stone and glass exterior are attached to the stately and historic Hunter Mansion, making even the building’s exterior something of a masterpiece. The museum has a diverse permanent collection as well as exhibitions that rotate throughout the year, making it a new experience with each visit. After your tour, head over to the Bluff View Art District for an espresso and a pastry from Rembrandt’s and a stroll through the outdoor sculpture garden.
6. Take a Self-Guided Brewery Tour of Downtown
Craft beer is on the rise in Chattanooga, which means local breweries are springing up all over town. Grab some barbecue and a brew at Naked River Brewing Co. in their historic foundry building. It is believed to be one of the oldest buildings in Chattanooga, built around 1875 by the Wasson Car Works, a manufacturing company that built railway cars in Chattanooga from 1873 to 1885. In St. Elmo, check out The Tap House and Empyreal brewing. It is a neighborhood favorite with 30 beers and ciders on tap. You’ll also find a menu with burgers, amazing tots, and other snackable favorites. If you want more, check out Oddstory Brewing Co., Hutton & Smith, and Chattanooga Brewing Co. Or do yourself a favor and check out our full list of suggestions + map on our Chattanooga Craft Beer and Pub Crawls blog.
7. Explore the caves at Ruby Falls
Discover underground wonder and adventure at Ruby Falls, the tallest and deepest underground waterfall open to the public in the United States. It’s a great date night or a fun evening for the whole family. It's also a great way to stay warm as you journey through historic caves!
8. Go Climbing at Highpoint Downtown
One of the city’s most jaw-dropping attractions is the climbing gym located on Broad Street. In addition to its labyrinth of indoor bouldering and top roping walls, visitors can actually scale the exterior of the building overlooking downtown (with a rope, of course). The kids’ climbing area will make even grown-ups want to strap on their chalk bags, with themed walls and climbing-related games to play. All equipment and instruction are provided onsite, so a trip to Highpoint is safe and fun even if you’ve never climbed before. Masks are required while climbing.