One of the best things about visiting Chattanooga is the staggeringly diverse amount of fun things to do. From world-class hiking to fine dining to brewpubs with a view, the options are limitless. All great things for locals and visitors with a lot of time to spare. For folks with decision paralysis and a limited window to explore? Not so good. Rather than spend your trip scrolling through Yelp reviews on the hotel bed, why not use this local’s guide to dive straight into the good stuff? Because optionality is great, but being told exactly what to do—well that’s even better.
Inevitably, with a guide like this, there will be some awesome things worth experiencing omitted, but you can just do those next time! Without further ado, here’s the single best thing to do in each downtown Chattanooga neighborhood.
Take a Stroll Down Frazier Avenue
The high concentration of local shops, food joints, and watering holes along this compact strip of road is impressive, to say the least. Rather than settle for one spot, why not have it all? Wedged within a 0.2 mile stretch from Market Street to Tremont Street, you’ve got bookstores and beer gardens, gift shops and coffee shops, vintage clothing stores, and Chattanooga’s original local ice cream parlor. It might feel like a lot, but because it’s packed into so very little real estate, it’s entirely possible to poke your head into pretty much all of the establishments and figure out what suits your fancy given your mood.
Bonus: Extend your Frazier Avenue walk into Coolidge Park. Lounge on the grass. Go to the river's edge. People watch. Throw a frisbee. Then, if you still haven’t had enough, circle back up to the Walnut Street Bridge and stroll across one of the longest pedestrian bridges in the world.
Hike through Stringers Ridge
Stringers Ridge, a natural woodland paradise in the middle of the city, is perfect for hiking and mountain biking. Kathryn Crouch
Just a stone’s throw from the shops and sites of Frazier Avenue is Chattanooga’s Hill City neighborhood. The crown jewel of this neighborhood is Stringers Ridge—a 92-acre urban wilderness with about 10-miles of looping, swooping singletrack trails that make for an easy and incredible hike or mountain bike mere minutes from downtown.
Explore the Chattanooga Choo Choo
Chattanooga’s Southside neighborhood has enjoyed a major renaissance in the last 10 years. It’s teeming with startups and hipsters, young families and first-time homeowners, and restaurants galore. For pastries, head to Niedlov’s Bakery. For cocktails, The Flying Squirrel. For fine dining, check out Alleia. If you only have time for one thing, make sure it’s a visit to the historic Chattanooga Choo Choo.
Housed within a beautiful Victorian-era train station, the modern-day Choo Choo is a melting pot of shops, bars, and open-container streets and gardens. Stroll down Station Street beneath draping string lights with a cocktail from Stir. Grab an espresso from The Frothy Monkey and peer up at the vaulted ceiling of the Choo Choo. Pour your own beer at American Draft—as far as is known the world’s first self-serve train-car beer bar. Play a game of giant Jenga or giant chess in the Glen Miller Gardens. In short, eat your heart out at the Choo Choo.
Throw a Shot Glass Against a Bell
An ice shot glass, that is. Within Chattanooga’s quaint and compact West Village neighborhood, one can’t-miss experience among the multitude of fun things to do is a visit to Citron et Sel—a Central and South American-inspired restaurant where you can take a shot of tequila from a shot glass made of ice, then chuck the empty shot glass against a bell. Hit the bell, and you get to do it again. Just be careful. It can be addicting.
*Due to COVID-19, Citron et Sel is closed until further notice. But once they’re back up and running, you won’t want to miss this.
Take a Self-Guided Brew Tour
A mini-bar hop to five spots, including Oddstory Brewing Company, will make you pretty happy. Photo courtesy of Odd Story Brewing Co.
Back in the 1920s, MLK Boulevard was buzzing with jazz clubs and barbershops. Today it’s loaded with microbreweries and, well… yeah, barbershops. A great way to experience this historic street is to do a little hop for hops. Start at Champy’s World Famous Fried Chicken and have some Fortys and Fowl. Then wash it down with a Paleo Pilsner from Hutton & Smith—maybe the most refreshing & drinkable pils in the world. Then, cross the street to Oddstory Brewing Company, which offers up the best sour beers in the city. From there, check out Barley—a funky taproom with over 60 draft beers on tap. After Barley, if you’re still standing, give the basement of Bitter Alibi a visit. Then go home and sleep it off!
Bluff View Arts District
Visit the Sculpture Garden
What’s better than a beautiful view of the Tennessee River from the edge of a towering limestone bluff? A beautiful view of the Tennessee River from a limestone bluff that’s also draped in ornately crafted gardens and modern sculptures. You get all that and more at the River Gallery Sculpture Garden—a truly unique 2-acre park with curved crushed gravel paths, awe-inspiring artwork, and a meditative vibe that’ll make you feel like you’re in some sort of mix between Versailles and a Japanese Zen Garden.
Cameron Harbor & Ross’s Landing
Bike along the Tennessee River Walk
The Tennessee River Walk is one of the best recreational arteries in all of Chattanooga. It travels for 15-plus miles from St. Elmo all the way out to the Chattanooga Dam. A big chunk of this path cuts right through downtown, wrapping from Ross’s Landing and around Chattanooga’s latest neighborhood development Cameron Harbor. Biking this section (either on a BikeChattanooga bike or on a bike that you bring yourself) is a great way to see the sites up close and personal. Can’t ask for more than great river views, even better people watching, and the breaking of a sweat.
Wherever you land in Chattanooga, you can be certain of a good time. When you get through all the things on the list and are looking forward to more, check out these other suggestions to keep the fun rolling.