How to See Chattanooga in Three Days
We know it’s hard to plan a vacation. Your time is precious, and we want you to have a first-class experience with a personalized itinerary planned by a Chattanooga insider. Whether you’re on a tight schedule and just have one day to enjoy the city, or you have several days, here are some ideas for a three-day family fun itinerary.
Start your day at the Tennessee Aquarium. Along your journey, you’ll see cuddly penguins and otters, alligators and sea turtles, and hundreds of fluttering butterflies in the rooftop garden. But for a chance to get some real close one-on-one interaction with the animals and their caretakers, go on a Deeper Dive behind-the-scenes experience. You’ll get to see how the animals are cared for by the expert staff.
Once you’ve worked up an appetite, head to kid-friendly Mellow Mushroom or Big River Grille for a melt-down-free lunch.
Walk over to the Classic Arcade Pinball Museum to experience an interactive museum filled with classic arcade games and pinball machines dating back to the 1940s. Show your kids two of America’s pastimes while also learning the history behind each machine.
An escape room game will challenge everyone to work together and create new memories in an action-packed environment. It’s loads of fun, and Chattanooga has some of the best escape experiences in the Southeast with a variety of rooms offered by different companies.
Walk across the river along the historic Walnut Street Bridge, one of the longest pedestrian-only bridges in the world, to the NorthShore district where you’ll find shopping, galleries, parks, and lots of dining.
Run around Coolidge Park on the expansive green lawn and ride the beautifully restored 100-year-old carousel. If it’s hot, kids can cool off in the interactive water fountain.
Options abound for dinner on the North Shore, but some kid-friendly spots include Taco Mamacita, which offers exceptionally fresh tacos, enchiladas, and margaritas. For downtown choices, try Puckett’s Grocery and Restaurant and Tony’s Pasta Shop & Trattoria in the Bluff View Art District.
Looking for a beloved Chattanooga breakfast spot? Head to Milk & Honey for their iconic Milk & Honey Latte and a farmhouse biscuit. Drop by Niedlov’s Bakery & Cafe for their legendary baked goods or enjoy a wonderful breakfast of quiche, lox and bagel, or some homemade granola. If you’re looking for a laid-back, outdoor patio vibe, then look no further than the Daily Ration; opt for a hearty breakfast like the fried chicken & grits, southern benedict, and so much more.
Head to the Chattanooga Market held Sundays April-November. Named one of the “Top 10 Public Markets in America” by Frommers, Chattanooga Market features live music, over 50 farms bringing a variety of produce, meats and cheeses each week and over 130 artisans offering their unique crafts, arts, farm-fresh goods, and so many other locally made specialties.
With images of penguins and giant sea turtles still dancing in their heads, a water tour will be well received by little explorers. Starting in April, the WWII amphibious Chattanooga Ducks offers a kid-centric tour that winds through downtown streets before plunging into the Tennessee River for a cruise around Maclellan Island.
Take a leisurely cruise aboard the Southern Belle riverboat and learn about the Tennessee River’s history, legends, and places.
Afterward, let the kids explore Ross’ Landing and the 20+ mile Tennessee Riverpark, which offers parks, live music, a waterfall down The Passage stairs, and a small playground overlooking the river.
Journey to the Chattanooga Zoo for a trip through an African forest, South American jungle, and Himalayan Passage. Check out the monkeys, jaguars, red pandas, and many animals from around the world. You can even feed a giraffe!
Next, head to the Creative Discovery Museum, where kids can splash in a manmade “river,” dig for dinosaur bones in the sand, or make beautiful music with a Djembe or harp. The three-story Lookout Tour provides a bird’s eye view of downtown, or kids can hoist themselves up with the simple pulleys and levers at the Rooftop Fun Factory. Smaller children (2-4) have their own play area complete with a kitchen, train set, and treehouse.
Teenagers love Adventure Sports Innovation (ASI) but they offer adventures for all ages! They curate the latest inventions and innovations in adventure sports and outdoor activities. They offer tours and rental gear for outdoor activities such as electric ATVs, electric scooters, hoverboards, and many more. They also offer virtual reality simulators for hang gliding, rollercoaster riding, and tightrope walking.
For dinner, Lupi’s Pizza is kid-friendly but also appealing to adult palates thanks to local ingredients and a substantial beer selection.
Designed for all ages, High Point Climbing and Fitness offers indoor and outdoor climbing right in the heart of downtown with a special section for kids that’s unlike any other.
Once you’ve perfected your skills, try bouldering, sport climbing, or traditional climbing at one of Chattanooga’s local climbing spots on a guided outdoor climb.
A Chattanooga Lookouts baseball game (April-Sept.) is the perfect way to unwind on a warm spring or summer night.
For the history lovers, visit the National Medal of Honor Heritage Center, which was designed to engage and inspire future generations. You’ll learn about Chattanooga’s unique history with our nation’s highest military award for valor. And even more important, your family will be inspired by the values demonstrated by Medal of Honor recipients including patriotism, citizenship, courage, integrity, sacrifice and commitment.
Take the short and easy hike at Glen Falls on Lookout Mountain. It’s about 10 minutes from downtown, has very little elevation change and is less than a mile’s walk to an enchanting waterfall, rock tunnel, and wading pool.
If you have any train buffs in the family, the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum is a must. Located a few minutes from downtown, this moving museum offers several ways to ride the rails. Kids will enjoy the Missionary Ridge Local, a 55-minute ride to the East Chattanooga station where passengers disembark to watch a turntable in action. Bigger kids may enjoy longer rides, which can span six to eight hours round-trip on a journey to North Georgia.
Another great all-day excursion is exploring the iconic attractions of Lookout Mountain. Head up the mountain aboard the Lookout Mountain Incline Railway which features one of the world’s steepest passenger trains. Venture deep underground at Ruby Falls, the nation’s largest and deepest underground commercial waterfall open to the public. At Rock City, you can explore lush gardens, listen to live music, and even see seven states from the famous Lover’s Leap.
After a day of exploring, grab a bite to eat at 1885 Grill or Mr. T’s Pizza followed by a scoop or two of small-batch ice cream at Clumpies Ice Cream Co. Enjoy flavors like Firecracker, Espresso Chocolate Chunk, and Nutella Crunch. (Flavors rotate regularly.)
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