Day One Morning
You’ll want to make the Tennessee Aquarium your first stop in Chattanooga. It opens at 10 a.m. and takes a minimum of two hours to explore. Ticket prices include both buildings, so you won't miss a thing. Along your journey, you’ll see cuddly penguins and otters, alligators and sturgeon, 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 guided tour. You'll get a VIP experience and 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.
Day One Afternoon
Head 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 and if your little ones still have boundless energy, take a stroll across the Walnut Street Walking Bridge – one of the world’s longest pedestrian bridges. Across the river is the NorthShore historic district, where you'll find several boutiques, art galleries, and various restaurants.
Head down to Coolidge Park to run around on the expansive green lawn and ride the beautifully restored 100-year-old carousel. If it’s hot, expect to see local kids playing in the water play fountain. There are places to change if you feel like packing suits.
Day One Evening
Options abound for dinner, but some kid-friendly spots include Northshore's Taco Mamacita, which offers exceptionally fresh tacos, enchiladas, and margaritas. For downtown choices, Sticky Fingers barbeque, Puckett's Grocery and Restaurant, and Tony’s Pasta Shop & Trattoria in the Bluff View Art District are all good bets.
Day Two Morning
Looking for a beloved Chattanooga breakfast spot? Head to Milk & Honey for their iconic Milk & Honey Latte and a farmhouse biscuit. Niedlov's is another favorite--their baked goods are Chattanooga legends and they serve up a whole breakfast menu to accompany them. 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.
With images of river sturgeon and catfish still dancing in their heads, a water tour will be well received by little explorers. Starting in April, the Chattanooga Ducks offers a kid-centric tour that winds through downtown streets before plunging into the Tennessee River for a cruise around Maclellan Island. The amphibious tour is made possible by the DUKW boat, nicknamed Duck, which was used in WWII for water landings. Corny jokes and duck-billed noisemakers come standard with every trip. The Southern Belle boasts panoramic views of the riverfront and Lookout Mountain aboard a vintage steamboat. Take a leisurely cruise and learn about the Tennessee River's history, legends, and places. Afterward, let the kids explore Ross’ Landing and the Tennessee Riverpark, which offers water cannons, a waterfall down The Passage stairs, and a small playground overlooking the river.
Day Two Afternoon
Journey to the Chattanooga Zoo for a trip through an African forest, South American jungle, and Himalayan Passage. Check out the monkeys, jaguars, snow leopards, red pandas, and a variety of different animals from around the world. You can even feed a giraffe! Touring the zoo takes about an hour to an hour and a half.
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 but will enjoy the entire museum (at their own pace).
If pure fun is what you're after, take a 15-minute drive outside of Downtown Chattanooga to a classic American amusement park loaded with fun for the whole family. Lake Winnepesaukah Amusement Park (open April-October) is the South's favorite amusement park, and features the SOAKya water park (open memorial day weekend to labor day weekend).
Day Two Evening
For dinner, Lupi’s Pizza is kid-friendly but also appealing to adult palates thanks to local ingredients and a substantial beer selection.
If you have older ones in tow, a movie at the Majestic 12 is always a crowd-pleaser. But 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 out bouldering, sport climbing, or traditional climbing at one of Chattanooga's local climbing spots on a Guided Outdoor Climbing Tour.
Options abound if you plan to spend three or more days in Chattanooga. Once you’ve hit the highlights of downtown, Chattanooga’s many area attractions are worth the drive. For a complete outline of regional highlights head to Discover Tennessee Trails and Byways. The Tanasi Trail or Pie in the Sky routes outline virtually every attraction in the Tennessee Valley.
For the history lovers, take an hour to visit the new National Medal of Honor Heritage Center, which was specifically 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, you will inspire your family with the values demonstrated by Medal of Honor recipients - patriotism, citizenship, courage, integrity, sacrifice and commitment.
If you have any train buffs in the family, the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum is a must-see. Located just outside of downtown Chattanooga, this moving museum offers several ways to ride the rails. Smaller children will enjoy the Missionary Ridge Local, a 55-minute ride to the East Chattanooga station where passengers disembark to watch a 17th-century turntable in action. Once turned around riders re-board to return to the main station, passing back through the famous Missionary Ridge tunnel, completed in 1858. The entire trip takes less than an hour. Bigger kids may enjoy longer rides, which can span six to eight hours round-trip and journey to North Georgia (most include a long layover for exploring).
Another great all-day excursion is Lookout Mountain, which features one of the world’s steepest passenger trains, the nation’s largest and deepest waterfall open to the public, and a chance to see seven states from one spot. If you want to devote the day to it, be sure to include these iconic spots: Incline Railway, Ruby Falls, and Rock City. After a day of exploring, swing by St. Elmo's Naughty Cat Cafe (ages 11+) and then grab a bite to eat at 1885 Grill or Mr. T's Pizza followed by a scoop or two of unique, small-batch ice cream at Clumpies Ice Cream Co. Enjoy flavors like Firecracker, Espresso Chocolate Chunk, and Nutella Crunch. (Flavors rotate regularly, so don’t make any promises.)
Family-Friendly, 3-Days in Chattanooga Map
Find all the places we mentioned above in this map we made just for you.
Explore More Itineraries
Grab your honey and head to the heart of Chattanooga for some adventure, relaxation, and fine dining.
Three days full of the best ways to explore Chattanooga via a wheelchair or scooter.
If you're going to bother packing up the minivan, shouldn't you stay longer than a few days? Sometimes you need a week's vacation to connect with your kiddos, and to have a conversation...
Chattanooga seems to be going to the dogs (or cats as it were) with a number of attractions, hotels, and restaurants adopting pet-friendly policies. Check out our top recommendations for where to...
For a history buff, deciding to visit Chattanooga is a no-brainer. The challenge comes when deciding what to do when you get here. Few places in the country can claim such a rich concentration of...
Cyndi Lauper said it best – girls just want to have fun. And when a girl becomes a woman, that means taking a breather from spouses, bosses, kids and housework. Prepare the mixed tape, make a...
If you're a true foodie, it's not so much what you see and do in a city, it's what you taste. With that in mind, we created a travel itinerary based around breakfast, lunch, and dinner...
Voted #2 Top Arts Destination for Mid-Sized Cities by American Style magazine, Chattanooga is quickly giving new meaning to our moniker as the Scenic City. We rounded up three days’ worth of...
The recipe for the perfect guys' trip is a simple concoction of live music, outdoor activity and beer. Wait…make that lots of beer. Fortunately, Chattanooga has all of these ingredients and...