Where to Stay in Chattanooga
Since you’ll be staying a while, consider renting a cabin for a home away from home. Most allow everyone their own bedroom so nerves don’t fray as easily. (Nothing ruins a vacation like a sibling showdown.) Feeling a little adventurous? Check out our list of Unique Places to stay in Chattanooga!
What to Do in Chattanooga
You simply can’t spend a week in Chattanooga and not visit the Tennessee Aquarium and at least one (or all) of the Lookout Mountain attractions (Rock City, Incline Railway, and Ruby Falls).
Other Top Things to Do
A river cruise allows you to see the city from a different angle.
Creative Discovery Museum
The Creative Discovery Museum is a great escape for all ages up to about 12. Besides a two-story water play section and a simulated archeological dig, kids can explore the seasonally rotating exhibits upstairs.
The Chattanooga Market is held each Sunday (April-November) and named one of Frommer’s top 10 public markets.
Explore Iconic North Chattanooga Spots
Coolidge Park features a water play fountain, a 100-year-old carousel, and plenty of sweet treat options from Clumpies Ice Cream Co. and Julie Darling Donuts. Get there from downtown via the Walnut Street Bridge, one of the longest pedestrian bridges in the world.
Hop on the Chattanooga Ducks (April-October) for an amphibious look at the Scenic City. The one-hour narrated tour is sprinkled with corny jokes and complimentary duck noisemakers.
It’s a safe bet that the Chattanooga Zoo will be a crowd pleaser with red pandas, monkeys, jaguars, a petting zoo area and camel rides (on the weekends).
High Point Climbing
Reach new heights at High Point Climbing and Fitness, a premier rock climbing facility. Climbing is available indoors and out, with climb walls up to 60 ft. tall. High Point caters to beginners as well as the advanced climbers, all right in the heart of downtown.
Check Out an Escape Room
Looking for a unique, exciting way to spend quality time with the whole family? 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: Escape Experience (Southside), Escape Mission (Northshore), and Time to Escape (Riverfront/City Center).
Amusement Park Fun
Just 15 minutes from Downtown Chattanooga is 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 has added SOAKya water park (open memorial day weekend to labor day weekend).
Catch a Game
A Chattanooga Lookouts baseball game (April-September) is the perfect way to unwind on a warm spring or summer night.
History lessons abound in Chattanooga, the site of two crucial Civil War battles and origin of the Trail of Tears. Who says kids' brains turn to mush when not in school?
Chattanooga African American Museum
Walk through time at the African American Museum in the Bessie Smith Cultural Center. The center preserves and celebrates African American History and Culture in Chattanooga through art, education, research, and entertainment.
Explore Native American History at Audubon Acres
Visit Audubon Acres to learn about the area's rich Native American history. Strong evidence suggests that a corner of this preserved land was once the Napochie village, visited in the 1560s by the Tristan DeLuna expedition. Here you also can hike to the Little Owl Village site and see a Cherokee cabin built during the mid-1700s.
Civil War History at Chickamauga Battlefield and Point Park
Travel back in time at Chickamauga Battlefield. A 20-minute movie, cell phone audio tour and park ranger tour are all free. Guided tours are at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. (every day during spring and summer; weekends in fall and winter).
Walk the grounds of the “Battle Above the Clouds” at Lookout Mountain’s Point Park. Besides beautiful views and picnic spots, the Visitor’s Center houses a large mural by James Walker, an eyewitness to the battle in 1863.
Travel Back in Time on the Railroad
The Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum brings history to life all year long, but if you can make it, we definitely recommend taking your little to their Day out with Thomas event. Everyone will love a train excursion around Chattanooga, which can range from 55 minutes to 8 hours depending on the route. Kid friendly rides include the Missionary Ridge Local (an in-town 55 minute ride), the Hiwassee River Rail Adventure (a 3 ½ hour ride from the Etowah station, located an hour north of downtown) and the North Pole Limited (a holiday themed, pajama friendly ride that includes a visit from St. Nick).
Outdoor types are drawn to Chattanooga for its world-class rock climbing, hang gliding, hiking, whitewater rafting and more. If you have an older crew, consider one of the 6 best hiking trails on Lookout Mountain.
For younger travelers, try these easy escapes:
Glen Falls Trail on Lookout Mountain is perfect for any age. 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.
On the other side of the mountain is Reflection Riding Arboretum and Nature Center, which offers 317 acres of dense forest to explore. You can paddle down Lookout Creek, visit the Wildlife Wanderland for a possible glimpse of a bobcat or red wolf, or ride/walk the three-mile Reflection Riding Loop.
Raccoon Mountain offers beautiful views of downtown and miles of hiking/biking trails around its breathtaking reservoir, a 1.2-mile manmade lake that powers the pumped storage plant. The Visitor’s Center offers a comprehensive history of how the Tennessee Valley Authority transformed the region shortly after the Great Depression.
For those that like to soar, Chattanooga is home to the largest hang gliding school in the world! You can fly tandem for a one-time thrill or take lessons and learn to fly like an eagle. Kids as young as 4 are welcome.
Explore Hidden Gems in the Area
Since you’re staying a week, consider a day trip to uncover several “hidden gems” surrounding Chattanooga.
Ocoee, Tennessee is a must-see for adventurous families. Whitewater rafting on the Ocoee River is the most popular draw, offering five miles of Class III and IV rapids. Ocoee Zipz adds to the adrenaline-pumping fun with a one-mile zipline through the trees, where you can catch glimpses of local wildlife and the mighty Ocoee River.
Mentone, AL is a charming mountain community on the back of Lookout Mountain. Peruse the local shops, eat at The Wildflower Café or hike to the breathtaking Desoto Falls. Horseback trail rides are also available.
Travel just one hour north of town and you can tour the South’s largest dairy and cruise America’s largest underground lake. Mayfield Dairy Farms offers a behind-the-scenes educational tour that appropriately wraps up at the Ice Cream Parlor. The Lost Sea explores caverns that have been used since the Cherokee Indians, including a boat ride on a four-and-a-half acre underground lake.
INSIDER TIP: Many hotels offer package deals for local tourist attractions. If renting a cabin or home, check out Chattanooga Packages to create your own deal. If possible, time you trip with one of Chattanooga’s awesome events.
Check out our map for a week of family fun in Chattanooga.