In Chattanooga, you will find history , fun family activities, and kid friendly fun for the whole family….
Our family has visited Chattanooga TN several times through the years. Because it is only about 3 hours from our home, we can often make this a mini vacation. Chattanooga TN is the 4th largest city in Tennessee, but for a smaller city, it has a very large and involved downtown area.
The riverfront area went through massive revitalization 15 or 20 years ago and there are a lot of things to do. One great place to visit is the famous Chattanooga Choo Choo. This place was probably very nice years ago but we found it to be outdated and a little dirty. You can actually stay in a motel room that is in a Rail Road Car. Also, there are other opportunities to eat at restaurants on the grounds that have dining in Railroad cars. Even if you do not stay at the Choo Choo, it is worth a visit just to walk through the Hotel and grounds.
The Tennessee Aquarium
The centerpiece of downtown Chattanooga TN tourist locations is the Tennessee Aquarium. This was one of the original big aquariums in the south and features both fresh water and saltwater exhibits. The building is shaped like a pyramid and as you go through the aquarium you wind down long sloping ramps. The last time I visited the aquarium was during a company meeting in 2006 and they had a pretty neat butterfly exhibit going on. There is also an IMAX theater attached to the aquarium. There is a restaurant across the street from the aquarium called Big River Grill. The house specialties include barbecue ribs and burgers. There is also a microbrewery in the restaurant.
The Lookouts baseball team play in the same area in a very nice ballpark. The Lookouts are part of the Southern league and an AA affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds. Down the street 3 or 4 blocks is the Creative Discovery Museum. We have visited this museum at least 3 times through the years and when the kids were between 3 and 9 this was one of their favorite places to go. There is a big tree house in the museum as well as a grocery store where the kids can go through with mini shopping carts and “shop”. This was a big hit with the kids.
There are several area attractions in the Lookout Mountain area of Chattanooga which is 5 or 6 miles from downtown. The incline railroad is a railroad ride to the top of Lookout Mountain. The cars are at a very steep angle and the railroad has a lot of interesting history including weddings being performed on the ride as well as babies being born. The incline advertises views of over 100 miles on a clear day.
Rock City is also in the Lookout Mountain area. This attraction has been around for 75 years and is a definite yes for kid friendly vacations . Rock City is a walk through exhibit of gardens and rock formations. I remember a lot of wooden platform walk ways and the place was very stroller friendly. The views from Rock City can be pretty spectacular on a clear day but we kind of doubt the “See 7 States from Rock city” claim. The history of Rock City is pretty interesting, especially the early advertising campaign with the painted barns all over the South.
Another attraction in the area is Ruby Falls. This is a massive cave with a large waterfall and some spectacular rock formations. You can buy tickets for The Incline, Rock City and Ruby Falls attractions as a group deal.
There is also a military park atop the Look Out Mountain. There was a Civil War battle on the top of the Mountain and I remember hearing that some of angles that cannons were positioned during the battle actually would not allow a cannon ball to stay in the cannon due to the steep angle.
One last word about Chattanooga TN……
TRAFFIC. The interstate through the city has been under construction for the last 30 years. There is no true bypass around the city, so expect delays at any time of the day!!!!