16 Best Things to Do in Chattanooga, TN
Chattanooga is known to be one of Tennessee’s most beautiful city destinations. There are some 423,000 inhabitants in this vibrant city. Chattanooga is built around the Tennessee River that runs through the center of the city, adding to its beauty. The city was immortalized in the popular 1941 song “Chattanooga Choo Choo”, made famous by Glenn Miller.
Just outside of Chattanooga there are many areas of outstanding beauty. The Southeast Tennessee Mountains are just next door, an easy day trip from the city. Chattanooga offers the perfect balance for those wanting to get outdoors and experience the culture and entertainment offered by cities. With plenty of fun things to do in Chattanooga it is the ideal destination for families and friends alike!
16. Bluff View Art District
The Bluff View Art District is a historic area in Downtown Chattanooga that has become a quaint neighborhood full of artistic expression. The Art District was constructed beside the city’s enchanting river, adding to its appeal.
There are various art exhibitions, restaurants, and craft shops within the Bluff View Art District. You can take a quiet walk around the sculpture garden in between sampling homemade bread, and handcrafted chocolates. Breathe in the smell of freshly roasted coffee and have lunch at one of the Art District’s high-quality restaurants.
Cute and charming, you may even want to stay within the Art District at the Bluff View Inn, the
districts’ delightful Bed and Breakfast.
15. Chattanooga Market
Chattanooga’s open-air market is open from April till December every year, unfortunately, it closes during the winter because of the weather. But not before its annual Christmas markets!
The market has lots of stalls run by local farmers who come to the city to sell their fresh produce. There are also lots of arts and crafts stalls, the market is the best place to find local up-and-coming artists selling their latest work. If you don’t want to buy anything, you can simply browse the market stalls and sample some of the market’s delicious street food.
Chattanooga Market runs themed events like the Chattanooga Oktoberfest, festive markets during Easter and Christmas, and bake-offs. It’s the perfect place to spend a sunny Sunday afternoon. you can chat to locals and purchase beautiful gifts and souvenirs from your trip.
14. Coolidge Park
Coolidge Park is one of Chattanooga’s many riverside parks. This is the perfect place to relax on a sunny day. The Park has a 100-year-old carousel and an interactive water fountain that will keep the kids busy. There’s also a beautiful pavilion within the park that you can visit.
The views of the river, fresh air, and pieces of history scattered around Coolidge Park make it one of Chattanooga’s most popular riverside stops. Check their website before your trip, they occasionally host concerts, fundraisers, and special events there!
If you’re looking for something extra to do on your visit to Coolidge Park there’s the Outdoor Chattanooga Center that has lots of outdoor activities, like bicycling and a kid’s climbing wall, and educational programs.
13. Chattanooga Zoo
Are you looking for the perfect activity for a warm, sunny day? But struggling to find something that suits the whole family? Chattanooga’s zoo is a great option!
Between the monkeys leaping across branches, lions roaring and penguins splashing, there’s plenty to keep everyone entertained for the day. You can also participate in activities like feeding the zoo’s giraffes, riding camels, and handling freaky reptiles!
The zoo has practical facilities like parking, a restaurant, and a cute gift shop with lots of wildlife themed gifts you can take home. Chattanooga’s zoo is a great way to combine fun with education. There’s lots of information about the zoo’s animals near each enclosure, a great way for the family to learn together!
12. Hunter Museum of American Art
The museum is on Bluff View Avenue, in the city center and close to the Bluff View Art District. The Hunter Museum has permanent and traveling exhibitions that are open to the public for a small fee.
On your visit you can explore a range of artistic styles from different periods. There is Post World War II art, renaissance art, and much more! The exhibitions aren’t limited to one type of art either; you’ll see old paintings, modern mixed media art, photography, prints, sculptures, and artistic videos all in one place. Each piece at the museum is unique.
You can check their website to explore up-coming exhibitions and buy your entry ticket in advance of your visit.
11. Creative Discovery Museum
The Creative Discovery Museum is designed for families with young children. The Museum promotes education and learning through fun and play. There are lots of hands-on exhibits for older kids, and plenty of playing spots for young toddlers.
The Museum has a soft play area, exhibitions with artifacts from different cultures from around the world, a dinosaur exhibition, interactive computers with educational games and much more. Kids of all ages will find something to keep themselves busy and happy.
The Museum also runs Sensory Nights for families who have children with special sensory needs. You can find the Museum in the center of the city, near the Aquarium and Hunter Arts Museum. The Discovery center is open every day of the week apart from Wednesdays.
10. Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park
The National Military Park was the site of battles between Union and Confederate forces in the late 19th Century. Now it is preserved as a natural park and site of military interest. There are plenty of fun outdoor and indoor activities to do at the Military Park, but it’s a place best visited on a sunny day.
There’s plenty of outdoor space in the park, and two creeks to explore. There are opportunities to go outdoor climbing, canoeing, and kayaking. You can also walk, run, or bicycle around the premises.
If it’s wet, you can head towards the Visitors Center and look at exhibits from the Civil War era. They have an impressive collection of Fuller Guns on display. After, head down to the Ochs Museum, a historic structure built during the great depression.
9. Chattanooga Riverwalk
The Chattanooga Riverwalk runs for 16.1 miles along the southern banks of the Tennessee River. There are lots of different places where you can start your walk, so don’t worry if you haven’t got time to do the full length. You can experience the Riverwalk in every season, there are plenty of restaurants and cafes you can dash into along the way if it starts to rain!
Recently Chattanooga started a citywide initiative called Bike Chattanooga. You can rent a bike almost anywhere around the city without needing to go to a bike rental, all you need is your phone and credit card. There are drop off stations for the bikes along the Riverwalk, so you have the option of cycling the route instead of walking.
8. Ruby Falls
On your trip to Ruby falls you’ll descend 260 feet into the Lookout Mountain above the city. Deep underground you’ll walk along a network of caves that lead to the tallest and deepest underground waterfall open to the public in the US!
From the Ruby Falls Center, you have fantastic views of the Chattanooga city below, the long Tennessee river and the nearby forests. Ruby Falls also has a zipline adventure course, the perfect adrenaline adventure for families.
To visit the caves and waterfall, you need to book your ticket online in advance. You can only get tickets for the zipline adventure course at the front desk. Hurry, tickets sell out quickly!
7. Chattanooga Choo Choo
This historic Hotel in Downtown Chattanooga opened in 1973 after a group of innovative local businessmen saved it from demolition. The old railway station was converted into a luxurious holiday complex. This unique destination has a lot to offer, on top of its rich history.
The complex is home to numerous bars, restaurants and retail outlets that are visited by locals and holidaymakers alike. They have concerts, comedy shows and dancing at many of their venues!
If you’re looking for some peace and tranquillity during your stay you can escape to the Glenn Miller Gardens. They were built around the old railway tracks and designed to bring nature into Downtown Chattanooga.
6. Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum
The Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum takes you back into the past to when railroads were the fastest and best way to travel around the US. The Museum has a large collection of old trains, many of which are still running today thanks to the Museum’s expert engineers.
The Museum is fascinating, but the Tennessee Valley Railroad offers a unique experience to its visitors… you can ride one of the old trains! They have short trips available, as well as on-board Christmas and New Year dining experiences. If you’re looking to do something romantic and out of the ordinary, this could be it.
Families can join the fun too, and ride on the annual Polar Express. The kids will be delighted to board a train run by elves, who will entertain them on their way to see Santa.
5. Lookout Mountain Incline Railway
Chattanooga has lots of one-off attractions, and the Lookout Mountain Incline Railway is definitely among the most unique. If you’re a train and history enthusiast, and you enjoy a bit of adrenaline, this experience was made for you.
Visitors board a railway cart on tracks that run an inclined descent from the top of the Lookout Mountain. The slow ride down the mountain is full of picturesque scenery. The small train passes by local houses and moves between the forest trees.
On your way down you can listen to the recorded guided history of the Lookout Mountain, which talks primarily about local battles and conflict on the mountain during the Civil War.
4. Raccoon Mountain Caverns
The Racoon Mountain Caverns are made up of five and a half miles of underground passageways. The paths run through a series of caves and caverns with unique geological formations. The caves are still growing and changing and are considered the most geologically active caverns in the South.
If you’re looking for a more extreme underground adventure you can join a Wild Cave Expedition. The tour takes you deeper into the underground channels and caves, to corners beyond the lit up pathways. You’ll be equipped with a protective helmet, torch, and safety gear.
The Racoon Mountain Caverns is also an option for accommodation, the business has campgrounds and cabins.
3. Walnut Street Bridge
The Walnut Street Bridge connects the North side of Chattanooga to the central Downtown area on the other side of the Tennessee River. The bridge was built after the construction of the neighboring Market Street Bridge and is thought to be the first non-military highway bridge constructed across the Tennessee River.
It was finished in 1890 after construction workers and expert engineers worked tirelessly to bring the 2,376-foot-long bridge to life.
The bridge has been very influential in Chattanooga’s development, as it allowed a flow of commerce to run between North and Downtown Chattanooga. However, the bridge was later closed off to cars and has run as a pedestrian and bikeway passage since 1972.
2. Lookout Mountain
The Lookout Mountain ridge towers over the Chattanooga city below and can be seen from lots of points within the city. It was the place of the “Last Battle of the Cherokees” in the 18th century, and later saw the Battle of Lookout Mountain unfold in its forests during the American Civil War on November the 4th, 1863.
The Lookout Mountain is home to lots of Chattanooga’s most famous attractions, like the Lookout Mountain Incline Railway and Ruby Falls. There’s lots to do on this 2,389-foot-tall mountain! If you don’t fancy any of the tourist attractions, you can walk around the ridge and enjoy the views of the city below.
1. Tennessee Aquarium
The Tennessee Aquarium is a popular tourist destination for locals and tourists alike. The Aquarium is in the center of the city, near the Hunter’s Arts Museum. It’s the perfect family activity on a rainy or cold day.
You can explore different marine species from freshwater and saltwater habitats. The Aquarium showcases lots of colorful, exotic fish, as well as species from the surrounding area.
Once you tire of the fish you can visit the penguins, these playful and comical flightless birds are fun to watch for everyone. Afterwards, if you aren’t too scared, you can visit the Aquarium’s sharks. It’s recommended that you book online in advance as tickets often sell out in peak season.