A Calendar Full of Fun
With a dramatic backdrop, idyllic weather, and Southern hospitality to boot, Chattanooga is a premier destination for outdoor events and athletic competitions. In 2019, Chattanooga will host two IRONMAN events: IRONMAN 70.3 in May and IRONMAN in September. Also drawing participation from across the country, the Erlanger Chattanooga Marathon Weekend is held in March and offers full, half, relay, and kids’ races.
November’s Head of the Hooch race brings thousands of spectators to Chattanooga’s riverfront. As one of the world’s largest rowing regattas, this two-day event will see more than 2,000 boats racing to the finish along a 3.1-mile stretch of the Tennessee River.
Although live music can be found on any given night, Chattanooga is best known for its award-winning music festivals. Riverbend, featuring headlining acts and up-and-coming artists, has been a Chattanooga favorite for more than 35 years and draws as many as 350,000 people each June. More recently, the Moon River Music Festival has taken over Coolidge Park for two days of family-friendly entertainment. In the summer, downtown’s Miller Plaza hosts Nightfall on Friday nights, while Riverfront Nights at Ross’s Landing takes place on Saturday evenings; both events showcase regional and national acts at no cost. Visitors to Rock City can take advantage of Summer Music Weekends when it’s warm, followed by a toe-tapping experience at the 3 Sisters Bluegrass Festival (held at Ross’s Landing) in the fall. In addition to its popular Pops on the River performance, held in July, the Chattanooga Symphony & Opera conducts more than 30 concerts each season at the Tivoli Theatre and other historic venues around town.
Movie buffs will appreciate the annual Chattanooga Film Festival, deemed by Southern Living magazine as the “Sundance of the South.” Feature and short films, special events, and creative workshops are just a few of the festival’s noteworthy happenings that celebrate the world of cinema.
Throughout the year, residents and visitors can enjoy the festivities at seasonal and cultural events. In the fall, the Chattanooga Market and Rock City celebrate Oktoberfest with German food, beer, music, and more. The Tennessee Aquarium transforms into Aqua-Scarium, and Ruby Falls’ Dread Hollow gives visitors a fright. The winter season includes can’t-miss attractions like Rock City’s Enchanted Garden of Lights, Ruby Falls Christmas Underground, Ten-
nessee Valley Railroad’s North Pole Limited, and the Chattanooga Zoo’s Holiday Lights. Romance at Ruby, complete with a special lantern tour and souvenir photo, is Ruby Falls’ Valentine’s Day event. In the spring, Rock City invites families to experience Shamrock City, EarthDayz, and the Southern Blooms Festival. The Armed Forces Day Parade, which honors veterans and fallen war heroes, and Independence Day celebrations on the river are summer highlights.
Neighborhoods often celebrate their unique cultures, foods, and artists. The Southside’s Mainx24 is a 24-hour-long festival packed with parades, live music, cook-offs, fireworks, and more. At the annual Corgi Parade, residents and visitors gather in St. Elmo to greet costumed corgis and stroll through a variety of local vendors.
In nearby Bradley County, seasonal festivals like the International Cowpea Festival, Cleveland Apple Festival, and Halloween Block Party attract visitors with tasty treats and family fun. The Cherokee Cultural Celebration is held at Red Clay State Park, and downtown Cleveland’s Main Street Cruise-In occurs once a month from April through October.
The Chattanooga Zoo’s mission is to engage and inspire the community to better understand and preserve wildlife by creating meaningful connections between people and animals. In an effort to create these connections, the Chattanooga Zoo is open to the public daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. excluding Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. In addition, the zoo hosts numerous seasonal events throughout the year including Hug-a-Bunny Day, Q & Brew, and the Banana Ball. The zoo offers many different educational programming to all ages through Kits and Cubs, Zoo Camp, Senior Safari programs, and more.
The region’s largest outdoor market features produce from regional farms and local food manufacturers, as well as handmade artistry at small town prices. Throughout the year, each Sunday Market features a theme in keeping with the season.
March features Shamrock City, celebrating Irish, Celtic, and Highlands culture, while April celebrates a different sort of green with EarthDayz. May hosts the Southern Blooms Festival and Founder’s Day celebration, while the summer brings birds of prey raptor shows during Summer Music Weekends. Fall celebrations begin with a corn maze and fall fun at Blowing Springs Farm, while German heritage is celebrated with Rocktoberfest in October. To celebrate the winter holidays, Rock City transforms into the Enchanted Garden of Lights from mid-November through the end of the year.
There’s always something new to discover at Ruby Falls with events and tours year-round. Celebrate Valentine’s Day with a Romance at Ruby Lantern Tour, enjoy barbecue and live music at April’s Battle Below the Clouds, and take a magical journey to visit Santa at Christmas Underground in December. It’s been a favorite destination for 89 years!
The Southern Belle Riverboat offers many cruise options, including daily cruises, dining cruises, seasonal cruises, sightseeing cruises, and private cruises. Seasonal cruises include Valentine’s Dinner Cruise, Easter, Mother’s Day, Thanksgiving, ‘Tis the Season Luncheon, Christmas Carol Dinner, and New Year’s Eve on the River.
In March and April at the Tennessee Aquarium, kids enjoy spring break activities. September highlights include Serve & Protect sustainable seafood events. October features the month-long celebration ODDtober and the family-friendly Aqua-Scarium Halloween Party. In December, visitors are invited to enjoy Holidays Under the Peaks.
In addition to daily Missionary Ridge Local train rides, the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum features several seasonal specials, including dinner trains throughout the year, Day Out with Thomas in April/May, excursions to Chickamauga and Summerville (Georgia), Railfest in September, Halloween Eerie Express in October, and the North Pole Limited during the holiday season. Additionally, Hiwassee River Rail Adventure trains run out of Etowah through the scenic Hiwassee River Gorge.
A marathon, half marathon, team relay, 5K, kids’ fun run and EXPO make up the Erlanger Chattanooga Marathon Weekend. Start training today for this weekend of family fun!
Produced by the Association for Visual Arts, 4BAF is a nationally recognized juried art festival that showcases over 120 national and international artists. The festival is an established conduit for connecting visual artists with avid art buyers and offers local food, live music, and kids’ art activities.
The annual Armed Forces Day Parade features participants from military service units, area veterans groups, high school bands, patriotic organizations, and many others. Each year, the parade features a different service branch. The 2019 parade will feature the United States ARMY on May 3rd at 10:30 a.m. on Market St. beginning at MLK Blvd.
IRONMAN 70.3 Chattanooga offers the perfect training opportunity for those getting ready for the September IRONMAN Triathlon, or a chance to race in one of the sport’s most welcoming race sites. It begins with a point-to-point swim, transitions into a bike course, and then ends with a two-loop run.
(above) Riverbend Festival, photo courtesy of Riverbend Festival
A true Memorial Day commemoration, this free celebration, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., includes a salute to the flag and veterans, the national anthem, picnic food for purchase, a children’s play area, local musical entertainment, and more.
The River Market features local artists, craftsmen, and artisans offering handmade goods who are directly involved in the creation of their products. It also features musical performances by local and touring artists.
This free summer concert series, held on Friday nights, celebrates its 32nd season in 2019 and features an eclectic mix of music by national and international talent with local opening acts. Food, beer, and concessions are available during the event. In March, the “Road to Nightfall” events will feature local bands competing to win one headline spot in the Nightfall series.
Celebrating 38 years, this award-winning eight-day music festival features five stages and more than 100 bands representing various genres of music. Admission can be purchased online.
Celebrating its 13th year, this free summer concert series features live music, food and beer for purchase, and exhibits focusing on local people and institutions who promote healthy lifestyles, sustainable development practices, and outdoor adventures.
Celebrate Independence Day under the stars at Coolidge Park while enjoying the Chattanooga Symphony & Opera’s annual free patriotic concert and fireworks.
The residents of Hamilton County host a county fair in the grandest tradition. The fair features music, games, country crafts, livestock, rides, and more at Dallas Island in Chester Frost Park.
Presented by Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors, this family-friendly music festival features two days and two stages of folksy pop and Americana bands.
The natural scenery, mild climate, and Southern charm make Chattanooga the ideal place for the 2.4-mile swim, 116-mile bike course, and 26.2-mile run that make up the IRONMAN triathlon. The 2019 IRONMAN Chattanooga offers 40 qualifying slots for the 2020 IRONMAN World Championship.
Celebrate Chattanooga’s rich cultural diversity at Culture Fest, a free event featuring multicultural performances, colorful booths, multicultural kids’ activities, and food representing cultures from around the world. The event will be held from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m.
This free two-day event features bluegrass music performed by local, regional, and national bluegrass artists on a stage overlooking the Tennessee River.
Head of the Hooch is one of the world’s largest rowing regattas, with 2,000+ boats racing over two days. More than 9,000 seats are rowed. 1,200 boats compete on Saturday alone, more in one day than any other regatta. Participants come from over 200 different organizations, more than 27 different states, and several countries.
The Southside hosts its annual MAINx24, a 24-hour-long festival along the Main Street corridor. The event showcases local businesses and features neighborhood parties, as well as the EPB Southside Holiday Parade from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
The Holiday Market features more than 200 vendors selling handmade original works perfect for the gift-giving season. Shoppers enjoy the festive environment with holiday music, tasty samplings, and artisan finds.