Chattanooga Is A Top Destination For Family Fun And Entertainment
From the riverfront to the mountains, to world-class museums and scenic parks, you won’t find a shortage of attractions to explore in Chattanooga – especially with the family in tow.
(above) Tennessee Aquarium, photo courtesy of Tennessee Aquarium
Noted by Lonely Planet as a top travel destination for 2018, Chattanooga boasts over 15.6 million visitors annually and offers museums, attractions, and adventures for the whole family.
A leading Scenic City destination, the Tennessee Aquarium is ranked among TripAdvisor’s 10 best aquariums in the world. Its River Journey and Ocean Journey buildings are home to more than 12,000 animals, including penguins, sharks, reptiles, and the largest collection of freshwater turtles in North America. With its state-of-the-art laser projection technology, the IMAX Theater at the Tennessee Aquarium adds to the viewer experience.
Home to Rock City, Ruby Falls, and the Incline Railway, historic Lookout Mountain claimed a spot on Northwestern Mutual’s list of the best affordable family vacations in 2018. Full of charm, Rock City features beautiful gardens, ancient rock formations, and a panoramic view of seven states. Ruby Falls is the nation’s tallest underground waterfall open to the public – located 1,120 feet below the earth’s surface. Nearby, Ruby Falls’ ZIPstream Aerial Adventure thrills visitors with ziplines and a 40-foot climbing tower. In operation since 1895, the Incline Railway takes passengers on a ride up Lookout Mountain at a 72.2% grade.
Downtown, the Creative Discovery Museum displays hands-on exhibits that encourage creativity and learning, while High Point Climbing and Fitness features more than 30,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor climbing space. The iconic Chattanooga Choo Choo has something for the whole family, including authentic Pullman train cars where you can spend the night. Railway enthusiasts will also enjoy the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum, offering daily trips from Grand Junction Station.
(above) Creative Discovery Museum, photo courtesy of Creative Discovery Museum
Outdoor activities are available year-round. More than 300 acres can be explored at Reflection Riding Arboretum and Nature Center, highlighting Chattanooga’s natural beauty. Scenic tours of the Tennessee River are enjoyed on the Southern Belle, one of the city’s oldest attractions. Chattanooga Ducks invites guests to ride around downtown on a WWII amphibious landing craft before splashing into the Tennessee River.
At the Chattanooga Zoo, visitors stroll through the Himalayan Passage, Gombe Forest, and Corcovado Jungle, where red pandas, meerkats, and even a two-toed sloth are found. Lake Winnepesaukah, a family-favorite amusement park, is open daily in the summer months and on select weekends throughout the year.
With 13 miles of paved trails, picnic areas, fishing piers, and more, the Tennessee Riverpark is known for its picturesque views and safe areas for jogging, skating, biking, or walking. Bike rentals are available at several locations along the Riverpark and downtown. Chattanooga’s Horse Trams and a Gray Line Hop On/Off Trolley Tour provide a unique way to get around the city.
For sports fans, the UTC Mocs athletic teams, the Chattanooga Lookouts baseball team, the Chattanooga Football Club, the Chattanooga Red Wolves SC, and the Nooga Rugby team call the Scenic City home. Manker Patten, the city’s premier tennis club, hosts top tennis matches and leagues for all skill levels. A number of tennis courts, as well as golf courses, are open to the public.
Chattanooga is no stranger to the music scene, playing host to some of the South’s most popular music festivals. Drawing crowds as large as 350,000, the Riverbend Festival features five stages and nearly 100 artists. New in 2018, a two-day outdoor music festival held at Coolidge Park, Moon River Music Festival, was a sold-out event. Nightfall (Friday evenings, May to August) and Riverfront Nights (Saturday evenings, July and August) are free outdoor concert series that showcase local performers and national acts. Station Street is the place to catch a live musical performance, while Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Auditorium and the Tivoli Theatre are centers for top-quality entertainment.
Seasonal and cultural events are held throughout the year. In the fall, the Chattanooga Market and Rock City celebrate Bavarian culture with German cuisine, beer, music, and more. The Tennessee Aquarium’s Aqua-Scarium and Ruby Falls’ Dread Hollow are favorite fall activities as well. The winter brings Rock City’s Enchanted Garden of Lights, Ruby Falls Christmas Underground, Tennessee Valley Railroad’s North Pole Limited, and the Chattanooga Zoo’s Holiday Lights. Ruby Falls celebrates Valentine’s Day with Romance at Ruby. In the spring, Rock City transforms into Shamrock City to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day; additional spring events include EarthDayz and the Southern Blooms Festival. In the summer, the Armed Forces Day Parade honors veterans and fallen war heroes, closely followed by Independence Day celebrations and fireworks on the river.
No matter the occasion, a visit to Chattanooga promises to be a memorable experience.