One of the first stops on our cross-country road trip this summer is Chattanooga. I visited ages ago when I lived in Atlanta and now I’m going back many years later with the kids. Take a look at 15 fun and fantastic things to do in Chattanooga with kids, many of which we hope to do during our short stay in June.
1. Go Underground. One of the must-sees in Chattanooga for kids is actually several hundred feet below ground. Your kids will love exploring the caverns at Ruby Falls before taking in the 145-foot underground waterfall. Try one of the popular lantern tours, which are only offered on Friday evenings.
2. Take in One of the Best Views. Situated atop Lookout Mountain, walk along a 4,100-foot walking trail at Rock City to see various rock formations before taking in panoramic views that enable you to see seven states. Stay for lunch at Café 7, which sits atop the mountain at Lover’s Leap.
3. Ride the Incline Railway. To get to the top of Lookout Mountain (for both Rock City and Ruby Falls), hop aboard the Incline Railway. Enjoy the views from the trolley-style car as you make your way up the mile-long rail to Lookout Mountain Station, the highest overlook on the mountain.
4. Splash and Play at Coolidge Park. Bring your swimsuits and look for water fountains surrounded by stone horses, sea turtles and lions. Kids will love running and splashing through these fountains at Coolidge Park. Definitely a great way to cool off in the summer.
5. Bike Along the Tennessee Riverpark. Grab your bikes or rent one from any Bike Chattanooga station. Take a ride along the Tennessee Riverpark, an eight-mile paved stretch that runs from Ross’s Landing in Downtown Chattanooga to Chickamauga Dam.
6. Explore the Aquarium. Visit with otters, watch an IMAX movie, meet the macaws and hear from one of the keepers on the secret lives of penguins at the Tennessee Aquarium. As an add-on, take a two-hour guided river excursion from the Chattanooga Pier on board the River Gorge Explorer.
7. Ride on a Steam Train. Learn about the history of the steam train in Tennessee at the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum before climbing aboard an actual steam train for a one-hour round trip ride on the Missionary Ridge Local. After your ride, grab a quick bite at the on-site Depot Deli.
8. Take a Duck Tour. We took one of the duck tours in Boston and had so much fun. They’ve got one in Chattanooga too, Chattanooga Ducks. Tour the city by land and by water on board an amphibious vehicle and make sure to give passers-by a quack as you go. Your kids may get to steer once on the water.
9. Stroll a Farmers Market. It’s easy to find farmers markets worth exploring across Chattanooga. Chat with vendors, pick up fresh produce and look for fruits and vegetables grown locally, like strawberries and carrots. One to check out is Chattanooga Market, which is open on Sundays through November.
10. Ride a Historic Carousel. It’s a must to ride the Coolidge Park Carousel, a fixture at the park for more than 100 years. With more than 52 hand-carved animals and a calliope organ playing music as the carousel turns, you and your kids will love this old-fashioned experience.
11. Go Cardboard Sledding at Renaissance Park. Grab a cardboard box and do what you do at Renaissance Park: cardboard sledding. Don’t worry, you won’t be alone, and it’s a great way for kids to burn off some energy as they slide down the hill.
12. Watch a Minor League Baseball Game. Spend an afternoon or evening with the Chattanooga Lookouts, the minor league baseball team. Tickets start at $5 adults, $3 for kids, so it’s a fun and cheap way to spend a few hours as you cheer on the hometown team.
13. Take a Sightseeing Riverboat Cruise. Take a cruise along the scenic Tennessee River on board the Southern Belle. 90-minute cruises depart daily, offering views of the Chattanooga skyline and Lookout Mountain as you listen to narration about the history and sights of the town.
14. Try a Ropes Course. Head to ZIPstream Aerial Adventure to cross swinging bridges and climb rope ladders before flying down a zipline as part of this adventure in the trees. You’ll even find suspended obstacles to make your way around as part of this ropes course. Good luck.
15. Go Kayaking on the Tennessee River. Head to River Canyon Adventures for a guided kayak or canoe trip along the Tennessee River. Or, try out stand-up paddleboarding. My then-10 y.o. daughter tried this out for the first time at Lake Placid last year and she was a natural.
Looking for a place to stay while in Chattanooga with kids? We stayed at The Chattanoogan, which is located in Downtown Chattanooga and offers scenic views of Lookout Mountain. As a bonus, it’s very close to top Chattanooga kids activities, like the Tennessee Aquarium, Rock City and Ruby Falls. As an extra bonus, The Chattanoogan has a full-service day spa. Check out the latest rates and more details.