15 Things to Do in Chattanooga with Kids

One of the first stops on our cross-country road trip a few years ago was Chattanooga, Tennessee. I visited ages ago when I lived in Atlanta and it was so fun to go back years later with my kids. I absolutely love Chattanooga. 

Things to Do in Chattanooga with Kids - See Rock City

Things to Do in Chattanooga with Kids

Here are 15 fun and fantastic things to do in Chattanooga with kids, as well as where to stay in Chattanooga. Get ready for loads of family fun in this delightful Tennessee town. 

#1: Take in the Views at Rock City

When mulling over what to do in Chattanooga, it’s a must to start at Rock City. 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.

Walk along the Enchanted Trail for natural beauty and wonders all along this woodland path. Littles will love Mother Goose Village and Fairlyand Caverns.

Stay for lunch at Café 7, which sits atop the mountain at Lover’s Leap. Big Rock Grill is also a good choice for kid faves, like hot dogs and chicken fingers.

See Ruby Falls in Chattanooga

#2: Go Underground at Ruby Falls

One of the most family friendly things to do in Chattanooga 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. Ruby Falls has been one of Chattanooga’s must-see attractions for more than 80 years. It’s also one of my favorite Chattanooga kids activities (probably my #1 favorite).

#3: Ride the Lookout Mountain Incline

To get to the top of Lookout Mountain (for both Rock City and Ruby Falls), hop aboard the funicular Lookout Mountain 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.

When in Chattanooga with kids on a family vacation, make it easy and purchase an all-in-one ticket package that includes the Incline, Rock City and Ruby Falls.

Splash in Fountains at Coolidge Park in Chattanooga

#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. This park is a must for family fun. 

#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. 

Related: 15 Things to Do in Pigeon Forge with Kids Tennessee Valley Railroad Train in Chattanooga

#6: Ride on a Vintage Steam Train

Learn all about the history of the steam train in Tennessee at the family-friendly Valley Railroad Museum at the Tennessee Valley Railroad. Then, climb aboard an actual steam train for a 55-minute round-trip ride on the Missionary Ridge Local.

It’s a six-mile ride over the river (well, Chickamauga Creek) and through the woods, even through a pre-Civil War tunnel. After a delightfully scenic ride across the Tennessee Valley, grab a bite at the on-site Grand Junction Depot Deli.

#7: Explore the Tennessee 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, one of the best aquariums in America.

New IMAX movie, Great Barrier Reef 3D, will wow little ones, taking them on an unforgettable journey to one of the world’s most amazing living wonders. 

Daily animal programs at this Chattanooga aquarium let kids and families get up-close with penguins, lemurs, turtles and chameleons.

The Tennessee Aquarium also hosts monthly drop-in family programs for preschoolers and school-age kids to help littles better connect with nature and animal habitats. This is easily one of the most popular Chattanooga attractions for families. 

Creative Discovery Museum in Chattanooga

#8: Get Hands-On at the Creative Discovery Museum

Take the kids to the hands-on Creative Discovery Museum. Located in downtown Chattanooga, it’s one of the top-rated Chattanooga children’s attractions in the area, as well as one of the best children’s museums in the country.

It’s also just a five-minute walk from the Tennessee Aquarium, making it a cinch to do both in one day. At this family-friendly museum dedicated to creative discovery, plan to explore the lives of bees at the Honey Bee Observation

Hive, dig around in an oversize sand box at the Excavation Station and set sail for a learning adventure at the RiverPlay exhibit.

#9: Explore Caves at Raccoon Mountain Caverns

Go on an underground adventure at Raccoon Mountain Caverns with Wild Cave Expeditions. Walk, crawl, climb over and scoot under a rock-solid maze of natural rock formations with a skilled guide eager to share these geologically active caverns with you and your kids.

On-site at Raccoon Mountain, kids can also pan for gems, fossils and arrowheads in a water sluice.

Antique Carousel Horse at Coolidge Park

#10: Ride a Historic Carousel at Coolidge Park

It’s a must to ride the antique carousel at Coolidge Park. It’s been a whimsical fixture at the park for more than 125 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.

As a wallet-friendly bonus, it’s only $1 per ride, a must-do when you’re looking for fun, inexpensive things to do in Chattanooga, TN.

#11: Cross the Walnut Street Bridge

The Walnut Street Pedestrian Bridge is more than just a bridge on Walnut Street (it’s actually Market Street). It’s the world’s longest pedestrian bridge, spanning 2,376 feet from downtown Chattanooga to the North Shore.

Built in 1890, this dog-friendly bridge is a favorite with locals and visitors alike, boasting scenic views of the flowing Tennessee River all along the leisurely stroll from bank to bank.

On one side, ride the antique carousel at Coolidge Park, then cross the bridge for the Tennessee Aquarium and Creative Discovery Museum Chattanooga.

The bridge connects you with the Chattanooga activities that are the most fun for kids and families. You may also want to explore downtown Chattanooga by way of a two-hour segway tour

Sightseeing Cruise on the Southern Belle Riverboat

#12: Take a Sightseeing Riverboat Cruise

For Chattanooga family fun, take a cruise along the picturesque Tennessee River on board the Southern Belle Riverboat.

Ninety-minute riverboat 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.

At twilight and sunset, longer two-hour riverboat cruises allow you to laze on the deck and let the river scenery roll on by. This is definitely one of the most relaxing things to do with kids in Chattanooga. 

#13: Wander Reflection Riding Arboretum & Nature Center

Stroll along 15 miles of nature trails across the 317-acre Reflection Riding Arboretum & Nature Center. Situated just five miles from downtown Chattanooga, plan to ride your bike, paddle at Lookout Creek or explore all the blooms at the botanical gardens.

Walk along the Blue Heron Wetland Boardwalk for native birds or head out to the Bamboo Forest, a favorite spot among many visitors. In the spring, the nature reserve bursts with vibrant colors.  Kayaking in the Tennessee River

#14: 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. One of my daughters tried this out a few years ago for the first time at Lake Placid and she was a natural.

#15: 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. It’s a must for Chattanooga fun in the outdoors. Good luck.

Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel

With regard to hotels in Chattanooga, TN, book a stay at the world-famous Chattanooga Choo Choo. Stay in a classic room in the newly renovated MacArthur Building or book an overnight in a traincar made for four, complete with one queen bed and a daybed with a trundle.

While at the Chattanooga Choo Choo, watch pups play at the outdoor dog park, splash around in the heated indoor pool or unwind in the Glen Miller Formal Gardens. Check out the latest rates and more details.

Related: Get a Best of Chattanooga Attractions Pass

No stay in Chattanooga is complete without a stop in Julie Darling Donuts for delightfully delicious donuts. Here you’ll find a wide variety of flavors, like Key Lime Pie, Salted Caramel and Samoa.

This whimsical donut shop also boasts loads of filled donuts, like Banana Split Filled and Coconut Cream Filled. Yum-o. This is definitely one of the most kid friendly places to eat in Chattanooga.

For ice cream, it’s all about Clumpies, a favorite for hand-crafted ice cream in Chattanooga for 20 years.

Given all the things for kids to do in Chattanooga, are you ready for a family vacation in Chattanooga? Get all the latest Chattanooga hotel deals, including travel deals on downtown Chattanooga hotels, like Chattanooga Choo Choo and The Chattanoogan, which wows with scenic views of Lookout Mountain.

Here are a few top family-friendly hotels in Chattanooga to consider:

Holiday Inn & Suites Chattanooga Downtown (this urban, kid-friendly stay has an indoor saltwater pool & a 4th floor sundeck)

The Read House (this top-rated historic hotel is a short walk from top attractions, like the Tennessee Aquarium)

Hampton Inn & Suites Chattanooga / Downtown (enjoy a free hot breakfast and easy access to top Chattanooga attractions)

What your favorite things to do in Chattanooga, Tennessee? I’m always on the hunt for new kids activities in Chattanooga to add to my list. 

Things to Do in Chattanooga with Kids