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How to Have Fun in Chattanooga with Kids

How to Have Fun in Chattanooga with Kids

At just over a two hour drive, Chattanooga is the perfect roadtrip or even day trip from the River City! No matter your family’s ages and interests, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.

We recently made the trip north, and had the best time exploring the Scenic City over the course of a three day weekend. After strolling through the downtown area, visiting some gorgeous local parks, and of course stopping at the attractions, it was clear how Chattanooga earned the title.

Local Attractions in Chattanooga

There’s some cool places to visit while in Chattanooga. Whether you’re into animals, trains, or science, there’s something for you to explore.

The Chattanooga Zoo Offers a Roaring Good Time

The Chattanooga Zoo was one of our first stops on the trip! Our son loves checking out the animals at zoos and petting zoos, and this one was no exception. We were impressed by the habitats and how healthy the animals all looked. We even had the opportunity to feed the giraffes during our visit and loved how up close and personal you felt while visiting the different animals. We also loved meeting the friendly staff members!

A jaguar prowls by at the Chattanooga Zoo.
The animals at the Chattanooga Zoo are lovingly cared for and guests can enjoy an up close view during their visit.

Creative Discovery Kids Museum Let’s the Littles Explore

We had so much fun during our weekend in Chattanooga that it was hard to pick favorites, but the Creative Discovery Museum was definitely up there! This museum is ALL about the kids and my toddler had SO much fun walking around and exploring. The museum has just recently been renovated and has bright and colorful exhibits that offer the perfect interactive play for kids.

From dinosaurs to an incredible water table loosely modeled after the Chickamauga Dam, this museum will have kids learning and playing for hours. My son was on the younger side of the guests, but still had plenty to do alongside much older kids. The younger members of the family will be in paradise here.

A toddler enthusiastically reaches towards the water table at the Creative Discovery Museum.
The water table at the Creative Discovery provided tons of entertainment when we visited.

Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga is a Swimmingly Great Road Trip

No matter the age, I feel like everyone can enjoy a visit to the aquarium, and the Tennessee Aquarium is an excellent one to visit! This place is massive and there are so many breathtaking viewing areas. Oliver was absolutely captivated throughout the aquarium and I have to admit that I had chills at times too. Conveniently, the Tennessee Aquarium is also downtown and central to several local eateries and other attractions!

A toddler stares at the glass observation area at the Tennessee Aquarium.
The young and the old alike will be captivated by the breathtaking viewing areas at the aquarium.

Climb Aboard the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum

The Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum allows guests to take a ride through history! You’ll enjoy a gorgeous ride down the tracks where you’ll disembark and get to watch a roundhouse in action. Afterwards you’ll get to take a look at several historic engines before heading back and exploring the museum. If you have a kiddo that loves trains, this one is a must during your visit, but even the general public will enjoy it as well.

A toddler looks on at a red and yellow engine at the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum.
The kids will be super excited to go on a train ride at the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum.

Explore Nature and Get Outside

There’s no shortage of parks and outdoor recreation areas to enjoy while visiting Chattanooga. The kids will love having some space to run and burn the energy, while adults can take in some of Tennessee’s natural beauty.

Reflections Arboretum & Nature Center

Need a moment of peace and quiet…or as close as you can get with kids? Reflections Arboretum & Nature Center is the place for this and it’s FREE. Nestled at the base of Lookout Mountain, you’ll enjoy a stunning walk under the peak of the mountain through wooded areas and alongside the water. It was so peaceful in fact, that our son fell asleep in his stroller towards the end of our walk.

The nature center is also home to one of the largest tree houses in the southeast and features stained glass windows that were repurposed from a cathedral in Scotland. The trail itself if a mix of gravel and paved, but we had no issues getting through with our son in his running stroller. We also let him walk around to burn off some energy too.

The sun peeks over Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga.
The Nature Center offers a gorgeous place to enjoy a peaceful stroll outside,

Embrace Adventure & Enjoy Views at Rock City

If you’re wanting to take in some of the gorgeous views on Lookout Mountain, Rock City is the place to go! Featuring breathtaking rock formations and winding trails that overlook seven states, it’s a great way to enjoy some fresh air. It’s also perfect for the adventurous kiddos with plenty of tight squeezes and even a massive suspension bridge.

If you’re a fan of fantasy novels, you’ll feel like you’re walking inside your favorite book! The kids will especially enjoy the the Fairyland Caverns where there are black-lit scenes from popular fairytales. If possible, leave the strollers home for this one and go for a carrier instead.

A stone walkway weaves through Rock City with archways appearing in it's face.
The trail at Rock City offers gorgeous views and looks like something out of a fantasy book.

Exploring Downtown Chattanooga

Downtown Chattanooga is bursting with things to do! From eateries to some of the local attractions mentioned above, there’s so much to enjoy!

Renaissance & Coolidge Park Offer Incredible Views & Fun

Honestly, you could spend an entire day just exploring these parks…and it’s free other than your parking! There are so many walking trails/sidewalks to explore and you have plenty of green space for the kids to move around. We instantly felt at home and loved walking around.

Cardboard Hill

This is a simple concept, but offers BIG fun. At the entrance of Renaissance Park you’ll find a large hill with spare sheets of cardboard on it. If you’ve ever wanted to experience sledding without the wet and cold, this is your chance! Oliver giggled on the way down and repeatedly signed for more. This is something that the kids AND the kids at heart will love. 

A mother and son sit on a piece of cardboard and "sled" down Cardboard Hill in Chattanooga.
Cardboard Hill is fun for the kids and the adults.

Antique Carousel at Coolidge Park

If you have a little that loves the carousel, that’s another reason for visiting Coolidge Park. The antique carousel is right out of a storybook!

A father and son ride a carousel in Coolidge Park.
The carousel will be a popular spot for the littles.

Downtown Shopping & Eats

Wandering through the downtown area offers great options for shopping and food! There’s tons of cute shops and local restaurants. We visited the following and they were all Oliver approved:

A toddler devours a piece of pizza.
The Chattanooga area ia full of kid-friendly and parent-approved eats.

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View Comments (107)
  • Would love to take our boys back to the Aquarium. We haven’t been since 2007. The eldest was 5 and the youngest was almost 1. Our oldest is wanting to go for his birthday. This would be perfect! 😀

  • I have to stop making excuses about why we don’t have time! I have a cousin living up there and still haven’t visited! This was the motivating push I needed, thanks 🙂

  • We LOVE Chattanooga and haven’t been able to get away this summer. Would love a trip!

  • I love the aquarium and know my kids would love it too. Chattanooga is a fun city 🙂

  • We visited Chattanooga 9 years ago when we were traveling around TN looking for our new home. What a fun-filled day that was for our family! We didn’t make it to the Aquarium, but sure would like to! Thanks for the opportunity to win!

  • Would love to win. I’m due with our third child in September and I would love a little getaway with my other kiddos before she gets here.

  • I think you wrote this blog post about me! Show choir, dating in Chattanooga, child created there (mine is a Ryan…) We should get coffee. 🙂

  • I love Nooga! We tell all our friends who haven’t been to go. When we took our oldest she was only 2.5 years old and she had a great time at the aquarium!

  • Love the Aquarium and Love Chattanooga! We have family there and this would give us another excuse to go visit them! Thanks for sharing.

  • I always have a GREAT time when I visit Chatty!! THANKS for an entertaining & informative post, and thanks to Lee Anne because now I definetly have to try taco Mamacita! Can’t wait 🙂

  • We’ve been wanting to go here since we moved to AL 3 years ago…might actually do it this year!

  • Our family of now 5 doesn’t get away much at all due to Mommy and Daddy’s work schedule, but when we do there is not a place our kids (or us) love more than Chattanooga! It has become a tradition to have a picture made with each daughter and Dad at the same spot at the aquarium. Our third is getting so close to the age we started this at with our first child and it just makes me realize how special those pictures, memories and Chattanooga are to our family! It’s the mini-vaca our girls always talk about the most and a special tradition I hope we can continue with them for years! We find something new to do each time we go, and there are still so many things we want to experience in the years to come!

  • We’ve been up to Chattanooga but never to the Aquarium or anything besides Rock City. It’s such a beautiful area though, so we hope to get back sometime in the next few years.

  • I have always loved the Tennessee Aquarium, and I hope that my 2 year old will love it when we get around to taking him!

  • The Science Museum is the best part of the trip! We are hoping to get to Rock City on the next one.

  • Took my son to the Aquarium when he was just a few months old and even though he didn’t understand much then he seems to have LOVED it. We will definitely be taking him again soon! 🙂

  • I love taking the kids to Chattanooga. We have not been able to get away this year yet, but this is at the top of my list as soon as we can get away!

  • I haven’t been to the aquarium in years and my little one has never been. We would love a go!

  • As Many times as I’ve been to Chattanooga, I’ve never been to Rock City. *and I have fam there too!* lol

  • I went to the aquarium years ago before I was a mom. Two kids later and I haven’t taken either of my kids. Sounds like its still a fun place to visit. Can’t wait to take them.

  • I loved our family trip to chattanooga when i was little – I’d love to take our 3 year old! She loved the aquarium/reptile house at the nashville zoo, I know she’d love the aquarium!

  • I can’t believe no one has mentioned Lake Winnie yet. It’s a family-run, old-time amusement park just inside the Georgia line, just about 10 or 20 minutes this side of Chattanooga. It’s not expensive and loads of fun. The full name is something like Lake Winnepesaukah, but they usually just say Lake Winnie.

  • We have always loved Chattanooga but have not been since having our little girl. I can’t wait until she is a little older to take her to the Children’s Museum and the Aqaurium. My husband will insist on at least one trip to Clumpy’s though on the North Shore for the best ice cream!

  • My oldest grandJoy was JUST talking about going to an aquarium. Would love to take all three of my grandjoys!

  • My family loves Chattanooga! We also went up there for a few days after the 4/27 tornadoes, having a small one under 1 and no power was rough, so thankful and the awesome people at the ChooChoo gave us a discount because we were from Huntsville.

  • Great article. We have considered a day trip to Chattanooga with the kids! Seems like there is so much to do!

  • My husband and I went to Chattanooga when we first started dating. That was back in 2006. Since then we have had one son, and we have baby #2 on the way. I am a stay at home mom now, and money is tight. I would love to take my family to the aquarium for a fun-filled day!

  • We’d love to take our boys back to Chattanooga! Big city feel and small town atmosphere at the same time.

  • I remember going to Chattanooga as a kid. I loved Rock City and the aquarium. I would love to be able to take my kids to have those same experiences.

  • This was quite an interesting read for me. I know nothing of Chattanooga except driving by it on the interstate … & to be honest I never thought it looked interesting OR family freindly. Now I did know the aquarium is there & with 2 little boys that does sound fun, but I’ve just never been interested in going to Chattanooga for it.
    My mind has been changed ! We definitely need to plan a weekend trip ! Thanks for this article ! 🙂

  • My kids have loved the Zoo and Lookout Mountain. We would love to go to Chattanooga again!

  • Love Chattanooga! We haven’t taken our daughter to the aquarium yet but she would love it!

  • If you like staying overnight, the Ramada at Lookout has a great indoor saltwater pool and free breakfast.

  • We went to Chattanooga for my birthday this year and took the kids to the Choo-Choo and the Aquarium. It was a lot of fun.

  • I LOVED Chattanooga as a child and have been wanting to take my 3-year old! He would love experiencing the aquarium and Chattanooga Choo-Choo! Thanks for this informational article!

  • Thank you for the great tis. I know my girls will love going here.

  • I love Chattanooga, but have never been to the aquarium. My newly turned three year old is now obsessed with all things water so we are going to have to take our first trip up with him.

  • We LOVE Chattanooga around my house! There is so much to do. Some of our faces are Lookout Mt. & the Aquarium. My hubby & I stayed @ a bed & breakfast there right before his deployment. It’s a beautiful, peaceful place.

  • We saw the aquarium two years ago and it was awesome. We’ve wanted to go back to see Rock City too, but waiting for the kids to get a little older.

  • Lovin’ the articles about these day trips around HSV. I have been to several of the places mentioned, but still have many more to explore!

  • Love Chattanooga! I haven’t taken my 3 year old son yet, but I am looking forward to planning a trip in the near future.

  • Wonderful info!! I haven’t been to Chattanooga in years and it seems to have come a long way. Can’t wait to plan a weekend there!

  • We love Chattanooga! We are taking our little ones to the aquarium next weekend–can’t wait!

  • We haven’t been to Creative Discovery Museum in Chattanooga. We would love to take our kiddo’s

  • We’ve never been to the Creative Discovery Museum. Looks like fun! ….and it’s been a few years since we’ve been to the Aquarium. A Chattanooga trip in the near future would be great!

  • I can’t wait to take my little man to the aquarium at the end of July. We are also going to visit Rock City. So looking forward to our mini-vacation.

  • I love the Chattanooga Aquarium. I’ve been wanting to take my daughter there for what feels like forever. Now, she’s finally old enough.

  • The creative discovery museum sounds like so much fun! We love Chattanooga, but have never been there! 🙂

  • Would love to go to the creative discovery museum, my daughter would love it!!

  • We love the TN Aquarium but have yet to try the discovery museum! Next time, we will have to… it looks like so much fun for my 4 year old!

  • The Discovery museum is the best. I wish we had something like this in Huntsville.

  • I haven’t been to Chattanooga in a while. It’s a great day trip location. Thanks for the article and reminding me of a wonderful family location!!!

  • We live in Scottsboro, so a trip to Chattanooga is only a little farther than a trip to Huntsville. We like to take a Frisbee, some balls and a picnic and hang out at Coolidge Park on a nice day.

  • I love visiting Chattanooga! What a fun place to be :). I really enjoyed reading this post, and could think back to times I’ve visited the Aquarium :). I can’t wait to take my son up there for a little vacation! We haven’t been to the museum yet, and I think that would be a fun trip :).

  • Been to the Creative Discovery Museum and it was great. Loved all the interactive things.

  • We have tried to get to Chattanooga two times this year and something has happened that prevented it both times. We are determined to make it before the end of 2012!! Our daughter would absolutely love to visit the Aquarium and the Discovery Museum! We’ve heard such great things about both.

  • I’ve been wanting to visit the Children’s Museum. They have a great summer calendar on their website.

  • Haven’t been to the Creative Discovery Museum- I think my son would love it! Thanks for all the great info/advice.

  • I believe were going to try to go to Chattanooga for Labor Day thanks from information

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