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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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:
- Lupi’s Pizza Pie
- Taco Mamacita
- Clumpies Ice Cream
- Tony’s Pasta Shop
- Slick’s Burgers
- Niedlov’s Bakery & Café
- Kenny’s Southside Sandwiches
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Lauren Lee is a longtime dog mom transitioning to life as a rookie human mom. She is married to her college sweetheart, Josh, and they welcomed their son, Oliver, to the world in June. Lauren is a Jacksonville State University alumni and has been a published writer since she was sixteen. In her free time, Lauren enjoys reading, writing, knitting and hiking with her two dogs.