On a recent family vacation to Chattanooga Tennessee, two things struck me about the city, it’s a great walking town and there is so much to do for every age and interest. During our visit, we parked the car on arrival at The Chattanoogan and didn’t get back in until we left the city two days later. When we did get tired, the kids and I just hopped one of the free electric shuttles that run every five minutes. In addition to being eco-friendly, several buses are wrapped, creating mobile works of art by local designers.
Where to stay in Chattanooga with kids
We stayed at the AAA four diamond Chattanoogan Hotel during our trip. All Downtown activities are within walking distance of the Chattanoogan, but leave some time in your vacation to enjoy the hotel’s amenities that include an indoor pool and spa. The Foundry is the lobby Bar and Grille with a pool table and shuffleboard. The games are located in a separate room so your kids aren’t really hanging out in the actual bar area. Outside is a gas fire pit, perfect for a relaxing evening. Parents can enjoy a drink while the kids enjoy the fire.
What to do in Chattanooga with Kids
There is so much to do in the Chattanooga area that you really have to make some tough choices, and then probably come back for a return visit. I’d break down our visit into three different types of tours – adventure, downtown and attractions.
Chattanooga Adventure Vacation
If Chattanooga adventure is what you seek, you’re in for some big thrills.
- Hang Gliding – We went hang gliding through Great American Days at Lookout Mountain Hang Gliding just outside of town. Beginners start on the ground and are pulled into the air by plane.
- Wild Cave Tour - If flying isn’t your thing, head underground for a Wild Cave Tour of Sitton’s Cave at Cloudland Canyon through the Georgia Girl Guides. You’ll get quite muddy, but it is a true adventure.
- Outdoor Adventure Rafting – My boys were disappointed that we couldn’t go rafting with Outdoor Adventure Rafting, but you have to be at least 12 years-old and my youngest doesn’t make the cut – yet.
- Rock Climbing – Rock climbing is also popular. Chattanooga boasts some of the best climbing in the region. Tennessee Boulder Authority teaches kids how to boulder, which is climbing without ropes. Urban Rocks is the place to go if you want to belay.
Chattanooga Downtown Vacation
From our home base at the Chattanoogan, we were able to walk to a host of great attractions in Downtown Chattanooga. We visited all of the ones below and didn’t even scratch the surface. Ones on my list for next time are the Creative Discovery Museum, a Chattanooga Lookouts baseball game, the Chattanooga Zoo and all the historical battlefields.
- Tennessee Aquarium and IMAX Theatre – This is a must do for any Chattanooga visit. The website says this is a two hour experience, but we ended up spending most of the day
- Walnut Street Bridge – Take a walk across the half-mile pedestrian only bridge. It’s one of the longest in the world.
- Coolidge Park – A walk across Walnut Street Bridge from Downtown Chattanooga to the North Shore brings you to Coolidge Park. Bring a few dollars for the old fashioned carousel, which originally resided in Atlanta’s Grant Park. Pack a bathing suit and towel during warm weather to splash in the fountains outside or a Frisbee for the wide lawn.
- Stop at the Ice Cream Show – On the way home, stop at the locally owned Ice Cream Show on the Downtown side of Walnut Street Bridge for a tasty ice cream with mixed in treats.
- Chattanooga Ducks – This is a tour of Chattanooga in an authentic 1940’s land/sea DUCK. The vehicle has an interesting history, which is one of the reasons I chose this tour. It was built in a GMC plant by Rosie the Riviter during WWII, while the men were off fighting. There were 20,000 built, but only about 250 left today. The tour is informative, but a little slow for younger children. They did let the kids drive, which was fun and it was fun to see a piece of history first hand, but if you have limited time or younger kids, maybe choose the Children’s Discovery Museum instead.
Chattanooga Natural Wonders Vacation
People have been vacationing in Chattanooga for decades. Here are some vintage attractions that have stood the test of time and still entertaining visitors.
- See Rock City – See Rock City has graced the roofs of barns since the 30’s drawing people to this natural wonder. The amazing rock formations are still a highlight even after 80 years.
- Ruby Falls – Ruby Falls is the perfect introduction to caving. It’s a guided tour that is fun for all ages and the Falls is truly spectacular.
- Lookout Mountain Incline Railway – We didn’t have time for this attraction, but it’s often sold as a package with Ruby Falls and Rock City. I wouldn’t recommend doing all three in one day. All great attractions, but this is a lot for kids (and adults) to do in one day. I suggest splitting it into two. If you must do it all in one, plan a lighter schedule the next day.
Where to eat in Chattanooga with Kids
It was easy to find great local establishments at mealtimes, which was one of the things I really liked about Chattanooga. Many local restaurants are using locally grown food, another plus.
- Broad Street Grille – During our stay we enjoyed the breakfast buffet at the Chattanoogan’s Broad Street Grille each morning. There is a nice variety of items from eggs and bacon to breakfast breads and fruit. It was the fuel we needed to tackle a day walking and exploring Chattanooga. The restaurant was putting the finishing touches on a new presentation kitchen where each night the chef presents a different menu based on what they find at the local farmers market. All over Chattanooga is a push for fresh, locally sourced food.
- Lupis Pizza – Whenever we visit a new city, I like to find local establishments instead of the same chains. In Chattanooga there are lots of options. For pizza, Lupi’s is the local favorite, close to Downtown attractions.
- The Terminal Brewhouse - This brewhouse is located in a funky triangle shaped historic building and has a rooftop patio offering a great view of the iconic Chattanooga Choo Choo sign. The menu has a lot of variety from pizza to burgers, and their home brew is quite tasty.
Although we were provided a complimentary room and attraction tickets for the purpose of reviewing it (as is common in the travel industry), we only recommend places we would stay and products we would use.