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Chattanooga is a Tennessee gem, and has really come into its own as one of the best cities in the state to visit. Located along the stunning Tennessee River and bordering the state of Georgia, Chattanooga is nature, kids fun, history and culture all rolled into one.
It's a city that also prides itself on its ever involving eco-consciousness, so not only can kids have a great time but a visit can inspire a more green way to live.
It's because of Chattanooga's energy and excitement that we can't wait to share with you our Chattanooga City Guide featuring our "Top 9 Family Attractions" .
These are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what to enjoy in this exciting US destination, so make sure you keep reading our really fun Chattanooga City Guide that we've put together just for you so you can plan your next family day out in the city of Chattanooga!
Main Image Credit: Kevin Ruck
Image Credit: Lawson Whitaker
In this Chattanooga City Guide, we can't wait to hear what you think about our top 9 things to do with kids in this Tennessee favorite, as well as some really fun experiences that surely will bring out the child in all!
We know that budgets are a factor when traveling as a family, so also in this Chattanooga City Guide we let you in on some free things to enjoy which won't break that bank account.
Visiting Chattanooga without a car? No problem! Keep reading to discover some tips to help you navigate this nature-loving Tennessee city without any issues, plus we share some really fun facts about Chattanooga that might just surprise!
If you want to explore a bit further out of the city, our Chattanooga City Guide lets you in on one of our favorite day trips, plus we share some famous faces who were born right in Chattanooga itself!
So whether this is your first trip where you say "Yes, take me to Chattanooga"! or you might have lived in the city all your life yet never took the time to explore and wonder "What is there is to do near me in Chattanooga?", then keep reading because we have the top 9 things to do in Chattanooga to enjoy with the family and kids of all ages... and so much more!
Image Credit: Rachael Crowe
Chattanooga was founded all the way back in 1839, but it was actually in 1816 that two brothers named Lewis and John Ross established the first settlement of Ross's Landing when a trading post, a ferry landing and a warehouse were built. This settlement of Ross' Landind grew and in 1838 residents voted that the name change to Chattanooga. In 1839 the town was incorporated and the city of Chattanooga was officially born!
One mystery still to this day, is where did the name Chattanooga come from? Historians aren't even sure! They know the name was derived from the Cherokee people, with some consider the name a word describing the nearby stunning Lookout Mountain as "rock coming to a point". Others feels it's from the Indian word for "hawk's nest". Some also feel it's from the Indian name "Tsatanugi". Will we ever know?
What we do know is that as early as 1793 there are maps showing an Indian village and creek named "Chatanuga", located at the foot of Lookout Mountain.
Of course, much like all US cities the history of the Chattanooga and its first inhabitants date back thousands of years with Native Americans calling the lands their home. If you are lucky enough to visit the historic Chickamauga Mound near the mouth of Chickamauga Creek, you can actually see with your own eyes the oldest remaining visible art dating from 750 CE!
During the years of World War I the population of the city expanded and by the 1930s Chattanooga was known as the "Dynamo of Dixie", followed by the 1970s seeing another period of population growth.
Today, Chattanooga is a thriving, exciting and very eco-friendly city that welcomes families from all over the world, and is the perfect destination for any family day out!
Image Credit: Chattanooga Tourism Co.
Chattanooga has so many fun things to do with kids of all ages, so whether your family love animals, exploring the great outdoors, embracing local culture or deep diving into the history, this iconic Tennessee city has you covered!
Love wildlife? Great! Attractions such as Tennessee Aquarium and Chattanooga Zoo are perfect for families who just love learning all about the weird and wonderful creatures that call our planet home!
For those curious minds in the family who love learning through hands-on play, make sure places like Creative Discovery Museum are on your itinerary!
Want to get out and enjoy adventure in the great outdoors? From Ruby Falls to the world famous Incline Railway at Lookout Mountain, there are plenty of ways to enjoy nature in Chattanooga!
From indoor fun for active kids at High Point Climbing, or thrills and spills at the iconic Lake Winnie Amusement Park, Chattanooga really does have something for everyone, no matter how old or what your interests are!
Image Credit: GEM
If you don't have a car in Chattanooga, that's not a problem!
This uber-green city has an incredibly walkable downtown (which is always such a great way to really see a city) as well as offers a number of free and unique ways to get around the city via their public transportation systems.
First, you have CARTA - the free electric shuttle that accommodates all of downtown as well as connects to the Northshore.
Then, the city is also home to one of the longest pedestrian bridges in the entire world which connects the Northshore to the Southside, as well as the beautiful 13-mile riverwalk which is always such a beautiful way to spend the some!
If that wasn't enough options, why not check out the very first citywide bike share system with Bike Chattanooga, with over 300 bikes found across 40+ locations all across the city.
No car? No problem! With shuttles, walking paths, bridges and bicycles, all you will need to worry about is how to enjoy Chattanooga the best you can!
For more information, check out Visit Chattanooga!
If you want something unique to experience when in Chattanooga, why not spend the evening learning about the city's other residents? Chattanooga Ghost Tours offer three different tours - two of which are all ages - that not only show you parts of the city you might never normally see, but you also get to hear fascinating stories of the history, the people...and even unexplained happenings!
Revel in the details of Chattanooga's darker past, and choose between the all ages walking tour, OR a combination walking tour AND actual ghost hunt (complete with equipment!) Chattanooga has been called one of the most haunted cities in the USA and with a history so engrained in events such as the Civil War and Trail of Tears, you might just be surprised you might experience! Feeling brave? BOO!
Image Credit: Chattanooga Ghost Tours
Our Top 9 Fun Things To Do With The Kids In Chattanooga
It's time to walk on the WILD side in Chattanooga with a day at Chattanooga Zoo! This 13-acre zoological experience can be found within Warner Park, and it's where kids can come face to face with some of the most beautiful creatures from across the globe!
Chattanooga Zoo opened back in 1937, and since then has grown from a handful of monkeys to cougars, giraffes, tamarins, anteaters, snow leopards, deer, and coyotes (just to name a few!), plus keeper talks, a play area for kids, and a whole lotta ROARING family fun!
Image Credit: Chattanooga Zoo
What began as a fun family aquarium back in 1992 has expanded and grown into one of the most impressive aquariums Family Days Out has ever visited! Today, you can meet over 10,000 animals from the oceans, rivers, lakes and streams AND there's an incredible IMAX experience waiting for you too!
Spread across two buildings, kids can trace the water from the mountains to the sea, filled with fascinating native animals that live in our backyards as well as the amazing creatures that thrive in some of the most remote locations on Earth. Plus, wxperiences, talks and events take Tennessee Aquarium to the next level!
Image Credit: Courtesy of Tennessee Aquarium
Nature never fails to impress, and this feels never more true than when you visit Ruby Falls, a series of underground cascading waterfalls that total a whopping 145ft inside of Lookout Mountain. Discovered back in 1928 and opened to the public in 1929, Ruby Falls has attracted visitors from all around the globe for nearly a century.
Now a National Historic Landmark (and also the subject of a song written by Roy Orbison and Johnny Cash!), Ruby Falls is an experience not to be missed, as it serves as an incredible reminder of just how beautiful our planet is!
Image Credit: Ruby Falls
Did you know that the Hunter Museum of American Art is home to one of the largest collections of American Art in the entire WORLD? If that isn't reason enough to visit, we don't know what is! This fascinating museum strives to share the importance, meaning, and relevance of American art, and re-imagines and re-interprets American art through compelling programs for all ages as well as through diverse and interactive exhibitions.
Through their permanent collection as well as rotating exhibitions, the Hunter Museum of American Art is a space where the whole family can feel inspired, feel creative, and really appreciate American art in all forms!
Image Credit: Chattanooga Tourism Co.
Ready for a museum experience that's JUST for kids? Welcome to the Creative Discovery Museum! Here, inquisitive kids can unearth the curiostities of the world through play, immersive exhibits and hands-on activities - all for them!
The various exhibits at this fun and colorful museum teach children a range of topics, from sciences, innovation, natural history, and offer them a space where they can let their imaginations run wild! With FREE family nights once a month, there are all the reasons in the world why the Creative Discovery Museum should be on every family's radar!
Image Credit: Creative Discovery Museum
Did you know that the Incline Railway that climbs up Lookout Mountain is the world's steepest passenger railway? This National Historic Site and Mechanical Engineering Landmark has been in operation since 1885, and not only offers a really fun (and historic) experience for the whole family, but also offers some really impressive views too!
During your visit, not only can you visit the actual machine room where the giant gears are put into motion, but you enjoy some of the events they host, or even challenge yourself on an adventure Zipline! Are you ready to be part of history?
Image Credit: Incline Railway
Lake Winniepesaukah is really two parks in one, so we hope you're prepared to have a LOT of fun! First, you have the Lake Winnie amusement park with thrills for the brave and more gentle attractions with their family and kiddie rides, making it a park for all ages.
Then, you have SOAKya Water Park which does just that - Soak Ya - along with games and plenty of food options. Open May through September, Lake Winnepesaukah is recognized as one of America’s top ten family amusement parks for all ages so why not head on over to make that SPLASH that you know you want!
Image Credit: Chattanooga Tourism Co.
If you've explored Chattanooga by land, why not next explore it by river? The iconic Southern Belle Riverboat is ready to take you on a journey where you can see the city from a whole new perspective! It's the perfect activity for families, and cruising along the water is something you have to experience in person to really understand how magical it can be.
The Chattanooga Riverboat Company offer two types of cruises - a Sights Cruise and a Sunset Cruise. During the 90 minutes to two hours you can relax on the open-air deck, enjoy a narration of the history, and just have a great time! Time to set sail, all aboard!
Image Credit: Southern Belle Riverboat
Kids, get ready to (literally) climb new heights in Chattanooga at High Point Climbing, where some very cool indoor rock climbing awaits! High Point Climbing has two locations in Chattanooga, and both locations offer beginner, intermediate AND advanced classes for all ages as well as classes to learn how to belay, and courses to introduce all ages to bouldering.
With camps, clubs, a kid zone and activities JUST for kids, not only can those active children in the family enjoy using up that energy, but they can also keep fit in an environment that is perfect for their needs! So what are you waiting for, there is so much to climb!
Image Credit: High Point Climbing
Famous Folk from Chattanooga!
Bessie Smith was an American blues singer considered one of the greatest and most popular artists during the Jazz Age of the 1920s and 30s.
Earning the nickname "Empress of the Blues", Smith's first public appearance as a singer occured when she was only 8 or 9 years of age.
Image Credit: Public Domain
Reggie White was an American professional NFL player for 15 seasons during the 1980s and 1990s.
White played for the Green Bay Packers and Philadelphia Eagles, and considered one of the great players in NFL history.
Image Credit: David Wilson
5 Fun Chattanooga Facts
Impress your friends with your amazing Chattanooga knowledge!
- The world's first patented miniature golf course came out of Chattanooga, back in 1927!
- The very first everr gold record awarded in the music industry was for a song about Chattanooga! Glen Miller's "Chattanooga Choo Choo" was released December 1941, and went on to sell over 1 million copies!
- The very delicious (and loved!) MoonPie was created in a bakery in Chattanooga! The bakery opened in the early 1900s, and the MoonPie was born 1917 after a coal miner asked for a snack "as big as the moon!"
- Chattanooga has a mysterious underground! Throughout the city there are doors that don't lead anywhere, underground tunnels, and even windows that open to brick walls!
- Atlanta may be the home of Coca-Cola, but Chattanooga is the reason the whole country could enjoy it! In 1899, two lawyers bought the Coca-Cola bottling rights for just $1, making the city home to the very first Coca-Cola Bottling Company!
Top 5 FREE Things To Do With Kids In Chattanooga
Coolidge Park overlooks the beautiful Tennessee River and is a wonderful oasis within the city to spend the day with the family. Located on Chattanooga's North Shore, at Coolidge Park you can enjoy an interactive water fountain, test your skills at rock climbing, and even stroll across one of the longest pedestrian bridges in the world!
If that wasn't enough, Coolidge Park also offers plenty of open green spaces for picnics and playing, as well as a century year old antique carousel to ride on! With entertainment, shops, galleries, and restaurants too, Coolidge Park is a great budget friendly option for any day out in Chattanooga!
Image Credit: Chattanooga
Typically running from April to December (that means of plenty of festive fun!), Chattanooga Market is a lovely blend of crafts, farmers market vibes and family fun. Just to stroll the market and take in the local vendors and produce is always so fun, but Chattanooga Market also features plenty of live entertainment too, including music acts!
So whether you just want to take in the atmosphere or pick some some apparel, toys, jewelry, gifts or delicious foods for a picnic (perhaps in Coolidge Park!), then this fun market experience could just be a family highlight when in the fun city of Chattanooga!
Image Credit: Chattanooga
Stroll the Tennessee Riverwalk
To really take in a city there is nothing quite like walking or cycling to explore, and the 13-mile continuous path of the Tennessee Riverwalk is the perfect opportunity to do just that in Chattanooga.
Extending from the riverfront at Ross's Landing with through to the Tennessee Riverpark and Chickamuga Dam, the path is perfect for in-line skating, jogging, walking and bicyling, and if you are feeling really adventurous you can stop at the Chattanooga Rowing Center and pick yourself up a kayak or canoe and head to the numerous launches to really make the most of your experience!
Image Credit: (C) 2007 State of Tennessee
Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park
Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park was once the site of one of the bloodiest battles within the Civil War. Today, it makes for a wonderful learning experience as you step back and delve into the city's history.
During your time at the battlefield, the knowledgable park rangers can share the rich history and events that occurred right on the land you will be standing on, but you can also enjoy Civil War re-enactments, as well as embrace the outdoors with running, hiking, rock climbing, horse back riding and even paddling the waterways. Your first port of call should be the Visitor Center, where your adventure can start!
Image Credit: Chattanooga
Visit the First Street Sculpture Garden
If it's art you love, look no further than the FREE First Street Sculptire Garden located at First and Market Streets in downtown Chattanooga. Open 24 hours, this creative space features sculptures that are actually for sale, and rotated twice a year so there is always something for you to see on your next visit!
A fun way to be inspired during your family day out in Chattanooga, and also great to experience and support local art!
Image Credit: Chattanooga Tourism Co.
A few things we LOVE in Chattanooga, TN!
Get those cowboy boots dusted off because our pick for a fun day trip from Chattanooga is the music capital of the world - yep, Nashville!
The bright lights of Nashville are about two and a half hours drive from Chattanooga, and there is so much to see and do both during the day AND the night. Nashville has an electricity about it, and it's an absolute must visit.
What we love about Nashville is that it isn't just about country music and honky tonks. There is a rich history, so much culture and some amazing food, so get ready for Nashville to surprise you in what it has to offer!
Pack those cars up, it's Nashville time!
The land that Nashville stands on today was first occupied by Native Americans who lived in the area as far back as 15,000 years ago! This tribal occupation lasted thousands of years, however there isn't actually any archaeological evidence that Native Americans remained in the region between 1500 and late 1600s.
It was during the 1500s that the first Europeans made their mark, but wasn't until 1796 when Tennessee was officially admitted to the union as a state, and even then the city of Nashville remained relatively small.
Then, 1806 saw Nashville finally chartered as a city, and a couple of decades later in 1843 the city was officially selected as Tennessee's permanent capital!
Nearly 200 years later, Nashville is now the largest city in the state (even surpassing the population of Memphis back in 2017!), and when you visit, you'll see why so many people love to spend time in this unique, vibrant and musical city!
Those boots were made for walkin', so let's get them walkin' to Nashville!
Here’s our top 4 Nashville things to do:
- Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum
- Andrew Jackson's Hermitage
- Adventure Science Center
- Nashville Zoo
We hope you found this content useful! Please share with your friends, and if you have any comments, or want to let us know what we can do to further help you find fun days out with the family, then just email our team at [email protected]!
Let's get the family adventure started!
Lisa has been a content writer for Family Days Out for nearly 10 years, and a keen travel writer for nearly 20. She loves experiencing the best of a city, discovering the many things to do and immersing herself in the culture, and sharing these experiences with others through her writing.
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