Nestled in a bend of the Tennessee River and surrounded by mountains and lakes, Chattanooga offers 13-mile paved Riverwalk scattered with attractions, parks, restaurants and riverboats; outdoor adventures, rich history, many annual events that provide plenty of year-round fun, and much more. On top of that, everything is conveniently connected by a free, electric shuttle or you can try out their new Bike Share program. It has been recognized as a Tree City USA community since 1990 and was named Top 45 Places to go in the world according to New York Times. There is so much to do here that a top ten list of places to visit in Chattanooga has been provided for you.
10. River Rocks
This is a 10-day festival in October celebrating the Tennessee Valley’s incomparable natural resources, the health benefits of an active, outdoor lifestyle and the activities they inspire as well as the city’s commitment to environmental stewardship and land conservation. It’s a family event that includes activities such as rock climbing, trail running, kayaking, urban rappelling, hiking and hang gliding for both expert and novice competitors as well as casual participants of all ages. It also features concerts, skydivers, hot air balloon rides, river cruises and more. They have also partnered with local organizations to offer guided hiking and canoeing tours. It is a greatly anticipated event for families and outdoor enthusiast making it number ten on the list of things to do in Chattanooga.
9. Bluff View Art District
This is a creative haven that specializes in the visual, culinary and landscape arts in a historic neighborhood within walking distance of downtown. It’s the city’s first art district and stretches over 1 ½ city blocks, set high atop stone cliffs that plunge into the river below. From this vantage point, you will see downtown and the Walnut Street Bridge. You can wander through the sculpture garden, watch the local artisans bake breads, make chocolates or roast coffee, or browse through River Gallery, which exhibits fine art and museum quality crafts from local, regional, national and international artists.
8. Chattanooga Zoo
The zoo is 13 acres located at Warner Park and was established in 1937 by the City of Chattanooga. Today, it has over 300 animals representing 130 different species, many of which are endangered and it’s specifically designed to bring the animals up close to you. The most notable exhibit is the Himalayan Passage which boasts the largest indoor red panda exhibit in the world, despite the zoo being one of the smallest accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Other exhibits include chimpanzees, jaguars, macaws, and white-tailed deer, among others. They offer zoo rides, tours, and behind the scenes wild encounters. Affordably priced at $8.95 for adults and $5.95 for children and only a mere two miles from downtown, it is open daily from 9:00am to 5:00pm.
7. Hunter Museum of American Art
Originally built in 1907 as a mansion, it became the city’s first museum in 1952. You can still view the original fireplaces, hardwood floors, wall moldings and hand-carved woodwork, along with the sconces and fixtures over the Grand Staircase. It focuses on works made in the United States from the Colonial period to the present day. The collection includes paintings, sculptures, photography, mixed media, video, and contemporary studio glass covering a range of styles and periods. Perched on an 80-foot bluff, the museum offers stunning views of the river and the surrounding mountains. This panorama is equaled only by the exceptional collection of American art inside.
6. Chattanooga Choo-Choo
Originally opened as Terminal Station 1908 that welcomed thousands of travelers until it closed in 1970 when the old cars could no longer keep up with the faster modes of travel, today it stands as part of the world famous Chattanooga Choo-Choo Hotel with its 85-foot freestanding dome. This 24-acre historical property features 120 locomotives, 1,000 freight cars, 80 passenger cars, and 3,000 feet of track. There are exceptional accommodations available in beautifully restored authentic sleeper cars, and spirited dining venues including the Gardens, The Station, and the Dinner in the Diner which is housed in a restored 1938 Class A dining car. They also offer retail shops, and antique trolley ride, and much more. This is a wonderful place for kids and adults alike.
5. Lookout Mountain
One of the must-see tourist attractions in Chattanooga is Lookout Mountain. There are three top rated, world-famous natural attractions here. The first is Lookout Mountain Battlefield which contains monuments, historical markers, numerous trails, and scenic overlooks. Next, you will want to trek through Rock City’s natural outcrops and see up to 100 miles into the distance. Then tour Ruby Falls which is home to America’s largest underground waterfall. But before you can go to any of these attractions, you will want to get to the top by going on the Lookout Mountain Incline Railroad which carries you 5280 feet up at a 72.7% grade. Though manual wheelchairs are allowed on the Incline, you must be able to get in and out of the cars without assistance as it is non-handicap accessible. You can buy individual tickets or purchase package attractions together to get a discount. Go early to give yourself enough time to do everything.
4. Coolidge Park
Opened in 1999, Coolidge Park is a 13-acre public park on the Northshore waterfront in downtown Chattanooga. This delightful downtown park features a beautifully restored 1894 carousel, the Walnut Street Bridge which is the world’s largest pedestrian bridge, an interactive water fountain where the kids can play and cool off, military memorials of World War I and the Korean War, a multi-purpose pavilion, a canoe/kayak launch, a floating restaurant, and much more. It is adjacent to local entertainment, galleries, shops, and restaurants and serves as a popular is venue for numerous concerts, festivals and special events.
3. Chattanooga Riverwalk
The Riverwalk experience begins at Ross’s Landing Plaza, a novel combination of landscaping, art, and architecture creating a captivating public space that serves as the setting for the Tennessee Aquarium and the Chattanooga Visitors Center. It is a paved, scenic, urban greenway that connects downtown to Chickamauga Dam, 8 miles to the east. It’s a mix of paved pathways, boardwalks, and bridges along the river, through marshland, and over creeks. Restroom facilities and drinking fountains are conveniently spaced along the path. Nine brightly colored quarter-inch-thick stainless steel silhouettes mark each milestone along the walk. It’s open 24 hours a day,7 days a week except for a short, unlit section from the Fry Center to Chattanooga State Community College, which is closed after dark.
2. Creative Discovery Museum
The Creative Discovery Museum is a children’s museum located in downtown and is one of the nation’s best children’s museums by inspiring a child’s passion for learning through play. The museum has several areas such as RiverPlay which is a two-story tall exhibit with a riverboat area for toddlers and larger area for older children, along with art, music, and field sciences where the little ones can dig fossils out and investigate various dinosaurs. There is also a rooftop exhibit and an inventors’ workshop. Exhibits are mostly designed for ages 18 months to 12 years old.
1. Tennessee Aquarium
The Tennessee Aquarium is a non-profit public aquarium that opened in 1992, and had a major expansion added in 2005. Now it’s the top-rated aquarium in America and home to more than 12,000 animals, including fish, reptiles, amphibians, invertebrates, birds, and butterflies. Go to River’s Journey and follow the path of a raindrop from high in the Appalachian Mountains to the Gulf of Mexico and discover the world’s largest gathering of freshwater species. You’ll meet giant catfish, beautiful trout, prehistoric-looking sturgeon and tons of turtles. The adventure continues with the Ocean Journey where sharks, stingrays, sea turtles and colorful reef fish glide through amazing coral formations. You can touch a shark and stingray at the touch pool, and enjoy a rainforest filled with hundreds of free-flying butterflies. Finish your adventure with an optional cruise on the Tennessee River.
Whether you decide to go on a week’s vacation with family and friends, or choose to do a short romantic weekend with your loved one, Chattanooga offers an incredible combination of breathtaking scenic beauty, and a revitalized riverfront. It’s truly the Scenic City with world-famous attractions such as Incline Railway, Lookout Mountain, and Ross’s landing. But that is not all it has to offer; there is waterfront activities such as world-class rowing, performances, festivals and concerts, along with shopping, dining and nightlife hotspots. No matter when you decide to go or who you decide to go with, you will surely be awe-inspired and have the time of your life.