Chattanooga is simply one of America's most attractive medium sized cities, and every year its mixture of green space, a walkable Downtown and family attractions attracts more and more visitors. Why not join them?
If you need somewhere that will satisfy a car-load of kids, Chattanooga fits the bill. With amusement parks like Lake Winnie and Rock City, as well as the Aquarium and Warner Park Zoo, families will never be bored in this southern jewel.
However, Chattanooga is also a great destination for culture lovers and nature fans. Take the Incline Railway to the summit of Mount Lookout to see Ruby Falls, walk the 10 mile footpath to the Chickamauga Dam or ride the steam railway from the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum. Or, if you don't want to leave the city, just relax in Coolidge Park beside the antique carousel and the fountains.
There are fine art galleries like the Hunter Museum, boutiques along the length of Frazier Avenue and more Tennessee BBQ restaurants than you could ever hope to sample. It all comes together in one hard to resist package - so there are plenty of reasons to make Chattanooga the destination for your next getaway.
Chattanooga seems to have been designed for family vacations. Not only are there attractions like the Warner Park Zoo and the Tennessee Aquarium, but Rock City and Lake Winnie host plenty of rides, mini golf courses and spectacular light shows, while the Creative Discovery Center offers a huge variety of interactive exhibits as well.
If you want to experience the best that the South has to offer, look no further. Chattanooga is as hospitable as they come. Take a ride on paddle steamers like the Southern Belle, dine on Tennessee BBQ or fried chicken at Bea's or take in century-old neighborhoods like St. Elmo's.
Culture lovers will find plenty to enjoy in Chattanooga. For starters, there's the Hunter Museum of American Art, perched high above the city, followed by the Houston Museum, which is packed with beautiful ornaments and clothing exhibits, along with the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum, which offers 4 hour round trips to Chickamauga Dam.
Chattanooga has turned its depressed Downtown district into a cultural, social and economic hub. Shop at locations like Frazier Avenue, watch a movie at the historic Tivoli Theater and then walk across the Walnut Street Bridge to ride the restored carousel in Coolidge Park. Few downtowns can match Chattanooga for retail options, safety and convenience.
Chattanooga is also exceptional for the amount of green space within its city limits. Sometimes, the city seems more like an extended park than an urban area, making it even more enjoyable to visit. Along with Coolidge Park, don't miss the arboretum at Reflection Riding, the free concerts at Miller Plaza or the summer paddling pools at Ross' Landing.
Relax inside a Pullman Train Car room at the Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel and experience what it's like sleeping in an antique steam locomotive cart. But while you may be exploring the past, you'll be surrounded by all the creature comforts of home such as high-speed internet, WiFi, flat screen, and a coffee maker. Stroll to the Chattanooga Riverfront and visit the Coolidge Park and marvel at the restored historic carousel, and join the locals as they play with the water fountain.
Offering a plethora of interactive exhibits and activities, the Tennessee Aquarium will leave you breathless. Stroll over to Cove Forest and enter the River Otter Falls. You'll be entertained by the jolly and curious little otters. If you love Lemurs, then walk over to Lemur Forest. Observe the Ringtailed Lemurs hanging from the trees. Then, venture over to the Seahorses: Beyond Imagination exhibit and gaze at the radiant tiny seahorses, sea dragons, and sea stars. End your evening slumbering alongside the aquarium's biggest fish displays with the Sleep in the Deep Tour.
If you love heights, Ruby Falls is for you. Go on a guided tour of the 145-foot underground waterfall. You'll marvel at the diverse and amazing rock formations in the cave. Get an Extreme Adventure Pass and access the two-hour Blue and Green Diamond Courses. Test your endurance as you climb trees on ladders, nets, walkways, bridges, and tunnels. Your adventure includes climbing a tower and taking a ZIP Ride down as you take in the view of Chattanooga. After a long venture, go up the 70-foot Lookout Mountain Tower and marvel at the panoramic bird's eye view of the Tennessee River Valley.
Take a ride on a full-sized, historic train pulled by vintage diesel engines or steam locomotives. Enjoy the romanticism of traveling slowly on the railroad. The antiquities on board are representative of the locomotive era. The museum operates all year long and each excursion can be booked for less or more than four hours. You'll depart from the Chattanooga Grand Junction or Etowah Station depending on the ride you book. Ride the Summerville Steam Special and travel to Summerville, Georgia while crossing the Rossville state line.
The Hunger Museum houses colonial and contemporary art. Take a tour of the permanent exhibits on display. In the Photographs exhibit, you'll marvel at Ansel Adams' breathtaking, Sequoia Roots, Mariposa Grove, Yosemite, and Portfolio IV. As you enter the painting exhibit, admire the vibrant colors of Daud Akhriev's oil on canvas Pomegranates with Murano Vase. Then, stroll to the outside patios and marvel at the sculptures and public art on display. You'll be amazed by the bronze, Boreal by Deborah Butterfield. Alexander Calder's plated Pregnant Whale will leave you breathless.
Most people recommend visiting Chattanooga during the fall in September and October, when the temperatures drop into the 50s and 60s and the foliage is spectacular. The Incline Railway to Lookout Mountain will still be open, allowing you to visit Ruby Falls, as will Rock City and Lake Winnie, so it won't be hard to keep the kids entertained.
The best way to reach Chattanooga from most parts of the USA is by flying to Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport, which is five miles east of the center of town. There are no public transit options from the airport, but shuttle buses, taxis and limousines are available. You'll also find car rental outlets like Avis, Enterprise and Hertz. Expect to pay around $30 for a cab to the city center.
Chattanooga may be famous for its "Choo-Choo", popularized by Glenn Miller, but Amtrak no longer serves the city. If you want to travel by train you can catch the Crescent service to Atlanta and take a bus to Chattanooga, which takes a couple of hours.
Chattanooga is easy to reach from all directions by road. Those driving from the north or south should take I-75, while I-59 connects the city to New Orleans and destinations in Texas or the west. I-24 is the road to take if you are approaching the city from New York or Philadelphia.
Greyhound is the major bus operator to Chattanooga, and their local stop is located at 960 Airport Road - a few miles out of town. You can either take a taxi from the airport, or walk a short distance to catch bus number 4 straight into Downtown Chattanooga. Megabus also run buses into the city, with a much more central stop on Brainerd Road, so may be a more convenient option.
Excellent city center hotels include the Hilton Garden Inn and Marriott's Residence Inn, both of which are very conveniently located for the major attractions. If you are looking for something a little further out, try the Hampton Inn in Hixson, a peaceful, safe area that suits families. There are also high-quality budget options, including the Crash Pad - the city's only backpacker hostel.
Downtown Chattanooga – Chattanooga's Downtown neighborhood is one of the city's major attractions. For a long time it was left to decay, but the past twenty years have seen a miraculous renaissance, turning the center of town into one of the most elegant, pedestrian friendly Downtowns in the USA.
Hixson – Located in northeastern Chattanooga, Hixson is an upscale suburb that is a great place for families to base themselves during their vacation. Greener than the city center, Hixson offers attractions like Valleybrook Golf Course and the hiking trails, boating lake and beautiful scenery around Chickamauga Dam.
St. Elmo – Registered as a Historic District, St. Elmo is full of 19th-century homes, churches, and restaurants like the St. Elmo Deli and Grill. It's also the best place to ascend Lookout Mountain, as the neighborhood contains the base station of the Incline Railway. So if you want to take beautiful panoramic photographs of Chattanooga, St. Elmo is the place to head.
Buses in town are provided by the Chattanooga Area Regional Transportation Authority (CARTA) and provide good coverage of the major attractions. Thie network includes a couple of free bus shuttles which run to sites like the Aquarium and the Children's Discover Museum, so take advantage of them if you can. Standard fares on local buses are $2 and day passes cost $7.
Getting around Chattanooga by taxi is convenient and quick, but can be expensive. Standard rates in the city are $2.50 for the meter drop (first mile), then $3.50 for every mile after that. Uber offers a chance to save money though, with UberX rates starting at $1 for the meter drop, then $0.85 per mile after that.
If you rent a car, getting around Chattanooga poses few problems. The Downtown neighborhood has a conventional grid system (just look out for one-way streets). Parking in the city center isn't usually a problem. Check the Chattanooga Parking Authority for the nearest garage to your destination before you set out.
Frazier Avenue in the Northshore District is one of Chattanooga's best shopping streets, with a cluster of apparel stores, antique vendors, and bookstores. Check out Uptown Art, where you can buy works by the city's growing artist community, Willa - an upscale apparel boutique and the jewelry store Rusted Buffalo, or just wander along the street window shopping. There are also come great malls, including the Northgate Mall, where you'll find major brands like Sears and Old Navy, along with a large cinema complex.
If you need to shop for groceries or other essentials, the bets places to go in Chattanooga are supermarkets like Rogers, Whole Foods or Publix, all of which have stores near the city center. For fresh produce and artisan foods, the best place to head is Chattanooga Market at the First Tennessee Pavilion. Grocery costs tend to be relatively low. Expect to pay around $2.70 for 12 eggs or $2.30 for a pound of apples.
Chattanooga isn't short of high-quality eateries of almost every variety. However, visitors should definitely check out some Tennessee BBQ at restaurants like Sticky Fingers Smokehouse or Sugar's Ribs. Fried chicken is another local favorite, with some of the most succulent dishes available at Bea's and Mt. Vernon. There's also a growing gourmet dining scene. Upscale diners will adore the food at restaurants like Terra Mae or Terra Nostra, which blends Spanish tapas, French cuisine, and Italian cooking. Expect to pay $15 for a good mid-range meal.