If hiking to waterfalls hidden in underground caves, flying over treetops and exploring magical rock gardens sounds like the makings of an adventurous family vacation, then pack your bags and head to Chattanooga! Scroll down for all of the details on where to bunk, trek and fuel up while visiting this action-packed town in Tennessee.
Your visit to Chattanooga gives you the opportunity to see two southern states in one trip. To the city’s south, Georgia is a mere 15-minute drive away and offers visitors to the area a plethora of must-experience activities. Chances are good that as you go on the adventures in our guide to Chattanooga, you will find yourself crossing the border over and over again.
Where to Bunk
The SpringHill Suites by Marriott is the perfect place for your crew to set up basecamp. Located in Downtown Chattanooga, right on the Tennessee Riverfront, it sets you up to be within a short walking, biking or driving distance of everything on your to-do list. Your family can choose from studio, one and two-bed suites. Each has a pull-out queen sofa bed and additional features include a microwave, mini fridge, work desk, free internet and giant flat screen TVs. Each room is so well-appointed that you feel at home instantly.
With a full, delicious complimentary breakfast served every morning, you’ll save some pennies. And you can fit in your morning workout in the hotel gym or pool, where the kids can have some fun too! There’s also a whirlpool to look forward using after a full day of grand adventures.
Ruby Falls is an escapade that is sure to please everyone in your family—young and old. Travel 1,120 feet below the surface of Lookout Mountain to catch a glimpse of the tallest and deepest cave waterfall accessible to the public in the United States. A variety of tours that take you through the LED-lit winding cavern are available. After an elevator takes you far beneath the surface of the mountain, you will see incredible geological formations as you make your way to the waterfall. Once there, you get to enjoy an incredible light show that accompanies the cascade of the falls. It’s an experience you’ll never forget.
Only a short distance away, you can catch an adrenaline rush on the Ruby Falls Zipstream Aerial Adventure! You’ll get a bird’s eye view of the treetops on Lookout Mountain! The adventure features 700 feet of zip lines with breathtaking views of the Tennessee Valley and a 40-foot climbing tower with five routes of varying difficulty.
Also in the same area, Rock City offers even the youngest explorers big thrills. Located on top of Lookout Mountain this trek gives mom and dad the opportunity to take in a seven-state panoramic view while the little ones make their way along the enchanted trail where they will find fascinating works of art, barns, gardens, swinging bridges and more to check out.
When you are ready to leave Lookout Mountain, head downtown to let your kids climb the walls at High Point Climbing and Fitness where you family can enjoy 30,000 square feet of climbing and bouldering space indoors and outdoors. Yep! That’s right; there are outdoor transparent climbing walls on the roof! There’s also a kids’ area where your little monkeys can have a blast! This place provides hours of active fun that is sure to wear the kids out.
Right outside the Springhill Suites, you’ll find the Chattanooga Riverwalk. This 13-mile riverside path runs along the Tennessee River from the Chickamauga Dam to Ross’s Landing Park in downtown Chattanooga near the Tennessee Aquarium. Stop here for an unforgettable underwater adventure. Check out the sea and river creatures housed in the stunning building where you can even grab a meal and rest on a picnic bench.
From the Aquarium, you’ll want to stroll across the Walnut Street Bridge, one of the longest pedestrian-only bridges in the world at 2,370-feet! Additional nearby hikes include Stringer’s Ridge, a 92-acre urban wilderness park located on Chattanooga’s North Shore. The ridge overlooks the Tennessee River and is the result of an effort to preserve one of the last large natural areas within the Chattanooga city limits.
If the kids want to get out of the elements for a while, take them to Creative Discovery Museum, which has been ranked one of the nation’s top children’s museums. There your little artists can enjoy a ton of hands-on play! If you have music lovers in your family, you must stop by Songbirds Guitars where you will find a rotating collection of more than 500 rare vintage instruments.
Extra Big Thrills!
End your trip with some big thrills. The older set will never forget a tandem hang gliding adventure with Lookout Mountain Hang Gliding. Adults and children ages 10 and up can become pilots! That’s right. You’ll learn to fly a hang glider and then enjoy a tandem flight that takes you 1500 to 3500 feet into the air. After a plane pulls you up above Lookout Mountain, you catch amazing views while in flight. Your co-pilot may even give you a chance to steer.
The younger set won’t miss out when you take them on a ride on the Lookout Mountain Incline Railway. Your kids will get the chance to experience the world’s steepest passenger railway with a 72.7% grade. It’s also known as America’s Most Amazing Mile.
Every day of your action-packed trip to Chattanooga is going to require lots of fuel. Fortunately this city’s food is fantastic as its family-friendly activities. You don’t have to go far for mouth-watering food. Scotties on the River is attached to the Springhill Suites and they serve delicious lunch and dinner entrees. Choose from items like New York Strip, Rosemary Chicken, or our favorite—stuffed shrimp. There is something for everyone to enjoy as you take in the view of the river.
A Tex-Mex option that’s not too far from Lookout Mountain is Mojo Burrito. Their menu features healthy, fresh build your own burritos! In the evening Puckett’s Grocery & Restaurant is located in the middle of downtown and while you are munching on menu items like Southern Fried Chicken and Smokes Meatloaf, you might get lucky and catch a live pickin’ performance. Note: Puckett’s is right next to the Aquarium and offers breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Main Street Meats is a sweet little lunch spot that offers a variety of mouthwatering sandwiches. We highly recommend a bowl of their Butternut Squash, Crispy Pork, and Rosemary Oil soup. Urban Stack is another great option for families. This bourbon and burger bar is guaranteed to please both parents and kids. But don’t leave town without spending at least one evening at State of Confusion. It has a large heated outdoor seating area with fire pits and room for the kids to wiggle and play. And the food is absolutely scrumptious with options that range from sandwiches and burgers to ceviche and butcher’s butter steak.
Chattanooga is truly a dream come true for families looking for a getaway that is manageable with children of all ages and still packed with opportunities for thrills and squeals. You are guaranteed to leave wishing you had, had time to do more.
Published online on November 7, 2018: Written by Annette Benedetti