While Chattanooga is known for its outdoor adventures, it still offers plenty of fun in the chillier weather. Fortunately, winters in the Southeast are relatively mild and snow is rarely seen, making Chattanooga an ideal getaway even in the colder months. With outdoor adventures for those who don’t mind cooler temps and plenty of indoor activities for people who prefer to stay cozy, Chattanooga has chills and thrills (the good kind!) for everyone this season. Here are some of our favorite ways to enjoy the Scenic City in winter.
1. Explore the Tennessee Aquarium and IMAX
The Tennessee Aquarium is a must-do activity on any visit to Chattanooga. This nationally acclaimed aquarium is unique in that it is divided into two buildings: one for freshwater and one for saltwater. Within each, visitors can connect with the natural world and have an exciting educational experience. And since there’s nothing quite like a warm movie theater on a cold day, bundle your aquarium pass with a ticket to the nearby IMAX theater to continue your adventure. With ever-changing movies and more than a dozen exhibits, new wonders await you each time you step inside the aquarium.
2. Run the Three Bridges Downtown
A favorite route of local runners and walkers, combining the Market Street Bridge, the Walnut Street Bridge and Veterans Bridge makes for a fun and varied jogging tour of Chattanooga’s city center. The whole circuit is around four miles and can be started from just about anywhere downtown. From the bridges, you’ll catch views of the aquarium, the festive snowflake lights on the pedestrian bridge and, of course, gorgeous all-angle views of the Tennessee River.
3. Take a Self-Guided Art Tour of Main Street
As the main thoroughfare of Chattanooga’s Southside, Main Street is populated with perusable galleries and plenty of great restaurants. In between meals, you’ll love spending a few hours browsing the unique pieces in the local art galleries. And of course, you’ll get to see Main Street’s unique murals and street sculptures along the way.
4. Hike to Snoopers Rock at Prentice Cooper
With its many panoramic views and miles of trails, Prentice Cooper is the perfect place to do some winter hiking near Chattanooga. While many trails become icy in the colder months, the trails at Prentice Cooper generally stay dry and easy to navigate all year round. For a nice day hike, begin at the Cumberland Trail parking lot and wind your way down through Indian Rock House and along the bluff to Snooper’s Rock. The view of the river from this overlook is unparalleled in Chattanooga. The round trip will be about six miles—just the right length to get you rosy-cheeked and ready for a steamy cup of hot chocolate.
5. Visit the Hunter Museum of American Art
If you’re looking to soak up some beauty and culture on a cold winter day, duck into the Hunter Museum in the Bluff View Art District near downtown. The museum’s modern stone and glass exterior is attached to the stately and historic Hunter Mansion, making even the building’s exterior something of a masterpiece. The museum has a diverse permanent collection as well as exhibitions that rotate throughout the year, making it a new experience with each visit. After your tour, head over to the art district for an espresso and a pastry from Rembrandt’s and a stroll through the outdoor sculpture garden.
6. Take a Self-Guided Brewery Tour of Downtown
Craft beer is on the rise in Chattanooga, which means local breweries are springing up all over town. Grab a burger and a drink at the Terminal Brewhouse, a multistory brewhouse and restaurant on Market Street. On Broad Street, not far from its namesake spot on the Tennessee River, the Moccasin Bend Brewing Company has a large number of eclectic beers on tap, reflecting its motto that "weird is good." Just a bit further south on Tennessee Avenue, The Tap House is a neighborhood favorite with 30 beers and ciders on tap. You’ll also find a menu with sandwiches, meat and cheese plates, and other light fare. Want to explore all your options? Take advantage of TAPTOUR, a free handout (also available online) that serves as a guide to all the city’s locally brewed options. Pick up a TAPTOUR guide at any of the participating locations (or at the Visitors Center) to see all the offerings—and you can even earn prizes by getting a stamp at multiple locations.
7. See a Show at The Tivoli
Taking in a show at The Tivoli Theatre should be on anyone’s Chattanooga bucket list. Just stepping into the lobby is a wonderful experience—the historic building is home to gorgeous crystal chandeliers, intricately carved fixtures and an elegant atmosphere reminiscent of the 1920s. The theatre hosts myriad events to ensure that there is something for everyone: concerts, ballets, plays, comedians, choral performances and much more.
8. Go Climbing at Highpoint Downtown
One of the city’s most jaw-dropping attractions is the climbing gym located on Broad Street. In addition to its labyrinth of indoor bouldering and top roping walls, visitors can actually scale the exterior of the building overlooking downtown (with a rope, of course). The kids’ climbing area will make even grown ups want to strap on their chalk bags, with themed walls and climbing-related games to play. All equipment and instruction are provided onsite, so a trip to Highpoint is safe and fun even if you’ve never climbed before.