The words “stress” and "spring break” usually aren’t uttered in the same sentence…unless you’re a parent. If your palms are sweaty just thinking of ways to keep your kids entertained for one whole week (without going crazy or blowing the budget), you aren't alone! Here are a few tips to keep everyone happy during your yearly getaway.
Where to Stay
Finding the perfect place to stay is the first thing on your list of to-dos. There are a variety of hotels and accommodations in the downtown area, so finding what works for you and your family is key. If you want to wake up to views of the Tennessee River, check out SpringHill Suites at Cameron Harbor. As Chattanooga’s only riverfront property, you’ll love being close to the water and just steps from the Chattanooga Riverwalk. For something a little more upscale, head to the Edwin Hotel for a luxurious retreat. Not only can you enjoy views of the Walnut Street Bridge, but four-legged friends are also welcome! If you want to stay close to the Southside and enjoy easy access to the Lookout Mountain attractions, check out the Chattanoogan Hotel, a great spot for families to relax.
What to Do
Get Outside. Spring Break is a rare opportunity for kids to blow off steam and act like, well, kids. Outdoor options abound in Chattanooga, but just to name a few…
- Chattanooga Riverwalk – walking or biking within range of Chattanooga’s top downtown attractions
- Enterprise South Nature Park – hiking, biking, and picnic areas in an urban oasis
- Greenway Farms – walking, hiking, flat-water kayaking, or biking
- Coolidge Park – expansive green space on the Tennessee River; 100-year-old carousel; interactive water play fountain; restaurants; The Walnut Wall – a climbing wall on one of the Walnut Street Bridge’s limestone supports
- Renaissance Park – 23 acre urban wetlands park located along the Tennessee River that features an outdoor pavilion and Cardboard Hill for year-round sledding
Seek out learning opportunities. Play your cards right and your kiddos might actually learn something without realizing it. In Chattanooga that would include:
- Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park – The oldest and largest military park in the nation that commemorates the Civil War’s 1863 battles for Chattanooga.
- Rock City – Ancient rock formations and woodland paths featuring more than 400 native species of plants, flowers, and shrubs. Plus breathtaking views of seven states.
- Chattanooga Zoo – With more than 300 animals representing 130 species, many of which are endangered, the Chattanooga Zoo is one of the city’s best values. Friendly to strollers and little legs, it also offers camel rides on the weekends.
- Tennessee Aquarium – The world’s largest freshwater aquarium gives kids an up-close look at the wildlife found in their backyards (otters, sturgeon, butterflies) as well as afar (sharks, penguins, jellyfish).
- Ruby Falls – An approximate one-mile hike through a live cave ends with a spectacular view of a 145-foot underground waterfall.
- Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum – This moving museum gives kids an understanding of what it was like to travel by rail, offering in-town routes of about 45 minutes and longer treks spanning three to eight hours.
Where to Refuel
Upon arrival it never hurts to plan a few treats for motivating good behavior. In Chattanooga that list would include Clumpies Ice Cream, a trip up the Lookout Mountain Incline Railway, a ride on Coolidge Park’s 100-year-old carousel, or a pick-your-topping night at Lupi’s Pizza. For some kid-friendly dining options, head to the Northshore for tex-mex treats from Taco Mamacita or try house-made dogs and sausages from Good Dog. If you want to switch things up for dinner, stop by the Blue Plate where you’ll find pancakes, breakfast burritos, and omelets served all day long. Because who doesn’t love breakfast for dinner?
Tips and Tricks
Exhaustion spells meltdown, so be sure not to overload the schedule. Plan no more than two activities in the morning – when kids have the most energy – and one activity for the afternoon. After lunch, take a break back at the hotel with naps or board games before heading back out for more fun. If older kids want to skip downtime, have one adult stay behind and one adult go out; then switch the next day.
Pack a bag of tricks. Even if you’re beating the system by staying close, you’re still traveling with ticking time bombs… Err, kids. A few surprise games or toys up your sleeve (and in the front seat!) can ease travel tensions. Other items within reach could be pajamas if traveling at night, snacks, and drinks.
Commemorate the experience. Encourage your kids to commemorate the vacation in the medium of their choice – written, pictorial, or even a vlog.
Lastly, check out Chattanooga’s Spring Break Safari that includes fun activities at local attractions, scavenger hunts, and more!