Are you planning a visit and looking for things to do in Chattanooga? We recently visited for the first time ourselves, and were surprised by how much there is to do there! We spent time getting to know downtown and had a wonderful taste of the nature outside of the city as well.
Chattanooga is the 4th largest city in Tennesee. It’s located in Southeast Tennessee close to the border of Georgia. The city is full of laid-back charm and plenty of outdoor adventure. There’s been a renaissance to downtown, and it’s becoming very well-known for its redeveloped riverfront. With a healthy dose of art, plenty of restaurants, mountain views, and history, Chattanooga is an under-the-radar gem that is well worth a visit.
Let’s Take A Look At 13 Of The Best Things To Do In Chattanooga:
Also known as the Tennessee Riverpark, there are currently sixteen miles of Riverwalk following the south bank of the Tennessee River. As development continues, they plan to have a 22-mile stretch. The paved path allows you to experience nature, culture, and food, in a family-friendly environment. Restaurants and activities dot the length of the Riverwalk, making for a full day of exploring.
For sports fans, not much is better than catching a baseball game in the summer. AT&T Field is just steps from the Tennessee Aquarium, and this popular stadium is home to the minor league Chattanooga Lookouts. The stadium capacity is just over 6,000, with most of the seating on the first base side. This is a great way to enjoy a game, with smaller crowds, lower prices, and an exciting close-to-the-action experience!
Of course, probably one of the first things that comes to most people’s minds when they hear “Chattanooga” is the Chattanooga Choo-Choo! Glenn Miller Orchestra, anyone? Located at Terminal Station, The Chattanoogoo Choo-Choo Hotel is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a vacationing complex featuring full service restaurants, numerous bars, music venues, a comedy club, distillery, and various retail outlets. Plus, you have the choice of spending the night in traditional hotel rooms or unique Pullman Train cars!
It’s said that Chattanooga’s Walnut Street Bridge is the longest pedestrian bridge in the world. We can’t confirm or deny that fun fact, but we sure loved our casual stroll across from the south side of the city to the north. The bridge itself is beautiful and the views of the Tennessee River and its popular riverboats were spectacular. And naturally, we loved seeing so many of Chattanooga’s finest pups out for a stroll, too!
Hot Tip: Clumpies Ice Cream is a must-have when you get to the north side of the bridge. They’re a local business with four locations. They’ve got creative flavors like Mayan Chocolate (Andie’s pick), and you can grab it to-go and head out the back door to sit by the river and enjoy your scoops!
With a slogan like “America’s most amazing mile” how can you pass up a ride on theIncline Railway to the top of Lookout Mountain? This funicular railway system is over 125 years old and the ride to the top takes about 10 minutes. At its steepest point of incline, the grade is more than 72 percent! The passenger car is also custom-built at an angle to compensate for the incline accordingly, which is really cool! And needless to say, the views of Chattanooga and beyond are spectacular once you get to the lookout at the top.
Ruby Falls is way down inside the caves of Lookout Mountain. Actually, the caves and the waterfall together are referred to as “Ruby Falls.” The waterfall – the tallest accessible underground waterfall in the U.S. – is 145 feet tall and it’s said that the cave is the deepest commercial cave in the United States. Give yourself about two hours for this group tour. If you’d like to see our Ruby Falls and Lookout Mountain adventures, we vlogged our couple of days in Chattanooga, which you can see here!
Just a few miles away, Rock City is also atop Lookout Mountain. It features massive rock formations and the beautiful Rock City Gardens, with hundreds of native species. Enjoy nature’s beauty along the Enchanted Trail, experience Fairyland Caverns and Mother Goose Village, and of course incredible panoramic views, accompanied by the claim of being able to “see seven states!”
Reflection Riding Arboretum and Nature Center is a nonprofit arboretum, botanical garden, nature center, and historical site. It includes fifteen miles of trails, live animals (indoor and outdoors), a treehouse, and a 317-acre arboretum. You can rent a canoe, plan a day hike, or book one of their guided programs.
Indoor Things To Do In Chattanooga:
There are many great indoor things to do in Chattanooga, as well. Since we visited during Covid-times, we weren’t able to explore these possibilities. But as things return to normal, we hope to return so we can check out these unique options:
The Tennessee Aquarium contains not one, but two aquariums to explore: the River Journey and the Ocean Journey buildings. You’ll be able to get up close with otters, turtles, and enormous arapaima fish, touch a stingray, check out penguins, and marvel at sharks, jellyfish, and lemurs. You’ll want to give yourself a good three hours or so for this visit!
For those with children, The Creative Discovery Museum is specifically geared toward curious and creative-minded kids. Located in downtown Chattanooga, it’s full of art, music, field science areas, an inventor’s workshop, a rooftop exhibit, and a water-themed zone called RiverPlay. It’s such a great way for the whole family to learn and have fun at the same time!
Also known as “The Jewel of the South,” The Tivoli is an historic theater that opened in 1921. It is arguably the most well-known of the three historic theaters in Chattanooga. It’s a gorgeous example of early twentieth century architecture, and worth a visit – even if just to appreciate the structure.
The Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum is a wonderful trip back in time, to when railway travel ruled. The museum not only preserves and displays these historic artifacts, but they provide an interactive experience. They offer a variety of different train rides for you to enjoy an authentic travel experience, as it would have been “back in the day!”
The Hunter Museum of American Art is right on the river in the Bluff View Arts District. The museum’s architecture is a work of art in itself. Their mission is to collect, preserve, and present American art, while inspiring visitor-focused, educational experiences for the community. Collections include works representing the Hudson River School, American Impressionism, early modernism, and post-World War II modern and contemporary art.
Hot Tip: Don’t pass up checking out the Bluff View Arts District! While we weren’t able to go inside the museum at the time of our visit, we did have a lovely walk around the Arts District. A European-style village, there are fantastic views of the river, surrounded by beautiful sculptures and art installations spanning many decades.
Bonus Tip / 2023 Update: We recently stumbled onto this on Viator and had to share, as it sounds super fun to us! Book a North Shore and Coolidge Park Guided Segway Tour! Explore with a local in a small group, and spare your feet some agony, Paul Blart-style.
Chattanooga is a city full of beauty and unique character, and as you can see there are plenty of things to do. If you know of anything that we left out, please let us know!
And if you’re looking for more itineraries, we’ve got you covered: