Chattanooga is a beautiful southeastern Tennessee city that is steeped in history. Take in the early American architecture and gorgeous natural surroundings while visiting this cultural hotspot.
You’re already planning your visit, but what are the best things to do in Chattanooga? Keep reading to find out what this delightful city has in store.
Family-Friendly Things to Do in Chattanooga
1. Creative Discovery Museum
If you’re traveling with kids, one of the best things to do in Chattanooga is to take the family for an interactive adventure at the Creative Discovery Museum. The museum intends to enrich children through various games that nurture curiosity and self-confidence.
Hands-on science experiments, rooftop gardening, dinosaur digs, instruments, and art stations offer a variety of activities that allow kids to explore new skills and interests. Kids can even engage with surprise animals and other “spur of the moment” activities that change throughout the year.
The museum partners with Chattanooga schools and also offers programs for children with special needs. And for the concerned parent they added extra hand sanitizing stations everywhere.
Reserve a visit ahead of time to give the kids (and your inner child) some time to play and expand their experiences.
2. Tennessee Aquarium
Observe catfish the size of vehicles, sandbar sharks, giant freshwater stingrays, and dazzling jellyfish at the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga. Learning about regional wildlife is one of nature lovers’ most rewarding things to do in Chattanooga.
The aquarium emphasizes Tennessee’s aquatic species and the region’s reptiles and amphibians. Even water-loving mammals, such as otters and lemurs, love some positive attention. So Tennessee locals can recognize the native species they grew up with, and sightseers can meet the animals native to the state.
The immersive exhibits present animals in their native habitats, creating a cinematic learning experience. Enjoy it for yourself, and kids can have fun learning a thing or two about the wonders of nature.
Artsy Things to Do in Chattanooga
3. Hunter Museum of American Art
The Hunter Museum of American Art in the Bluff View Art District has been dwelling in a classical revival mansion since 1952. Styles in the museum’s collection include the Hudson River School, American Impressionism, and modernism. You can also see mixed media works and sculptures during your experience of the best things to do in Chattanooga.
There are various programs for patrons of all ages, and you can soak in the artwork while enjoying marvelous views of downtown Chattanooga and the Tennessee River. Throughout the year, the permanent collection is complemented by various concerts and art shows, so you can experience a new wonder each time you visit!
4. Montague Park Sculpture Field
The spaciousness of Montague Park is studded with over 40 massive sculptures that span 33 acres. Visit Southside Chattanooga for free entry to this public space for art and recreation.
Artists make sculptures worldwide, and you can even see artists at work while you’re there! You can also enjoy picnics, yoga, kite-flying, and a meandering stroll on the one-and-a-half-mile trail. Interacting with this outdoor museum is a truly priceless experience.
5. Chattanooga Market
From April to December, you can take a Sunday afternoon walk through Chattanooga’s largest farmers’ market. Over 300 vendors sell their wares, from arts and crafts to local harvests of fruits and vegetables. Get to know the farmers who keep Chattanooga thriving by supporting their handmade, hand-grown works.
Entry to the market is free, so bring the whole family to enjoy the beauty and aromas of a thriving, open-air market. The market even hosts weekend events that feature celebrity chef contests, Oktoberfest, bluegrass celebrations, and the Holiday Market art exhibitions. Shopping here is one of the most immersive things to do in Chattanooga year-round.
6. Bluff View Art District
On the north side of the Walnut Street Bridge lies North shore Chattanooga. The Art District here includes a variety of galleries to be inspired by, as well as shops and coffeehouses to rest your feet in while you absorb the Chattanooga ambiance.
Enjoy an array of bookstores, jewelry shops, and mouthwatering diners while you see this neighborhood’s sights and lovingly-crafted works.
7. Songbirds Foundation
Visiting the Songbirds Foundation is one of the best things to do in Chattanooga for those who love live music and music history. Immerse yourself in the Chattanooga musical styles that have pervaded history, and stay for the nighttime concert venue.
Learn about the vintage instruments played in the region and promote this nonprofit’s mission of providing guitars and music lessons to under-resourced youth in the Chattanooga community.
Cultural Things to Do in Chattanooga
8. Walnut Street Bridge
Did you know that Chattanooga houses the longest pedestrian bridge in the world? Take a scenic walk from Downtown to the northern shore of the famous Tennessee River, and you’ll realize why this is one of the best things to do in Chattanooga.
Walnut Street Bridge, standing over 2,000 feet tall since 1890, was the first non-military bridge across the Tennessee River. At this time, the bridge connected segregated Anglo-American (south side of Downtown) and African-descent (Hill City on the north shore) areas.
Civilians drove their automobiles back and forth until the bridge was closed to motor vehicles. The historic bridge has been used for foot traffic since the early 1990s. Enjoy the expansive views that have been inspiring travelers for generations.
9. Chattanooga Choo Choo
Although the name may remind you of the railroad, this venue is a hotel in historic Chattanooga. It resides in the former 1909 Terminal Station, the first railway station built in the South. The hotel comprises two acres of tranquil Glen Miller Gardens, occupying the space that once featured railway tracks and platforms.
The hotel is named after the hit song “Chattanooga Choo Choo,” which was performed by the Glenn Miller Orchestra and put Chattanooga in the spotlight in 1941. The Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel has been hosting visitors since 1973 and is one of the quintessential things to do in Chattanooga.
10. Bessie Smith Cultural Center
The Bessie Smith Cultural Center is housed in an African American Museum that hosts events and exhibits celebrating Black history and culture in Chattanooga. Fondly called “The Bessie” by locals, the center is named for the transcendental “Empress of Blues,” who rose out of poverty in Chattanooga to become an international hit.
Before the Great Depression, Bessie was the best-paid African American singer. Learn about her life, honor her legacy, and then engage in interactive presentations that divulge the challenges of slavery and injustice that set off the Civil Rights Movement. Carry new awareness of the past with you as you explore the present wonders of all the things to do in Chattanooga.
11. Cherokee History at Ross’s Landing
What is now a riverside recreational spot for concerts and summer festivals was once the home of the Cherokee Nation.
The site, now equipped with a pier, natural amphitheater, and a playground, represents the end of Cherokee life in Chattanooga. From here, the Cherokee Nation was displaced further West, being forced to walk the infamous “Trail of Tears” to the designated Indian Territory.
Honor those who came before when you enjoy this renovated community space.
Outdoorsy Things to Do in Chattanooga
12. Lookout Mountain Incline Railway
Check out this mountain ridge on the Southern border of Tennessee. Take in the majesty of the mountain and the Chattanooga Valley from the panoramic observation deck of Lookout Mountain Tower.
Lookout Mountain Incline Railway has been called “America’s Most Amazing Mile,” and the upper station is within walking distance of Point Park whenever you’re ready to continue your Chattanooga gallivanting.
13. Ruby Falls
Enjoy this activity as a two-for-one when you take the Lookout Mountain Incline Railway, bask in the breathtaking views of natural artwork in a guided tour of gorgeous rock formations. Ruby Falls houses the deepest commercial caves in the US and the country’s largest underground waterfall, standing at 145 feet tall.
Taking photographs here is one of the best things to do in Chattanooga for those who revere the awestriking beauty of nature and love to remember that the environment around us is ancient. Descend 260 feet in a glass-front elevator to walk the cavern trails and see this giant waterfall yourself.
Or, trek above ground in Rock City to reach up to 1,700 feet. If you visit from March to November, you can even take a joyride on a zip line that’s 700 feet long.
14. Raccoon Mountain Caverns
Find a taste of the Wild West when panhandling for gemstones at the Raccoon Mountain Caverns. Discover the jaw-dropping cave systems hiding outside Chattanooga, Tennessee, which is a must-do for those who love exploring natural treasures and landmarks.
For a family-friendly experience, join a 45-minute Crystal Palace tour that walks a quarter-mile of the stunning cave. If you’re daring and comfortable with tight squeezes, go for a Wild Cave Expedition Tour that delves further into more than five miles of mapped cavern passageways. If you love an adventure, this is one of the most exciting things to do in Chattanooga.
Wrapping Up Best Things to Do in Chattanooga
Now that you know some of the best things to do in Chattanooga, what will you explore? Diving into caves, walking across the Tennessee River, and supporting local artisans and craftspeople are all attractive options for your itinerary. The whole family can enjoy an unforgettable trip to this historic city.
Take your travels to the next level by staying in one of the best hotels in Tennessee so that you can make the most of your time in a state brimming with personality.