18 Interesting Things to do in Chattanooga

12 mins read

Take in the view from the summit of Lookout Mountain overlooking the Tennessee River, which passes through Chattanooga. This bustling city in southern Tennessee near the Georgia border, which was formerly a Cherokee village, currently boasts a population of 180,000 people. On the foggy slopes of the Appalachian Mountains, behold past and future collide in the distant.

Chattanooga Choo-Choo, the city immortalized in the 1941 Glenn Miller tune, is one of the most famous tourist destinations in the South. Are you looking for a thrill on the rails to remember your visit? The Lookout Mountain Incline Railway takes you up the world’s steepest incline to the site of major Civil War battles.

The Tennessee Riverwalk crosses a renowned river and connects to a prominent park in North Chattanooga through an impressive bridge. Chattanooga is one of Tennessee’s most walkable cities, with broad sidewalks and walking pathways. On foot, you can go to some of the greatest sights. Take the free electric shuttle around downtown to your next destination on our Chattanooga attractions and activities list.

1. The Tennessee Aquarium

With two “journeys” under one roof, the Tennessee Aquarium brings together an extraordinary variety of fresh and saltwater species. In River Journey, you may immerse yourself in the flow of riparian life. The Ocean Journey inspires you to learn more about — and care for — marine ecosystem animal species and habitats.

The River Journey is a freshwater journey that includes displays on the Appalachian Cove Forest, a delta swamp, and some of the world’s most famous rivers. Staff scuba divers may be seen swimming in large water corridors with colorful schools of fish.

The Ocean Journey features sharks, stingrays, and reef fish gliding over coral structures. Touch pools with sharks and rays are available to visitors. Jellyfish, a huge octopus, and cuttlefish are among the creatures featured in the Boneless Beauties exhibition.

Visit the Tennessee Aquarium IMAX Center for a virtual, larger-than-life experience. Feature films on environmental and planetary concerns are presented on a daily basis. Allow the audio and visuals to inspire you!

2. Lookout Mountain’s Ruby Falls

If you like waterfalls and caverns, visit Ruby Falls on Lookout Mountain. Ruby Falls is the tallest and deepest cave waterfall accessible to the general public in the United States, hidden behind the limestone Cavern Castle visible from the road. A 260-foot lift and a short walking track go to the top. A waterfall and naturally existing rock formations are imaginatively lighted in a kaleidoscope of colors.

At the Ruby Falls entrance, another elevator takes you to the Lookout Mountain Tower’s rooftop. To the north, the tower offers views of Chattanooga and the Tennessee River, and to the east, the Appalachian mountains. Souvenirs may be purchased in the gift store.

From the depths, reach for the stars with the excitement of High-Point Climbing and Fitness. Enjoy a guided climb up a 40-foot wall and 700 feet of ziplines for the greatest views of Chattanooga.

3. Visit Lookout Mountain and Nearby Attractions via the Incline Railway

The most exhilarating and one-of-a-kind way to ascend the escarpment is on the Lookout Mountain Incline Railway. This funicular railway, which has been operating for the last 125 years, is one of the most well-known tourist attractions in the city. Two railcars in the manner of a trolley go up and down “America’s Most Amazing Mile,” reaching an inclination of 72.7 percent as they get closer to the top of the mountain. Take the train up from St. Elmo’s at the base of the mountain, ride it down from the station at the top of Lookout Mountain, or ride it back down from either stop.

Take in the breathtaking scenery of the Tennessee Valley from the vantage point of the observation deck at Lookout Mountain Station. At the top, take a leisurely walk across to Point Park, which is a national Civil War monument that spans 10 acres. The best possible interpretative tour of this historic battlefield may be had by going to the Battles for Chattanooga Electric Map & Museum, which can be found just across from the entrance gates to Point Park.

photo by Kelly L / pexels copyright 2020

4. Go on a Train Ride with the Tennessee Valley Railroad

The Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum is a museum that runs trains in the Tennessee Valley as well as provides interpretation, displays, and other related activities. Your trip should start with a visit to the museum train yard located at the Chattanooga Grand Junction Station.

Make reservations for a ride on a vintage passenger train, which will either be hauled by steam or diesel locomotives. Near Chattanooga, the most well-liked excursion is a ride on a steam-powered train that dates back to the 1930s and covers a distance of six miles. The trail traverses three bridges and a railroad tunnel that dates back to the time of the Civil War. Invest a little bit extra money in order to get a seat in the dome car.

A longer and more picturesque train experience may be had by taking the 50-mile Hiwassee Loop journey, which departs from Delano, which is located about one hour northeast of Chattanooga. The Hiwassee Loop is a scenic route that winds its way through the breathtaking mountains of the Cherokee National Forest and along the Hiwassee River. The Tennessee Scenic River was the first river in the world to be officially recognized as a whitewater recreation area of international repute.

5. Visit the Reflection Riding Arboretum and Nature Center to Get a Taste of Nature

The Reflection Riding Arboretum and Nature Center is located within a 10-minute drive of an adjacent public estate that has meadows, seashore paths, and wildwood sanctuaries. Active outings, such as hiking and running, provide access to the Lookout Creek area as well as historically significant assets that are managed by the National Park Service.

Visitors often bring their own bicycles and boats for the purpose of having fun and staying active. The pasture is a popular place for visitors, particularly families with young children, to take a walk and gawk at the retired horses.

Reflection The town of Riding is home to a diverse collection of native trees, plants, animals, and wildflowers. Take part with the children in the activities that are planned to teach them about the local flora and fauna. Make it a point to pay a visit to the native wildlife area, which is home to the red wolf, which is on the verge of extinction.

6. Museum of Creative Discovery

The Creative Discovery Museum is a children’s museum that is known on a national scale and can be found in the heart of Chattanooga. The museum encourages children to learn by doing and to have fun while doing so. The fields of science, the arts, and music are all included under the umbrella term “exploration,” as are all other academic areas and recreational activities.

This museum has a variety of activities that are designed to engage the minds of young visitors, such as an exhibit called RiverPlay, which is located on the museum’s rooftop, as well as a garden and a fully-equipped workshop.

Pre-adolescent children are the target audience for the displays, and those children will be able to ride the Dinosaur Train and play in the Splash Zone. At the museum, the children get education on beekeeping as well as the use of biofuels in the transportation sector. Parents who really immerse themselves in an activity with their children, like making music together, report the highest levels of happiness from that experience.

7. The Hunter Museum of American Art

The Hunter Museum of American Art is devoted to works by American painters from the 1700s forward. Paintings, sculptures, glasswork, and furniture are among the works on display. A 1904 Classic Revival home houses part of the museum, while a modern component stands atop an 80-foot promontory overlooking the Tennessee River.

While visiting the Hunter Museum of American Art, take a one-block stroll east to the Bluff View Sculpture Garden, which is free. The museum is at the center of the Bluff View Art District, which is the epicenter of the downtown arts community.

photo by Kelly L / pexels copyright 2021

8. The Museum of Decorative Arts in Houston

The Houston Museum of Decorative Arts is home to some of the world’s finest collections of ancient glass and ceramics, as well as furniture, music boxes, and coverlets. The collection of the late Anna Safley Houston, which was kept in an 18th-century Victorian townhouse, is the source of the vast majority of the amazing items that are now on display. For some fresh ideas, take a stroll around the museum’s gift shop.

The Houston Museum of Decorative Arts may be found in Chattanooga’s Bluff View Art District, which functions as a creative corridor and is positioned at the highest point of High Street. There are a number of art galleries, workshops, boutiques, Rembrandt’s Coffee House, and restaurants situated in the neighborhood.

9. Chattanooga Zoo

The 13-acre Chattanooga Zoo transports visitors from Sub-Saharan Africa to the Himalayan Passage. Deserts, woodlands, and jungles are examples of habitats. Red pandas, snow leopards, dromedary camels, giraffes, and chimps are among the larger creatures you could observe.

Learn about the animals via staff “keeper talks.” “Storytime” engrosses young brains with animal-themed stories. Children are encouraged to explore animal and habitat-inspired exhibits as part of “Nature Play.”

The renowned petting zoo is located in the Warner Park Ranch neighborhood. Saddle up for a camel ride, spin like a top on the carousel and board the Zoo Choo Train for an extra cost.

10. Study Bessie Smith’s Life and the African-American Experience

Bessie Smith, a Chattanooga native and renowned “Empress of the Blues,” is a source of local pride, as is her famed voice. Before the Great Depression, the Bessie Smith Cultural Center tells the story of a lady who rose from poverty to become the highest-paid African American artist. One of America’s most prolific composers and adored performers was tragically killed in a vehicle accident in 1937.

The Bessie Smith Cultural Center and the Chattanooga African American Museum are housed in the same building. Witness how race dictated life for Black people in America and sparked the civil rights movement with interactive exhibits on African cultures, slavery, and injustice. Provocative photography exhibits also provide information on Chattanooga’s African American community.

Check the Bessie Smith Performance Hall’s entertainment schedule before going. It’s just across the street from the cultural center and museum.

11. Raccoon Mountain Caverns

The Raccoon Mountain Caverns are a series of caverns with naturally occurring limestone formations and fossils embedded in rock. More than 5.5 miles of mapped passages are connected by the network.

The Crystal Palace Tour, which takes you inside the first quarter-mile, includes a visit to the caves. In addition to your guide’s instructions, illuminated walkways, stairs, and handrails keep you secure so you can concentrate on the fascinating subterranean environment around you. Raccoon Mountain Caverns’ social and environmental history is explained by your guide. Visitors who are lucky enough may glimpse animals that dwell under the surface.

Access to Raccoon Mountain Caverns’ basic regions is guaranteed with a Wild Cave Expeditions Tour. For a “get dirty” caving experience, staff provides you with lights, helmets, and other gear.

Raccoon Mountain Caverns, eight miles west of downtown Chattanooga, is a popular camping spot with activities including gemstone panning, go-karting, and hiking.

photo by ROMAN ODINTSOV / pexels copyright 2020

12. Bridge on Walnut Street

There are several parks and paths to explore on foot in Chattanooga. The 2,376-foot-long Walnut Street Bridge is a great place to warm up. It was the first civilian traffic bridge stretched over the Tennessee River, completed in 1891.

Coolidge Park is accessible from the north side of the bridge. The pedestrian plaza at the south end of the Walnut Street Bridge is a popular gathering spot for people to watch. Visit the Civil Rights Memorial Garden, which has sculptures and educational plaques.

An amphitheater is located under the bridge on the south side for spontaneous concerts and other activities. From the Hunter Museum of American Art, use the paved wheelchair-friendly walk of switchbacks down to this area.

13. Coolidge Park

Coolidge Park is located on the north side of the Walnut Street Bridge. Visitors link together with locals for performances at the Coolidge Outdoor Stage in this open green spot near the river. In the big open field, teenagers play frisbee. Children rush to Splash Park, which has two elephants and turtles, a horse, lion, and seal, as well as mammoth spouting sculptures.

On the refurbished 100-year-old carousel, families and loving couples saddle up for rides. For a pleasant day by the river, bring a picnic or order takeout. Launch your kayak or canoe if you want to go for a paddle.

14. Take a Scenic Stroll or Ride Your Bike Down the Tennessee Riverwalk

The 16-mile Tennessee Riverwalk may be explored on foot or by bicycle. This paved route, which has seven barrier-free bathrooms, picnic tables, and shelters, is a great way to spend a day seeing Chattanooga’s sights. Half-mile increments are indicated by signposts. Every mile, large sculptures adorn the rest breaks. If you prefer to fish, bring your gear to one of the six fishing piers.

The Chattanooga Bicycle Transit System offers a low-cost hop-on service with rental bikes conveniently located across the city. Ride the path with a regular pedal cycle or an e-bike.

15. Medal of Honor Heritage Center of Charles H. Coolidge

The Charles H. Coolidge Medal of Honor Heritage Center pays tribute to those who have been awarded the National Medal of Honor for military service. The museum has artifacts from the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, World Wars I and II, the Korean and Vietnam Wars, and Desert Storm. The first six Medal of Honor winners were from Chattanooga, and their graves may be seen in the Chattanooga National Cemetery.

Patriotism, bravery, citizenship, integrity, sacrifice, and devotion are six virtues expressed in the Medal of Honor. Come away with a better understanding of how crucial these ideals are in everyday life as well as on the battlefield.

The Heritage Center honors medal winners and honors their service with over 6,000 objects on display. Learn how everyone can contribute in a similar way to help local communities and mankind.

16. The Chattanooga Choo Choo

cho cho
photo by Uriel Mont / pexels copyright 2022

The Chattanooga Choo Choo was an important connection between the northern and southern states of the United States and was perhaps the most renowned of America’s numerous formerly vital railroad lines. It was the first train in the nation to offer non-stop service when it started running in 1880.

The line’s historic Terminal Station now functions as a hotel and important tourist attraction, suitably called Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel. Enjoy a comfortable night’s sleep in a completely refurbished sleeper vehicle.

Visit the on-site museum to see a historic engine, browse the stores and restaurants, and wander around the Glenn Miller Gardens.

17. Visit the Classic Arcade Pinball Museum to Learn How to Play Pinball

For gamers wanting a dose of nostalgia, the Classic Arcade Pinball Museum is a dream come true. This museum is 100% hands-on fun, with flashing lights and the classic noises and jolts of pinball machines. The facility is jam-packed with your favorite pinball and arcade games, including digital throwbacks like Pac-Man from the 1980s. If you have a certain game in mind, go to Classic Arcade’s website to see what’s available.

The museum is conveniently placed in the heart of downtown, making it simple to take a trip down memory lane. You may play the games for as long as you wish for one entrance ticket. Return after that day to play at no additional cost! Every month, tournaments are conducted.

18. Take a Tennessee River Cruise

The only thing nicer than seeing a historic riverboat on the Tennessee River is taking a peaceful trip on one. Sailing aboard the Southern Belle Riverboat is a must-do. Participate in a Chattanooga tradition as well-known as the Moon Pie offered in the gift shop.

Pay a little more to have lunch or supper while gliding by Lookout Mountain and the Chattanooga waterfront. Sailing under the Tennessee River’s bridges is a unique experience. Take in the breathtaking views of the Appalachian foothills from the historic bluffs.

How to Make the Most of Your Visit to Chattanooga with Tips and Tours

Segway Tour of the City:

A fantastic two-hour downtown historic Chattanooga Segway tour is another enjoyable way to experience the finest of this lovely Southern city. After some tuition on how to manage these remarkable two-wheeled people-movers, you’re off, flying smoothly (and silently) past significant monuments like the Tennessee Aquarium and the Tivoli Theater, all while being entertained by informative commentary.

Segway Tour of the North Shore and Coolidge Park:

The North Shore and Coolidge Park Tour, also on a Segway, is another option (or why not do both?). This 90-minute trip takes a somewhat different route along Walnut Street (with a shopping break) and Frazier Avenue, passing through Renaissance Park and along beautiful Riverside Drive. Also, don’t be afraid to ask your guide for recommendations for wonderful places to eat and shop; he or she will be happy to help.


photo by Kelly L / pexels copyright 2022

You’ll undoubtedly wish you had more time in Chattanooga since there are so many amazing things to do. Even if you’re just here for a weekend, there’s a lot to see and do in just a few days.

Hopefully, this comprehensive list of things to do and places to see will assist you in narrowing down your sightseeing selections for your vacation.

Chattanooga has a distinct personality and natural beauty.

There’s much to do here at all hours of the day and night, both inside and out.

When you visit this southern city, you can expect to witness vistas you’ve never seen before, as well as a plethora of fascinating attractions.

Do you want to extend your vacation? Then why not pay a visit to Atlanta, Birmingham, or Nashville, which all have their own intriguing sites and activities to discover?

Also read: Exciting Things to do in Nashville with Kids.

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