Wondering what activities and attractions you can’t miss in the Scenic City? Our guide to the best things to do in Chattanooga is just what you need!
If you’re on the hunt for a fantastic destination in the beautiful state of Tennessee that combines natural beauty, outdoor adventures, and a touch of Southern charm, then look no further than Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Nestled in the southeastern corner of the Volunteer State, this city is a hidden gem bursting with exciting things to do in Chattanooga. From the iconic Lookout Mountain to its well-deserved reputation as the “Best Outdoor City,” Chattanooga has a little something for everyone.
Imagine hiking along scenic trails with breathtaking vistas, exploring historic landmarks like the Walnut Street Bridge, and lounging in the picturesque Coolidge Park. In this travel blog post, we’ll take you on a journey through the vibrant streets of downtown Chattanooga and guide you to the must-see attractions that make this city a true Southern delight.
So, grab your hiking boots and appetite for adventure as we dive into the top-notch experiences that await you in Chattanooga!
Table of Contents
- The Best Things to Do in Chattanooga
- 1. Go hiking in Lookout Mountain
- 2. Visit the Chattanooga Choo Choo
- 3. Walk across the Walnut Street Bridge
- 4. Experience the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park
- 5. Hike or bike along the Riverwalk
- 6. Experience the Creative Discovery Museum
- 7. Explore the Bessie Smith Cultural Center
- 8. Enjoy the Tennessee Aquarium
- 9. Visit the Hunter Museum of American Art
- 10. Check Out the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum
- 11. Take a Chattanooga Riverboat Cruises
- 12. Go Caving at Raccoon Mountain Caverns
- 13. Explore Rock City Gardens
- 14. Take a Ride on the Lookout Mountain Incline Railway
- 15. Visit Ruby Falls – Discover the underground waterfall in Ruby Falls Cave, one of the tallest and deepest in the United States
- 16. Visit Point Park Battlefield
- 17. Go Rock Climbing
- 18. Enjoy Outdoor Activities at Coolidge Park
- 19. Explore the Bluff View Art District
- 20. Sample Local Southern Cuisine
- 21. Enjoy Renaissance Park
- Where to Stay in Chattanooga, TN
- Wrapping Up
The Best Things to Do in Chattanooga
This is our list of our top recommendations for things to do in Chattanooga.
The best way to get around is to rent a car and explore on your own! We recommend Rental Cars, which has the largest range of vehicles for the best value on the market.
1. Go hiking in Lookout Mountain
For outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers, Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga offers a treasure trove of scenic beauty and thrilling hiking opportunities, and among the best activities in this area is exploring its hiking trails, including the renowned Sunset Rock.
With its breathtaking vistas, Sunset Rock Trail is a must for those in search of panoramic views that truly live up to its name. This trail is just one of the many gems along Lookout Mountain, where hikers can venture along well-marked paths that wind through lush forests, traverse rocky outcrops, and ultimately lead to awe-inspiring overlooks.
The experience of standing atop these cliffs and gazing out at the Tennessee River Valley and the city of Chattanooga below is nothing short of spectacular. Whether you’re an avid hiker or a casual adventurer, Lookout Mountain’s hiking trails promise an unforgettable connection with the natural beauty that makes Chattanooga such a cherished destination.
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2. Visit the Chattanooga Choo Choo
Downtown Chattanooga comes alive with history and charm at the Chattanooga Choo Choo, a captivating destination that pays homage to the city’s rich railroad heritage.
Once a bustling train station, this iconic landmark has been transformed into a vibrant complex featuring a historic hotel, multiple restaurants, boutiques, train and trolley rides, and entertainment venues.
Visitors can step back in time by staying in one of the beautifully restored train cars, dining in the Victorian-era Station House restaurant, or exploring the lush gardens and historic architecture that make up this enchanting district.
The Chattanooga Choo Choo encapsulates the perfect blend of history, culture, and entertainment in the heart of downtown Chattanooga, inviting guests to experience the city’s railway legacy in a uniquely immersive way.
3. Walk across the Walnut Street Bridge
The Walnut Street Bridge is an iconic landmark in Chattanooga, offering both a fascinating piece of history and a scenic pathway for visitors to enjoy. Spanning the majestic Tennessee River, this pedestrian bridge provides a picturesque route for walkers, joggers, and cyclists, connecting the downtown area with the vibrant North Shore neighborhood.
Originally constructed in 1890, the Walnut Street Bridge has been lovingly restored and preserved, making it one of the longest pedestrian bridges in the United States. As you traverse this historic structure, you’ll be treated to breathtaking views of the city’s skyline, the river, and the surrounding mountains.
Whether you’re seeking a stroll, a morning run, or simply a place to capture stunning photographs, the Walnut Street Bridge promises a delightful and scenic experience for all who visit Chattanooga.
4. Experience the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park
The Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park is a historical gem among the myriad of things to do in Chattanooga. This park stands as a poignant testament to the Civil War’s impact on the region, preserving the battlegrounds of the Chickamauga and Chattanooga campaigns.
History enthusiasts and curious visitors alike can explore these hallowed grounds, complete with well-preserved cannon emplacements, historic markers, and informative exhibits that shed light on the pivotal battles that occurred here.
Strolling through this park is a humbling experience, offering a glimpse into a pivotal chapter of American history while immersing you in the serene beauty of Chattanooga’s natural landscapes.
If you’re drawn to history, nature, or simply seeking a peaceful outdoor escape, the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park is a place where the past and present harmonize, inviting reflection and discovery.
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5. Hike or bike along the Riverwalk
The Riverwalk in Chattanooga offers an idyllic escape along the Tennessee River, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in the city’s natural beauty. This scenic pathway winds its way through serene riverfront landscapes, providing a perfect opportunity for leisurely walks, invigorating runs, and peaceful bike rides.
As you meander along the Riverwalk, you’ll encounter a mix of picturesque river views, lush greenery, and glimpses of local wildlife. One of its noteworthy features is its proximity to the Chickamauga Dam, a significant engineering marvel that regulates water flow and ensures navigational safety on the Tennessee River.
Whether you’re seeking relaxation, exercise, or a chance to appreciate Chattanooga’s stunning riverfront, the Riverwalk delivers an enchanting experience that showcases the city’s commitment to preserving its natural treasures.
6. Experience the Creative Discovery Museum
The Creative Discovery Museum is a family-friendly gem that adds an enriching dimension to the list of things to do in Chattanooga. Located in the heart of the city, this interactive museum offers an exciting hands-on learning experience for children and adults alike.
With a diverse range of exhibits and activities spanning science, technology, art, and culture, the museum inspires curiosity and creativity in visitors of all ages. From exploring a rooftop garden and discovering the wonders of water in RiverPlay to engaging in STEM experiments and art workshops, the Creative Discovery Museum fosters a sense of wonder and exploration.
It’s a fantastic destination for families looking to combine education with fun while discovering the many facets of Chattanooga’s vibrant culture and creativity.
7. Explore the Bessie Smith Cultural Center
The Bessie Smith Cultural Center stands as a cultural beacon in Chattanooga, offering an enriching experience for those eager to explore the city’s vibrant heritage. This museum pays homage to the legendary blues singer Bessie Smith and plays a pivotal role in preserving and celebrating African-American history and arts.
Through its engaging exhibits and dynamic cultural events, visitors can gain a deeper understanding of the significant impact of African-American musicians, artists, and leaders on American culture.
The Bessie Smith Cultural Center is a testament to Chattanooga’s commitment to inclusivity and the recognition of the profound contributions made by African Americans throughout history, making it an essential stop for those seeking to connect with the heart and soul of the city.
8. Enjoy the Tennessee Aquarium
When looking for exciting things to do in Chattanooga, a visit to the Tennessee Aquarium should undoubtedly top your list. Nestled along the banks of the Tennessee River, this renowned attraction offers a captivating journey into aquatic ecosystems both local and exotic.
With its awe-inspiring displays of marine life, including colorful fish, playful otters, and majestic sea turtles, the Tennessee Aquarium provides an educational and immersive experience for visitors of all ages. Explore the River Journey and Ocean Journey buildings, where you can marvel at stunning exhibits, learn about conservation efforts, and even touch some of the creatures.
It’s a must-visit destination that showcases the beauty and importance of our planet’s aquatic world while offering a memorable and enriching adventure for anyone exploring Chattanooga.
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9. Visit the Hunter Museum of American Art
In the realm of things to do in Chattanooga, the Hunter Museum of American Art stands as a cultural beacon, showcasing a diverse and captivating collection of American artworks that span centuries and styles. Situated on a bluff overlooking the Tennessee River, this architectural gem is not only an artistic treasure but also a testament to the city’s commitment to the arts.
Visitors can immerse themselves in the world of American creativity, from traditional paintings to contemporary sculptures, and explore rotating exhibitions that provide fresh perspectives on the nation’s artistic heritage.
Regardless whether you’re an art enthusiast or simply seeking an enriching cultural experience, the Hunter Museum invites you to discover the beauty, diversity, and creativity that defines the American art landscape while enjoying unparalleled views of the Chattanooga skyline and riverfront.
10. Check Out the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum
When searching for things to do in Chattanooga, a must-visit attraction is the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum. This historical gem not only showcases the region’s deep-rooted connection to railroads but also offers a captivating journey through time.
Visitors can immerse themselves in the allure of vintage locomotives and take in the picturesque landscapes of the Tennessee countryside during scenic train rides.
Whether you’re a train enthusiast or simply seeking a unique and educational experience, the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum provides an opportunity to delve into the rich heritage of Chattanooga while enjoying the rhythmic chug of steam engines and the enchanting views that accompany them.
It’s a memorable adventure that blends history, culture, and the timeless allure of the rails.
11. Take a Chattanooga Riverboat Cruises
When considering things to do in Chattanooga, embarking on one of the captivating Tennessee Riverboat Cruises, such as the iconic Southern Belle Riverboat, is an experience that combines history, relaxation, and scenic beauty.
The Southern Belle Riverboat, a beloved symbol of the city, offers a delightful way to soak in the city’s picturesque waterfront and skyline. Whether you opt for a romantic dinner cruise, a family-friendly sightseeing excursion, or a daytime adventure, you’ll have the opportunity to enjoy live entertainment, delicious cuisine, and the gentle rhythms of the river.
It’s a perfect way to unwind and gain a unique perspective on Chattanooga while creating lasting memories with your loved ones.
Tennessee Riverboat Cruises, especially with the Southern Belle, encapsulate the charm of this riverfront city and should be on your list of must-visit attractions in Chattanooga.
12. Go Caving at Raccoon Mountain Caverns
Raccoon Mountain Caverns is a captivating underground adventure that should not be overlooked when seeking unique things to do in Chattanooga. Situated just a short drive from the city center, this natural wonder allows visitors to explore a fascinating world of subterranean wonders.
Guided tours take you through a labyrinth of caves, revealing stunning rock formations, intricate passageways, and awe-inspiring underground vistas. The beauty of Raccoon Mountain Caverns lies not only in its geological marvels but also in the intriguing history and lore that accompany them.
Whether you’re an avid spelunker or a curious traveler, Raccoon Mountain Caverns provides an unforgettable journey into the Earth’s mysterious depths, offering an experience that’s as educational as it is awe-inspiring for all who venture underground.
13. Explore Rock City Gardens
In the realm of things to do in Chattanooga, Rock City Gardens stands out as a one-of-a-kind natural wonder. Nestled atop Lookout Mountain, this enchanting attraction invites visitors to explore a mesmerizing world of ancient rock formations, lush gardens, and whimsical pathways.
As you wander through the maze of colossal boulders and narrow passageways, you’ll be captivated by the unique geological formations and stunning vistas that seem straight out of a fairy tale.
The highlight of any visit is the awe-inspiring “See Seven States” viewpoint, where, on a clear day, you can gaze out upon seven different states from this breathtaking vantage point.
Rock City Gardens offers a magical escape into the wonders of nature and is a must-visit destination for those seeking both natural beauty and whimsical charm in Chattanooga.
14. Take a Ride on the Lookout Mountain Incline Railway
Riding the Incline Railway in Chattanooga is an unforgettable experience that should not be missed by any traveler to the area.
Often referred to as the “world’s steepest passenger railway,” this historic incline takes you on a thrilling ascent up Lookout Mountain, providing breathtaking panoramic views of the city, the Tennessee River, and the surrounding natural beauty.
The Incline Railway not only offers a remarkable vantage point for capturing stunning photographs but also serves as a nod to the city’s rich history, dating back to the late 19th century.
Whether you’re an adventure enthusiast or a history buff, a ride on the Incline Railway promises an exhilarating journey that will leave you with lasting memories of Chattanooga’s unique charm and scenic splendor.
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15. Visit Ruby Falls – Discover the underground waterfall in Ruby Falls Cave, one of the tallest and deepest in the United States
Ruby Falls is a subterranean marvel that beckons adventurers and nature enthusiasts to delve deep beneath Lookout Mountain’s surface and discover one of nature’s most extraordinary creations.
As you journey through the winding, cave-like passages, the anticipation builds until you reach the grand finale: a magnificent, 145-foot underground waterfall known as Ruby Falls.
The sheer beauty and natural wonder of this underground spectacle make it one of the most iconic attractions in Chattanooga. Illuminated by vibrant, multicolored lights, the waterfall casts a magical aura, creating an otherworldly experience that leaves a lasting impression on all who visit.
Ruby Falls is not only a testament to the Earth’s geological wonders but also a testament to the spirit of adventure that defines Chattanooga’s attractions.
16. Visit Point Park Battlefield
When considering things to do in Chattanooga, Point Park on Lookout Mountain offers an unforgettable experience steeped in history and natural beauty.
This Civil War battlefield park not only provides breathtaking panoramic vistas of Chattanooga and the Tennessee River but also serves as a poignant reminder of the region’s historical significance.
Visitors can explore well-preserved monuments, cannons, and interpretive signage that tell the story of the battles fought here. Whether you’re a history enthusiast or simply seeking awe-inspiring views, Point Park is a must-visit destination that seamlessly blends the area’s rich past with the stunning scenery, making it an integral part of any Chattanooga itinerary.
17. Go Rock Climbing
For adventure seekers and outdoor enthusiasts, rock climbing in Chattanooga offers an exhilarating and physically demanding experience amidst the city’s stunning natural landscapes.
Whether you’re a seasoned climber or a beginner looking to try your hand at this thrilling sport, Chattanooga provides numerous opportunities to scale its impressive rock formations.
The T-Wall and High Point Climbing and Fitness are just a couple of the popular climbing spots where you can test your skills and conquer vertical challenges while being surrounded by the breathtaking beauty of the Tennessee outdoors.
With its diverse range of climbing routes and friendly climbing community, Chattanooga is an ideal destination for those looking to elevate their outdoor escapades and add an exciting dimension to their list of things to do in the city.
18. Enjoy Outdoor Activities at Coolidge Park
Coolidge Park, nestled in the heart of downtown Chattanooga, is a vibrant hub of recreational activities and family-friendly fun that should not be overlooked when exploring things to do in Chattanooga.
This spacious urban park boasts an array of attractions, from its iconic interactive fountains, where kids can cool off on hot summer days, to a beautifully restored antique carousel that delights visitors of all ages.
The green lawns and riverside location make it a perfect spot for picnics, frisbee, or simply relaxing while taking in the picturesque views of the Tennessee River. A charming antique bridge, connecting the park to the North Shore, adds to its allure.
Whether you’re looking to enjoy a leisurely afternoon, have an active day out, or simply soak in the local atmosphere, Coolidge Park offers a delightful blend of recreation and relaxation that embodies the spirit of Chattanooga.
19. Explore the Bluff View Art District
The Bluff View Art District is a charming and artistic enclave nestled in downtown Chattanooga, offering a delightful escape for those in search of culture and scenic beauty. This district boasts a collection of historic homes, cafes, and art galleries, creating a picturesque ambiance that feels like a world apart from the bustling city center.
Visitors can explore the Hunter Museum of American Art, showcasing a diverse range of American artworks, or savor culinary delights at the Bluff View Inn’s restaurants while enjoying breathtaking views of the Tennessee River.
Strolling through cobblestone streets and lush gardens, you’ll encounter sculptures, public art installations, and the captivating River Gallery Sculpture Garden.
For art enthusiasts and anyone seeking a unique and culturally rich experience in downtown Chattanooga, the Bluff View Art District is a hidden gem that offers a perfect blend of art, history, and scenic splendor.
20. Sample Local Southern Cuisine
Embarking on a culinary adventure in Chattanooga is an absolute must, and exploring the city’s diverse food scene is a delightful journey in itself. With an array of dining options spanning from classic Southern comfort food to innovative farm-to-table restaurants, Chattanooga offers a gastronomic experience that caters to every palate.
Savor mouthwatering barbecue at renowned spots like Sugar’s Ribs and Moe’s Original Bar B Que, indulge in soul-soothing dishes such as biscuits and gravy at Aretha Frankensteins, or opt for international flavors at eclectic eateries like Taqueria Jalisco and Alleia.
Don’t forget to explore the thriving brewery scene with stops at places like Hutton & Smith Brewing Co. and Heaven & Ale Brewing Co., or enjoy creative cocktails at trendy downtown bars like The Flying Squirrel and The Social.
The food and beverage offerings in Chattanooga reflect the city’s vibrant culture and commitment to culinary excellence, ensuring that every meal becomes a memorable experience and a highlight of your visit.
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21. Enjoy Renaissance Park
Renaissance Park in Chattanooga is a serene urban oasis that invites visitors to escape the bustle of city life and immerse themselves in a tranquil, art-infused environment. This park, nestled along the banks of the Tennessee River, is a hidden gem among the city’s attractions.
Strolling through Renaissance Park, you’ll discover an impressive collection of contemporary sculptures, beautifully manicured gardens, and inviting walking paths, all set against a backdrop of scenic river views.
Whether you’re seeking a peaceful retreat for a leisurely afternoon picnic or a place to appreciate art in a natural setting, Renaissance Park offers an idyllic respite and serves as a testament to the city’s commitment to blending culture with the great outdoors, making it a noteworthy addition to your list of things to do in Chattanooga.
Where to Stay in Chattanooga, TN
These are our top-recommended Chattanooga accommodations for any budget.
High-End Luxury Hotel: The Edwin Hotel – Autograph Collection
Located in the heart of downtown Chattanooga, The Edwin Hotel offers a luxurious escape with its boutique-style accommodations and breathtaking views of the Tennessee River.
This high-end hotel combines modern sophistication with Southern charm, featuring well-appointed rooms, a rooftop bar with panoramic city vistas, and an upscale restaurant serving delectable cuisine.
Guests can indulge in spa treatments, relax by the rooftop pool, and take advantage of the hotel’s prime location to explore nearby attractions like the Tennessee Aquarium and the Walnut Street Bridge
Mid-Range Family Accommodation: The Read House
The Read House is a historic hotel located in the heart of downtown Chattanooga. It offers comfortable and well-appointed rooms suitable for families, including suites with extra space.
Families can enjoy amenities like an indoor heated pool, an arcade room, and an on-site restaurant. The hotel’s central location makes it convenient to explore attractions such as the Tennessee Aquarium and the Creative Discovery Museum
Budget Hostel/Hotel: SureStay Plus Hotel by Best Western Chattanooga
This budget-friendly hotel offers comfortable rooms with amenities like microwaves and mini-fridges. Guests can enjoy a complimentary continental breakfast and access to the outdoor pool.
The hotel’s convenient location provides easy access to attractions such as the Tennessee Aquarium and the Chattanooga Choo Choo Historic Hotel.
In conclusion, Chattanooga, Tennessee, is a destination that effortlessly blends natural wonders, historical treasures, and modern charm.
From the awe-inspiring heights of Lookout Mountain, where you can soak in breathtaking views and explore Ruby Falls, one of the country’s most magnificent underground waterfalls, to the iconic Walnut Street Bridge that connects downtown with the vibrant North Shore, there’s a myriad of things to do in Chattanooga that will leave you with unforgettable memories.
Chattanooga has truly earned its reputation as a city that offers a diverse range of experiences, whether you’re a nature enthusiast, a history buff, or simply in search of delightful Southern hospitality.
So, whether you’re taking in the stunning scenery from Lookout Mountain or strolling along the Walnut Street Bridge at sunset, this charming city invites you to explore its unique blend of natural beauty and cultural richness. Chattanooga, with its abundant attractions and warm hospitality, promises a memorable journey for every traveler.
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