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21 Fun Things to Do in Chattanooga

Chattanooga is a city rich with Civil War history and Southern charm, from riverboats on the Tennessee River to delicious Southern cooking.

The name “Chattanooga” comes from the Creek Indian word for “rock coming to a point”, which refers to the shape of Lookout Mountain.

One of the major Civil War battles took place in Chattanooga and you can stand on the mountain top to view the former battlefield location.

Chattanooga  is a great place to enjoy the outdoors either on the water or on the hiking and biking trails.

In this post I’m sharing 21 fun things to do in Chattanooga Tennessee.

 

21 Fun Things to do in Chattanooga

 

1.      Chattanooga Choo Choo

In 1941 Chattanooga was made famous by the Glenn Miller Orchestra, with the recording of the song, Chattanooga Choo Choo.

You can visit the historic Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel which opened in 1973 in the old Terminal Station (opened in 1909) in downtown Chattanooga.

Stroll along Station Street for bars, restaurants, live comedy, dancing, and live music events.

 

2.      Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum

Do you love trains? You can book train rides on vintage railway cars at the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum in Chattanooga.

Choose from a short one-hour ride on the Missionary Ridge Local, a dinner train ride, or a 6-hour excursion by train to the historic Civil War town Chickamauga, Georgia. Get more info from the museum website.

 

3.      Creative Discovery Museum

If you are doing a family trip to Chattanooga, be sure to check out the Creative Discovery Museum.

Lots of fun for kids of all ages with indoor exhibits, outdoor rooftop gardens, a tower with observation deck, and loads of immersive exhibits and hands-on activities. Note: They added lots of hand sanitizing stations throughout the museum.

Timed tickets are required to visit the museum – get more info and tickets.

 

4.      Bessie Smith Cultural Center

Although the Bessie Smith Cultural Center is currently closed at the time of this writing, do plan to visit when it reopens.

Referred to as “The Bessie” the cultural center is an African American Museum and events center, celebrating Black history and culture in Chattanooga.

 

Bessie Smith Cultural Center building

African American Museum and events center at Bessie Smith Cultural Center

 

Murals

While walking and driving around Chattanooga it’s likely you’ll see a few murals during your outings. Did you know that the largest mural in the Southeastern US is in Chattanooga?

“We Will Not Be Satisfied Until” is a mural by Meg Saligman, on E MLK Blvd between King and Houston Streets. The mural is located next to the Bessie Smith Cultural Center.

Painted in 2015, the large-scale mural is over 42,000 square feet, it is one of the largest murals in the United States.

 

Mural "We Will Not Be Satisfied Until" by Meg Saligman

A portion of Meg Saligman’s mural “We Will Not Be Satisfied Until”

 

5.      Southern Food

Southern food is comfort food. You’ve got to try a few of the classics like Southern Fried Chicken, Shrimp and Grits, or Fried Green Tomatoes.

And biscuits, you must eat biscuits in the South.

Maple Street Biscuit Company for breakfast or brunch – great Southern eats. Hours: 7 am to 2 pm daily.

Southern Star for lunch. Get the Blue Plate Special for a truly Southern experience.

Public House for dinner. Featuring happy hour specials at The Social bar and extensive menu at Public House. Great for family and group dinners.

St John’s Restaurant for a more upscale dining experience in Chattanooga. Reservation required.

When I went hiking one day, I found the most delicious Shrimp and Grits at Screen Door Kitchen in Dayton, a few miles north of Chattanooga. Open Wed – Sat for lunch and dinner; Sunday brunch.

 

Shrimp and Grits at Screen Door Kitchen restaurant

Classic Southern Food – Shrimp and Grits

 

6.      Walnut Street Bridge

Connecting North Chattanooga to downtown in 1891, the Walnut Street Bridge closed to motor vehicle traffic in 1978. A plan to tear down the bridge lacked funding and so it remained unused for several years, but a community group made the effort to save the bridge.

Added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1990, the Walnut Street Bridge reopened to pedestrian only traffic in the early 1990s.

The span of the bridge is about a half-mile (2,376 ft) making Walnut Street Bridge one of the longest pedestrian bridges in the world.

 

Walnut Street pedestrian bridge Chattanooga

One of the longest pedestrian bridges in the world – Walnut Street Bridge

 

7.      Tennessee Riverwalk

From downtown Chattanooga you can walk for 16 miles alongside the Tennessee River to the Chickamauga Dam. Of course, you don’t need to walk the entire 16 miles to enjoy this riverside walk.

 

8.      Hunter Museum of American Art

Explore art and history through this collection of American Art from the 1700s to present day. There are three buildings: The Mansion, East Wing, and the newest addition the Waterfront West Wing building.

The museum is also a popular wedding venue in Chattanooga.

You can get a good view of the Hunter Museum from the Walnut Street Bridge; the museum sits atop a bluff overlooking the Tennessee River.

Tues/Wed closed

 

Hunter Museum of American Art Chattanooga

Hunter Museum of American Art sits atop a bluff overlooking the Tennessee River

 

9.      Chattanooga Riverboat Cruise

The Southern Belle Riverboat offers a variety of sightseeing cruises on the Tennessee River. Choose from the lunch cruise, sightseeing cruise, sunset cruise, or dinner cruise and enjoy a relaxing time on the water.

Special holiday cruises are offered throughout the year for all the big holiday events like Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s, along with Valentine’s, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and Halloween cruises.

Check for more info and tickets here.

 

10. Chickamauga Lake

Chickamauga Lake is a reservoir along the Tennessee River, created in 1940 with the construction of the Chickamauga Dam. The Chickamauga Lake is almost 60 miles long, making it an ideal place to enjoy the outdoors in Chattanooga.

Popular with canoers and kayakers, you can also rent a fishing boat or pontoon boat on Chickamauga Lake. If you have your own boat or jet ski there are several marinas to put in along the lake.

Bring your fishing poles and do some bass fishing or simply relax on the water.

 

Chickamauga Lake in Chattanooga TN

Chickamauga Lake is almost 60 miles long

 

11. Greenway Farm and Dog Park

Greenway Farms and Dog Park is a beautiful park along the North Chickamauga Creek. The park features hiking and biking trails, an off-leash dog park, and canoe and kayak rentals.

There are a couple of old cabins at Greenway, including the Sniteman log cabin which was recently refurbished.

Hike the trails in the forest and along the old limestone quarry with beautiful views of the Chickamauga Creek. It’s a good place for birdwatching too.

 

Two rocking chairs look out to kayaker in Chickamauga Creek

Greenway Farm trails take you to Chickamauga Creek

 

12. Montague Park Sculpture Field

Enjoy wide open spaces and great big sculptures at the Montague Park Sculpture Field. There is free parking and entrance is free for everyone.

Over 40 sculptures adorn the 33 acre park in Chattanooga’s Southside neighborhood. The land was donated to the City of Chattanooga by Mrs. Mary Thayer Montague and the idea for the sculpture park was started by local sculptor John Henry.

 

13. Hiking

You have plenty of hiking trails to choose from in and around Chattanooga. Here are a few popular hikes in Chattanooga:

Prentice Cooper State Forest – Snoopers Rock Trail is a 6 mile hike overlooking the Tennessee River Gorge and outstanding views.

Sunset Rock – Chattanooga National Military Park at Lookout Mountain. Short but steep hike to amazing sunset spot. Limited parking.

Laurel Falls – Laurel-Snow State Natural Area. A beautiful hike with some decent elevation gain to Laurel Falls. The trail is about 6 miles out and back.

 

Hiking in Tennessee

Enjoy the hiking trails around Chattanooga

 

14. Coolidge Park

Coolidge Park is a gorgeous waterfront park on the North Shore of the Tennessee River. The park features a beautiful historic carousel, interactive water fountain, pavilion, and the blue rhino.

There are lots of shops, restaurants, and art galleries in the neighborhood around Coolidge Park.

 

Blue Rhino at Coolidge Park Chattanooga

The Blue Rhino sculpture at Coolidge Park

 

15. Renaissance Park

Renaissance Park is also on the North Shore, just west of Coolidge Park. Enjoy the hiking trails and look for turtles in the pond. It’s a great place for a picnic.

The sculpture “Ascending Path” by Aaron Hussey and Brad Bourgoyne is in Renaissance Park.

 

Sculpture of people walking - Renaissance Park Chattanooga

The sculpture “Ascending Path” by Aaron Hussey and Brad Bourgoyne is in Renaissance Park

 

16. Raccoon Mountain Caverns

Take a guided tour inside the caverns of Raccoon Mountain. Choose from the Crystal Palace walking tour through the first quarter mile of the cave or take one of the Wild Cave Expedition Tours where you’ll go deeper into the undeveloped portions of the cave and get muddy along way.

If you are at all claustrophobic (like me) then I recommend the Crystal Palace walking tour as the other tours involve squeezing through some tight spaces.

 

Inside the cavern at Raccoon Caverns Chattanooga TN

Take a 45 minute cavern tour

 

17. Lookout Mountain Incline Railway

The one mile incline railway track up Lookout Mountain is dubbed “America’s Most Amazing Mile”. Lookout Mountain Incline Railway has been taking folks up to Lookout Mountain since 1895.

Take in the panoramic views from the observation deck. You can walk to Point Park from the upper incline railway station.

 

Point Park entrance gate at Lookout Mountain Chattanooga

 

18. Point Park Battlefield

Point Park is a part of the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park which is operated by the National Park Service.

On November 24, 1863, during the American Civil War, the Battle of Lookout Mountain took place at the location of Point Park.

In the visitor center there is a huge mural depicting what is often referred to as “The Battle Above the Clouds.”

Walk the paved path to the New York Peace Memorial and the overlook with panoramic views of Chattanooga.

 

Civil War cannon atop Lookout Mountain with view of Chattanooga

A Civil War cannon at Lookout Mountain

 

19. Rock City Gardens

A great family friendly outing with rock gardens, gnomes, waterfall, and hiking trails. In the fall there is a corn maze and in December the place is lit up with Christmas lights around the park.

 

20. Ruby Falls

Ruby Falls is a giant underground waterfall at Lookout Mountain. A glass-front elevator takes you down 260 ft to the cavern trail and guided walk to the cave waterfall known as Ruby Falls.

There is also a 700 ft zip line in operation from March through November at Ruby Falls.

 

21. Chickamauga Battlefield Museum

The Chickamauga Battlefield Museum is part of the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park. This is an exceptional place and a must visit, especially for history buffs. It’s located just across the state border in Georgia.

Go to the visitor center and watch the informative movie then view the museum displays, including the Fuller gun collection. Afterwards, do the driving tour and stop at the outdoor exhibits, monuments, and historic cabins.

The Battlefield Museum was created due to both Union and Confederate veterans interest in creating memorials at the battlefield locations.

 

Chickamauga Battlefield Museum in Northern Georgia

Be sure to take a day trip to Chickamauga Battlefield Museum in Northern Georgia

 

Enjoy your travels in Tennessee! If you have any questions or recommendations about Chattanooga please leave them in the comments section below.

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Lauren

Sunday 4th of April 2021

Wow, lived here all my life and you've made me like it even better with your excellent list of all of Nooga's awesomeness. Thanks!

Susan Moore

Sunday 4th of April 2021

Lauren, Thanks for your comment, glad you enjoyed the list. Chattanooga is awesome! And especially in springtime, enjoy :) Cheers, Susan

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