Don’t miss Chattanooga! This is what we now tell people who are passing through on the interstate between Nashville and Atlanta. We recently returned from a road trip to St. Louis and made a spontaneous decision that on the return home, we would make a stopover in Chattanooga, Tennessee. At the time, we really didn’t know of any things to do in Chattanooga. We had heard there was an aquarium, and of course all along the interstate you see the signs for Ruby Falls and Lookout Mountain. And although these places are great fun, we were looking for something a bit different on this trip. So here are 5 of our top recommendations for things to do in Chattanooga (besides Ruby Falls)!
An Introduction to Chattanooga, Tennessee
It seems Chattanooga gets overlooked, in fact, Chattanooga is only a couple hours away from our house here in Atlanta…and we never made it up there for a visit until a few weeks ago. We are kicking ourselves for not checking out this awesome town sooner. Combining our travel favorites such as history, culture, outdoor adventure, and good ol’ beer, it’s a shame we didn’t visit Chattanooga sooner!
One of the first things we noticed about Chattanooga is the funky vibe and laid back culture of the town. It was immediately apparent that the town is quite family friendly, and has a passion for the arts and the outdoors. In fact, we stayed in a funky new hostel called “The Crash Pad” and it blew us away with the architecture, and amenities. Plus, it was in a great location within walking distance to restaurants and sights.
But if hostels are not your thing, no worries, there are plenty of top rated hotels in Chattanooga that are perfect for business travelers, couples, and especially for families.
5 Things to Do in Chattanooga
1. Have a Beer While Riding the Chattanooga Brew Choo
The micro-brewery industry is booming lately, especially in smaller cities like Chattanooga and Asheville, North Carolina. So as you would imagine, this is a trend that Liz and I can definitely get on board with! In Chattanooga, you have can explore many of these beer-drinking venues while riding around town on the Chattanooga Brew Choo.
The Chattanooga Brew Choo is a pedal-powered, open-air vehicle where you can enjoy some brew, while enjoying the scenery around town. They have brew tours, where you visit local establishments, similar to a bar-crawl…but on a giant bike-like contraption! So go ahead, work off those drinks as you head to the next watering hole.
2. Hike Around the Chickamauga Battlefield National Landmark
While staying at The Crash Pad Hostel, we asked our host about great hiking trails and good views. Our host recommended that we check out Chickamauga Battlefield. He printed out directions for us to the Battlefield, which actually has a fantastic view of Chattanooga; similar to Lookout Mountain…only this view is free! Since we enjoy a bit of history and a good hike, Chickamauga sounded perfect.
Within a few minutes of downtown Chattanooga, we had made our way up the mountain and to the battlefield lookout point. It’s actually on the road to Ruby Falls, but you continue to go up beyond that attraction. Once up there, not only will you find historical Civil War markers and bulidings, but miles and miles of great hiking trails all around the mountain. The hard part is just decided which trail to take.
3. Rent a Bike and Explore the City of Chattanooga
Another trend that we are starting to see in smaller cities around the country is bike rental kiosks. The Chattanooga Bicycle Transit System has stations set up all around the city. This is a great way to explore the town, and the fresh air! Simple rent a bike at one of the kiosks, go for a ride, drop it off at another kiosk to explore that area, then grab another and go for another ride! It’s super convenient and a great way to check out Chattanooga. Plus, it’s cheaper than parking (wowzza!).
4. Adventure on the Water or up in the Air
Being an outdoor paradise, there are plenty of options to do a bit water-related fun in Chattanooga. You can go on a peaceful float down a calm river, or do some rafting on class III and IV rapids. Or perhaps you would rather rent a kayak and a paddle-board. Overall, there are many fun ways to cool off and play in the water around Chattanooga! Checkout Outdoor Chattanooga website for the multiple options.
Chattanooga also has a big rocking climbing community. There are several different companies that will take you out to experience the real thing. Having different levels of difficulty, you can choose the one that best fits your experience level. If you have never climbed before and are unsure if it’s for you, then give it a shot at High Point Climbing and Fitness in downtown. With walls on the outside of the building overlooking the aquarium and the river, you can test your skills with the help of professionals and get a birds-eye view!
5. Explore Raccoon Mountain Caverns
There are a number of caves in the area around Chattanooga. We decided to make a stop at Raccoon Mountain Caverns, just outside of town. This highly rated cave experience has many different tour options available. Due to time constraints, we went on their standard excursion into the Crystal Palace, one of the largest cave formation chambers in the south east!
The inside of this cave was breathtaking, and our guide took us all around explaining the different formations and the history of the cave. It was an awesome experience that we highly recommend if you are in the area. If you are up for something more adventurous, check out their wild cave spelunking tours!
The wild cave spelunking tours are a serious expedition deep into the cave with a highly trained guide. You will be given helmets, lights, gloves, and knee pads so that can climb, crawl and slide your way through. This experience is definitely for the truly adventurous! You have the option of taking one, two, or four hour tours…as well as the option to go on an overnight tour (seriously)! For more about these spelunking adventure tours, click here to visit their Wild Cave website.
Chattanooga is Loaded With Outdoor Fun!
One thing is for sure, Chattanooga is a great little town with a passion for fun and for the outdoors. We were so surprised at all the fun things to do in Chattanooga that we were disappointed we didn’t plan to spend a couple more days there. Luckily, being only a couple hours away from Atlanta means that we can easily make the trip back. So if you are ever in the area or driving through between Nashville and Atlanta, don’t miss out on the fun in Chattanooga!