Unofficially nicknamed the River City, you will find plenty of things to do and to see in this fourth-largest Tennessee town. Take a stroll through the largest and oldest military park in the country, the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, or find the smallest but most interesting artistic neighborhood around, the Bluff View Art District. From historic landmarks to wide-open green spaces to the excitement of city amenities, the things to do in Chattanooga just keep coming. With roots stretching back to the city’s founding in 1815, you will find more than enough things to do in Chattanooga.
1. Get a Great View from Lookout Mountain
One of the most unique things to do in Chattanooga is to climb Lookout Mountain for its impressive perspective overlooking the city below. You will get a spectacular view of the Chattanooga Valley. But the trek up the mountain can be a little difficult.
Try the Lookout Mountain Incline Railway, a memorable experience that will carry you up the nearly 73-percent grade incline of Lookout Mountain. Hop on the railway at St. Elmo Station, and allow the train to escort you to the top. There you will find nearby attractions like Point Park, the Battles for Chattanooga Museum, and Ruby Falls within a reasonable walking distance before you begin your descent. Tickets are $15 for adults and $7 for children ages 3 to 12 years.
- Best for: Anyone looking for an easier and faster way up the mountain.
- Season: Open Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. And Saturday and Sunday from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
- Address: 3917 St. Elmo Avenue (bottom) to 827 East Brow Road (top), Lookout Mountain, TN 37350.
2. Visit the Tennessee Aquarium
You really cannot go wrong with a visit to the Tennessee Aquarium, the home of creatures of many varieties and sizes. If you have ever wanted to see a catfish the size of a Volkswagen or a giant, freshwater stingray, put this top-notch aquarium high on your list of things to do in Chattanooga.
With a focus on wildlife indigenous to Tennessee, the aquarium houses more than 320 different fish species on its two-building campus. You will also notice that the creatures are displayed in very life-like habitats specifically designed to mimic their real locations in nature. Be sure to look for special mentions of endangered species that are hoping for rescue. Costs run $29.95 for adults and $18.95 for children ages 3 to 12 years for just the aquarium admission.
- Best for: Anyone, but some caution should be used on the River Gorge Explorer boat trip.
- Season: Open year-round, daily from 10:00 a.m. 6:00 p.m.
- Address: 1 Broad Street, Chattanooga, TN 37402.
3. Explore the Raccoon Mountain Caverns
If you prefer underground exploration to the heights of Lookout Mountain, put the Raccoon Mountain Caverns on your list of things to do in Chattanooga. Located just outside the city, you will find 5.5 miles of cave passageways at your disposal. There are many different activities at the caverns, including panning for gemstones, riding go-karts, or just relaxing by a campfire.
However, if you are interested in getting the most adventure out of your trip, you will want to undertake one of the thrilling cave expeditions. The 45-minutes Crystal Palace Tour is a walking tour with a guide that covers about half a mile of lit cave exploration. The Wild Cave Expeditions require crawling, pushing, pulling, and even climbing a 15-foot rope. Because of these more intense activities, there are age and height requirements for each of the wild cave expeditions. Costs $15.95 for adults and $8.95 for children ages 5 to 12 years for the Crystal Palace Tour; expeditions vary by experience.
- Best for: Anyone can do the Crystal Palace Tour, but check requirements for the Wild Cave Expeditions.
- Season: Open year-round, daily from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
- Address: 319 W. Hills Road, Chattanooga, TN 37419.
4. Roam the Rock City Gardens
At the top of Lookout Mountain, you will find Rock City Gardens, another one of the fun things to do in Chattanooga. There is a 4,100-foot path along the side of the mountain that provides excitement for nearly everyone. From tall boulders creating the appropriately named Needle’s Eye and Fat Man’s Squeeze to the sloping of the Enchanted Trail, you will find several rock formations to climb and traverse. There is also an 180-foot suspension bridge, as well as figurines depicting classic Mother Goose characters along the trail.
Adults and couples will enjoy the beauty and photogenic quality of the 90-foot waterfall and lookout point known as Lover’s Leap. While the See Seven States viewpoint offers you a chance to look for as many different states as you can possibly see. Be sure to wear comfortable walking shoes during your exploration of Rock City. Also, be advised that there are some locations that are not accessible for all people. Tickets are $19.95 for adults and $11.95 for children ages 3 to 12 years.
- Best for: Families and couples.
- Season: Open seasonally, so check the website for exact times.
- Address: 1400 Patten Road, Lookout Mountain, GA 30750.
5. Ride the Southern Belle Riverboat Cruise
It is not nicknamed the River City for nothing, so be sure to check out the Southern Belle Riverboat, better known as “The Pride of the South.” Since it was built in 1985, the riverboat has been traveling up and down the Tennessee River, giving residents and visitors more things to do in Chattanooga.
The 1.5-hour daily cruise down the river features an informative narration and a provided lunch. Giving you the opportunity to relax and to enjoy the scenery around you as you learn more about the local history. The cruise line also offers a Sunset Tour, a variety of Dinner Cruises that include live music and dancing, and a Pilot House Tour. Tickets cost $32.90 for adults and $18.90 for children ages 3 to 12 years for a daily lunch cruise.
- Best for: Anyone during the day, couples at night.
- Season: Open Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Saturday and Sunday from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
- Address: 151 Riverfront Parkway, Chattanooga, TN 37402.
6. Sample the Tennessee Stillhouse
Only open since 2015, the Tennessee Stillhouse is the first legal distillery in Chattanooga. On your visit, you will get a tour of the micro-distillery itself and a trip to the tasting room. By using barley, corn, and rye in its process, as well as old whiskey barrels that are pre-prohibition-era, the Tennessee Stillhouse is creating flavors that are unique and unparalleled. Part museum and part lab, the Tennessee Stillhouse rides the line between scientific experiment and creative culinary feat with its unusual tastes and blends. Varies by tour and samples, so see the website for details.
- Best for: Adults.
- Season: Open Monday through Thursday 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 pm. Friday and Saturday 11:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m., and Sunday 12:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
- Address: 1439 Market Street, Chattanooga, TN 37402.
7. Treat Your Tongue at Clumpies Ice Cream Co.
With about 18 flavors of handmade ice cream and sorbet available at a time, Clumpies Ice Cream Co. is one of the most delicious things to do in Chattanooga. These typically include butter pecan, chocolate chunk, and a firecracker, among many others. There are also a number of featured favorites created seasonally, such as Thai tea, bananas foster, and lemon icebox. Handcrafting the best ice cream in the city since 1999, Clumpies creates each 10-gallon batch with the utmost care. Ice cream is priced by weight at 60 cents per ounce, so one scoop averages around $2.50.
- Best for: Families.
- Season: Open daily from 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. and until 10:00 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.
- Address: 3917 St. Elmo Avenue and 1110 E. Brow Road, Chattanooga, TN 37409.
Whether you are looking for good food, outdoor exploration, or indoor entertainment, there are plenty of fun things to do in Chattanooga. They are sure to keep you busy and interested in all that is happening around the city. Check out of few of these traveler favorites, as well as some of the other historic tours and entertainment options that Chattown has to offer.