Chattanooga is simply one of America's most attractive medium sized cities, and every year its mixture of green space, a walkable Downtown and family attractions attracts more and more visitors. Why not join them?
If you need somewhere that will satisfy a car-load of kids, Chattanooga fits the bill. With amusement parks like Lake Winnie and Rock City, as well as the Aquarium and Warner Park Zoo, families will never be bored in this southern jewel.
However, Chattanooga is also a great destination for culture lovers and nature fans. Take the Incline Railway to the summit of Mount Lookout to see Ruby Falls, walk the 10 mile footpath to the Chickamauga Dam or ride the steam railway from the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum. Or, if you don't want to leave the city, just relax in Coolidge Park beside the antique carousel and the fountains.
There are fine art galleries like the Hunter Museum, boutiques along the length of Frazier Avenue and more Tennessee BBQ restaurants than you could ever hope to sample. It all comes together in one hard to resist package - so there are plenty of reasons to make Chattanooga the destination for your next getaway.
Chattanooga seems to have been designed for family vacations. Not only are there attractions like the Warner Park Zoo and the Tennessee Aquarium, but Rock City and Lake Winnie host plenty of rides, mini golf courses and spectacular light shows, while the Creative Discovery Center offers a huge variety of interactive exhibits as well.
If you want to experience the best that the South has to offer, look no further. Chattanooga is as hospitable as they come. Take a ride on paddle steamers like the Southern Belle, dine on Tennessee BBQ or fried chicken at Bea's or take in century-old neighborhoods like St. Elmo's.
Culture lovers will find plenty to enjoy in Chattanooga. For starters, there's the Hunter Museum of American Art, perched high above the city, followed by the Houston Museum, which is packed with beautiful ornaments and clothing exhibits, along with the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum, which offers 4 hour round trips to Chickamauga Dam.
Chattanooga has turned its depressed Downtown district into a cultural, social and economic hub. Shop at locations like Frazier Avenue, watch a movie at the historic Tivoli Theater and then walk across the Walnut Street Bridge to ride the restored carousel in Coolidge Park. Few downtowns can match Chattanooga for retail options, safety and convenience.
Chattanooga is also exceptional for the amount of green space within its city limits. Sometimes, the city seems more like an extended park than an urban area, making it even more enjoyable to visit. Along with Coolidge Park, don't miss the arboretum at Reflection Riding, the free concerts at Miller Plaza or the summer paddling pools at Ross' Landing.
When you're in the South, you simply have to take a steamboat ride. Chattanooga is a great place to do so, with a beautiful riverfront to enjoy and the Southern Belle available to board at any time of year. Passengers won't just enjoy the views. The boat also offers great cooking and live music.
If your kids are tired of museums and steamboats, why not take the short drive to Lake Winnepesaukah? Open from spring through fall, Lake Winnie offers mini-golf, rides, a boating lake and much more.
If you wander over Walnut Street Bridge, you'll be at the gateway of Coolidge Park, the city's largest and most popular inner-city park. It's not just a place to relax away from the traffic. Coolidge Park is also home to a restored early 20th-century carousel, which will enchant kids; plus it regularly hosts music events in the summer.
Chattanooga is packed with fascinating museums, and you could spend a short break just hopping between them. Some of the best include the Creative Discovery Museum, with a huge array of interactive exhibits targeted at children, the Houston Museum of Decorative Arts and the Hunter Museum - a huge art collection hosted in a gorgeous location overlooking the Tennessee River.
If your family loves nature, Chattanooga is the ideal destination. Warner Park Zoo is home to a large community of chimpanzees, as well as jaguars, snow leopards and spider monkeys, while the Tennessee Aquarium is home to rays, sharks and all manner of exotic fish.
Most people recommend visiting Chattanooga during the fall in September and October, when the temperatures drop into the 50s and 60s and the foliage is spectacular. The Incline Railway to Lookout Mountain will still be open, allowing you to visit Ruby Falls, as will Rock City and Lake Winnie, so it won't be hard to keep the kids entertained.
The best way to reach Chattanooga from most parts of the USA is by flying to Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport, which is five miles east of the center of town. There are no public transit options from the airport, but shuttle buses, taxis and limousines are available. You'll also find car rental outlets like Avis, Enterprise and Hertz. Expect to pay around $30 for a cab to the city center.
Chattanooga may be famous for its "Choo-Choo", popularized by Glenn Miller, but Amtrak no longer serves the city. If you want to travel by train you can catch the Crescent service to Atlanta and take a bus to Chattanooga, which takes a couple of hours.
Chattanooga is easy to reach from all directions by road. Those driving from the north or south should take I-75, while I-59 connects the city to New Orleans and destinations in Texas or the west. I-24 is the road to take if you are approaching the city from New York or Philadelphia.
Greyhound is the major bus operator to Chattanooga, and their local stop is located at 960 Airport Road - a few miles out of town. You can either take a taxi from the airport, or walk a short distance to catch bus number 4 straight into Downtown Chattanooga. Megabus also run buses into the city, with a much more central stop on Brainerd Road, so may be a more convenient option.
Excellent city center hotels include the Hilton Garden Inn and Marriott's Residence Inn, both of which are very conveniently located for the major attractions. If you are looking for something a little further out, try the Hampton Inn in Hixson, a peaceful, safe area that suits families. There are also high-quality budget options, including the Crash Pad - the city's only backpacker hostel.
Downtown Chattanooga – Chattanooga's Downtown neighborhood is one of the city's major attractions. For a long time it was left to decay, but the past twenty years have seen a miraculous renaissance, turning the center of town into one of the most elegant, pedestrian friendly Downtowns in the USA.
Hixson – Located in northeastern Chattanooga, Hixson is an upscale suburb that is a great place for families to base themselves during their vacation. Greener than the city center, Hixson offers attractions like Valleybrook Golf Course and the hiking trails, boating lake and beautiful scenery around Chickamauga Dam.
St. Elmo – Registered as a Historic District, St. Elmo is full of 19th-century homes, churches, and restaurants like the St. Elmo Deli and Grill. It's also the best place to ascend Lookout Mountain, as the neighborhood contains the base station of the Incline Railway. So if you want to take beautiful panoramic photographs of Chattanooga, St. Elmo is the place to head.
Buses in town are provided by the Chattanooga Area Regional Transportation Authority (CARTA) and provide good coverage of the major attractions. Thie network includes a couple of free bus shuttles which run to sites like the Aquarium and the Children's Discover Museum, so take advantage of them if you can. Standard fares on local buses are $2 and day passes cost $7.
Getting around Chattanooga by taxi is convenient and quick, but can be expensive. Standard rates in the city are $2.50 for the meter drop (first mile), then $3.50 for every mile after that. Uber offers a chance to save money though, with UberX rates starting at $1 for the meter drop, then $0.85 per mile after that.
If you rent a car, getting around Chattanooga poses few problems. The Downtown neighborhood has a conventional grid system (just look out for one-way streets). Parking in the city center isn't usually a problem. Check the Chattanooga Parking Authority for the nearest garage to your destination before you set out.
Frazier Avenue in the Northshore District is one of Chattanooga's best shopping streets, with a cluster of apparel stores, antique vendors, and bookstores. Check out Uptown Art, where you can buy works by the city's growing artist community, Willa - an upscale apparel boutique and the jewelry store Rusted Buffalo, or just wander along the street window shopping. There are also come great malls, including the Northgate Mall, where you'll find major brands like Sears and Old Navy, along with a large cinema complex.
If you need to shop for groceries or other essentials, the bets places to go in Chattanooga are supermarkets like Rogers, Whole Foods or Publix, all of which have stores near the city center. For fresh produce and artisan foods, the best place to head is Chattanooga Market at the First Tennessee Pavilion. Grocery costs tend to be relatively low. Expect to pay around $2.70 for 12 eggs or $2.30 for a pound of apples.
Chattanooga isn't short of high-quality eateries of almost every variety. However, visitors should definitely check out some Tennessee BBQ at restaurants like Sticky Fingers Smokehouse or Sugar's Ribs. Fried chicken is another local favorite, with some of the most succulent dishes available at Bea's and Mt. Vernon. There's also a growing gourmet dining scene. Upscale diners will adore the food at restaurants like Terra Mae or Terra Nostra, which blends Spanish tapas, French cuisine, and Italian cooking. Expect to pay $15 for a good mid-range meal.