There’s no doubt that Chattanooga is one of the most captivating and awe-striking cities in the United States. Chattanooga has something for everyone, from its stunning mountain backdrop to its vibrant and growing downtown district. So, whether you’re a nature lover, history buff, or food lover, there’s plenty to see and do in this Southern gem. Plus, with warm weather year-round and a burgeoning arts scene, there’s no better time than now to visit Chattanooga.
If you’re ready to make your next family vacation one for the books, read on for our ultimate guide to Chattanooga.
Chattanooga is located in southeastern Tennessee, just a few hours’ drive from Atlanta, Nashville, and Knoxville. It’s situated in the Tennessee River Valley and is surrounded by mountains on all sides. The city has just over 180,000 people and covers an area of about 371 kilometers per square.
Chattanooga has a subtropical climate, which means it’s warm (and sometimes even hot) year-round. For example, the average high in January is 57 degrees, while the average high in July is 89.
However, because of the city’s elevation and proximity to the mountains, evenings can be cool even in the summertime, so you must pack a sweater.
These temperature ranges make the city a perfect spot for some outdoor delight. From white water rafting to scenic hikes in the mountains, there’s no shortage of outdoor experiences. But white water rafting surely takes the top spot for being the most fun and adrenaline-pumping activity. Search for “chattanooga white water rafting” whenever you visit this place and make the most of your trip.
The best way to get to Chattanooga is by car. If driving from Atlanta, take I-75 North until you reach I-24 West. From Nashville, take I-24 East until you reach Chattanooga. And from Knoxville, take I-75 South until you reach I-24 West.
If you’re flying, the Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport (CHA) is served by several major airlines, including Delta, American, and United. There are also direct flights from Atlanta (ATL), Charlotte (CLT), and Dallas (DFW).
Where to Stay
Are you a luxury traveler? Or do you prefer more budget-friendly accommodations? Whatever your preference, Chattanooga has a place for you.
The Westin Chattanooga is a beautiful, upscale hotel located in the heart of downtown. You can also consider The Edwin Hotel, Autograph Collection, a stylish boutique hotel steps from the Tennessee Aquarium.
For something slightly more affordable, try the Hampton Inn Chattanooga West. It’s in the heart of the business district and just minutes from all the downtown attractions. The clean and comfortable rooms, Wi-Fi, and complimentary hot breakfast make this hotel a great option for families.
Are you looking for a special lodging experience? Then, consider staying in a treehouse. Chattanooga has several options, including the Lookout Mountain Treehouses and the High Point Climbing Treehouses. You’ll witness some of the most heart-winning views of the city while staying in one of these unique accommodations.
Have an RV, or are you camping? Chattanooga has several great options for camping, including Chester Frost Park, Harrison Bay State Park, and Raccoon Mountain Caverns Campground. Reserve your spot in advance, as these campgrounds fill up quickly.
Places to Visit
Chattanooga features several family-friendly attractions, including the Tennessee Aquarium, Chattanooga Zoo, and Lookout Mountain.
Let’s briefly look at some of the must-visit places in this city of Southern charm.
The Tennessee Aquarium
Your children will be delighted to see all the amazing creatures at the Tennessee Aquarium. From playful penguins to curious otters, there’s much to see and learn about the aquatic world. The aquarium also has several interactive exhibits, like the Rivers of the World section, where you can touch stingrays and horseshoe crabs.
During some months, you can also experience watching the famous movie Jaws on the big screen while floating in a raft on the river.
Located just a short drive from downtown, the Chattanooga Zoo is home to over 500 animals worldwide. The zoo is divided into sections, each with its theme. Visit the African Plains section to see lions, zebras, and giraffes in their natural habitat. Luckily, there’s always 50% off on adult admission if you book through the official website. So, why wait? Plus, there are food stalls where you can buy snacks for when your tummy starts growling.
One of Chattanooga’s most popular attractions is Lookout Mountain. Just a short drive from downtown, Lookout Mountain offers stunning views of the city and river below. You can also ride on the historic Incline Railway, which has been operating since 1895. Just underneath the mountain is Ruby Falls, a 145-foot waterfall illuminated with colorful lights.
If adrenaline is soaring through your veins, hike to the top of Sunset Rock for an even more incredible view. Also, carry your camera to capture the beautiful scenery.
Where to Eat in Chattanooga?
Chattanooga has no shortage of great places to eat, whether you’re looking for a quick bite or a sit-down meal. Piping-hot BBQ, fresh seafood, and all your Southern comfort food favorites can be found in this city. Here are some of our top recommendations:
Firebirds Wood Fired Grill
This American grill serves up delicious food with a Southwestern twist. The menu features wood-fired steaks, chicken, and seafood that will please everyone in your family. And, you have to try the famous jalapeño honey mustard.
Sticky Fingers Ribhouse
If you’re in the mood for finger-licking good BBQ, then stop by Sticky Fingers Ribhouse. This chain restaurant is known for its Memphis-style dry rub ribs that are slow-cooked to perfection. The menu also includes pulled pork, chicken, and beef brisket.
Totto Sushi & Grill
For a taste of Japan in the heart of Chattanooga, look no further than Totto Sushi & Grill. This restaurant serves fresh sushi, sashimi, and hibachi-style dishes.
The Hot Chocolatier
Do you have a massive sweet tooth? Then you’ll want to head to The Hot Chocolatier. This shop specializes in handmade chocolates and truffles, and they also offer a wide selection of hot chocolate flavors. Trust us; you’ve never had hot chocolate like this before.
Julie Darling Donuts
No excuse is needed to enjoy a delicious donut, but if you need one, head to Julie Darling Donuts. These gourmet donuts are freshly made and come in various flavors. Our favorite is the chocolate peanut butter donut, but you can’t go wrong with any of them.
Chattanooga is the perfect place for a family vacation. There’s something for everyone to enjoy, from world-class museums and zoos to scenic mountain views and white water rafting. And of course, let’s not forget the food. You and your family will swipe the plates clean with the city’s amazing BBQ and seafood.
Fill your appetite for travel and book your trip to Chattanooga today. You won’t regret it.