Planning at trip to Tennessee? Chattanooga is a great place for families to visit! Keep reading to learn more about the best places to visit and family fun in Chattanooga TN!
We weren’t able to take a huge vacation this year due to some work we had done on the house, but we still wanted to get away for a few days to unwind a bit. So we decided a short trip to Tennessee was in order. It’s far enough away that we don’t get there very often, but close enough that we can get there by lunch time if we leave pretty early in the morning.
Our first stop was Chattanooga. Chattanooga is usually where we stop for the night on our way home from Florida, but we discovered there are plenty of fun things to do in Chattanooga that make it a great place for a little getaway.
Since we had a 6 hour drive, we left pretty early in the morning. Any time we go on vacation, we usually hit the road around 5 am, so that we can be at our destination by lunch and still have plenty of time that first day for sight-seeing. The kids usually go back to sleep, so we can drive for a couple of hours before stopping for breakfast.
We ended up getting to the city about noon. After a quick picnic lunch, we were ready to start checking off attractions from our list of sites to see in Chattanooga TN.
Quick Links to Info on This Page
- Family Fun in Chattanooga TN – See Rock City!
- Things to do in Chattanooga for free – Visit the Chattanooga Choo Choo!
- Chattanooga Lookout Mountain Incline Railway
- Fun for kids in Chattanooga – Ruby Falls
- Sites to see in Chattanooga TN – Point Park
- Camping near Chattanooga Tennessee
- Other things to do and see in Chattanooga TN
- Recommended reading to learn about other attractions near Chattanooga TN
Family Fun in Chattanooga TN – See Rock City!
Our first stop in Chattanooga was Rock City. If you live in the south or the midwest, chances are you may have seen a “See Rock City” barn along the highway. Starting in the mid 1930’s, Rock City hired Clark Byers to paint advertisements on barns along major roads. This continued until 1969. During this time, “See Rock City” was painted on over 900 barn roofs in 19 states.
It was one of those barn advertisements that led to our first visit to Rock City 20 years ago when Kevin and I were first married. So when we were planning our vacation this year, we thought it would be fun to go back and see how it had changed.
One of my top picks for fun for kids in Chattanooga is Rock City. If you have never heard of Rock City, it is a beautiful rock garden located on Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga. Rock City is a park full of beautiful gardens, stunning rock formations, and gorgeous views. We especially enjoyed the waterfall at Lovers Leap, the balanced rock, and the swinging bridge.
Adults will definitely appreciate the natural beauty of the place, but that’s not to say that Rock City isn’t fun for children too. Younger kids will definitely enjoy the Fairytale Caverns, the herd of white deer, and all the gnomes hidden throughout the park. My middle daughter, who just turned 12, told me that Rock City was her favorite part of our trip.
If you are looking for family fun in Chattanooga TN, I definitely recommend a visit to Rock City! You can learn more about Rock City at SeeRockCity.com
If you are planning on visiting the three main Lookout Mountain attractions near Chattanooga TN, I highly recommend purchasing their combo tickets. We got the Triple Play tickets that included admission to Rock City, Ruby Falls, and the Incline Railway. We ended up saving about $5 a person. You can buy the combo tickets at the ticket booths at any of the attractions. We got ours at the ticket counter at Rock City.
Things to do in Chattanooga for free – Visit the Chattanooga Choo Choo!
Looking for free things to do in Chattanooga, in addition to the paid attractions? Then I highly recommend checking out the Chattanooga Choo Choo. It’s a great photo opp!
After visiting Rock City, we headed over to a famous Chattanooga landmark. I mean what would a visit to Chattanooga be without seeing the Chattanooga Choo-Choo?! Although it was originally a working train that inspired the famous song, the train is now on display and the cars have been converted into hotel rooms. How fun would that be to spend the night in a train car? If we had not put off our hotel reservations until the last minute, we would have loved to stay there.
While you are visiting the Choo Choo, you can also see the largest HO model train layout in the US or do some shopping. If you are into scrapbooking, there is a fun shop there called Little Lace Lady. The women who work there are super friendly and they have a lot of scrapbook supplies for local attractions. And there may or may not be a letterbox there 🙂
Other free things to do in Chattanooga include hiking on Lookout Mountain, visiting Chickamauga Battlefield, or going swimming at the Blue Hole.
Chattanooga Lookout Mountain Incline Railway
We ended our first day in Chattanooga with a trip on the Incline Railway. The Chattanooga Lookout Mountain Incline Railway is one of the world’s steepest passenger trains, traveling one mile up to the top. Your ticket includes a round trip.
Most people start at the station at the base of the mountain, but you can also board the train from the top station. Just be aware that there aren’t as many parking spots at the station on top of the mountain.
The two trains of the Incline Railway are connected by a cable. As one goes up, the other comes down. They pass in the middle, with only a couple of feet separating the two trains. The kids really enjoyed the part where the trains passed. If you have a child that enjoys trains, then you need to add the Incline Railway to your list of attractions to visit that are fun for kids in Chattanooga.
Once at the top of Lookout Mountain, you can get out and explore a bit. Trains depart every 15 minutes so you can take as long as you want to look around.
We climbed the stairs to the observation deck and took in the views of the city down below us. For a special treat, plan your visit to coincide with sunset! The view is just gorgeous.
Whether you are traveling with kids or it is an adults-only getaway, the Incline Railway is definitely one of the attractions near Chattanooga TN that you shouldn’t miss! Learn more about the Chattanooga Lookout Mountain Incline Railway at RideTheIncline.com
Fun for kids in Chattanooga – Ruby Falls
The next morning, we got up early and headed over to Lookout Mountain to visit Ruby Falls. At Ruby Falls, you can take a cave tour that leads you to a spectacular underground waterfall.
Along the half mile walk to the Chattanooga underground waterfall, the knowledgeable and friendly tour guide gave us a bit of the history of the area, and pointed out all the fun rock formations, like the Niagara Falls formation.
We loved viewing all the unusual cave formations along the hike back to the waterfall. The steak and potatoes formation was our favorite!
When you get to the waterfall, the main lights are turned off and the lights behind the waterfall change colors, creating some really beautiful photo opportunities.
Whether you are in Chattanooga for a few days or a whole week, you need to add Ruby Falls to your list of sites to see in Chattanooga TN. To learn more or to plan a visit to this beautiful Chattanooga underground waterfall, visit RubyFalls.com
Sites to see in Chattanooga TN – Point Park
The last attraction we visited in Chattanooga was Point Park, which is part of the National Park service. We always try to visit national parks whenever we are on vacation, so this Lookout Mountain national park was on our must-see list. We are trying to collect as many of those national park passport stamps as we can!
If you are a civil war history buff, then I highly recommend a visit if you are ever in the area. Point Park is part of the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, which includes several historical sites in both Tennessee and Georgia. Point Park is just a short walk from the top station of the Incline Railway.
The highlight of our visit to Point Park was getting to see a civil war cannon demonstration. I knew it was going to be a loud boom, but I didn’t expect that I would feel the reverberation with as far away as we were standing.
We also listened to a very interesting presentation by a park ranger who explained the role Chattanooga played in the Civil War. I never much cared for history in school, but now that I am an adult, I find it fascinating to visit historical places and learn how they shaped our country.
To learn more Point Park Lookout Mountain national park and the rest of the Civil War sites in the area, visit NPS.gov/chch/.
Camping near Chattanooga Tennessee
We usually stay at a KOA or a state park when we camp as we have found they tend to be the cleanest options. You have several choices for camping near Chattanooga Tennessee.
The closest KOA is the Lookout Mountain / Chattanooga West KOA in Trenton, Georgia. Just 15 minutes from downtown Chattanooga, this campground features a 56,000 gallon free form salt water pool, gemstone panning, frisbee golf, hiking trails, tether ball, and plenty of activities for the kids.
If you don’t mind driving a little bit further, the Chattanooga North / Cleveland KOA is about 21 miles from Chattanooga. Featuring a pool, a playground, horseshoes, a volleyball net, and giant yard games this KOA is also a great choice for camping near Chattanooga Tennessee.
If you like visiting caves, you might want to consider camping at Raccoon Mountain Caverns and Campground. Located just minutes from both downtown Chattanooga and Lookout Mountain, the Raccoon Mountain campground offers cave tours, panning for gemstones, and spectacular views.
Other things to do and see in Chattanooga TN
We only had 2 days in Chattanooga, as we were heading to the Smoky Mountains next to spend a couple of days hiking. However, there were definitely other things to do and see in Chattanooga TN that we would have loved to see if we had more time.
If we had one more day, we would have definitely visited the Tennessee Aquarium. Located on the banks of the Tennessee River, this aquarium spans two buildings and features both fresh water and salt water aquatic animals.
We have been there before, and it is an amazing place to visit. However since we have the Newport Aquarium about an hour from home, we decided to skip it on this trip.
Other things to see and do in Chattanooga TN are an art museum, a zoo, the Creative Discovery Museum for kids, and an Imax Theater. You could easily spend three or four days taking it all in if you had the time.
Recommended reading to learn about other attractions near Chattanooga TN
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There is definitely lots of things to do for family fun in Chattanooga TN. We had a great time during our stay there. So tell me… Have you ever visited Chattanooga? What was your favorite attraction?