We all know the holidays are a magical time of year, but we also know that it can be difficult to make everyone happy. What can you do with a family of all different ages, with all different kinds of interests? For our brood, the answer is a weekend trip to Lookout Mountain. This cluster of fun and adventurous attractions offers something for every member of our family, and at the holidays, a trip like this is the perfect way to bring out the Christmas spirit in all of us. As my own special kind of gift, I want to share our family itinerary—a magical tour of Lookout Mountain for every age!
Stop #1: The Incline Railway
The Incline Railway at the holidays is truly a beautiful sight to behold. There’s still so much color in the trees all along “America’s Most Amazing Mile,” but the winter air makes for a crystal clear, enchanting view of the Tennessee Valley. The kids in our family love the 72.7% grade that feels like traveling straight up—it’s an adventure they can see all around them in through trolley car’s panoramic glass windows. Down below, at the St. Elmo station, my mom and I like to shop until we drop for those last minute stocking stuffers in the town’s unique collection of shops, while the dads and granddads of our group take tasting tours of the two local microbreweries nearby. Of course, there’s always the hand-dipped ice cream at Clumpies to bring us back together—no one can turn their nose up at that.
Stop #2: Christmas Underground at Ruby Falls
Ruby Falls is spectacular at any time of year, but come December, the caves transform into magical, icy pathways connecting Chattanooga to the North Pole. We were so impressed by how fully immersive this holiday experience was for our kids, and, well, all of us! Even the older kids couldn’t resist the charm and all-together coolness of the underground lights and scenes, like the Northern Lights and Sugar Plum Fairy Village. The natural beauty of the cave made the search for “Joystone” (a magical gem that spreads holiday cheer) and visit with Santa a wonderful adventure for the whole family! Plus, the cozy Cavern Castle above was the perfect holiday lodge. With snacks like freshly glazed and roasted Bavarian nuts and a beautiful display of holiday décor, gifts, and souvenirs, it is a great place to stock up on Christmas ornaments, and presents!
Stop #3: Enchanted Garden of Lights at Rock City
When the sun sets below the hills and nighttime spreads over the valley, Rock City’s Enchanted Garden of Lights springs to life. There are so many ways to enjoy the four holiday-themed realms of the park—whether you have a young one eager to sit on Santa’s lap and decorate gingerbread cookies with Mrs. Claus, or you want to relax with a cup of gourmet hot chocolate and listen as a local choir sings holiday classics. Leave yourself plenty of time to explore; this is a dazzling journey for the young and the young at heart alike.
While these stops are all so close to each other that you could hit them all in a day, we love to spread our trip out over a weekend so we can get the most excitement with the least stress. There are several really wonderful places to stay on Lookout Mountain; depending on how many of us we can get together, we’ll stay at one of our favorite B&Bs, the Chanticleer Inn, Sky Harbor, or rent a cozy cabin for the whole crew. Either way, you can check something off everyone’s wish list with a holiday excursion to this magical mountain getaway.