Just a couple of hours from Atlanta, Chattanooga is ideal for an easy, one-tank road trip. There’s good reason the Scenic City is the only city to be twice named by Outdoor Magazine as the Best Town Ever.
Deciding what to do in the Scenic City is a snap with this insider’s guide for fun things to do in Chattanooga highlighting the city’s natural beauty and charm – including all-time favorites and off-the-grid gems.
Take a Scenic Stroll
Nature lovers find their bliss with scenic views along the 13-mile Riverwalk on the banks of the Tennessee River. This paved pedestrian and bike path has many entry points and connects parks, fishing piers, marshes, and wildlife observation areas.
Metal sculptures and embedded fish tiles mark mile and half-mile distances on the path. If a hike in the mountains is more your speed, check out one of the pristine trails close to downtown Chattanooga on Lookout Mountain or Signal Mountain. There truly is a trail in Chattanooga for every ability.
Picnic Above the Clouds
In a town with loads of options for an al fresco picnic, only one location tops the list. Picnic perfection is found at Point Park on Lookout Mountain under a canopy of giant oak trees on lush grass surrounded by incredible beauty and history.
This dreamy spot is a world apart but only a few minutes from downtown Chattanooga. Thanks to the mountain elevation, the site of the Civil War’s “Battle Above the Clouds” has cooler summer temperatures that will make you want to linger and savor the moment.
The park is part of the National Park Service and is open year-round from 9 am – 5:00 pm. Next to Point Park is the Battles for Chattanooga museum featuring a multimedia 3-D projection map presentation.
Visually experience Chattanooga’s Battle Above the Clouds and Sherman’s assault on Missionary Ridge before his historic March to the Sea. The museum and bookstore also display an excellent relic and weapon collection, as well as notable works about the Civil War.
Ride the Incline Railway
Take the scenic path less traveled on a funicular railway system in a trolley-style car that climbs Lookout Mountain, going straight up at a 72.7% grade. The Incline Railway, built in 1895, originally brought locals up and down the mountain.
In summertime, the windows of the trolley are open for a breezy mile-long trip and in winter, the trolley is a warm and cozy for the scenic trek.
Catch the Incline Railway at the top of Lookout Mountain or at the St. Elmo station at the base of the mountain. Only a few funicular railways remain in the United States, making this a journey few people have the chance to experience.
Spend the Night in a Treehouse or Tiny House
Remember your childhood wish to have a secret hideout? This is it! Make memories in a one of a kind charming mountain treehouse or tiny house. Live a Little Chatt and Tree Top Hideaways combine rustic, refined Southern luxury with whimsy.
The views can be summed up with one word, WOW! Bring graham crackers, marshmallows and chocolate for s’mores because a night around the fire pit under the stars is not complete without some gooey goodness.
Explore Ruby Falls
Tennessee has over 10,000 known caves, the most of any state. One of the best caves in Tennessee is hidden deep within Lookout Mountain, just a few minutes from downtown Chattanooga. Ruby Falls is home to the tallest underground waterfall open to the public in the United States.
Three types of guided walking tours to the waterfall are offered, each begins with a 26-story descent by glass-front elevator into the cavern.
Ruby Falls is consistently named a must-see cave in the United States and one of the best waterfalls in the world. Check out the swoon-worthy views of the Cumberland Plateau and Tennessee River from the top of Lookout Mountain Tower and Blue Heron Overlook.
Tours tend to fill quickly during peak seasons, be sure to buy your tickets online in advance for best availability.
Take a Spin on a 125-Year-Old Carousel
The restored 1894 carousel at Coolidge Park makes choosing where you want to settle in for your ride a tough choice! 52 hand-carved animals and gold-leaf benches on the indoor carousel are an Instagrammer’s dream and a visual treat for all ages.
If you’re visiting with younger kids in the summer months, make a stop at the interactive water fountains in the park to cool off.
Shop Local Craftsman and Farmers
Talent runs deep in Chattanooga and is equal to the city’s passion for locally produced food and goods. The Chattanooga Market, open Sundays, April – December, is THE place to shop for handmade goods, artisan foods, and produce from more than 130 local craftsman, artists, and farmers.
It is the region’s largest producer-only marketplace and has been named one of the Top Ten Best Public Markets in America by Frommers. Food trucks and live music add to the fun of your visit to this vibrant market located in an open-air downtown pavilion.
See Rock City
Known for its legendary giant rock formations, Swing-A-Long Bridge, Mother Goose Village and world-famous seven states view, Rock City Gardens has been welcoming guests since May 21, 1932.
The attraction features a full annual festival and event calendar, with Summer Music Weekends beginning Memorial Day weekend.
Experience the Birds of Prey Shows every Friday-Sunday (and holidays) this summer, along with entertaining live music. Have some refreshing lemonade or grab some coffee at the newly renovated Starbucks.
Make sure to allow time to try some new menu items at Café 7 while enjoying the breathtaking views (there’s even a new pet menu)! Don’t pass up an opportunity to see Rock City!
Cheer on the Chattanooga Lookouts
A night out at a Minor League Baseball game is just good fun at AT&T Field in downtown Chattanooga! The Chattanooga Lookouts, named after Lookout Mountain, have a long-storied history in the Scenic City going back to 1885.
Besides watching the Cincinnati Reds affiliated team play, Louie Lookout, the team’s mascot keeps crowds amused along with theme nights, wacky spectator contests between inning, giveaways, and frequent post-game fireworks. Unlike its major league big brother, tickets and snacks are a bargain.
Even the most inexpensive general admission seats are close to the field where up-and-coming players vie for a win. Besides great memories, you’ll probably leave with a freebie promotional souvenir; all for less than the cost of a movie ticket.
Tour a Private Collection of Vintage Hot Rods, Cars, and Motorcycles
Tucked away downtown is a destination well-known by vintage motor purists around the world. A stop at Coker Tire Car Museum inside Honest Charley Speed Shop is a must-do in Chattanooga for vintage vehicle and nostalgia enthusiasts.
The private collection on exhibition is the result of a lifetime of effort and serendipitous discoveries. You’ll find the museum packed with an eclectic mix of vintage and antique American and European motorcycles, cars, trucks, hot rods, bicycles, memorabilia, neon and even a couple of airplanes.
Honest Charley Speed Shop is an active restoration garage and believed to be the oldest established hot rod shop in the nation. It is affiliated with Coker Tire Group, the only manufacturer of wheel parts and tires for classic and vintage cars. Call the shop to double check museum hours; you might even get lucky enough to join an expert-led, guided tour. 423-326-0505