I recently had the pleasure of being invited on a press trip to Chattanooga so that I could share with you the spring break attractions in Chattanooga, TN. I have to tell you that my children and I had a blast.
Since we live in Nashville, Chattanooga has been on our radar for day trips for awhile. We have made several day trips to Chattanooga but we had no idea just how much there was to see and do in Chattanooga until we went on this trip and had the chance to experience a Spring Break Sneak Peak into one of the most kid-focused cities around.
Chattanooga Spring Break Safari:
Chattanooga offers a Spring Break Safari, where children enjoy fun-focused learning experiences. They receive a passport type booklet with Spring Break Safari Adventures such as visiting the Bluff View Art District, Chattanooga Choo Choo, Chattanooga Zoo, Creative Discovery Museum, Downtown Chattanooga, and many more fun locations. There are scavenger hunt questions at each location and kids can receive a prize at each location! I love this idea of added fun in already family friendly city. The Spring Break Safari Dates are MARCH 14-APRIL 19, 2015, but the attractions in Chattanooga are amazing all year round.
Attractions in Chattanooga, TN
All of these Chattanooga attractions are a part of the Spring Break Safari 2015 so they will have everything I mention year round and each location will add something special for the Scavenger Hunts.
Rock City Gardens
There are signs saying “SEE ROCK CITY” on bird houses all over on the drive down to Chattanooga so my kids were excited to visit. Rock City Gardens, opened in 1932 and it is comprised of 13 acres located on top of Lookout Mountain.
Rock City features pathways through massive ancient rock formations, gardens with over 400 native plant species, a panoramic views of “7 States”, and the gnome inhabited Fairyland Caverns. They also have really fun seasonal events planned throughout the year with actors and special kids activities- for Spring Break it will be a Sword Fighter event.
Of all the attractions in Chattanooga, Ruby Falls, was my children’s favorite. It was just so unlike anything they had ever seen before, they were fascinated. I was too! Located deep within the caverns of Lookout Mountain, Ruby Falls is an underground waterfall among the highest in the U.S.
You take an elevator deep down under the mountain to see where Leo Lambert discovered the caverns in 1928. He crawled through the beginning portion of the trip but luckily they have expanded the passage to make comfortable walk ways past various impressive cave formations. The trip would be worth it even without the waterfall but it is really a crowning jewel and when the cavern opens up and the waterfall is lit up, it is amazing to realize they accidentally found this treasure. Your kids just may want to become speleologist after this!
Ruby Falls also features the Zipstream Aerial Adventure course with 30 high-wire challenge elements including ladders, nets, walkways, bridges, tunnels, zip-lines and more and a whole kids portion.
Chattanooga Zoo at Warner Park
I have to tell you that even though the Chattanooga Zoo at Warner Parklooks small from the outside, it is totally worth the trip. I absolutely loved it because the quality of the exhibits really sets it apart from many other zoos. They exhibits are very natural for the animals but they also have amazing vantage points for the visitors to be able to get great views from many sides and heights.
I felt like all of the animals were so unusually right up close and not hiding in back corners of the exhibits. I got an amazing view of the jaguar, the cougar, and so many other animals. My kids loved it almost as much as I did! Located just two miles from downtown, the newly renovated Zoo features animals from Latin America, Asia, North America and Africa including red pandas, snow leopards, spider monkeys and more. There were also fun extras like camel rides, and an endangered species carousel.
I was already very familiar with the Tennessee Aquarium, because we go there every time we visit Chattanooga. It is a really fabulous aquarium and it is like two in one because there is a whole fresh water building and saltwater building. You can peak beneath the waves with a saltwater exploration of the unique coral reef systems in the Gulf of Mexico including a replica of the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary featuring sharks, barracuda, stingrays and much more. You can have up-close animal encounters at the “Ranger Rick’s Backyard Safari” exhibit. The “River Giants” exhibit with fish that are only found in remote lakes and rivers around the world will blow your mind- it is like watching “River Monsters” up close and personal. My kids particularly enjoy the butterfly garden exhibit and the area where they can reach into the tank and touch fish, rays, and small sharks.
High Point Climbing and Fitness
The High Point Climbing and Fitness facility is pretty unique in that it is a huge rock climbing facility in a downtown area so it is totally convenient to have a climbing adventure and then do several other attractions all in the same area. It is located just one block from the Riverfront. This premier facility includes 28,000 sq ft of climbing space indoors and outdoors with access to many auto belays, multiple bouldering rooms, sport climbing, top roping, a speed-climbing wall, and a kids zone. There is also an amazing exterior climbing wall where you can climb and get a view of downtown Chattanooga at the same time!
Hunter Museum of American Art
The Hunter Museum of American Art caught me by surprise. Built on a ninety-foot limestone bluff overlooking the Tennessee River, it is comprised of three buildings built in distinctly different architectural styles- 1905 classical revival mansion (just GORGEOUS), a low-slung 1970s building, and a 2005 contemporary structure (beautiful and modern). I enjoyed looking at the buildings themselves but inside is also an amazing American Art collection from the colonial period to the present day. It covers a wide variety of media including painting, sculpture, contemporary studio glass, and crafts, and it had an a great photography exhibit as well from New York Times magazine.
Bluff View Art District
A visit to the Bluff View Art District is picturesque and pleasing to the palette. The district is made up of 2 restaurants, 1 coffee shop, 1 Bed and Breakfast, a gallery, 2 museums, bocce court and an outdoor sculpture garden. The Bluff makes their own bread, pastries, pasta and chocolates, roasts their own coffee, and grows herbs in their own garden. I had the pleasure of having a delicious cappuccino at Rembrandt’s Coffee House and my kids shared what looked like an amazing chocolate pastry treat, they didn’t share so I wouldn’t know. It was gone before I could ask for a sample! The outdoor sculpture garden was cute and my kids had a blast touching all the art.
Creative Discovery Museum For Kids
The Creative Discovery Museum for children is consistently ranked among the top 20 children’s museums in the U.S. and it is easy to see why. I have brought my kids before and they can spend an entire day there and be busy the entire time checking out new things. The Creative Discovery Museum has a little bit of everything and offers kids exposure to science, art, and music in fun, interactive ways. My kids discovered two new things we didn’t get see before, the roof top exhibit with huge machines that kids can operate and learn principles of physics and a Human Plus: Real Lives + Real Engineering exhibit that exposure kids to how technology can restore and extend human abilities.
Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum
Take a ride aboard moving museums- the Tennessee Valley Railroad restored vintage trains. My kids loved getting to see and ride a train. Complete with a conductor and an talking tour, trips begin at the Grand Junction Station and take passengers along one of the original railroad lines in Chattanooga, crossing four bridges and passing through the pre-Civil War Missionary Ridge Tunnel, which was completed in 1858. We got see them spin the engine around 180 degrees on a turntable and have a look into their repair shop. It was really an enjoyable, different experience.
Chattanooga Choo Choo
Everybody had heard of the Chattanooga Choo Choo but if you are like me, you may not have know what to expect. The Chattanooga Choo Choo grounds includes the Terminal Station which is over 100 years old and beautiful piece of history. It was very hard to capture it in a photo because the dome is so expansive but it is a regal entry way and reminds you of special train travel used to be. There are also formal rose gardens, 2 restaurants, sleeper train cars, Track 29 music venue and retail shops. We got to take a peek at a hotel room train car and my kids just loved it and wanted to stay.
As you can tell there are plenty of attractions in Chattanooga and the only problem will be fitting it all in on your visit! For more information on Chattanooga, and help planning a trip to Chattanooga, visit chattanoogafun.com
There are many Chattanooga restaurant options. Here are the ones, I had the pleasure of trying while on my visit.
Located on downtown riverfront right near the aquarium, it is locally owned and offers a great view of the river. They use locally grown/made products. I tried the french toast and hash browns. My kids tried the blueberry pancakes and bacon. Everyone was happy with the meal and the only thing I regretted was being too full to try their moonpie cheesecake!
This upscale burger & bourbon bar is big on using local ingredients and making everything in house. They have plenty of southern flare foods like pimiento cheese dip fried bologna sliders. My favorite part was the delicious mint chocolate chip ice cream milk shake!
Located in the Bluff View Arts District in the Carriage House of a Victorian Mansion, Tony’s Pasta Shop & Trattoria features classic Italian cuisine in a casual atmosphere. I loved their homemade hand-cut pasta, fresh breads, and fresh sauces and salads made with herbs and tomatoes from their own gardens. They offer traditional Italian but I chose to try their Low Country pasta with pepper linguine, cream sauce, and crawfish. Yum. My kids tried the fried ravioli and fresh caprese salad and since they ate every bite, I assume they liked it!
The Blue Water Grille was right across from Highpoint climbing and I absolutely recommend it. I loved the atmosphere, upscale and a bit fancy but accessible to those with kids. Everyone seemed very happy with their selection and the service was really attentive and friendly. I had a Spinach Salad with Hazelnut Crusted Goat Cheese- superb and the Coconut Shrimp which were cooked perfectly though the sauce was more tangy than I had expected. I would certainly like to go back and try some more of their menu options!
Hotels Chattanooga, TN
I saw lots of hotels in lots of great locations in Chattangooga. I can only speak from experience about the SpringHill Suites by Marriott Chattanooga Downtown/Cameron Harbor since that is where I stayed. It is located on Riverfront Parkway so it very close to the aquarium and you get a great river view. It had a nice big work space and living space with a couch and fridge and microwave. There was a pretty outdoor area where you could hang out by the fire pit on the river. It is a bit far to walk to everything (doable but not with a bunch of kids) but they do have a bike share program location right in front of the hotel if you want to enjoy a bike ride to the close by attractions.
You can share your photos or explore more photos of attractions in Chattanooga by checking out the hashtags: #SpringBreakCHA #SpringBreakSafariCHA #AdventuresinCHA and the handle @chattanoogafun
So what Chattanooga attractions do you want to see most? Do you think you will take a spring break safari trip and let your kids be Rock Climbers who scale boulders or Speleologist who explore caverns? What is your idea of the ultimate family adventure?