You may have heard of all the adult experiences Chattanooga has to offer, but where do you take the kids? Thankfully, the Scenic City provides many family and kid-friendly activities that children will be sure to remember for years to come! Here are just a few places that would be great to include on any kids’ itinerary.
The Creative Discovery Museum is the #1 must-do for kids. The different themed rooms, activities, and events will make any kids’ trip fun, exciting, and educational! Your kids will love the Tennessee RiverPlay where they can play and experiment in the water, the ArtSpace filled with fun arts and crafts, the Excavation Station where they can search for dinosaur bones, and other permanent exhibits. Whether you have an aspiring artist, scientist, or scholar, the Creative Discovery Museum has you covered through all of these hands-on experiences.
The Tennessee Aquarium is probably the first thing people think of when they think of places to go in Chattanooga, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be included on this list. With its Ocean Journey and River Journey buildings filled with animals, educational encounters, programs, and more, it’s no wonder the aquarium is ranked one of the top in the entire country. Kids will love getting to pet stingrays and sturgeons, and imagine the wonder on their faces as they enter the butterfly room! Throughout their visit, they’ll come face-to-face with more than 12,000 animals representing almost 800 species.
See Rock City! – as all the signs say. Their various rock formations, famous seven-states view, glowing Fairyland Caverns, and more offer many experiences and natural wonders to enjoy. Kids will love traversing through the ancient structures and seeing all that Rock City has to offer. Go this year and celebrate their 90th anniversary with them, and if the timing is right, you’ll hit one of their premier seasonal events like Rocktoberfest or Enchanted Garden of Lights.
At Ruby Falls, kids will enjoy journeying into the earth to see one of the tallest and deepest underground waterfalls in the nation. After taking the elevator 260 feet down, your little explorers will get to see ancient rock formations along the cave trail – although the thundering falls are sure to be the highlight of their visit! Ruby Falls also offers High Point ZIP Adventure, which has a 40-foot-tall climbing tower and different zip lines to choose from.
While Northshore’s Coolidge Park may not ordinarily be on your list, the antique carousel and fountains are certainly going to make any kid’s day! If you’re already downtown, walk across the Walnut Street Bridge – one of the world’s longest pedestrian bridges – to spend an afternoon at the park playing in the fountains, riding the carousel, and enjoying all the riverside has to offer.
What kid doesn’t want to ride on a big boat? With the Southern Belle Riverboat, you can bask in the city scenery on the open-air deck down the riverside on a 90-minute, narrated cruise along the Tennessee River. Add on lunch or dinner to this boat ride to make it an even better experience! This cruise adds a great stop to any fun-filled day.
Celebrate the Chattanooga Zoo’s 85th anniversary this year and bring the kids! They will love seeing the animals, feeding the giraffes, and much more. The zoo has a lot of custom options other than basic admission. Plan a WILD encounter, which includes animal interactions and behind-the-scenes access with one of their animal options, or a private, guided Zoo Tour for some fun facts and interesting information about the specific animals you are seeing.
As a 125+-year-old attraction, the Incline Railway is an oldie but goodie. Through its years of operation, the railway has experience catering to people of all ages. Whether you’re planning on going up or down the mountain, this one-mile ride is a great addition to any Chattanooga plan. Go see the Lookout Mountain sights at the top, spend time in St. Elmo exploring shops and attractions, or do both. Just make sure to include the railway as part of your transportation – you won’t regret it!
Chattanooga Ducks Boat Tour
Chattanooga Ducks is another great boat tour to add to the itinerary! This one is on an authentic WWII amphibious boat and includes interesting narration and sightseeing by land and the river. Start out on land learning fascinating history and visiting points of interest, then go on an adventure on the boat tour.
Raccoon Mountain Caverns & Campground
Delight in the outdoors and explore five-and-a-half miles of caverns at Raccoon Mountain Caverns & Campground. Whether you take a day trip to the caverns or spend the night there too, Raccoon Mountain has plenty of kid-friendly features to make your stay fun, from a playground and hiking trails to gem panning for treasures!
There’s nothing quite like seeing an IMAX feature. The larger-than-life screen is immersive not just to kids, but adults too! The theater’s current features include Avatar 3D, Sea Lions: Life By A Whisker 3D, and Wings Over Water 3D. If you’re considering adding this to your trip, then look into places like the Tennessee Aquarium that include an IMAX feature as a package deal.
As the only regularly scheduled, full-sized train ride in Tennessee, the Tennessee Valley Railroad is an experience kids are unlikely to forget. Appreciate the historical and educational museum before or after your ride through the beautiful scenery. If you’re going around a major holiday or special season, make sure to check out their specialty train rides like the Halloween Eerie Express that includes entrance into the Eerie Fun House. Around Christmas time, take the kids on a North Pole Limited train ride, which will make them feel like they’re on the Polar Express.
You can’t go wrong with visiting any of these attractions. Each one has something special to offer for kids and the whole family. You can easily spend a weekend getaway doing some of these, or get the most out of your family trip and stay for a week to do them all! No matter what you choose, it’ll be a hit with the kids, so don’t be afraid to bring them along.