You’ve probably heard about all of the outdoor activities Chattanooga has to offer – hiking, biking, fishing, and simply enjoying the beauty of the city’s natural surroundings. So, what’s a tourist to do when their time in the Scenic City is overshadowed by a rainy forecast?
Fortunately, Chattanooga has a surplus of indoor (and underground) destinations that can fill up your itinerary for the day – or even multiple days! When the skies open up, hop in the car and have some fun at one of the following 10 attractions.
Get face to fin with thousands of aquatic creatures at the Tennessee Aquarium, which consistently ranks among the top aquariums in the country. Since opening in 1992, the Tennessee Aquarium has been an anchor of Chattanooga’s vibrant downtown and a home to more than 12,000 animals, including sharks, otters, penguins, and the largest collection of freshwater turtles in North America. When you’re done exploring the River Journey and Ocean Journey buildings, grab your umbrella for the short walk to the Aquarium’s IMAX 3D Theater for even more rainy day fun.
If you’re traveling to Chattanooga for the scenery, you can still enjoy some stunning views at the Hunter Museum of American Art. Part of the quaint Bluff View Arts District, the Hunter houses a collection of American art from the 1700s until present day. With paintings, sculpture, mixed media, photography, and decorative arts all on display, as well as rotating exhibits, there’s always something interesting to see! Make sure to hit up all three buildings – the mansion, the 1970s-era east wing, and the 21st-century waterfront west wing – that collectively represent 100 years of architecture.
Looking to avoid the rain? Then head underground! It’s always dry – and a cool 60 degrees – at Ruby Falls, which is home to the tallest and deepest underground waterfall open to the public in the United States. At this iconic Chattanooga attraction, guests descend 260 feet via a glass-front elevator into the mountain, where a winding trail filled with ancient cave formations awaits. Plenty of photo opportunities are available at the thundering falls, which light up in a dazzling display you won’t soon forget.
High Point Climbing and Fitness
Bringing Chattanooga’s world-class rock climbing indoors is High Point Climbing and Fitness, which has two separate locations in the Scenic City to explore. The Broad Street location boasts 30,000 feet of climbing space including beginner-friendly auto-belay walls, a top-roping room, a lead-climbing pit, and two boulder areas, plus the Kids Zone for the gym’s youngest climbers. Day passes are available, and High Point also offers cross-training via fitness and yoga classes (if you’re into that sort of thing).
If you’re hoping to learn more about the history of whiskey in Chattanooga, you’re in luck. Southside’s Chattanooga Whiskey Experimental Distillery offers tours every day of the week beginning at noon. The one-hour tour covers the distillery’s origins, its craft production process, and its distinctiveness among other distilleries in the United States. At the end, guests get to sample the award-winning whiskey for themselves with a one-of-kind whiskey flight featuring the distillery’s latest offerings.
National Medal of Honor Heritage Center
One of Chattanooga’s newer attractions, the National Medal of Honor Heritage Center is a 19,000-square-foot facility dedicated to telling the stories of Medal of Honor recipients past and present. In fact, the country’s very first Medal of Honor was awarded right here in the Scenic City. Permanent exhibits span the Civil War to the War on Terror conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, with immersive experiences that bring recipients’ stories to life.
Got kids in tow? Downtown’s Creative Discovery Museum is sure to be a big hit. This award-winning museum aims to provide a safe space for learning and exploration – and a safe space from the rain, too. Some of the popular permanent exhibits include Tennessee RiverPlay (with water tables for making a splash), Performing Arts Gallery (where you can start your own family band), and Excavation Station (for acting out your paleontology dreams). There’s even Little Yellow House, a play space designed specifically for the museum’s youngest visitors!
Do some shopping with a side of history at Warehouse Row, a mixed-use development with roots tracing back all the way to the Civil War. Nowadays, Warehouse Row is one of the Southeast’s premier shopping destinations for everything from clothing and cosmetics to eyewear and home furnishings. The recent addition of Madewell has been a nice complement to other top national brands like Anthropologie, J. Crew, and Lululemon Athletica, and Chattanooga-based offerings like Embellish and Hemline are available as well. When you’re in need of a bite to eat, you won’t have to travel far; restaurants including Public House, Two Ten Jack, and Tupelo Honey Café are conveniently located on-site.
Naughty Cat Café
Did you know that Chattanooga is home to one of the largest cat cafés in the world? For all things furry and four-legged, head to Naughty Cat Café, where there are always at least 30 adoptable rescue cats ready to be loved on. In addition to the kitties, you’ll find posh furniture, art from around the world, jazz music, baked goods, and a large selection of drinks. A cozier spot on a rainy day simply doesn’t exist. An entry fee of $15 serves as a direct donation to the café’s cats, and it includes your choice of any nonalcoholic beverage.
For an afternoon steeped in nostalgia, you won’t find a better locale than the Classic Arcade Pinball Museum. Here, you can take advantage of approximately 50 machines – both pinball and classic arcade games – that appeal to players of all ages. Featured games include Frogger (1981), Pac-Man Plus (1982), and Mario Bros. (1983), as well as pinball favorites Dungeons and Dragons (1987), Twilight Zone (1993), The Addams Family (1992), and Star Trek: The Next Generation (1993). With admission to the museum comes unlimited free play with “come-and-go” wristbands – perfect for dipping in and out throughout the day as the weather changes!