If you are looking for things to do in Chattanooga Tennessee, then you have come to the right guide. Tennessee has many charming and cute cities, and Chattanooga has to be one of the best. A lively downtown and beautiful riverfront has visitors returning year after year. With this list, you’ll know all of the Chattanooga activities that make this city so loved.
When we say there is something for everyone here, we mean it. Visitors love the big open green spaces, nearby caves and hiking trails. Everyone loves swimming in pretty Tennessee waterfalls in one of the city’s nearby state parks. Art lovers will enjoy the city’s unique architecture as well as the local museums. Main Chattanooga attractions include local yummy treats too, like ice cream and whiskey!
Whether you want to see Ruby Falls, the Tennessee Aqarium, historic American Art, or the famous Chattanooga Choo Choo, Chattanooga has it all. We hope this list will help you craft the perfect Tennessee vacation. This is also one of the best places for Fall Foliage in Tennessee!
15 Best Things To Do In Chattanooga Tennessee You Shouldn’t Miss
Let’s start the list right by introducing Ruby Falls as one of the most famous Chattanooga Tennessee attractions. Accidently discovered by Leo Lambert in 1928, the falls were quickly named Ruby Falls in honor of Leo’s wife Ruby. Journey deep inside the caves of Lookout Mountain to see the thundering underground waterfall.
Take a tour to marvel at the tallest and deepest underground waterfall in the United States. Descend into Lookout Mountain’s cave inside a glass-front elevator lead by an informative guide. The tours are very easy for anyone to complete and take about one hour and tweny minutes to complete.
For catered experiences, choose from the standard Cave Walk Tour, the Gentle Walking Tour, or the Lantern Tour. We suggest taking the Lantern Tour because the cave and trail are illuminated only by hand-held lanterns!
Hunter Museum of American Art
Another one of the things to see in Chattanooga TN, is the Hunter Museum of American Art. The museum is home to many different amazing artists works. A few of the well-known artists that you will see are Hunter Thomas Cole, Mary Cassatt, and Andy Warhol.
The Museums collections showcase both history and creativity in their thought provoking art pieces. Works of art showcased at the Hunter include representations of the Hudson River School, 19th century genre paintings, early modernism and American Impressionism.
Not only art the art pieces beautiful, but the architecture of the Hunter is stunning too. The Hunter is housed in a classical early twentieth century mansion as well as a dramatic contemporary steel and glass building.
The Tennessee Riverpark is one of the most fun free things to do in Chattanooga that you won’t want to miss. Over 150 acres of open spaces, unique vistas, public art, and historical sites are wrapped up in this one TN gem.
Explore the famous Riverwalk along the Tennessee River Gorge. A 13-mile paved greenway bends around beautiful scenic views of the river beginning at the Chickamauga Dam and even passes through downtown Chattanooga. Addtionally, the Riverwalk is a great way to discover multiple parks perfect for relaxing and picnicing under trees.
Because the Riverwalk connects so many popular destinations, you can think of the Riverwalk as a one stop shop for a full day of Chattanooga exploration. Along the river you will have opportunities for boat launches, museums and riverfront dining.
Shopping at the Chattanooga Market is one of the coolest places to go in Chattanooga Tennesse. Named one of the ”Top 10 Public Markets in America”, the Market does not disappoint. Over 50 farms are featured here bringing the freshest local goods, crafts, and produce right to the heart of Chattanooga’s downtown.
The best part about a local market is discovering the flavors and arts of the city. Try Chattanooga cheeses, produce, and baked treats at the market and learn why they love the city. Discover the handmade arts and crafts such as jewlery, soaps, and scultpures that are filled with the nuances of Chattanooga lifestyle.
A visit to the market is another one of the free things to do in Chattanooga. Even if you don’t buy anything, you will still be able to see live music performances and partake in lively Chattanooga culture.
International Towing Museum
If you are looking for what to do in Chattanooga, visit the International Towing Museum. You are guarateed a one-of-a-kind experience as it is the only museum in the world for the Towing Industry. This unqiue museum was constructed in Chattanooga, TN because that is the birthplace where Ernest Holmes, Co. built the first wreckers back in the 1900’s.
The International Towing musuem features a collection of antique wreckers and equipment dating back more than a century. Not only will adults love this historic museum, but kids also love the interactive displays were they can sit inside an old wrecker. Displays also include related memorbillia and tools that range all the way back to the early days of the automobile. Such cool antique pieces will be a favorite for any historybuff.
Raccoon Mountain Caverns
Adventurers must go see the Raccoon Mountain Caverns when visiting Chattanooga. While there are not actual raccoons in the caverns, the caves are a local favorite outdoor space near Chattanooga. Over 5 miles of underground passageways will have you ooing and awwing over anicent rock formations.
Although most of the caves have small rock formation growth, they are some of the most active caverns in the South. Raccoon Mountain caverns offer easy Crystal Palace Walking Tours as well as Wild Cave Expedition Tours for the hardcore explorers. Along the way guides will explain cave formation and point out stalactities, stalagmites, and soda straws. You can see rare shield and helictite formations in the caverns. Perhaps you will discover anicent fossils in the walls and floors too!
One of best things to do near Chattanooga is a visit to the Cravens House. As the oldest living structure on Lookout Mountain, the house is a piece of living history. The picturesque view of the house overlooks the self-like ledge on Lookout Mountain.
The Cravens House was orginially constructed by pioneer Chattanooga industrialist, Robert Craven. You might know this place as mention from the Civil War, where the ”Battle Above the Clouds” occured in 1863. Though the originial house was destroyed during the aftermath of battle, Cravens rebuilt the house in 1866. Today, the house stands as a monument to show how the Civil War affected one man and his family.
A visit to the Tennessee Aquarium is one of the most fun things to do in Chattanooga. This non-profit aquarium showcases more than 10,000 animals with nearly 800 individual species. The aquarium is so massive that the exhibits are split into two unforgettable buildings. Discover the creatures that swim, fly, and crawl in both the River Journey and Ocean Journey buildings.
Explore River Journey’s informative and magical exhibits as you follow the path of a raindrop from the Appalachian Mountains to the Gulf of Mexico. Discover local and regional aquatic creatures such as adorable otters, 15 foot long Arapaima giant catfish, and even four eyed turtles. You can even touch a Sturgeon here if you are brave enough!
The Ocean Journey building includes Secret Reef, Boneless Beauties and Jellies, Penguin Rock and Butterfly Garden. Enjoy Macaroni Penguins hanging out and marvel at the bioluminescent Flashlight Fish. Learn about all of the toothy sharks and watch cute lazy lemurs with friends. It is so much fun to discover the wonders of the Tennessee Aquarium when you’re looking for the best things to do in Tennessee.
Walnut Street Bridge
One of the fun and free things to do in Chattanooga is walking on the Walnut Street Bridge. The iconic Walnut Street Bridge is actually one of the world’s longest pedestrian bridges. The massive structure connects beautiful downtown Chattanooga to the vibrant North Shore, giving an impressive entrance either way you go.
This colorful blue bridge is a crowd favorite activity for locals and tourists alike. Take a leisurely walk or jog to overlook the Tennessee River Gorge. The whole family will love stretching their legs and pups will too as the walkway is dog friendly. While you are at it, stop by Coolidge Park or Clumpies Ice Cream Co. for even more fun.
Chattanooga Choo Choo
One of the can’t-miss Chattanooga attractions is the Chattanooga Choo Choo. Restored by a group of investors in 1973, this unqiue vacation complex brings cool history to life in the downtown area.
The Chattanooga Choo Choo has it all. Visit the old Terminal Sation for good local eats and grab some good old fashion Tennessee whiskey from the distillery, or from one of the many bars. Soak in the sun with a walk out back in the Glenn Miller Garden, or stay for one of the Choo Choo’s comedy club shows. You can even catch live music shows here too.
The coolest part of the Chattanooga Choo Choo is the historic hotel. Stay in one of the unique Pullman Train Cars for an unforgettable experience. It is clear that the Choo Choo is one of the best things to do in Chattanooga.
Clumpies Ice Cream Co.
Carve out the schedule on your trip for some local handcrafted ice cream from a local favorite shop, Clumpies Ice Cream Co.. The very best things to do in Chattanooga for kids will include delicious ice cream. This place is included in this awesome list of fun because the flavors here do not disappoint. We don’t ever miss out on it, and you won’t want to either.
Taste the sweet flavors of TN at Clumpies. Opened by a third generation candy maker, Clumpies has been the reigning champ of ice cream in the area since 1999. They jam pack their flavors- and their cones- with an unbeatable rich and sweet creaminess known only to Chattanooga. Yes, there is typically a line here for ordering, but trust us, it is totally worth the wait. Visit any of their four locations in either the Northshore, St. Elmo, Southside, or the discover old fashioned Clumpies Truck driving around the streets.
If you are looking for free things to do in Chattanooga, visit Coolidge Park. Located on the Northshore’s waterfront, this beautiful park is the perfect place to spend the afternoon. Not only is the park conviently located within walking distance of Chattanooga’s central downtown area, but you also get an incredible view of the Tennessee River from here.
Named after a WWII Medal of Honor recipient, this small seven-acre park is a hub for concerts, festivals, and special events. The park features cool things like an interactive play fountain, a pavillion, and the Outdoor Chattanooga Center. Our favorite part about Coolidge Park is the awesome antique carousel. Built in 1894, the carousel brings an old-fashioned experience to life with 52 whimsical hand carved animals.
Cloudland State Park
Another one of our favorite things to do near Chattanooga is hiking at Cloudland State Park. Located just on the western edge of Lookout Mountain, Cloudland offers spectacular views and execptional hiking.
The park’s beauty comes easy to visitors. The main view is a short walk from the picnic tables and looks over Sitton’s Gulch. The vast canopy of trees below hide two waterfalls and many wading pools carved over time by Sitton Gulch Creek. Visitors can choose rim trail of their choice or take the winding staircases down to the waterfall trail.
The recreation scene at Cloudland includes many different activites. Popular sports in the park include disc golf, fishing, and horse back riding. Outdoor lovers will appreciate the options for rugged camping, staying overnight in a yurt, or family-sized rental cottages. If the adventurer in you still can’t get enough after a visit to Cloudland, check out the best things to do in the Smokey Mountains.
Southern Belle Riverboat
For things to do in downtown Chattanooga, a visit to the Southern Belle Riverboat is an absoulte must! Experience Chattanooga from the water with a relaxing ride among the Tennessee River. With impeccable views and delicious dinning, this may very well be the best way to see the city.
Join the crew and set off on a sunset cruise on the Riverboat. Grab a glass of wine and kick back as the picturesque Chattanoogan views come to you. Find a seat inside or sit on the open-air deck. Try out one of the cruises with family, friends, or as a special date spot. You will soon see why the Southern Belle Riverboat is part of our ultimate Tennesse bucket list.
High Point Climbing Gym
Last but not least, the High Point Climbing Gym is one of the best things to do in downtown Chattanooga. The gym is located right in the heart of downtown, towering 45 feet in the air, high above Broad Street. Climb stories high and catch a glimpse of the Tennessee River and the iconic Walnut Street Bridge.
With over 25,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor climbing, there is a path for everyone at High Point Climbing Gym. Try out over 100+ boulder problems or follow a friend’s route to the top for the most fun activities in Chattanooga. Don’t worry if you haven’t climbed before, there are instructional beginner classes for anyone who wants give it a try!
One stay in the city of Chattanooga Tennessee and you will be hooked. Emmerse yourself in the rich history at the Hunter Museum of Art, Cravens House and the Chattanooga Choo Choo. Walk the famous Riverwalk and Walnut Street bridge to delicious local Clumpies ice cream. Make the short drive to Lookout Mountain for cave exploration and Cloudland State park for a swim in a waterfall. Visit and see why Chattanooga has a reputation of having such lively neighborhoods, colorful art, and tastey treats.
Keep these amazing local gems in mind as you plan your next vacation to TN. The state has so many outdoor opportunities to emmerse yourself in nature. If you love Tennessee and are looking for even more fun, check out some of these other small towns in Tennessee to visit.