Looking for a family vacation or a romantic getaway amid natural beauty and rich history? Head to Tennessee to discover the best things to do in Chattanooga. With its cultural scene, history, and restaurants, Chattanooga is one of the state’s biggest travel surprises.
Explore the top tourist attractions in Chattanooga to climb Lookout Mountain to see spectacular views. You’ll discover Rock City’s secrets and ride through time in a historic steam locomotive. Or dazzle at nature in Coolidge Park before passing over the famed Walnut Street Bridge.
Don’t want to miss all the best places to visit in Chattanooga, TN? Get ideas for what to do in Chattanooga with this complete guide for beginners.
Best places to visit in Chattanooga, TN
Love breathing in spectacular views? Lookout Mountain is what its name suggests: a stunning destination with breathtaking landscapes. The area is home to some of the top places to go in Chattanooga.
Hop onto the historic Lookout Mountain Incline Railway and feel the thrill of a ride on the steepest passenger railway in the world. Or descend 260 feet under the ground and admire Ruby Falls. During your cave adventure, you can admire the beauty of the raw nature, enjoy zip lines, or listen to the roar of the waterfalls.
Get to the top of the Lookout Mountain Tower to see a stunning panoramic view of the Tennessee River Valley. It’s a great spot to enjoy nature and its historic structure inspired by a medieval Irish castle.
Rock City Gardens
Rock City Gardens gives a fairy tale vibe. Pure nature mixed with panoramic views, massive rock formations, and tons of plant species make Rock City a hot spot in the Lookout Mountain area.
Traveling with kids or love fairy tales? Don’t miss the area’s most popular attractions: Mother Goose Village and Fairyland Caverns. Enter the natural caves to immerse yourself in a fantasy world and recall your favorite childhood stories. Just be aware: in the darkness, witches seem more real than usual!
The best thing? Rock City Gardens is just 10 minutes from downtown. Whether you love hiking in nature or just want to enjoy spectacular views without much effort, this spot is ideal.
Looking for a stunning view of the Tennessee River? Coolidge Park is the right choice. One of the coolest places to see in Chattanooga, this beautiful park has a lot to offer.
At Coolidge Park, you can experience unique art lessons by admiring works in various galleries, or take a ride on a one-century old carousel. You’ll also pass over Walnut Street Bridge, the largest pedestrian bridge in the world.
If you love rock climbing, check out one of the climbing spots to test yourself under the guidance of experienced instructors. If you get tired, cool down in one of the park’s water fountains.
Coolidge Park is a part of a 13-mile trail running along the Tennessee River.
Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum
The Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum transports you to another era in U.S. history. Whether you’re a steampunk freak, history teacher, or love immersive attractions, this museum is one of the top things to see in Chattanooga.
At Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum, you’ll learn more about the history of the railway and enjoy a ride in an old locomotive. A reconstructed rail line rides through the natural beauty of the Tennessee River.
If you’d love a romantic setup, you can order a special train ride with a fine dining experience. Riding the ancient train is also a perfect way to teach your kids a history lesson while enjoying a unique experience.
Beautiful views, immersive shows, and entertainment for kids are not the only things on offer here. The museum helps preserve the memory of the age of railroads. It showcases the great influence of American steamers on the development of the United States.
Raccoon Mountain Caverns and Campground
Looking for a quick escape from the city? Just 15 minutes from downtown, Raccoon Mountain Caverns and Campground is one of Chattanooga’s top outdoor destinations. The park is home to Tennessee’s most famous natural cave system and one of the top 10 caves in the USA.
Visiting the caves, you’ll explore over 5.5 miles of subterranean passageways. Most casual visitors choose the popular 45-minute Crystal Palace Tour. For a dash of adventure, though, you can also opt for one of their wild cave expeditions.
The caves are open daily, rain or shine, making it one of the best rainy-day activities in Chattanooga.
Want to bask more in the outdoors? Consider staying in a night at the Raccoon Mountain Campground. Located near the base of Raccoon Mountain, the RV park & campground offer tons of amenities for families. Go for a spin on its go-karts, explore the nearby old gem mine, or zigzag through one of the area’s many hiking trails.
Chattanooga has a lot of natural areas inhabited by wild animals, but if you’re not Bear Grylls, you might have a problem spotting them. Don’t worry! You can look closely at the wild animals in Chattanooga Zoo. As a part of Warner Park, the zoo creates an ideal harmony between local nature and foreign species.
Red pandas, snow leopards, and chimpanzees are some of the many animals that you can spot here. Chattanooga Zoo cares about education. If you have some extra time, be sure to take part in one of its many talks about wildlife preservation.
Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel
Staying in a unique hotel is a part of a perfect travel experience. A night at the Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel can satisfy even the most demanding travelers.
If you want to boost your Lookout Mountain Incline Railway experience, stay at this historic hotel. The Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel is a restored terminal station, but you can be sure that comfort is their priority.
Immerse yourself in history while experiencing its fine cuisine and enjoying an art installation. Have a good laugh participating in Comedy Catch or pick a perfect gift from the Chattanooga Jewelry Co.
Hunter Museum of American Art
Hunting for awesome views or great art? Stop in at the Hunter Museum of American Art. Climb an 80-foot bluff to admire the Tennessee River and panoramic view of Chattanooga.
Located in the Bluff View Art District, the museum collects some of the most important pieces of United States art. You can engage with the natural beauty depicted by Hudson River School artists. You’ll also immerse in American impressionism and enjoy modernist pieces.
The Hunter Museum of American Art occupies a stunning Revival mansion, built in 1904. Its classical style creates a perfect combination with the art enclosed in its walls and the nature surrounding it.
Looking for a natural spot with endless possibilities? Tennessee Riverpark is a Chattanooga sightseeing hotspot, especially during the summer season. You can enjoy awesome views with the Tennessee River taking center stage.
Love to be active? Hike 13 miles of trails that’ll lead you through the area’s most beautiful spots. You can also admire nature from the Tennessee River: Just rent a boat or canoe and go with the flow!
If you are an adventurer, try some geocaching games and get an extra thrill for your couples getaway or family holiday.
After an active day visiting Tennessee Riverpark, unwind in the Glenn Miller Gardens.
Chattanooga Whiskey Experimental Distillery
Sometimes history is missed so much that people want to bring it into the present. That’s the case with the Chattanooga Whiskey Experimental Distillery. Founded in 2011, the distillery has a mission to provide everyone from Chattanooga and the United States with fine whiskey.
In 1909, Tennessee was one of the first states to prohibit the production of whiskey. Nowadays, people can enjoy its taste in this atmospheric place.
You can pick a tour where you’ll learn about the process of distillation and the history of Tennessee’s whiskey. Or simply hit the bar at the Chattanooga Whiskey Experimental Distillery and order your favorite.
If whiskey’s not your thing, walk a few blocks southwest to check out the Chattanooga Brewing Co. Located across from Finley Stadium, the brewery is one of the best places to enjoy cold craft beer in the city.
Tennessee offers some of the richest freshwater fauna in the United States. After seeing all the wonders of the Tennessee River, head to Tennessee Aquarium. It’s the world’s largest freshwater aquarium. The attraction exhibits species such as stingrays, giant catfish, jellyfish, and even cute otters.
Located in two buildings, Tennessee Aquarium is one of the top Chattanooga tourist attractions. Listen to the calming sounds of the water and relax while admiring the magnificent creatures floating around you.
The Tennessee Aquarium is especially recommended for families. Kids can learn about the natural habitats of the species and which ones are in danger of extinction.
Creative Discovery Museum
Need some kid-friendly excitement? Head to the Creative Discovery Museum. Whether your little ones love art, are interested in space, or love to dig in the ground, there’s something here for them. For young families, it’s one of the top points of interest in Chattanooga.
At the Creative Discovery Museum, you can send the kids to an art lesson, do a science experiment with them, create a song, or search for a dinosaur bone.
Creative Discovery Museum is open for all kids, even those with special needs. If you travel with your family, you simply cannot miss out on this museum. It’s a great option for a rainy day when you won’t be able to explore the natural beauty of the Tennessee River.
Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park
Chattanooga is famed for its beautiful views, but the city is also filled with history. Visit Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park to immerse yourself in old times. The parks are two of the most important sites of the American Civil War when the future of the United States was decided.
You can visit the military parks yourself or with a guide who’ll show you the most important spots and bring history to life.
Be sure to not miss Missionary Ridge, Orchard Knob, Signal Point, Moccasin Bend, and Chickamauga Battlefield. Cannons and statues can bring to mind the hustle of the battles, yet the beautiful views from the top of Lookout Mountain give a sense of calmness.
Renaissance Park is a spot that locals are especially proud of. Dedicated to ecology and the history of Chattanooga, the park’s a great place for a walk and to learn more about this fascinating city. In the past, the area was polluted, but the authorities put a big effort into restoring its native animals and plants.
The 23 acres of wetlands at Renaissance Park are a great place for a refreshing jog or to explore the area. Bicycle lanes make it one of the top Chattanooga points of interest for families and active people. The city continues to invest money in developing this part of Chattanooga.
If you want to truly immerse in nature, Audubon Acres is a perfect place to do so. Located on 130 acres, it’s one of the oldest wildlife sanctuaries in the area. If you’re lucky, you can spot one of its many wild animals. The area is also rich in local flora.
Miles of hiking trails will satisfy your inner explorer, but Audubon Acres is more than just nature. You can learn a lot in the visitor’s center and admire some beauty in the Avian Jewels Egg Collection. You’ll also learn about its native inhabitants in the timeline museum.
Chattanooga National Cemetery
Chattanooga National Cemetery is somber, yet worth visiting. The rows of white tombstones create a surreal landscape. The cemetery’s history reaches back to 1863 when the first soldiers were buried here. Chattanooga National Cemetery is a silent witness of the hardship that many had to pass through to gain freedom.
You can see monumental masonry archways here that were once the entrance to one of the national cemeteries. The structure impresses with its 35-foot height. Inspired by Roman architecture, it features Doric columns and an iron gate with an inscription. To this day, Chattanooga National Cemetery continues to be the final resting place for many U.S. soldiers.
Looking for an amazing art and shopping experience? North Shore tops the list of where to go in Chattanooga. Located on the Tennessee River, this trendy neighborhood has it all.
Taste test various restaurants along Frazier Avenue for a genuine culinary experience. Take a coffee break in one of North Shore’s many cafes. Enjoy local art galleries and then chill out in a spa. After that, you can get a haircut and shop for clothes to add style to your Tennessee road trip.
All of this is just a stone’s throw away from Walnut Street Bridge and Coolidge Park. Whether you want to test local cuisine, get a unique gift, or enjoy a laid-back atmosphere, add North Shore to your Chattanooga bucket list.
Reflection Riding Arboretum & Nature Center
Reflection Riding Arboretum & Nature Center is a paradise for nature lovers. The 300-acre park is all about connecting with Mother Earth and all it has to offer. The founders want to preserve nature actively by educating people through its beauty. Educational programs are dedicated to children as well as adults.
At Reflection Riding Arboretum & Nature Center, you can spot many different species of plants and see red wolf pups. Admire its botanical heritage from the blue heron boardwalk.
Would you like to bring a piece of this natural heaven back to your home? You can purchase plants cultivated in the arboretum for a live souvenir.
Best places to stay in Chattanooga for sightseeing
For travelers, the best places to stay in Chattanooga fall within its city center, including the Southside Historic District and Riverfront. The downtown area is home to the city’s best hotels and many of the top things to see & do in Chattanooga.
Located in the city center, this comfortable hotel is a great central choice that doesn’t break the bank. Guests will love the stylish rooms and amenities, including an on-site Brazilian steakhouse and indoor pool.
Set in the heart of the city, this mid-range boutique hotel offers spacious rooms fitted with elegant decor. On-site amenities include a classy steakhouse, billiards bars, and a beautiful indoor pool area.
One of the city’s top luxury hotels, The Westin delivers ample modern rooms with dramatic downtown views. Cool down from the hot Tennessee sun in the outdoor heated pool or grab a nightcap at the on-site tapas bar.