A stunning aquarium, a mix of family amusements, a historic carousel and a thriving arts district are all part of Chattanooga's charms - and we haven't even talked about the iconic attractions like Rock City and Ruby Falls. Most of the attractions are centered along the riverfront, while Rock City and Ruby Falls are a bit further afield. The city is full of interesting attractions, with the Tennessee Aquariumsimply being one of the best aquariums in the country, the Hunter Museum an unlikely gem and Rock City an enchanting must-do.
During peak seasons, avoid the crowds at the iconic attractions by visiting late in the day - some are open until sunset.
Swing by Sundays on the Southside - an open-air market that's a lively look at the city's arts and music scene.
This charming river city offers accommodations on the water and off, with most of the more unique hotels concentrated in the downtown area. Our top pick being the ultra-sleek, ultra-hip Chattanoogan, located on the city's gentrified Southside. The Delta Queen Riverboatis now a hotel, docked on the North Shore, and offers travelers a quaint riverboat experience. Downtown, not far from the Tennessee River, the Stone Fort Inn is a charming option, while the Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel gives train lovers a chance to stay in a converted train station.
The train car accommodations at the Choo Choo Hotel, and opt for the in-station rooms instead.
Look for accommodation and ticket packages at the Chattanoogan and other hotels, which combine popular festival tickets with overnight stays.
Chattanooga offers plenty of locally-owned restaurants among the seemingly overwhelming chain choices; downtown offers a variety of both. St. John's Meeting Place on the Southside is one of our favorites; it's the more casual brother of the to-die-for St. John's. Both promise gastronomic delights, and the Meeting Place is also kid-friendly. 212 Market is a longtime fave of locals, and The Boathouse is a perfect spot to dine al fresco on the river, where there's often crew racing on the weekends.
Wander the small eateries in the Bluff View Arts District - they're some of the best in town.
Be Sure to Sample:
The delectable Clumpies Ice Cream, handmade in micro-batches on the city's North Shore.
Chattanooga is definitely a family-friendly town, so nightlife here means not-so-many-late-night-spots. Downtown is where the majority of the most active nightspots are, centered around Market and Broad Street's. Big River Grille pours house-brewed micro beers and stays open until 2 am on weekend evenings, while Rhythm and Brews is a great venue for local and regional musicians. T-Bones is a sports bar/live music venue, with a homey neighborhood bar feel, and Alan Gold's on the North Shore is party central for the 20-something crowd.
While the city's Southside area is charming by day, it can be a bit sketchy at night. Stay in a group.
Where to Shop
Shopping in Chattanooga is a lot like choosing a Moon Pie - there's a flavor for everyone. Downtown, Warehouse Rowhas one of the best home decor stores in the state- Revival - and a smattering of local boutiques. The North Shore is a shopping neighborhood with a collection of funky shops and boutiques. Two huge malls - Hamilton Place and Northgate - are more suburban in nature and promise national chain favorites.
Best Local Souvenir:
A box of Moon Pies.