Parks & Attractions

Does just the term "tourist attraction". cause feelings of anxiety? While there certainly are some attractions that you are better off driving on by, there are plenty of good ones too. Our Chattanooga 10Best list can help you sort the worthwhile from the worthless, ensuring only good memories are created this trip.

10 Chattanooga Zoo
This zoo had a modest start in 1937 when two rhesus monkeys were displayed. Today, over 140 animals call the zoo home. Represented are 4 species of primates, 7 species of reptiles, and 14 species of birds. What does this mean for a visitor? Jaguars and iguanas and monkeys — oh my! Favorite exhibits include a petting zoo with barnyard animals and long-time resident Hank the Chimpanzee. (423-697-1322)

9 Coolidge Park
What was once an abandoned shipping yard has been transformed into a beautiful 7-acre oasis in downtown Chattanooga. Take a ride on the vintage carousel — rescued after years of storage in a warehouse and revitalized by students who trained with well-known wood sculptor Bud Ellis — or simply enjoy a picnic on the grassy slopes. From April through October, a fountain cools down the kiddies and their folks, and the pavilion frequently hosts concerts. (423-757-2143)

8 Raccoon Mountain Caverns
Cameras ARE allowed in the southeast's busiest cavern. Choose from a variety of tours ranging in length from one hour to overnight. Visitors will see an incredible array of natural bridges, fossils, and the smooth passages of the Crystal Palace Room. Most tours do require some climbing and scooting, so be sure to inquire what is involved before you sign up. Admission fees vary for each additional challenge or length of time in the cave. Reservations are needed for most tours that take you deeper into the cave along with a group. (423-821-2283, 800-823-2267)

7 Tennessee Aquarium
The world's largest freshwater aquarium is home to more than 9,000 creatures. The museum takes visitors on a tour of the Tennessee River ecosystem, from its genesis high in Appalachia to its mouth in the Mississippi Delta. Along the way you'll view alligators, ducks, frogs, eels, snakes, and otters, to name a few. There is also a lake sturgeon touch-pool. The tour through the aquarium is self-guided, but guides are located at every exhibit to answer questions. (423-265-0698, 800-262-0695)

6 Tennessee Valley Railroad
Pretend you are riding the famous Chattanooga Choo Choo during your excursion on a vintage train. Trips vary in length from one hour to all day. Both steam and diesel locomotives are used, and a movie at the station house explains the history and significance of both types of trains. A gift shop sells souvenirs and a dining room serves snacks. (423-894-8028, 800-397-5544)

5 Chattanooga Choo Choo
The original Chattanooga Choo Choo made its first run from Cincinnati in 1880, but it wasn't until Glenn Miller sang about it that it became a nationwide novelty. Today you can still view an actual wood-burning train engine on display in the terminal station, which is now a 24-acre vacation complex. Several restaurants, shops, and a hotel make their home in this downtown attraction. Chattanooga's downtown CARTA tram isn't as glamorous a way to travel, but there is a stop right outside the terminal — and it's free. (423-266-5000, 800-872-2529)

4 Chattanooga Nature Center
This wildlife sanctuary, established in 1979, offers ample opportunity for bird watching, canoeing, hiking, and bicycling. Stroll the 1400-foot boardwalk that winds over wetlands and lowland forest, or visit the George S. Bryan Tree House, which was built in a hundred-year-old oak tree. Explore the herb garden, the "scent garden," or the "edible" garden to learn about indigenous plants in their many forms. (423-821-1160)

3 Rock City
Pack your walking shoes if you want to See Rock City! A 4100-foot trail meanders among natural sandstone formations and passes a 90-foot waterfall. Not for the faint of heart, the 180-foot suspension bridge lets visitors get a bird's eye view of Chattanooga Valley. On a clear day, seven states (Georgia, Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Kentucky and of course, Tennessee) can be seen from the vantage at Lover's Leap. A gift shop and several snack bars are located along the trail, and there is a Mother Goose Village for the little ones. (706-820-2531, 800-854-0675)

2 Ruby Falls
The world's highest underground waterfall is located in Chattanooga, 1120 feet under Lookout Mountain. Visitors take an elevator down into the cavern and then follow a guide who points out formations such as the Texas-sized potato chip. The walk culminates in a lighted view of the 145-foot falls, named "Ruby" after the sweetheart of the man who found the underground wonder. (423-821-2544)

1 Tennessee Riverpark
This 22-acre park stretches downtown along the Tennessee River. Joggers and walkers are plentiful, and a huge playground is popular with the little ones. Fish from any of five piers or launch your boat and fish on the river. Covered picnic areas make this a year-round destination regardless of the weather.

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Maps and Directions

Chattanooga Zoo 10Best List Arrow
Type: Attractions
Neighborhood: WARNER PARK
Coolidge Park 10Best List Arrow
Type: Outdoor Activities, Parks, Sightseeing
Neighborhood: Downtown
Raccoon Mountain Caverns 10Best List Arrow
Type: Attractions, Tours and Excursions
Neighborhood: Lookout Mountain
Tennessee Aquarium 10Best List Arrow
Type: Attractions
Neighborhood: Downtown
Tennessee Valley Railroad 10Best List Arrow
Type: Attractions, Tours and Excursions
Neighborhood: OUTSIDE TOWN
Chattanooga Choo Choo 10Best List Arrow
Type: Attractions
Neighborhood: Downtown
Chattanooga Nature Center 10Best List Arrow
Type: Attractions, Parks, Reserves
Neighborhood: Lookout Mountain
Rock City 10Best List Arrow
Type: Attractions, Outdoor Activities, Parks
Neighborhood: Lookout Mountain
Ruby Falls 10Best List Arrow
Type: Attractions
Neighborhood: Lookout Mountain
Tennessee Riverpark 10Best List Arrow
Type: Outdoor Activities, Parks, Sightseeing
Neighborhood: Downtown
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