Things to Do in Chattanooga with Kids

4:39 PM

With its art  laden streets, quirky downtown shops and free electric shuttle transportation, you are not likely to run out of things to do in Chattanooga. However, when bringing the kids along, things become a bit more complicated. That antique shop with its shelves lined with breakables no longer seems like an ideal stop. Don't worry, Chattanooga, TN. is filled with attractions and stops that will keep the kids engaged and maybe even teach them a little too. Check out my list of things to do in Chattanooga with kids!

1. Tennessee Aquarium

Photos from the Tennessee Aquarium website. 

Dominating the downtown riverfront skyline, the Tennessee Aquarium has played a major role in helping to revitalize downtown Chattanooga since its opening in 1992. Originally the Tennessee Aquarium featured River journey, a unique glimpse at freshwater creatures from the Southeast and around the world. Visitors can experience two living forests under glass and experience animals like prehistoric sturgeon and American alligators.

More recently, the Ocean Journey part of the aquarium was opened in 2005, and features such creatures as 10-foot sharks, sting rays and penguins. Although we were not able to explore the Tennessee Aquarium on this trip to Chattanooga, it is a renowned aquarium and well worth the price of $24.95 for adults and $14.95 for children ages 3-12.

2. Ruby Falls

If you've been following our camping trip at all, you know that we had already visited two other caverns, and Ruby Falls made the third. While they were all unique in their own ways, I think Ruby Falls was my personal favorite.While it is very commercialized now, there is still natural beauty and wonder to behold once you get underground.

The history behind Ruby Falls is a lot of fun as well. In 1905, a railroad company collapsed the natural entrance to the original Lookout Mountain Cave while constructing a tunnel through the mountain. In 1923 Leo Lambert along with a group of investors moved forward with a project to clear the natural opening of that cave and open it back to the public. However, in 1928, a worker in the tunnels felt a cold gust of air rise up at the 260 foot level. Leo Lambert and a small crew went through the opening that was 18 inches high an 5 foot wide, exploring for 17 hours. Their discovery? Ruby Falls and the many various cave formations that can be seen along the almost mile long path leading to the falls.

 Here you can see how tall the original passage that Leo Lambert explored for 17 hours was. 

All exploration nowadays is on a guided tour, that included plenty of humor and some historical facts as well. The pinnacle of that tour is the 7 minutes you get to spend glimpsing the natural wonder of the falls. Ruby Falls, named after Leo Lambert's wife is one of the world's largest underground waterfalls, and a real living wonder you must see! Tickets for the guided tours are $17.95 for an adult and $9.95 for children 3-12. There are also combo tickets available that include Rock City and the Incline Railroad too.

3. Chattanooga Zoo

Ignore the pouty one in the front LOL. 

Not as well known as some of the other attractions in the area, The Chattanooga Zoo was only a few miles away from our hotel in downtown and is well worth a visit, especially if you have an animal lover in the family. The Chattanooga Zoo's roots can be traced back to 1900 when Colonel F.G. Oxley donated $500 to the city for the purpose of establishing a zoo. Throughout the years it has had its ups and downs, much like the city of Chattanooga, but the zoo began to make its comeback in the 1980's and today has a beautiful collection of animals on exhibit, from American favorites like prarie dogs and peacocks to exotic imports like the adorable red panda.

The zoo is divided into six distinct sections, featuring different animals from each of those locations, such as the Gombe Forest, Himalayan Passage and the Warner Park Ranch. One of our favorite sections was the Deserts and Forests of the Worlds part of the zoo. It was really fun for the boys to be able to go through and recognize many of the animals that we saw on our adventures across the Southwest. My personal favorite was the sloth. I spent at least 10 minutes watching him and waiting for him to move. I was eventually rewarded with a great shot of him taking a bite of his lunch.

The Chattanooga Zoo is not only sure to be a favorite attraction for kids, but it comes at a great value as well. Tickets are only $8.95 for adults and $5.95 for children ages 3-12.

4. Free Entertainment

One of the best things to do in Chattanooga with kids is to explore the many different opportunities that they have for absolutely free entertainment in the downtown area. Just walking the streets of Chattanooga can bring entertainment in itself. As I mentioned earlier, the streets are literally lined with different types of art. From classic sculptures to abstract arrangements of metal, even children can appreciate wandering through and enjoying the art.

In addition, there are bridges of varying shapes and sizes. Walnut Street Bridge is one of the world's longest pedestrian bridges, there is even an entire bridge made of glass! Along with the bridges you will find fountains of all shapes and sizes as well. These are a fun way for kids to play and cool off in the summer heat.

Visit some of the city's parks for a free afternoon of fun. Walk across the Walnut Street Bridge and you will find Coolidge Park. There, you will find interactive fountains surrounded by carved stone animals, acres of green waterfront lawn that is just screaming for a picnic. Be sure to check out the hand carved carousel, where children can enjoy a ride for only 50 cents!

5. Chattanooga Ghost Tours

A few days ago I posted about our experience with Chattanooga Ghost Tours. When you think of entertainment for children, ghost tours are not necessarily the first thing that pops into your head. However, all of my boys ages 13-5 enjoyed the ghost tour and still are raving about it even though we have been home for almost a week.

Explore historic locations around town looking for ghosts, like this former African American mortuary site. 

The tours are family friendly, and in addition to innocently hunting down the haunts in Chattanooga, you also get to walk the downtown area and learn a bit of history about the city as well. Tickets with Chattanooga Ghost Tours are $15 for adults and $10 for children 3-12.

While the attractions listed below are only a sampling of things to do in Chattanooga with kids, they are some of the most notable and enjoyable ones we were able to experience on our recent trip. Do you have a favorite family attraction in Chattanooga? Feel free to share it in the comments below.

Some attraction tickets may have been comped for the purpose of review, but all words, thoughts and opinions are my own. 

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  1. Wow! So many wonderful attractions! I have always wanted to play in one of those fountains! Someday :)

  2. That looks like a really fun tourist spot! I am sure we could spend days going through all of the fun places.
    I love the cave formations the most. I'm always totally in awe when I see natural wonders like that.
    My kids, on the other hand, would probably like the zoo the most! I'm pinning this to my travel board on Pinterest so I don't lose it. :)

  3. Love this post! We have been looking for places to visit that aren't too far from where we live, and this is perfect (I especially love the free options!)

  4. Wow. I had no idea there is are so many things to do there...and it's not that far away from me at all!

    I'd love to take my kids to an underground cave.

  5. So many great ideas! We pass through here on our way to Disney World and I've always wanted to stop at Ruby Falls. Looks like we need a specific trip to Chattanooga to do more!

  6. WOW you guys did way more than we did. I wished we would of visited ruby falls that looks amazing we'll have to go back one day. We took the kids to the aquarium and to Chattanooga station. Thanks for sharing all your amazing photos

  7. This looks like a neat tour - so much to do! And you got to see a Capybara. :)

  8. We love the aquarium, but I didn't know that Chattanooga had a zoo!

  9. HI! I live in Chattanooga and saw your post (shared on Facebook by I was going to recommend to you (if you ever return while your kids are young) and your readers that the Creative Discovery Museum is one of the greatest places in the city. I don't have kids myself, but have been several times as an adult and my college roommate used to work there as well. Great environment and very educational.

  10. We live 2 hours away from Chattanooga and visit several times a year... a great place to take kids for sure! Looks like you all had a ball!

  11. Thanks so much for the recommendation. The Creative Discovery Museum was definitely something that we wanted to try and hope to get the chance to experience on our next stop in Chattanooga.

  12. What an incredibly awesome post! I have never been to Tennessee at all but I totally love those funky bridges! And I've yet to go to a bad aquarium either!

  13. We've never been but the ghost tours sound like so much fun.

  14. You took some awesome pics! My daughter took my grandson 2 years ago and they also loved it there

  15. Great list. I love love love Ruby falls. I need to take my kids there sometime.

  16. I would love to go to Ruby Falls and mostly because my parents never stopped there and I can't even begin to tell you how many signs we saw for it. We were DYING to go!

  17. Chattanooga is such a cool place. I didn't realize they had a zoo. I think I would like to check it out.

  18. Never been to Tennessee, we'll have to check out Chattanooga! My kids would looove the zoo!

  19. I went there as a kid and loved it. I remember going to Ruby Falls. :)

  20. I remember visiting Tennessee as a kid but do not recall most of the things you listed. Would love to go back with the kids.



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