Here is a list of places we’ve actually been to as a family and recommend. There are some known places that are left out because they are probably already on your list or we’ve actually never been there as a family (yet). All of these below are within walking distance of the free shuttle that rides up and down Broad St.
Tennessee Aquarium – The Tennessee Aquarium is HUGE. The aquarium is home to more than 12,000 animals representing almost 800 species. There are two separate buildings. One for Ocean life and one for River, Lake and Pond creatures. Elliott was obsessed with taking our phones to capture photos of snakes and turtles. Watching the men in scuba gear feed the stingrays captured everyone’s attention and you couldn’t help but smile back at them (at least that’s what it looks like they’re doing). We spent about 3 hours taking in all the sights and were especially fond of the jellyfish, penguins and otters. Seriously, as a grown woman I was grinning from ear to ear at those sweet otters.
We visited the downtown location of High Point Climbing. It’s a beautiful facility that even allows you to climb on the outside of the building. There is 30,000 sq. feet of climbing surface to enjoy including a really fun kids zone. The staff was very friendly and encouraging to our kids who didn’t have a lot of climbing experience. They definitely instilled a love for climbing in them in just a short amount of time! As you all know, our daughter Lola is blind. But this didn’t stop her! We could barely get her off the wall to leave when it was time to go. We always enjoy allowing our kids to push forward and challenge themselves.
The kids zone was a great place to start for Elliott (9), Lola (9) and Charlotte (7) but they quickly advanced to the bouldering area and some of the intermediate level climbing areas in the main gym. Liam, who is 5, had plenty to challenge him in the kids zone and stayed there until the very end. He did do one beginner level wall in the main gym right before leaving and was quite proud of himself.
High point provided everything we needed to climb for the day and the day-pass price was very reasonable. They do discount the day pass for the last 2 hours in the day if you prefer to climb for a shorter amount of time and save a bit of money. Overall this was an incredibly fun and empowering addition to our Chattanooga vacation. The kids can’t wait to climb again!
Coolidge Park – Our kids enjoyed riding the $1 Carousel and climbing all over the animals that make up the outdoor fountain (be equipped with bathing suits if you’re visiting in the summer). This is a great place to set up a few ENOS or play soccer while enjoying the river views (no dogs allowed FYI). There are plenty of little shops around, too.
Creative Discovery Museum – The museum is conveniently located near the aquarium (most everything is along Broad St.) so we were able to use the free public transit (along with almost everything else in Chattanooga). The museum boasts everything from an excavation area to a Riverplay area. We found that our kids were able to engage in several sensory enriched activities while learning new things about Tennessee and surrounding areas. If you have young kids like us (ages 4-8 at the time I’m writing this), this is definitely a museum worth visiting.
Chattanooga Football Club – If your household is anything like ours, soccer is becoming a big deal. If you visit Chattanooga in the Spring or Summer, Chattanooga FC might be playing a home game at Finley Stadium. The free shuttle will land you about four blocks away from the stadium. You can show up early and tailgate with the Chattahooligans (family friendly) and enjoy general admission seating. So come early and enjoy front row seating. After the game, we took advantage of walking down to the field and meeting the home team for autographs.
Chattanooga Zoo – The zoo is a bit smaller than our home Nashville Zoo. We visited on Sunday morning before our drive back home. The crowds were low so it ended up being nice for us. We were able to take our time and read about each exhibit and engage the kids. Several of the animals were playful and the kids enjoyed interacting with them. During our visit the trainers showed the crowd how the chimpanzees get their wellness checks and train to keep them safe and healthy. The kids enjoyed seeing how the zoo cared for the animals in this way. The zoo is also very reasonably priced, under $10 for admission.
Bonus: There’s a nice outdoor playground complex next door to the zoo you can make sure to visit if your kids need to get a little extra energy out at the end of your zoo visit. This playground is an inclusive playground and offers something for children of all abilities.
The Westin is a new addition to the downtown Chattanooga scene (less than a year old at the time of writing this). It is located only a couple of blocks away from the free shuttle that runs along Broad Street. If you’re familiar with downtown, it’s near the Tivoli Theatre. In addition to the hotel, the area referred to as West Village is in the process of being renovated with new restaurants, shops, and office space. On Saturday nights, the block is closed off to car traffic and an amazing laser light party takes place outside with street vendors, live music and other fun surprises. The kid-focused light show starts at 6:45 and there’s another one geared more for adults at 7:45. This is REALLY fun, in fact we were pleasantly surprised with how much free fun we had during show. The kids absolutely lost it when MASSIVE balloons came raining down from the sky. We could tell how much thought and effort was put into making this a unique experience.
We chose to stay at the elegant Chattanoogan Hotel. The location was ideal; within walking distance of many local restaurants and shops. Upon arrival, Elliott and I hopped out to check in and gather our room keys. We were immediately greeted by friendly staff as we entered the spacious lobby. I remember thinking, this is how luxury hotel lobbies should look. Spacious, local brick, high ceilings and a fire crackling in the fireplace. After check-in we headed up to our guest rooms. We noticed the local art in the hallways along the way and appreciated the non-standard decor. Once settled in our room, the kids immediately changed into bathing suits and we headed over to the pool and spa area. The pool overlooks the beautiful mountains that surround Chattanooga, so it was quite relaxing to enjoy the hot tub while keeping an eye on our little fish. As parents of (many) small children we also appreciated that the entire pool wasn’t any deeper than four feet. It gave our kids a lot of freedom, we could hardly pull them out when it was time for dinner. Bonus for mom and dad: there’s a steam room and sauna available in the locker room. If you don’t feel like venturing out, you can get breakfast, lunch, and dinner at Broad St. Grill like we chose to a couple of times.
Two Ten Jack – I wouldn’t say this spot is the most family friendly but the mom and dad had to get their ramen fix. Make sure to get the Japanese Fried Chicken appetizer, you won’t be disappointed.
A staple ice cream spot in Chattanooga. Pay by the weight, we all got “kid sized” cones and it ended up being about $10 for our entire family!
Good Dog serves hot dogs (including meatless varieties) as basic as you want or in unique combinations for the more adventurous kids (or parents). Additionally they provide stacks of books, games and fun coloring sets for you to enjoy before and during your meal. The kids really enjoyed their meal and not a crumb was left over.