Chattanooga lies in the southeast corner of Tennessee along the Tennessee River. It’s surrounded by lush forests, rivers, and history, giving you the opportunity to relax in nature while educating your children at the same time. Plus, the urban environment gives you plenty of opportunities to shop, visit family fun centers, and enjoy awesome eateries. Meanwhile, your is within easy driving distance of a range of state and national parks such as the Prentice Cooper State Forest, Chattahoochee National Forest, and Johns Mountain Wildlife Management Area. There are plenty of things you can do with your kids, and here are a few.
1. Go to the Creative Discovery Museum
Encourage your children to play and learn simultaneously at the Creative Discovery Museum. Here, kids can play dress up, practice their artistic skills with sculpting, try out woodworking and sewing, or just play in the sand. The game area, discovery library, and lookout tower round out the offerings. Enjoy fresh, healthy food at Cafe Dino-Mite, or enroll your children at one of the workshops or camps. The museum is also located downtown, a stone’s throw from the Hunter Museum of American Art and the Bluff View Art District.
2. Visit the Tennessee Aquarium
While downtown, head over to the Tennessee Aquarium. The aquarium boasts several exhibits with animals that live anywhere from the sea to the forest. The Rivers of the World exhibit has fish, amphibians, and reptiles native to the Congo in Africa and the Amazon in South America. The Secret Reef boasts tiger sharks, reef fish, and sea turtles. Water creatures aren’t the only animals that live in the aquarium. The Lemur Forest is modeled after Madagascar’s greenery, complete with rare lemurs. There are also penguins, otters, and alligators. Several exhibits are dedicated alone to the wildlife around Tennessee. Explore the Tennessee River in person aboard the River Gorge Explorer.
3. Ride the Southern Belle Riverboat
Opt for another type of cruise, and jump on the Southern Belle Riverboat. Sightsee in comfort while enjoying some grub at the 3rd Deck Burger Bar. You can point out some of the historic sights to the kids or listen to the tour guide. The kids can kick back in the entertainment room with some gaming and TV.
4. Enjoy Rock City Gardens
Experience nature at Rock City Gardens. It boasts acres of ancient rock formations featuring a 4,100-foot hiking trail. As you trek through caves and gardens, check out the 400 native plant species. Enjoy the view at Lover’s Leap where you can see seven states at once, including Tennessee, cross the swing-a-long bridge, and visit the Mother Goose Village and Fairyland Caverns. Kids are sure to especially enjoy the climbing wall and gem mine where they can actually prospect for jewels.
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5. Ride the Lookout Mountain Incline Railway
Ride the Lookout Mountain trolley up to Point Park. Not only is the ride itself a fun experience for the kids, there are other things to do at the top. For instance, Point Park, the site of a Civil War battle, has a Civil War museum, perfect for adding a learning opportunity to your vacation. While there, drive to Ruby Falls and explore the 1,120-foot waterfall and accompanying cavern. Being close to Rock City Gardens, you can do both things in one day.
6. Go for a Stroll along the Riverwalk
Talk a family walk at dusk along the 13-mile Riverwalk, a greenway that borders the Tennessee River. Your kids can take their bikes or skate boards and cruise down the walk. Add an educational moment by stopping at the Trail of Tears Weeping Wall, a commemorative display that salutes the history of the Cherokee Nation. Stop by Ross Landing for some paddle boating or one of the many festivals that take place there.
7. Play at Coolidge and Renaissance Park
Located next to each other along the Tennessee River, Coolidge Park and Renaissance Park offer plenty of play places for children and nice walking paths for adults. Take a ride on the indoor carousel with the kids, or play in the splash pad, and then stop for a cone at Clumpies Ice Cream Co. Stroll across the Tennessee River via the Walnut Street Bridge, and visit the aquarium or children’s museum.
8. Go Adventuring
Get adventurous at the Nantahala Outdoor Center, and go rafting or kayaking down the Tennessee River. In fact, the center boasts zip lining as well and rafting on seven other rivers, so the world or Tennessee is your oyster. If zip lining is your thing, then opt for the Zip Stream Aerial Adventure at Ruby Falls. The suspended obstacle course not only has zip lines but also tunnels, walkways, nets, a tower, and all things to challenge your family’s climbing skills.
9. Visit the Moccasin Bend National Archeological District
The Moccasin Bend National Archeological District, located in a bend of Tennessee River, boasts remains of civilizations from the last 12,000 years. These include at least seven periods of human settlement, the last of which were entrenched artillery from the Union Army during the Civil War. Help your kids discover America’s history through early Native American settlement through wars. Hike along the Blue Blazes Trail and Brown’s Ferry Road for a taste of both history and nature.
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