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How to Have Fun in Chattanooga


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How to Have Fun in Chattanooga

Pardon Me, Boy.. Is That the Chattanooga Choo-Choo?

I cannot RESIST singing that song. Look, I grew up in show choirs before Glee was even a THING, so I am an O.G. show choirer. Is too a word. And we did a pretty kick-butt number to Chattanooga Choo Choo. It was awesome, and some people even did stunts is how major we were.


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Song aside (although I’m still singing it), Chattanooga has a pretty strong place in my heart. When my husband and I were newly dating, I stole him away for a birthday retreat at a bed and breakfast in downtown Chattanooga. (He kissed me in the rain on that trip. Won me forever.) I had never been to a Mellow Mushroom before that trip, so you know, it was pretty awesome.

We went up again one time on business and .. well, nine months later, we said hello to Tony.

When North Alabama was without power in April of 2011 due to the devastating tornadoes, we went north to Chattanooga for a couple of nights. And although they had also suffered as much damage as we had, they were so incredibly accommodating that I will forever worship that town.

Since then, we’ve visited about once a year. It’s our basic “local” vacation in that we don’t have to take serious time off from work (or we can go if Bryan’s got work to do up there) but we can still make a trip out of it. And we’ve got a few places we love going.

Creative Discovery Kids Museum

Little known fact – one of my favorite jobs EVER was working as a children’s museum tour guide here in Huntsville. So I have quite the affinity for children’s museums, and this one? Is pretty great. The Creative Discovery Kids Museum is a sprawling, interactive museum that touches on the major senses.

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Bryan is a big kid in a BIG bubble.

There’s art, music, science, and the kids’ favorite: water. Yes, you’re going to get wet at this museum, and let’s face it.. that’s the best part of learning, right?

  • Funny story here: we took the picture on the left in 2007.. nine months before the kid on the right was born. Tony, on the left, this past January.

    Tennessee Aquarium

    Man, am I a sucker for an aquarium. I’ve been to about a dozen aquariums in my time, mostly because I secretly wanted to be a marine biologist when I was younger, but this is hands-down my favorite aquarium. There are two museums or buildings to the Tennessee Aquarium: the River Journey and the Ocean Journey. Go ahead and buy the day pass for both buildings, because it’s the perfect way to spend a day in Chattanooga.

    We visited Chattanooga over the 4th of July weekend and spent a day doing just the aquariums, and it was FANTASTIC. We got there just in time for a Ranger Rick Nature show, which, DUDE WAS SO COOL. Nothing keeps the boys enthralled quite like wildlife in front of their faces. Then we walked through jellyfish exhibits, underwater peeping holes, and ended up at the holy grail to kids: the YOU MEAN I CAN PET THE FISH? Yes, that’s exactly what I mean.

    You can reach in and touch stingrays and sturgeons in another pool later. It is SO. COOL.

    We had lunch downtown (there are quite a few family-friendly joints within walking distance) and then went on to the second house, which has (my personal favorite) a butterfly house! And the boys were stoked to see the penguins, which is a very popular attraction. Also, the aquarium is stocked with lots of prime photo opportunities!

    And, if you'll excuse me, that picture makes me ::SOB::

    See Rock City

    If you were to use the word “outdoorsy” to describe my husband, after I wiped away my tears from laughter, I’d ask you who you thought you were talking about. He .. is not an outdoorsy kind of guy. But for some reason, he is ADAMANT that we visit Rock City on every single trip.

    See Also
    beautiful photo of Falls Mill in Elora TN

    The infamous Rock City barn photo op!
    And, in retrospect, it’s easy to see why. It’s GORGEOUS. The amount of natural beauty is truly amazing, and .. bear with me, for while my husband is NOT a tree-hugging hippie, his wife certainly is. The air? Is just so clean up there. It’s easily 10 degrees cooler up at Rock City, and you’ll leave feeling refreshed.

    If you’re not afraid of heights, man, there are some cool things for you to do up there!

    The views are breathtaking.
    And there’s a super cute Mother Goose Village at the end of the trails, which lead you underground to a retro black-lit room full of nursery rhyme favorites. (This is my favorite part, which I feel makes me uber lame.)

    Downtown Chattanooga

    Now, while everything I’ve listed thus far is considered part of the tourist center of Chattanooga, don’t think that everything requires funds. In fact, one of the main draws of Chattanooga is that it’s a pedestrian city that features tons of free things to occupy kids.

    Just walk around downtown – make sure your kids have something they can get wet in! – and relax. Grab a milkshake or even just some bottled water and let the kids roam. There are water features all over the downtown area, and you can easily waste away an afternoon roaming from pool to pool.

    Regardless of what we’ve done in Chattanooga, inevitably, we go home satiated from adventure and refreshed.

    These pics? Are how I know we had a GREAT trip.

    BIG Thanks to Tennessee Aquarium and the Discovery Children’s Museum for providing our family passes for the day! And now a lucky RCM reader will win a set of tickets to see what Sarah’s talking about for themselves. Enter to win below.

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    View Comments (107)
    • Would love to take our boys back to the Aquarium. We haven’t been since 2007. The eldest was 5 and the youngest was almost 1. Our oldest is wanting to go for his birthday. This would be perfect! πŸ˜€

    • I have to stop making excuses about why we don’t have time! I have a cousin living up there and still haven’t visited! This was the motivating push I needed, thanks πŸ™‚

    • We LOVE Chattanooga and haven’t been able to get away this summer. Would love a trip!

    • I love the aquarium and know my kids would love it too. Chattanooga is a fun city πŸ™‚

    • We visited Chattanooga 9 years ago when we were traveling around TN looking for our new home. What a fun-filled day that was for our family! We didn’t make it to the Aquarium, but sure would like to! Thanks for the opportunity to win!

    • Would love to win. I’m due with our third child in September and I would love a little getaway with my other kiddos before she gets here.

    • I think you wrote this blog post about me! Show choir, dating in Chattanooga, child created there (mine is a Ryan…) We should get coffee. πŸ™‚

    • I love Nooga! We tell all our friends who haven’t been to go. When we took our oldest she was only 2.5 years old and she had a great time at the aquarium!

    • Love the Aquarium and Love Chattanooga! We have family there and this would give us another excuse to go visit them! Thanks for sharing.

    • I always have a GREAT time when I visit Chatty!! THANKS for an entertaining & informative post, and thanks to Lee Anne because now I definetly have to try taco Mamacita! Can’t wait πŸ™‚

    • We’ve been wanting to go here since we moved to AL 3 years ago…might actually do it this year!

    • Our family of now 5 doesn’t get away much at all due to Mommy and Daddy’s work schedule, but when we do there is not a place our kids (or us) love more than Chattanooga! It has become a tradition to have a picture made with each daughter and Dad at the same spot at the aquarium. Our third is getting so close to the age we started this at with our first child and it just makes me realize how special those pictures, memories and Chattanooga are to our family! It’s the mini-vaca our girls always talk about the most and a special tradition I hope we can continue with them for years! We find something new to do each time we go, and there are still so many things we want to experience in the years to come!

    • We’ve been up to Chattanooga but never to the Aquarium or anything besides Rock City. It’s such a beautiful area though, so we hope to get back sometime in the next few years.

    • The Science Museum is the best part of the trip! We are hoping to get to Rock City on the next one.

    • Took my son to the Aquarium when he was just a few months old and even though he didn’t understand much then he seems to have LOVED it. We will definitely be taking him again soon! πŸ™‚

    • I love taking the kids to Chattanooga. We have not been able to get away this year yet, but this is at the top of my list as soon as we can get away!

    • I haven’t been to the aquarium in years and my little one has never been. We would love a go!

    • As Many times as I’ve been to Chattanooga, I’ve never been to Rock City. *and I have fam there too!* lol

    • I went to the aquarium years ago before I was a mom. Two kids later and I haven’t taken either of my kids. Sounds like its still a fun place to visit. Can’t wait to take them.

    • I loved our family trip to chattanooga when i was little – I’d love to take our 3 year old! She loved the aquarium/reptile house at the nashville zoo, I know she’d love the aquarium!

    • I can’t believe no one has mentioned Lake Winnie yet. It’s a family-run, old-time amusement park just inside the Georgia line, just about 10 or 20 minutes this side of Chattanooga. It’s not expensive and loads of fun. The full name is something like Lake Winnepesaukah, but they usually just say Lake Winnie.

    • We have always loved Chattanooga but have not been since having our little girl. I can’t wait until she is a little older to take her to the Children’s Museum and the Aqaurium. My husband will insist on at least one trip to Clumpy’s though on the North Shore for the best ice cream!

    • My oldest grandJoy was JUST talking about going to an aquarium. Would love to take all three of my grandjoys!

    • My family loves Chattanooga! We also went up there for a few days after the 4/27 tornadoes, having a small one under 1 and no power was rough, so thankful and the awesome people at the ChooChoo gave us a discount because we were from Huntsville.

    • Great article. We have considered a day trip to Chattanooga with the kids! Seems like there is so much to do!

    • My husband and I went to Chattanooga when we first started dating. That was back in 2006. Since then we have had one son, and we have baby #2 on the way. I am a stay at home mom now, and money is tight. I would love to take my family to the aquarium for a fun-filled day!

    • We’d love to take our boys back to Chattanooga! Big city feel and small town atmosphere at the same time.

    • I remember going to Chattanooga as a kid. I loved Rock City and the aquarium. I would love to be able to take my kids to have those same experiences.

    • This was quite an interesting read for me. I know nothing of Chattanooga except driving by it on the interstate … & to be honest I never thought it looked interesting OR family freindly. Now I did know the aquarium is there & with 2 little boys that does sound fun, but I’ve just never been interested in going to Chattanooga for it.
      My mind has been changed ! We definitely need to plan a weekend trip ! Thanks for this article ! πŸ™‚

    • My kids have loved the Zoo and Lookout Mountain. We would love to go to Chattanooga again!

    • Love Chattanooga! We haven’t taken our daughter to the aquarium yet but she would love it!

    • If you like staying overnight, the Ramada at Lookout has a great indoor saltwater pool and free breakfast.

    • We went to Chattanooga for my birthday this year and took the kids to the Choo-Choo and the Aquarium. It was a lot of fun.

    • I LOVED Chattanooga as a child and have been wanting to take my 3-year old! He would love experiencing the aquarium and Chattanooga Choo-Choo! Thanks for this informational article!

    • I love Chattanooga, but have never been to the aquarium. My newly turned three year old is now obsessed with all things water so we are going to have to take our first trip up with him.

    • We LOVE Chattanooga around my house! There is so much to do. Some of our faces are Lookout Mt. & the Aquarium. My hubby & I stayed @ a bed & breakfast there right before his deployment. It’s a beautiful, peaceful place.

    • We saw the aquarium two years ago and it was awesome. We’ve wanted to go back to see Rock City too, but waiting for the kids to get a little older.

    • Lovin’ the articles about these day trips around HSV. I have been to several of the places mentioned, but still have many more to explore!

    • Love Chattanooga! I haven’t taken my 3 year old son yet, but I am looking forward to planning a trip in the near future.

    • Wonderful info!! I haven’t been to Chattanooga in years and it seems to have come a long way. Can’t wait to plan a weekend there!

    • We love Chattanooga! We are taking our little ones to the aquarium next weekend–can’t wait!

    • We haven’t been to Creative Discovery Museum in Chattanooga. We would love to take our kiddo’s

    • We’ve never been to the Creative Discovery Museum. Looks like fun! ….and it’s been a few years since we’ve been to the Aquarium. A Chattanooga trip in the near future would be great!

    • I can’t wait to take my little man to the aquarium at the end of July. We are also going to visit Rock City. So looking forward to our mini-vacation.

    • I love the Chattanooga Aquarium. I’ve been wanting to take my daughter there for what feels like forever. Now, she’s finally old enough.

    • The creative discovery museum sounds like so much fun! We love Chattanooga, but have never been there! πŸ™‚

    • We love the TN Aquarium but have yet to try the discovery museum! Next time, we will have to… it looks like so much fun for my 4 year old!

    • I haven’t been to Chattanooga in a while. It’s a great day trip location. Thanks for the article and reminding me of a wonderful family location!!!

    • We live in Scottsboro, so a trip to Chattanooga is only a little farther than a trip to Huntsville. We like to take a Frisbee, some balls and a picnic and hang out at Coolidge Park on a nice day.

    • I love visiting Chattanooga! What a fun place to be :). I really enjoyed reading this post, and could think back to times I’ve visited the Aquarium :). I can’t wait to take my son up there for a little vacation! We haven’t been to the museum yet, and I think that would be a fun trip :).

    • Been to the Creative Discovery Museum and it was great. Loved all the interactive things.

    • We have tried to get to Chattanooga two times this year and something has happened that prevented it both times. We are determined to make it before the end of 2012!! Our daughter would absolutely love to visit the Aquarium and the Discovery Museum! We’ve heard such great things about both.

    • I’ve been wanting to visit the Children’s Museum. They have a great summer calendar on their website.

    • Haven’t been to the Creative Discovery Museum- I think my son would love it! Thanks for all the great info/advice.

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