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.

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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.

    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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