Just a short, pleasant hour and a half drive from Huntsville is Chattanooga’s Ruby Falls. Sitting high atop Lookout Mountain, this underground cavern and waterfall has been an area attraction since 1930.
My oldest son is an avid amateur geologist (much to my laundry’s dismay) and was eager to see the cavern and waterfall in all their crystal glory. My three boys, ages 2, 4 and 9, and I entered the lobby and were welcomed by several friendly staff members. They advised us to use the restrooms (there are none available on the hour long tour) and let us know that the changing table was in the handicapped bathroom, should we need it. Our tour guide Bill, met us and about 6 others at the elevator door and instantly charmed my kids with his knowledge of geology, caves, and minerals.
The tour begins by descending 27 floors underground and exiting into a spacious waiting area. Though you’re underground, the paths are smooth, and most of the cave is spacious. There are some stairs along the paths and a few inclined areas, but a member of our tour had walking difficulties and made it just fine – as did my two year-old.
From the start Bill proved very knowledgeable about both the cave and children, engaging my kids with questions, telling them stories about how the cave and underground waterfall were discovered, and letting them “help” with the tour. It took about an hour and a half to make the mile long journey to the waterfall and back, but the time goes quickly and there are points of interest along the way.
The waterfall itself is pretty majestic with colored lights and soft music playing. After the tour, there is a playground, café, and amazing lookout points to woo your kids away from the gift store filled with every interesting rock-related toy, candy, or gift in existence. You can even pan for gemstones yourself! A zipline tour can be seen peeking out of the woods behind the lodge for the bravest visitors. I’m planning on going back in October for the Haunted Cavern Tour where groups are lead by lamp light!
The cavern and falls are awe inspiring, but it was our guide Bill that made this trip. He himself is an avid caver and has crawled the tunnels of Ruby Falls for years to amass his vast knowledge base. After the tour he even sent me photos of local caves for my son to check out, a story he had written for kids about caving, and offered to answer any follow up questions we might have. I will ask for Bill to lead my group anytime I return!
Cost of Caving Ruby Falls
At $18.95 for adults and $10.95 per child, Ruby Falls isn’t inexpensive. There are several different packages available to see other attractions in the area that make admission to the Falls a better deal and annual passes available for frequent visitors. Weather doesn’t impact the tour, just the view over Chattanooga, and on our foggy day it felt like we were suspended in a cloud.
Food options & Pro-Tips
The café had mainly kid friendly food- burgers, hotdogs, and chicken fingers, though the staff is so accommodating, I’m sure they would help you if you needed other choices. Allow at least three hours to enjoy the tour, playground and view. Strollers aren’t allowed into the cavern and the grounds of Ruby Falls don’t lend themselves to their use either.
Ruby Falls Details
Address: 1720 South Scenic Hwy, Chattanooga, TN (map)
View Website | Ruby Falls Facebook Page | TripAdvisor Reviews
Hours: Open Daily, 8:00am – 8:00pm Eastern Time, *Closed Christmas Day
Admission: Adults – $18.95; Kids ages 3-12 – $10.95; Combo attraction prices here
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