Opportunities abound for a summer of fun in Chattanooga. We’ve compiled the ultimate summer checklist so you don’t miss a thing all season long. Grab a paddle, a picnic basket, or a pair of tennis shoes and join us in conquering each activity before the leaves turn orange.
Rock City Gardens is one of Chattanooga’s most revered tourist attractions. Dating back to the Great Depression, the must-see destination on Lookout Mountain is a whimsically enchanted 4,100 -foot walking trail showcasing rock formations, lush gardens, and a panoramic view of seven states from 1,700 feet above sea level. Don’t forget to check out Rock City’s Summer Music Weekends, which brings toe-tapping sounds of live folk and bluegrass music throughout the park. Held Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend, 8:30am – 7pm.
Wonder at the Falls.
You don’t have to travel far to see the nation’s largest, deepest, underground waterfall open to the public. In fact, it’s right in our own backyard! Open to the public since 1929, Ruby Falls, allows visitors to stroll through the winding, natural cavern while learning about the dazzling rock formations 1,120 feet beneath the ground on Lookout Mountain. Once you are deep inside, you will marvel at the enormous, 145-foot waterfall as thousands of gallons per minute gush down to the pool below. And for the adventurous at heart, the Ruby Falls ZIPStream Aerial Adventure offers a semi-guided tour through a network of challenges suspended high in the trees, including over 700’ of ziplines.
Plan a shopping spree.
Whether you’re shopping for yourself or a friend, Warehouse Row is the perfect place to pick up a gift or go on a full-fledged shopping spree. With its mix of national and local retailers, the converted ware-houses provide shops for clothing, jewelry, stationery, makeup, home goods, and more. Get pampered at the upscale spa or get a fresh haircut at the trendy salon on-site. Round out the day by grabbing coffee, cocktails, or a full meal at one of several restaurants.
Enjoy patriotic sounds by the symphony.
Each Independence Day brings a symphonic celebration to Coolidge Park. This July 3, bring a lawn chair and enjoy the free annual Pops on the River concert, which includes a special tribute to veterans and celebrates music from some of America’s most influential composers. The festivities conclude with a patriotic fireworks finale.
Wonder at works of art.
One of Chattanooga’s most iconic structures, the Hunter Museum Of American Art houses American art from the Colonial period to the present day. Starting June 30, view special exhibit Masters of the Golden Age: Harvey Dunn and His Students, a collaboration of the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts and the South Dakota Art Museum in Brookings, South Dakota. And don’t miss All American Summer, the Hunter’s outdoor live concert series, Thursdays at
6 p.m. beginning July 7.
Rock climbing is both a full body workout and one of the premier activities in the Chattanooga area. One of the country’s most unique climbing facilities, High Point Climbing and Fitness Downtown (pictured above), allows climbers to scale the building’s exterior for an unmatched view of the city. The facility boasts 30,000 square feet of climbing surface inside and outside. For the youngsters, there’s a Kid Zone featuring a skyscraper walk and dinosaur, giraffe, and fireman’s walls, just to name a few. Also check out High Point Riverside off Amnicola Highway!
Fly from the sky.
People from ages 4 to 92 have flown with Lookout Mountain Hang Gliding. Soar high above scenic Lookout Valley while flying tandem, or train with an experienced guide to go on your own. Nearby accommodations ranging from RV spaces, bunkhouses, cabins, and camping spots make this a location fit for an outdoor weekend getaway.
Pedal to the pubs.
Bar hop and give your legs a workout at the same time! Pints And Pedals and Chattanooga Brew Choo allow you to grab a group and pedal from bar to bar. Don’t forget to BYOB and compile a playlist full of songs that’ll have your friends dancing in their seats.
Walk in a Wildlife Wanderland.
An outdoor destination, Reflection Riding Arboretum & Nature Center consists of 317 acres of hiking trails, the Reflection Riding Loop for driving and cycling, and a Wildlife Wanderland of native animals. Scheduled events include guided canoe trips, nature hikes, trail runs, and other outdoor activities, all held in one of the most scenic spots in the city.
Make a memorable discovery.
Permanent and temporary exhibits along with educational programs make the Creative Discovery Museum the perfect place for curious young minds to explore and grow. The museum has eight permanent exhibit areas and one changing gallery, plus a variety of lessons and activities. The hands-on programs and exhibits help it to be recognized as one of the premier children’s museums in the region. This summer, visit the Sid the Science Kid exhibit from May 28 to September 11.
Have a Wine-down.
Both an urban downtown winery and a sprawling rural vineyard make up Debarge Vineyards & Winery. The vineyard is located 20 miles south of downtown in Lafayette, Georgia, on the slopes of Pigeon Mountain. DeBarge Winery, Chattanooga’s first and only urban winery, is located on the Southside. Stop by the winery for tastings of handcrafted wines and enjoy glass windows that allow visitors to view the winemaking process.
See what’s in the water.
One of Chattanooga’s flagship tourist destinations, the Tennessee Aquarium, is home to the most diverse gathering of freshwater animals in the country, from frogs and fish to otters, turtles, and alligators. The aquarium has been rated as the best in America for overall guest satisfaction. Interactive exhibits include Stingray Bay where guests can touch several stingray species, a Butterfly Garden, Penguins’ Rock, and more. With both a River Journey, following the path of a raindrop from the Appalachian Mountains to the Gulf of Mexico, and the Ocean Journey, featuring sharks, macaws, jellyfish, and more, the Tennessee Aquarium works to “inspire wonder, appreciation, and protection of water and all life that it sustains.’’
Take the watery route.
Referred to as “Tennessee’s Grand Canyon,” the Tennessee River Gorge can be traveled via the Tennessee Aquarium’s River Gorge Explorer. Gliding smoothly and swiftly downstream, this hydrofoil-assisted boat allows guests to take in the sights of more than 1,000 varieties of plants, 184 species of birds, 63 species of mammals, and 193 species of butterflies through oversized windows. Special cruises, like America’s Birthday Cruise for the Fourth of July, focus on themes relevant to the time of year.
Experience the IMAX.
Just a block away from the aquarium, the Imax 3D Theater takes viewers worlds away from the comfort of their seats. Its recently installed IMAX with laser projection system provides audiences with the sharpest, brightest, clearest, and most vivid digital images ever seen. Add an additional $8 to your aquarium ticket and be transported to exotic locales or new depths via IMAX.
See Chattanooga as the amphibians do! Perfect for history buffs and ecology lovers, the Chattanooga Ducks tour invites visitors aboard an authentic WWII amphibious landing craft built specifically for the D-Day invasion. See the city by land first, and then splash into the river for an ecological tour of the waterfront.
Bring the peanuts and cracker jacks.
Spend a sunny summer day rooting for the home team
at a Chattanooga Lookouts game. Following a successful 2015 season, the Lookouts’ 2016 home season began on April 12 and runs all summer long. Enjoy Fireworks Friday Extravaganzas, Kids Eat Free Mondays, Thirsty Thursdays with $2 drink specials, and the opportunity to run the bases after every home game!
Try brews from 40 of the nation’s best breweries, including some made locally in the Chattanooga area, at the Southern Brewers Festival on Saturday, August 20 from 2 p.m. until midnight. Live musical performances add to the day and night full of fun at this 22nd annual festival, which was featured in Maxim magazine as one of “America’s three top beer festivals.” Choose from more than 100 draft beers on Chattanooga’s riverfront.
Spot the paranormal.
It might not be the spookiest season, but
that doesn’t matter to the Chattanooga Ghost Tours. These tours cover downtown’s most haunted spots and were voted one of the Top Ten Best Ghost Tours in the country by readers of USA Today. Don’t forget your camera, as orbs and ghost figures have often been captured by guests!
SUP the river.
Stand-up paddle boarding is an action-packed way to stay cool on hot Chattanooga days. Rent a board from L2 Outside, located by the river downtown, and then take it for a spin on the water. Or, rent from River Canyon Adventures and launch from their scenic location. Not a fan of paddleboards? Both locations offer kayaks as well. Basic tutorials are provided for newbies.
l2outside.com, 423.531.7873; rivercanyonadventure.com, 423.488.8211
Marvel at Ironmen.
Catch Chattanooga’s Ironmen twice this summer, first on May 22 at the Sunbelt Bakery IRONMAN 70.3, and then on September 25 at the Little Debbie IRONMAN. Pick a spot at one of Chattanooga’s many bars or restaurants on the route, or post up street side to cheer on these accomplished and inspiring athletes.
Admire outdoor art.
No city can compare with the outdoor art installations that Chattanooga provides. The Public Art Walking Tour extends from NorthShore to the Southside and includes the River Gallery Sculpture Garden, Bluff View, The Passage, Riverside Path, and more. The tour uses a simple map to lead you to each stop, highlighting some of the best public art the city has to offer.
Come to Nightfall, y’all.
Rain or shine, head downtown to Miller Plaza every Friday night, all summer long, for the Nightfall Concert Series. The multi-week schedule (May 6-August 26) brings a broad and diverse range of musical genres and quality entertainment from national and international artists. Headlining acts begin at 8 p.m. and local opening acts start at 7 p.m. Bring chairs, quilts, pets, and friends and enjoy drinks, food trucks,
and free live music.
Chimpanzees, capybaras, and cougars, oh my! Come see these and more exotic animals like them at the Chattanooga Zoo. Exhibits include animals indigenous to the rainforests in Latin America, the Himalayan Mountains of Asia, and many other deserts and forests of the world.
Relax on the riverboat.
Referred to as the “pride of the South,” the Southern Belle Riverboat is a beautiful, historic, and relaxing way to cruise along the Tennessee River. Choose from a daily sightseeing cruise, daily sunset cruise, or daily deluxe deli lunch cruise. This summer, don’t miss the Mother’s Day Cruise on May 8 and the Fireworks Cruise in July!
Rock out on the riverfront.
Riverfront Nights is back for its 10th year! Held on Saturday nights at the 21st Century Waterfront, these free summer concerts are accompanied by local, health-conscious concessions, vendors, and exhibitors. All shows are child- and pet-friendly. Held Saturdays, August through early September, with opening acts beginning at 7 p.m.
Catch a show at the Tivoli.
Known as the Jewel of the South, the Tivoli Theatre has entertained Chattanoogans for nearly a century. Named after Tivoli, Italy, the theatre boasts more than 1,000 seats in the orchestra, a grand lobby, red velvet plush chairs, and the original box office. Kick off the summer with a show by Rick Springfield on May 22. Then see “Weird Al” Yankovic on July 9. Check online for future shows and dates.
Tap your toes to bluegrass.
One of the area’s oldest musical traditions and best-kept secrets is the Mountain Opry on Signal Mountain. Hear bluegrass and old-time acoustic pickin’ weekly – an authentic taste of Appalachian roots music. Admission is free, concessions are available, and the location is wheelchair accessible.
Laugh till your ribs hurt.
This summer, stop by the Comedy Catch’s new location on the Chattanooga Choo Choo campus. For more than 30 years, the Comedy Catch has been bringing the laughs to Chattanooga and has hosted some of the biggest names in comedy – from Jerry Seinfeld to Jeff Foxworthy. Along with hilarious comedy shows, enjoy great food and beverages.
Give your mind some exercise at one of two thrilling, interactive thinking game locations in Chattanooga – Escape Experience and Breakout Chattanooga. Bring friends and put your heads together to find clues and solve problems in several different scenarios to unlock the door to your freedom in only 60 minutes. Can you break free?
escapeexperiencechattanooga.com, 423.551.3306; breakoutchattanooga.com, 423.661.8087
Take a picnic to Coolidge.
A picnic basket, a blanket, and a little sunshine are all the ingredients you’ll need for a perfect day at Coolidge Park. This park boasts plenty of green space, an up-close view of the Tennessee River, an interactive water fountain, a climbing wall, and a 100-year old restored antique carousel. Located near boutiques, restaurants, and more, Coolidge Park is right in the midst of Chattanooga’s booming NorthShore.
See the falls at Lula Lake.
Hiking, biking, picnicking, and leashed dogs are all welcome at Lula Lake, located on Lookout Mountain just outside downtown Chattanooga. Open the first and last Saturday of each month from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., the beautiful Lula Lake Land Trust is home to two waterfalls and more than six miles of hiking trails.
Hop, skip, and jump.
Release your inner kid at the Chattanooga Jump Park and Superfly Extreme Air Sports and leap around connected trampolines. Both spots allow adventure-seekers to flip into foam pits. Chattanooga Jump Park also includes a game room with ping pong, pool tables, foosball, shuffleboard, and more, while Superfly houses a rope forest, rock wall, rope bridge, and other activities.
Root for the home teams.
Cheer on one of Chattanooga’s two vintage baseball teams that are bringing back the civility and sportsmanship of the 19th century. From May through August, you can root for one of two home teams – the Lightfoot Club and Mountain City Club – in the Tennesseee Association of Vintage Baseball. Games are held at the 6th Calvary Museum. Check the online schedule for dates and go see history come to life!
Cheer for CFC.
Are you a Chattahooligan? That’s the snappy name of the Chattanooga Football Club’s fan base. In 2015, the team hosted the national championship match at Finley Stadium against the New York Cosmos B, and the team is poised to make it just as far in 2016. Returning this year is the Chattanooga FC’s women’s team. Wear your navy and white and catch a home match at Finley Stadium.
Be a friend of the festival.
Nine nights of music and more make the Riverbend Festival an international award winner. Located on the riverfront in the heart of downtown Chattanooga, Riverbend is host to five stages and more than 100 bands ranging from country to classic rock to R&B to bluegrass. Bring a lawn chair and friends and be one of more than 650,000 annual patrons. This year’s headliners include REO Speedwagon, Thomas Rhett, Heart, Brett Eldredge, Salt-N-Pepa, and more. A booming fireworks display concludes the festival on the last night. June 10-18.
Take a dive.
Learn to scuba at the Choo Choo Diving And Aquatic Center. Courses for kids and adults teach the basics, and swim and aquatic instructors can even certify you to teach others. Events and club activities have taken participants as far as the oceans of Bali, Indonesia.
Set sail in a hot air balloon.
Taking a ride in a hot air balloon might seem like the stuff dreams are made of, but Chattanooga Balloon Company makes it a reality. Enjoy breathtaking views of the Chattanooga valley as you fly high in the sky with a licensed hot air balloon operator.
Sip Some ’skey.
The Tennessee Stillhouse is crafting
Chattanooga’s first legally made whiskey
since Prohibition, right in the heart of the Southside. As the headquarters of Chattanooga, the stillhouse includes a micro-distillery and tasting room, allowing patrons to stop by for a tour and try Chattanooga Whiskey at the bar. Need more whiskey? Stop by the Tennessee Whiskey Festival at the First Tennessee Pavilion on May 21 from 6 p.m. until 11 p.m.
Don’t miss the Choo Choo.
Much more than a hotel, the Chattanooga Choo Choo has become a full-fledged entertainment destination. After undergoing massive renovations putting a modern spin on the historic structure, the hotel now includes upscale restaurant STIR (try fresh oysters or one of many craft cocktails), two music venues, a bar and lounge, the Comedy Catch, and a soon-to-open world class guitar museum. Its original charm, including authentic Victorian train cars, traditional hotel suites, and the lush rose garden, keep the timeless feel intact.
Dive from the clouds.
Have you ever wanted to fly like a bird? The Chattanooga Skydiving Company has been around for more than 50 years and promises one of the most awe-inspiring scenic drop zones you’ll find anywhere. Tandem skydiving and solo instruction is provided, and experienced skydivers with a current USPA membership are welcome to jump alone!
Have an artsy day.
With a cliff top view of the city and the river, the tranquil piece of Chattanooga known as the Bluff View Art District comprises a sculpture garden, art galleries, a bocce court, an artisan bakery, a coffee shop, and restaurants featuring homegrown herbs and produce. Plus it’s the site of the Hunter Museum of American Art and the Houston Museum of Decorative Arts. Take a stroll across the glass-bottom bridge and admire the stunning architecture to complete your day.
Pedal through town.
With newly implemented bike lanes throughout downtown and a thriving bicycle culture, it’s no wonder Bicycling magazine calls Chattanooga one of America’s “Top 50 Bike-Friendly Cities.” Explore downtown on two wheels via the city’s Bicycle Transit System. Rent one of hundreds of bikes at more than 30 stations located throughout the city, and simply return the bike to any station once you’re done. Bikes can be rented 24/7, 365 days a year. A transit app, available on iPhone and Android, now offers Bike Chattanooga unlock and pay features.
Catch a concert.
Two music venues at the Chattanooga Choo Choo – Track 29 and the Revelry Room –bring top acts to the Scenic City. The large, industrial venue, Track 29, holds more than 1,500 people and has hosted acts such as The Alabama Shakes. The smaller, more intimate venue, the Revelry Room, hosts both local and national acts and includes the chic Hush Lounge.
Ride the rails.
Step back in time and take an authentic train ride, which departs from the Grand Junction Station at the Tennessee Valley Railroad. Each day, the Missionary Ridge Local takes guests along one of the original Chattanooga railroad lines. Or, guests can opt for special rides like Dinner on the Diner, which includes a three-course dining experience, or the Summerville Steam Special, which follows a historic route from Grand Junction Station in Chattanooga to Summerville, Georgia.
Peruse fresh produce.
The Chattanooga Market will be overflowing with fresh, locally grown produce on Sundays all season long at the First Tennessee Pavilion. Now in its 16th year, the market will celebrate its opening weekend April 23-24. Fresh fruits, breads, veggies, and locally made arts and crafts fill the region’s largest producer-only marketplace. Events throughout the summer include the EPB Strawberry Festival, Beast Feast BBQ Festival, Street Food Festival,
and much more.
Ride the Incline.
Riding the Incline Railway has been a Chattanooga rite of passage since the 1800s. Located atop historic Lookout Mountain, the incline was first created in the 1800s to whisk people up and down the mountain. Because of its extreme incline (72.7 degrees at most) it’s used today for entertainment and recreation purposes and has hardly changed in its more than 100 years of operation. Up top, you’ll find Lookout Mountain attractions such as Civil War hotspot Point Park, and down below is the quaint town of St. Elmo, which features an antique store, restaurants, and hand-dipped ice cream shops.
Walk the Walnut.
Did you know that Chattanooga is home to one of the longest pedestrian bridges in the world? The Walnut Street Bridge connects downtown Chattanooga to the NorthShore, and although its length may sound daunting, it’s totally doable! Go out for a jog or leisurely stroll from one side to the other (just 724 meters), while enjoying views of the Scenic City and Tennessee River below. Ice cream shops bookend both sides of the bridge for a post-walk treat, while the NorthShore side drops you off right at Coolidge Park.
Whip something up.
Chattanooga’s Sweet & Savory Classroom is making culinary whizzes out of everyday cooks. Take a sweet class or a savory class and learn everything from basic chopping skills to how to make homemade pasta. The various cooking classes make for the perfect summer date night or a fun outing with friends.
Seek the thrills.
Since opening day on June 1, 1925, Lake Winnepesaukah (opening day May 5) has been the Chattanooga area’s most cherished theme park. With more than 40 rides, including a Ferris wheel, roller coaster, boat chute, and tilt-a-whirl, plus summer concerts and events, it’s a great place to spend a summer day or night. The newest attraction, the Soakya Water Park (opening day May 28), includes a crazy river with rolling waves and rafts, a soak-n-slide, water slides, and more. A fireworks display will take place on July 2 and 4.