From jumping out of an airplane to cruising along the riverbank, summertime activities in Chattanooga can be as adventurous or as leisurely as your heart desires. We know how we’ll be spending our summer, and to help you navigate yours, we’ve pulled together our Summer Hot 100 – tons of fun ideas of things to do and places to see as the temperatures rise. So whether you prefer to grab a picnic basket, a paddleboard, or a pair of skates, you’ll find that Chattanooga has everything you need to take these hot summer days by storm!
Rock City Gardens is a world-class tourist attraction dating back to the Great Depression. Situated on Lookout Mountain, Rock City is a whimsically enchanted 4,100-foot walking trail showcasing rock formations, caves, lush gardens, and a panoramic view of seven states from 1,700 feet above sea level.
Check out these fun summer events:
Rock City Summer Music Weekends: Friday – Sunday, Memorial Day – Labor Day, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Rock City Raptors: Every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, Memorial Day – Labor Day.
Southern Blooms Festival: May 3 & 4 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Fly high among the treetops! Ruby Falls ZIPstream Aerial Adventure is an outdoor course consisting of suspended obstacle courses built in trees. Get your adrenaline pumping with 700 feet of round-trip zipping and a 40-foot climbing tower. rubyfallszip.com, 423.821.2544
1,120 feet beneath the ground lies Ruby Falls, the nation’s largest and deepest waterfall open to the public. First, take an elevator deep into the cavern. Then, hike through the paths while learning interesting facts about the formations and trails until you reach the enormous rushing waterfall. About 400,000 visitors stop by Ruby Falls year after year.
Check out these fun summer events:
Ice Cream Festival: June 2-15, noon – 6 p.m.
Lantern Tours: All summer long, at select hours
Channel your inner mermaid and stand under a waterfall at Lula Lake. Open the first and last Saturday of each month, the beautiful Lula Lake Land Trust is home to two waterfalls and more than 6 miles of hiking trails.
Step into the Chattanooga Choo Choo for a night of traditional jazz music with Uptown Lowdown Jazz Band, The Fat Babies, Buffalo Ridge Jazz Band, and High Sierra Jazz Band. With the sound of trumpets, trombones, and saxophones, the Traditional Jazz Festival will have you feeling transformed to a different time and place. Choose from Gold or Silver seating or general admission and top off the night with a prime rib dinner buffet.
Root for the home team.
Nothing is more summery than some Cracker Jacks and a ball cap, and the Chattanooga Lookouts Baseball games have both at AT&T field. Catch one of many games all summer long, and maybe catch a fly ball too!
Take in the beautiful sights of the Tennessee River aboard a 70-foot luxury riverboat cruiser. Blue Moon Cruises on the Tennessee River features spacious dual decks – the upper deck is open air while the lower deck has an enclosed climate controlled area. All areas provide open views of the river and the wildlife who call it home. Take a naturalist-guided Eco-Tour or an evening cruise that includes a barbecue buffet dinner.
Pace with your pup.
If your dog is your best friend, the North Chickamauga Creek Greenway should be on your list of go-to spots. The Greenway features 6 miles of walking, running, hiking and biking trails, and dogs are welcome throughout. A large fenced-in off-leash area allows dogs to run free, while the dog park offers several agility ramps and water sources for the perfect puppy play day.
Settled in the 1830s, the property at Bendabout Farm has been meticulously managed so that the Southern plantation looks and feels the same as it did centuries ago. Come out in September to see a free polo match amidst the beautiful scenery.
Rain or shine, head downtown to Miller Plaza every Friday night, all summer long, for the Nightfall Concert Series. 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, and free live music.
The home of skateboards, BMX bikes, and inline skating, the Chattown Skate Park provides refurbished ramps, rails and boxes, plus a hockey rink, scoreboard, bleachers and a pavilion. Listen to tunes through the new state of the art sound system while riding the most popular ramps – “pizza” and “primo.” chattanoogafun.com, 423.757.2076
See Southside sculptures.
With Main Terrain Art Park comes the newest green space in Chattanooga’s Southside district. Interactive art pieces double as a fitness alternative to make this urban park truly unique.
Rush your adrenaline.
You don’t have to travel far for a thrill ride! With over 40 rides, including a Ferris wheel, roller coaster, boat chute, and tilt-a-whirl, Lake Winnepesaukah is the perfect place for the whole family to have fun. The newest attraction, the SoakYa Water Park, includes a crazy river with rolling waves and rafts, a soak-n-slide, water slides, and a challenge course.
Spot the swimmers.
More than 12,000 animals, from fish and sharks to birds and butterflies, make up the Tennessee Aquarium. 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.”
Breakfast with the Otters: Get introduced to these feisty mammals while enjoying a savory breakfast and then take part in a fun game and tour of the Cove Forest. June 21, 8:30 a.m.
Hummingbirds and Butterflies Workshop: This seminar at The Barn Nursery is led by an expert who will offer insight on the best trees, shrubs, and blooms to make your garden full of the best kinds of creatures. May 24, 10 a.m.
Sleep in the Deep: Family Sleepover: Sleep alongside sharks and stingrays and hear what it’s like to care for more than 10,000 animals from an aquarium expert. May 9 and August 15.
Explore the river gorge.
Referred to as “Tennessee’s Grand Canyon,” the Tennessee River Gorge can be traveled to via the Tennessee Aquarium’s River Gorge Explorer. Traveling smoothly and swiftly downstream, this hydrofoil-assisted boat with angled seating allows guests to take in the sights through oversized windows. The climate-controlled cabin makes for a cool, comfortable boating experience.
Just a block away from the Aquarium, the Imax 3D Movie Theater takes viewers worlds away from the comfort of their seat. Come see some of the exhilarating presentations and be transported to new depths. This summer’s lineup includes Galapagos 3Dand Journey to the South Pacific 3D.
Visit Track 29.
Attend a concert at Track 29 this summer. This music venue located behind the Chattanooga Choo Choo will feature a range of talented artists from YouTube sensations to genre favorites.
Catch a concert at Engel.
Attend a summer concert at Chattanooga’s most historic ballpark, Engel Stadium. Around since the 1930s, the stadium ballpark is now a quintessential Chattanooga landmark.
Climbers at High Point Climbing and Fitness can ascend high above Downtown Chattanooga for a view like none other. Run by professional climbers, High Point offers facilities for non-climbers too, including aerobic, weight, and yoga rooms.
Bounce off the walls.
Release your inner kid at the Chattanooga Jump Park and leap around on over 50 connected trampolines, play a game of trampoline dodgeball, or flip into a foam pit. If you have any energy left after that, head over to the Game Room for pingpong, pool tables, foosball, shuffleboard and more. Also check out the Superfly Trampoline Park, which opens later in the summer.
A horse drawn carriage tour of downtown via Chattanooga Horse Trams allows passengers to breeze through Chattanooga’s streets in the most whimsical way. Tours depart from two locations: the Tennessee Aquarium plaza and the Chattanooga Choo Choo. Handsome horses and a spotted Dalmatian make the ride extra special.
Scream for the soccer team.
As the 2012 SEC champions of the National Premier Soccer League, the Chattanooga Football Club offers a lot to cheer about. This year brings the first women’s team to the CFC, with a mix of local and international players. Wear your navy and white and catch a home game at Finley Stadium as part of the fan base known as “The Chattahooligans.”
Pick your own produce.
Pick your own fruits and veggies at Crabtree Farms. Located near downtown Chattanooga, the farm allows visitors to pick their own produce (blueberries in June, blackberries in July), plus events and programs such as farm-to-table bike rides are sprinkled throughout the summer.
Pack a picnic.
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, the Walnut Wall, and a 100-year old restored antique carousel. Located just off several boutiques, restaurants, and more, Coolidge Park is right in the midst of Chattanooga’s booming North Shore.
Founded in 1923, the Chattanooga Theatre Centre is one of the oldest, largest, and busiest community theaters in the country. Fifteen productions per year, drama and dance classes, workshops, and a summer academy for students for theater arts make up this robust and successful theater. See some of the many shows this summer, including classics such as To Kill a Mockingbird and Les Misérables.
See a summer flick.
Grab some popcorn and watch a movie in a state of the art theater, like the Majestic downtown, or the old-fashioned way at the Drive-In Wilderness Outdoor Movie Theater.
carmike.com, 423.265.5220; wildernesstheater.com, 706.657.8411
Cast a line.
Bait your hooks and link up with the Chattanooga Fishing Guides for summer days on the water. Experienced guides take visitors for a boat ride on the Chickamauga Lake and the Tennessee River and help them hook the catch of the day.
Try a food truck.
Swing by to grab a quick lunch, or stay for a picnic on the green space that was once a vacant lot on Market Street’s 700 Block. Now a pocket park hosting several Chattanooga area food trucks, the food truck court at Center Park includes a wide range of eats – from Argentinean food to burgers and pizza. Tuesday-Friday 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Enjoy entertaining eats.
Whether you veer more toward comedy or mystery, the Vaudeville Café has a show for you. Stand-up comics entertain and interact while guests have dinner and drinks for an entertainment-packed dining experience. More into scares than snickers? Check out a murder mystery show and piece together the clues to see who in your family can be first to point fingers at the perpetrator.
Check out the Choo Choo.
What was once a bustling train station in Downtown Chattanooga is now a beautiful landmark reminiscent of a bygone era. Built in 1908, the Chattanooga Choo Choo provides a hotel experience you’re not likely to find anywhere else – stay in an authentic Victorian train car, or opt for a more traditional route and rent a hotel suite or standard room. Dine at one of the Choo Choo’s restaurants, or visit the on-site shops with old-time charm.
Around since 1972, the Signal Mountain Playhouse will be showing a summer production of the musical The King and I starting in July. This not-for-profit community theater located on Signal Mountain features an outdoor amphitheater, which provides a rustic, woodsy setting, perfect for a warm summer night. smph.org
Get rowdy for rugby.
Although the sport is more popular in the U.K. than the U.S., Nooga Rugby can hang with the best of ‘em. The team is committed to improving Chattanooga through Rugby by participating in charity work and youth development. See what all the fuss is about and catch a game on Saturdays or Sundays. noogarugby.com, 423.954.0080
Raft the Ocoee
Whitewater rafting is the perfect summer activity, and the areas surrounding Chattanooga offer teams of Ocoee River rafting opportunities. If you’re looking for an adrenaline rush, grab a crew and have a guide lead you through the rushing rapids.
1 Adventures Unlimited adventuresunlimited.net, 1.800.662.0667
2 Cherokee Rafting cherokeerafting.com, 1.800.451.7238
3 High Country Adventures hcrivers.com, 1.800.233.8594
4 Ocoee Adventure Center ocoeeadventurecenter.com, 888.723.8622
5 Quest Expeditions questexpeditions.com, 800.277.4537
6 Sunburst Adventures sunburstrafting.com, 1.800.247.8388
7 Wildwater Rafting wildwaterrafting.com, 866.319.8870
Drink local brews.
Chattanooga is booming with breweries, so why not make a day (or night!) out of sampling all the city has to offer? Stop by Big River Grille, the Terminal Brewhouse, Heaven & Ale, Chattanooga Brewing Company, and SturmHaus, to name a few – or take a brew tour and try them all!
Dive to new depths.
Learn to scuba, swim, and dive at the Choo Choo Diving and Aquatic Center. Courses for kids and adults are offered 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.
Take in the arts.
With a cliff-top view of the city and the river, the tranquil piece of Chattanooga known as the Bluff View Art District offers an a sculpture garden, a bocce court, an artisan bakery, a coffee shop, and restaurants featuring homegrown herbs and produce.
See a movie in the park.
Round up the kids and head to Coolidge Park on Saturday evenings in July for free showings of family-friendly flicks. Come around sundown with lawn chairs and strollers and enjoy the movie shown on a giant inflatable screen. Sponsored by First Things First in partnership with the City of Chattanooga. July 12, 19, and 26, beginning at 8:30 p.m.