7 Excellent Things to do in Chattanooga, TN: the Ultimate Guide

Things to do in Chattanooga

Updated On: November 27, 2023 by   Courtney AugelloCourtney Augello

Consistently voted one of the top 50 places to visit in the USA, Chattanooga is a great destination for a relaxing and fun holiday. Whether you’re travelling solo, planning a romantic getaway, on a road trip, or taking a family vacation, there are limitless fun things to do in Chattanooga.

Things to do in Chattanooga
Chattanooga is located along the Tennessee River.

The city is full of fascinating history and has many stunning natural vistas and unique tourist attractions to explore. To help kickstart your itinerary, we’ve made a list of 7 of the best things to do in Chattanooga.

The History of Chattanooga

Inhabitation of the Chattanooga area dates back to before 10,000 BC. The first people to live in the area were Native American tribes. In 1776, the Cherokee tribe resisted new American settlers when they tried to take the land. 

In 1838, the United States government forced the Cherokee and other native tribes out of their homelands. They were moved to the Indian Territory in Oklahoma. This forceful relocation is known as the Trail of Tears due to the hardship and fatalities the tribes faced.

One year later, the city of Chattanooga, Tennessee, was founded. Thanks to its location along the Tennessee River, the city had access to trade routes. By the 1850s, Chattanooga’s population and economy boomed with the arrival of the railroad.

In the 1860s, the city of Chattanooga played a large role in the American Civil War. The city was a hub for the Confederacy, and its railroads helped them to transport supplies across state lines. 

7 Excellent Things to do in Chattanooga, TN: the Ultimate Guide
Chattanooga was a vital location during the American Civil War.

In November 1863, Union armed forces arrived in Chattanooga and attacked the Confederate army. The battle lasted 3 days and ended with the Union defeating the Confederacy and taking the city. The Battles for Chattanooga are widely considered one of the 3 most important battles that helped the Union win the war.

Throughout the early 20th century, Chattanooga saw its population grow. During World War I, many army recruits moved to the area to be closer to training camps. It was also the first city in Tennessee to have a completed interstate highway system, which drew in tourists and new residents.

Today, Chattanooga is a tourist hotspot in Tennessee. The laid-back attitude and friendly culture of the city make it a great place to visit. In addition, the recent efforts to revitalize the downtown areas have made the city more attractive to tourists.

1: Creative Discovery Museum

One of the best things to do in Chattanooga for families is to visit the Creative Discovery Museum. The museum opened in 1995 and has exhibits on science, art, and music. The majority of the exhibits are interactive, and children are encouraged to explore.

Among the different areas at the museum are Treehouse Adventure, Unearthed, STEM Zone, Tennessee Riverboat, and more. Each area promotes a sense of adventure in a fun, educational way.

things to do in Chattanooga - Raccoon Camp
Camping is a popular activity in Chattanooga.

2: Raccoon Mountain Caverns and Campground

Discovered in 1929 by Leo Lambert, the Racoon Mountain Caverns have been explored by tourists for nearly 100 years. Exploring the nearly 5.5 miles of caves is one of the most interesting things to do in Chattanooga.

Raccoon Mountain also serves as a campground for visitors. RVs are welcome on-site, and cabins are available to rent. Authentic panning experiences at the cavern give visitors the opportunity to find arrowheads, fossils, and gems.

3: The Chattanooga Zoo at Warner Park

One of the smallest accredited zoos in America, the Chattanooga Zoo covers 13 acres and is home to over 500 animals. The zoo’s mission is to educate the community about the importance of wildlife conservation.

The most popular exhibit at the Chattanooga Zoo at Warner Park is the Himalayan Passage. It is the largest indoor red panda exhibit in the world. This area also features snow leopards and hanuman langurs.

For a fun and relaxing day out with the family, visiting the zoo is one of the best things to do in Chattanooga.

things to do in Chattanooga - railroad museum
Visitors can ride a steam locomotive train at The Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum.

4: Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum

The Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum opened its doors in 1960. It was founded by the National Railway Historical Society and Chattanooga locals who wanted to preserve the trains and railroads of the area.

Today, visitors can see the steam locomotives at the museum and experience taking a train ride. The railway leads guests on an hour-long ride pulled by a refurbished steam locomotive. These rides are one of the best historical things to do in Chattanooga.

5: Ruby Falls

Ruby Falls is a cave system full of waterfalls inside the Lookout Mountain ridge. The cave was discovered in 1928 and has no natural openings to the surface. 

The entire cave system in Lookout Mountain extends over 340 metres underground. However, the lower portion of the cave is no longer toured due to the higher popularity of the Ruby Falls section.

Today, visitors can tour the Ruby Falls cave system and see the stunning waterfall that cascades through the rock. Lights have been fitted throughout the cave to make the path more accessible and easier to navigate.

things to do in Chattanooga - Lookout Mountain
Visiting Lookout Mountain is one of the most popular things to do in Chattanooga.

6: Lookout Mountain Incline Railway

After exploring the caves in Lookout Mountain, why not also visit the ridge’s summit? The Lookout Mountain Incline Railway is one of the steepest passenger railways in the world and takes riders all the way to the top of Lookout Mountain.

The railway opened in 1895 and is still one of the most famous things to do in Chattanooga today. Each year, over 100,000 people take the mile-long railway to the top of the mountain. The station at Lookout Mountain’s peak features an observation deck looking over the city, a confectionery,  and a gift shop.

7: Chattanooga Whiskey Experimental Distillery

Although Chattanooga is no stranger to whiskey distilleries, the Chattanooga Whiskey Experimental Distillery is the first place to craft whiskey in the city in over 100 years. 

Chattanooga was a distilling hub in the USA in the late 1800s until Tennessee’s prohibition of alcohol began in 1909. The National Prohibition ended in 1933, but distilling whiskey would still be illegal in Chattanooga until May 2013.

The distillery opened in 2015 and provides tours 7 days a week. There are over 100 different barrels in the cellar at the distillery, providing many options for tastings. Guided tours provide visitors with an insight into the history of the distillery and its unique craft process.

For a fun adult experience or date night, touring the Chattanooga Whiskey Experimental Distillery is one of the best things to do in Chattanooga.

things to do in Chattanooga - Bridge
Chattanooga is a great holiday destination.

There are Many Fun Things to do in Chattanooga

From historic train rides to exploring underground caves, there are endless things to do in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The city’s fascinating history and friendly culture make Chattanooga a popular destination for tourists from all over the world.

If you’re interested in visiting the United States, make sure to check out these USA Travel Statistics before you go.

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