Family fun can be found all over Chattanooga, TN, from the views high up on Lookout Mountain to deep undersea exhibits at the Tennessee Aquarium. There are activities to enjoy with kids of all ages in Chattanooga, such as playing in Coolidge Park with little ones, spotting animals at the zoo with bigger kids, and crawling through Racoon Mountain Caverns with adventurous teenagers. If the weather isn’t favorable for outdoor activities, there are plenty of Chattanooga kid activities indoors, including the Creative Discovery Museum, the Bessie Smith Cultural Center, and the Hunter Museum of American Art.
1. Dive in for a journey from river to sea at the Tennessee Aquarium
At the Tennessee Aquarium, you’ll follow an interactive journey tracing the path of water from mountains to rivers and the sea, exploring diverse animal habitats along the way. Learn about trout swimming through mountain rivers, giant marine life in deep freshwater rivers, sharks wandering through ocean reefs, and penguins darting around sea coves. The Tennessee Aquarium also offers a full IMAX theater on-site, as well as touch tanks and hands-on exhibits.
2. See Rock City
One of the most popular kid activities in Chattanooga is to explore the Rock City Gardens' ancient rock formations, expansive gardens, and sweeping mountaintop views. Located atop Lookout Mountain, Rock City blends natural beauty with family attractions like Fairyland Caverns and Mother Goose Village along an enchanted trail. When you reach the top of the mountain path, you’ll be rewarded with incredible panoramic views. On a clear day, you may be able to see across 7 states. Locals recommend purchasing tickets in advance for this popular attraction.
3. Experience an underground waterfall at Ruby Falls
Take a journey deep inside Lookout Mountain to experience one of the deepest underground waterfalls in the country, Ruby Falls. You’ll descend into the mountain via a glass-front elevator to begin your trek along the deep cavern trail that takes you by beautiful, ancient rock formations. When you reach the thundering falls, you’ll see them lit with colorful lighting and complemented by music in a magical display of nature’s beauty. You’ll want to purchase tickets in advance to see Ruby Falls, as ticketed time slots fill up quickly in peak seasons. Special lantern tours of the falls are also available for ages 5 and up.
4. Ride up a steep slope on Lookout Mountain Incline Railway
A favorite Chattanooga kids’ activity is riding the famed Lookout Mountain Incline Railway, one of the world’s steepest passenger railways. It’s been operating since 1895, transporting families up a mile-long track over a steep slope on Lookout Mountain. You’ll ride in specially fitted passenger cars with glass windows and ceilings that provide incredible views of the mountain and the landscape below as you ascend or descend. You can even visit the machine room and check out the massive gears and inner workings of this fascinating rail line.
5. Picnic and play in Coolidge Park
Coolidge Park is a favorite spot for family fun in Chattanooga with beautiful views over the Tennessee River. You can picnic and play in sprawling green spaces and take a ride on a charming restored antique carousel. In warmer months, the interactive splash fountain is perfect for playing in the water and cooling off with the kids. Stroll or bike across one of the world's largest pedestrian bridges, the Walnut Street Bridge, on your way in or out of Coolidge Park.
6. Learn through playful exhibits at the Creative Discovery Museum
If you’re looking for family things to do in Chattanooga, you’ll definitely want to check out the Creative Discovery Museum. You won’t have to utter a single "Don’t touch that," as all of the exhibits are fully interactive and meant for play, from making and inventing to exploring and imagining. You’ll find specific play areas and exhibits for smaller kids too, including toddlers. The museum also hosts a Sensory Night on the first Thursday of every month for children and families with sensory sensitivities.
7. Learn about African American history in Chattanooga at Bessie Smith Cultural Center
The Bessie Smith Cultural Center comprises an African American Museum and historic performance hall. Named for the late "Empress of the Blues," the Bessie Smith Cultural Center houses exhibits on the diverse African American history, culture, and art in Chattanooga, ranging from civil rights to jazz and local historic figures. The Bessie Smith Cultural Center is fully accessible for wheelchairs and strollers and offers additional family-friendly performances and events throughout the year.
8. See unique rock formations in Raccoon Mountain Caverns
Raccoon Mountain Caverns offers adventures for families ranging from panning for gemstones to exploring cave systems. On a guided Crystal Palace Walking Tour, you’ll see some of the spectacular natural formations inside the caverns. You'll learn about history and geology, and you might even see some of the cave’s unique wildlife. Adventure seekers can take the Wild Cave Expedition Tour to crawl, slither, climb, and squeeze into some of the fascinating undeveloped parts of the cave. All tours require climbing stairs, and the caverns are not accessible for wheelchairs or strollers. Children must be 2 or older to enter.
9. Climb aboard Chattanooga’s trains
Chattanooga is a big hit with train-loving kids, offering multiple railroad attractions. Visit the Tennessee Valley Railroad for a moving museum aboard a huge steel engine that offers tours ranging from under an hour to 6+ hours long. Chattanooga Choo Choo is a former railway terminal from the 1900s that's now converted into a themed hotel destination. Restored Victorian train cars have been converted into guest rooms and are situated along original railway tracks on the property. Even if you don’t stay at the hotel, you’ll want to see the lobby interior with its charming original features from the railway station.
10. Explore nature trails at Reflection Riding Arboretum and Nature Center
One of the great kid-friendly things to do in Chattanooga is exploring the natural beauty of the Reflection Riding Arboretum and Nature Center. Within the complex, you’ll find an arboretum and botanical gardens, native wildlife exhibits, and tons of space to explore. You can hike or bike through scenic nature trails, picnic on the grass, and wander through lush themed gardens. You’ll also see animal ambassadors ranging from bobcats and wolves to foxes and eagles, owls, snakes, and turtles. The center also hosts lots of events and programs throughout the year for families and kids.
11. Climb indoors and outdoors at High Point Climbing
High Point Climbing is a good spot for families who enjoy physical activity or for kids who just need to burn off some energy. They have a diverse offering of indoor climbing areas, plus a massive outdoor climbing wall on the side of their building that towers over Broad Street below. In the Kids Zone, you’ll find kid-sized climbing and bouldering walls with equipment designed specifically for children. You don’t have to be a member to use the facility, as day passes and punch cards are readily available for visitors.
12. Find your favorite animals at Chattanooga Zoo
Chattanooga Zoo houses a diverse array of animals from around the world across acres of beautiful natural habitats for you to explore. You can feed lettuce to the giraffes in the Africa exhibit, explore the forest aviary, and see jaguars in the jungle exhibit. Kids can hop aboard a ride on the children’s zoo-choo train and check out friendly animals in the ranch petting zoo. Some attractions at Chattanooga Zoo may require an additional fee, so check the website for more information.
13. Find tasty treats and treasures Chattanooga’s Sunday market
If you’re looking for Sunday family fun in Chattanooga, you can check out the weekly Chattanooga Market at the First Tennessee Pavilion. This market is a producer-only art and farmers market, so you won’t find any big name brands here, just regional and local small businesses. It’s known for a lively atmosphere and is great for families to explore and find some tasty treats to snack on or unique treasures to take home. You’ll also find ready-made meals that are great for picnics in the park. The market typically runs from 11 am to 4 pm on Sundays from April through December.
14. Explore haunted locations on a Chattanooga ghost tour
One of the unique kid activities in Chattanooga, TN, is going on a ghost tour around the city. Local companies offer ghost tours and other family-friendly themed walking tours to some of the historic and supposedly haunted locations around Chattanooga. Ghost tours are typically fun walking tour options for older kids and teenagers, but you can check with tour companies for age-appropriate tour information.
15. Race down waterslides at SOAKya Water Park
If you’re looking for Chattanooga kids’ activities during the summer months, you can check out SOAKya Water Park for an easy and fun way to cool off with the family. You can float down the crazy river, race down water rides and slides, and tackle a challenging watercourse. There are different play areas appropriate for bigger kids and smaller kids, each with its own unique features, fountains, and play equipment.
16. See diverse displays of American artwork at Hunter Museum of American Art
The Hunter Museum of American Art houses permanent collections and rotating temporary exhibits of American artwork across different mediums and from varied time periods. Their collection includes a large outdoor sculpture garden, with additional sculptures and public art pieces displayed throughout downtown Chattanooga. The Hunter Museum of American Art also hosts Family Fun Days with additional activities, games, and performances designed specifically for kids.