Big River Grille and Brewing Works – Downtown

One thing we did not take into account when we packed up and headed to Chattanooga, was the fact that in a town where there is much to do, see, and eat, people will do, see and eat there.  On any given Friday night, this is most apparent.  Dinner at the Big River Grille and Brewing Works was loud and crowded.  While it isn’t necessarily a “kid-friendly” place, older kids can find something they like on the menu.

Aretha Frankenstein’s

Of course, we couldn’t go to the IMAX® hungry.  We came across the name of this restaurant in an online search for restaurants in Chattanooga that serve the kids’ favorite meal – breakfast!  With a name like Aretha Frankenstein’s, we had to check it out.  This place got a huge thumbs-up from everyone, and no one left hungry.  The kids recommend the pancakes (a small stack is more than enough for most adults).  There are unbelievable omelets, and the “Waffle of Insane Greatness!” is just that.  Arrive early because seating is very limited, and be prepared to wait.  It is worth the wait.

Sticky Fingers

One of our favorite Chattanooga eateries is Sticky Fingers RibHouse.  This is a kid-friendly, family-friendly place with consistently good food and a great atmosphere.  We have enjoyed Sticky Fingers on several occasions when we have traveled to Chattanooga to visit family, and can always expect to have a good, and good-sized, meal there.


The Southern Belle Riverboat

Our afternoon was filled with as many things as we could find to do.  A lunch cruise on the Southern Belle Riverboat took us along the Tennessee River toward Lookout Mountain and back up the river beside the downtown skyline.  We were amazed to learn that a small island in the middle of the Tennessee River, across from downtown Chattanooga, is a nature preserve.  We learned, as the Southern Belle circled it, that this small island is home to many different protected species.  Upon its return to the downtown area, the Belle enchanted its guests with its 44-whisle calliope.  

Hunter Museum of American Art

Following the cruise, we walked to the Hunter Museum of American Art, atop an 80-foot bluff overlooking the Tennessee River.  Originally a mansion belonging to the man who developed the trademark Coca-Cola® bottle, the museum now boasts of modern architecture peacefully cohabiting with traditional architecture.  The exhibits were high quality and featured local, modern artists in the new, modern section of the museum.  The mansion is home to more traditional and historical artwork.  While the kids thought it was mildly interesting, it isn’t the place for small children.

Instead, the Creative Discovery Museum, located two blocks from the Tennessee Aquarium, is the place for young children to explore and enjoy.  This is a hands-on, learn by playing, wish-I-was-still-a-little-kid type of place.  It is a must go for families with small children.  

Lookout Mountain

Our last day in Chattanooga was spent at Lookout Mountain.  The Incline Railway took us one mile straight up Lookout Mountain on a cable railway.  This railway is one of the steepest passenger railways in the nation and offered a stunning view of Chattanooga on the way up.  The kids were able to see the mechanics of the rail cars and learned how the railway operates.  

At the top of Lookout Mountain, is Point Park, a park commemorating the Civil War “Battle Above the Clouds.”  The park is home to several monuments dedicated to the memory of those soldiers who fought that battle on both sides and offers breathtaking views overlooking Chattanooga.  If your kids need a place to run out some energy, this is a lovely place to visit on a pleasant fall day.

From the top of the mountain, we headed down to the entrance of Ruby Falls, the site of a 145-foot underground waterfall located about 260 feet below ground.  The half-mile walk through the caverns to the falls is fascinating and provides views of some amazing rock formations.  Very small children might be uncomfortable in such a dark place, and the tours were crowded, even early on a Sunday morning, but the falls were a remarkable sight.  This is definitely not an attraction to take a stroller, and there are places along the tour that a baby-backpack or “snuggly” would be a tight squeeze.  Save this for the elementary ages and up.  Again… a semi-smile from the pre-teen female who is just too cool to be seen in place like this with her very uncool parents (oooh-ick).  The male child was in awe!

Hamilton Place Mall

No weekend is complete (in the mind of a 12-year-old girl) without stopping to shop.  As we said good-bye to Chattanooga, and headed back up the Interstate toward home, we braced ourselves for our final destination – Hamilton Place Mall – the largest mall in Tennessee.  Finally, a thumbs-WAY-up from the girl.  Chattanooga certainly has something for everyone.

Okay, so maybe we didn’t do 101 things… this trip, but there is still time, and we will definitely be going back for more (once we rest from the last trip).  With dozens more attractions and many outdoor activities, this is really the place for every member of the family, from the very young to the very old.  

The Chattanooga Area Convention & Visitors Bureau was incredibly helpful to us as we planned out trip.  These good folks answered many questions and provided good “insider” tips.  Everyone we met there was warm and welcoming and we appreciated their hospitality.