Surrounded by the Appalachian Mountains and Cumberland Plateau, Chattanooga is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts with plenty of hikes and bouldering spots within an hour’s drive. Not to mention the gorgeous Tennessee River that runs through downtown, offering a variety of watersports activities. Over the past decade, the word has gotten out about Chattanooga for more than just outdoor enthusiasts, too, with a mix of restaurants, attractions, and accommodations that have made the city and surrounding area one of the coolest weekend getaways in the country.
Can’t-miss things to do in Chattanooga
Animal lovers will not want to miss the Tennessee Aquarium. Start off with the freshwater exhibits in the River Journey Building, which focuses on the freshwater ecosystems of the southeastern United States. Be sure to check out the river monsters exhibit, which feature some of the world’s largest river fish. While Chattanooga may be far from the sea, experiencing the Atlantic and Pacific marine ecosystems is not thanks to the aquariums ocean Journey building. Aside from sealife, you’ll always find some lemurs hanging around. Before you leave, check out the butterfly garden, which is home to more than 1,000 butterflies.
Tennessee Aquarium: 1 Broad St, Chattanooga, TN 37402
Reflection Riding Arboretum and Nature Center
This 317-acre center is the perfect place to relax and connect with nature. The arboretum features over 1,000 different types of trees and plants, including some rare and endangered species. Take a stroll on one of the 15 miles of trails which take you around the lake and through the property. Be sure to explore the treehouse built over the wetlands then explore the lake on a canoe.
Reflection Riding Arboretum and Nature Center: 400 Garden Rd, Chattanooga, TN 37419
Foster falls is a short 45 minutes north west of Chattanooga. This 60-foot waterfall is an impressive one. Just a short walk from the parking lot is a platform that offers a stunning view of the waterfall. If you’re up for a little longer of a hike, follow the trail 0.3 miles down to the base of the waterfall. Here, you’ll have gorgeous views of this waterfall up close. This is a great hike year-round, though in the summer go in the morning or late afternoon to escape the heat.
Foster Falls: 498 Foster Falls Rd, Sequatchie, TN 37374
Incline Railway is one the steepest passenger railways in the world, with a 72.7 percent incline grade toward the top. The ride alone is noteworthy after grabbing tickets at the bottom. Then at the end of the line, you can grab ice cream or fudge and take the stairs to the top of the station for incredible views of Chattanooga.
Incline Railway: 3917 St Elmo Ave, Chattanooga, TN 37409
Rock City Garden
Just six miles from downtown, Rock City Garden is not to be missed. The foot path takes you past a number of sights, including Lover Leap, a dramatic cliff with views of seven states; Rainbow Falls, a 170-foot waterfall cascading down the mountainside; and Fairyland Caverns, a magical cave filled with life-size sculptures of nursery rhyme characters. If possible, visit on a weekday to miss the crowds and be sure to buy your tickets online.
Rock City Garden: 1400 Patten Rd, Lookout Mountain, GA 30750
Ruby Falls is the tallest and deepest underground waterfall in the US — and you can get far more up close and personal than many falls elsewhere in the country. Here, you can descend 260 feet into the cavern by elevator, then take a short 0.4 mile walk through the cave to reach the waterfall. Included in your ticket is access to Lookout Tower, which offers incredible views of the city.
Ruby Falls: 1720 S Scenic Hwy, Chattanooga, TN 37409
The 33-acre Sculpture Fields at Montague Park is home to over 50 large-scale sculptures from a number of artists. The park is free to visit and guests are welcome to wander around and explore the park at their own pace. This makes it a great place to get some steps in and fresh air while taking in some art.
Sculpture Garden: 1800 Polk St, Chattanooga, TN 37408
Located in the First Horizon Pavilion with over 150 vendors each weekend, the Sunday Market is a must visit. You’ll find all sorts of vendors, from food trucks and fresh produce to jewelry and local art. The market is open every Sunday April through November from 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM.
Chattanooga Market: 1801 Reggie White Blvd, Chattanooga, TN 37408
Where to eat and drink in Chattanooga
Located in the Choo Choo complex, stop in the Frothy Monkey for some delicious coffee and pastries. If you’re not in a hurry, eat in for breakfast and enjoy the vibes. The Frothy Monkey is open seven days a week from 7:00 AM to 9:00 PM and offers rotating events throughout the year.
Frothy Monkey: 1400 Market St, Chattanooga, TN 37402
Milk and Honey
Located on the North Shore, Milk and Honey serves brunch seven days a week from 6:00 AM to 3:00 PM. It’s not all about brunch food, though, thanks to a full bar and housemade gelato. Don’t miss the chicken and waffles or hot mess biscuit sandwich, and I can’t say enough food things about the vanilla bean latte and liquid gold juice.
Milk and Honey: 135 N Market St, Chattanooga, TN 37405
Big Bad Breakfast
If you’re looking for a good Southern breakfast, head to Big Bad Breakfast, which has two locations: one on the southside and one connected to the Lodge Cast Iron Museum. You can’t go wrong with the Cathead Breakfast complete with biscuits, fried chicken, and country gravy.
Big Bad Breakfast: 313 Manufacturers Rd UNIT 119, Chattanooga, TN 37405
Rembrandt Coffee House
For those just looking for a good cup of coffee and pastry, Rembrandts is the place to go. It’s won the best local coffee shop Times Free Press Best of the Best Awards 12 times in a row.
Rembrandt Coffee House: 204 High St, Chattanooga, TN 37403
Mac’s Kitchen and Bar
This farm-first restaurant focuses on new Southern cuisine where the food is made from scratch in house or by vendors that share the restaurant’s values. The menu is arranged by type: Foraged (think mushrooms over grits), Garden (okra, squash, cornbread, and seasonal produce), and Land (chicken, trout, and chorizo). Before grabbing dinner, first head to the meadery Flora de Mel, which is connected to the restaurant. A pre-dinner tasting is the perfect start before settling in for a delicious dinner focused on locally sourced produce. The plates are served family style, so order a few different plates to share and taste.
Mac’s Kitchen and Bar: 313 McFarland Ave, Rossville, GA 30741
if you’re looking for good vibes and good food, head over to the Flying Squirrel for dinner. The vibe is very laid back, with a large outdoor patio to embrace nice weather and fresh air. Reservations are recommended, especially on the weekend. The food is served as shared plates, so bring a group and order a variety of dishes — it’s hard to go wrong regardless of the order.
Flying Squirrel: 55 Johnson St, Chattanooga, TN 37408
Tony’s Pasta Shop and Trattoria
If you’re in the mood for handmade pasta, Tony’s is the place to go. The bread is made fresh daily as well, and is so good that you’ll want to eat a whole loaf yourself. If you’re in the mood for a specific pasta you can design your own by choosing from a variety of pastas, sauces, and proteins.
Tony’s Pasta Shop and Trattoria: 212 High St, Chattanooga, TN 37403
For a high end dining experience head to Easy Bistro, located in the new and trendy West Village at the city center. The menu features dishes made with ingredients from local farms. If you’re a seafood lover, be sure to stop by during happy hour from 4:00 to 5:00 PM everyday for buy one, get one free oysters.
Easy Bistro: 801 Chestnut St, Chattanooga, TN 37402
Where to stay in Chattanooga
There are a range of enticing Airbnbs in Chattanooga, but if you’re looking for a hotel, there are a variety of options depending on the amenities you’re looking for.
We hope you love the spaces we recommend! Just so you know, Matador may collect a small commission from the links on this page if you decide to book a stay.
Kinley Hotel Chattanooga
Located on the Southside of Chattanooga, the Kinley is a great homebase for adventuring during the day and exploring the area at night. Throughout the hotel, you’ll notice paintings, weaverings, and prints designed by Chattanooga’s women artists. If you find one you’d like to own, they are available for purchase. The rooms vary from a single king bed for the solo or couple, to queen bunk beds for the family travelers. At the lobby bar, the Exchange, you can grab breakfast and some coffee or an evening cocktail. Be sure to seek out the hidden speakeasy-style bar, Company, to grab a tasty cocktail and apps.
This is the perfect stay for adventurers looking for a budget friendly spot to crash. Geared toward hikers, climbers, and outdoor lovers, the Crashpad offer semi-private and private rooms, depending on what you’re looking for. The hostel was designed using reclaimed and renewable resources in order to minimize its impact on the environment, and is the first hostel in the world to be LEED Platinum Certified. The hostel also offers beautiful common areas and a large outdoor patio with a fire pit to meet your fellow adventure lovers.
If you’re looking for a peaceful escape from the city, Treetop Hideaways is the perfect option. Located just minutes from Ruby Falls and 20 minutes from downtown Chattanooga, these cabins are in the perfect location to disconnect. The cabins can sleep up to four guests and is complete with a kitchenette, indoor bathroom and outdoor shower, a fire pit, and all the supplies you need for a campfire.
How to Get to Chattanooga
Chattanooga’s regional airport is the easiest way to get into town if you’re out of driving distance, though you can also fly to larger nearby airports in Knoxville, Nashville, or Atlanta and rent a car.
Once there, Chattanooga is very walkable and offers a free electric shuttle (the Carta) that runs from the Chattanooga Choo Choo on the southside to the Tennessee Aquarium on the northshore. If you are planning to venture out of the city for hiking and adventuring then renting a car will be your best option.