Chattanooga, Tennessee is underrated, to say the least. It is never listed as number one on a top city to visit in Tennessee list. You will find it somewhere after the “big three” as I like to call them. Nashville, Memphis, and the mountain cities, which include Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and Sevierville. But I am here to tell you, do not discount Chattanooga as the place to be.
Chattanooga is my favorite city in Tennessee. A short two-hour drive from home, this is one of my favorite places to visit. A small city, located in a valley on the Tennessee River, Chattanooga has something to offer for everyone, especially the outdoorsy types. Paddle boarding on the river, outdoor concerts, food, festivals, my favorite markets to visit, and much more.
I am going to show you how to spend 48 hours in this city and hopefully convince you to put Chattanooga on your travel bucket list. Warning, I fit a lot into these two days. You can always spread this out over three days if needed. Second warning, you may fall in love and never want to leave.
We are going to assume you arrived the evening before, so we will get our day started on the morning of the first day. You will wake up and go to breakfast at my favorite breakfast place in the city, Milk and Honey located on North Market Street, north of Renaissance Park. Here you will find a good mixture of light fruit and oatmeal, or you can go for their Hot Mess Breakfast that is delicious. After breakfast, you will head across the river and start your day at the Tennessee Aquarium. This aquarium is amazing, to say the least. Often voted one of the best in the country, you can easily see why. There are two buildings, one is fresh water and one is salt water. Allow several hours for this aquarium, even if you do not spend much time at these types of activities.
After the aquarium, head a block over to Big River Grille and Brewing Works for lunch. I recommend the Shrimp and Grits, and you will not be disappointed. This is my favorite restaurant in the city and an early lunch is the best time to eat here, as it is usually not as busy as it will be at night.
After lunch, you will head back down to the river for your afternoon riverboat tour. This is the easiest and most relaxing way to see the city and get views you would not get otherwise. This will last about two hours. After your river cruise, head back to your car. From here, we are headed to Ruby Falls and Rock City.
Ruby Falls is one of the tallest (145 ft.) underground waterfalls that is open to the public. This really is a one of a kind experience. You will be stuffed into an elevator that will drop your tour down into the cave where you will start your walk through the tight spaces to the waterfall. If tight spaces or group settings are not your thing, this part is not as fun. But once you reach the falls, it will be worth it. This may be an unpopular opinion, but I was not a huge fan of Ruby Falls, however, it is the highest rated attraction (for a reason) in Chattanooga and I do believe you should see it on your trip.
From Ruby Falls, head towards Rock City. If you have not heard of Rock City, then you have never drove through the South or the Midwest and seen the famous “See Rock City” barns. These barns were all painted, starting in 1935 and ending in 1969, to advertise for Rock City. When the painter (Clark Byers) retired in 1969, he painted around 900 barns. That’s a lot of barns. At this time of day, it will probably be getting dark within the next few hours. That should leave you plenty of time to tour this attraction.
Rock City is one of my favorite things to see in Chattanooga. You will start here by walking through the rock trails that have some incredible and unique formations. The Fairyland Caverns, Fat Man Squeeze, and all the Gnomes are my favorite. The trails will lead you to Lovers Leap, which is where you can “See Seven States.” From here, there is a sign that shows you the seven states you can see, and how far away they are. The view from here is incredible. You will also see The High Falls, which is a manmade waterfall that is 140 ft. tall. You will now head back through the trails and end your adventure here for the day. You can now opt for an easy dinner or head back downtown for dinner and an evening out. I recommend resting and taking it easy. You did a lot today, and tomorrow will be just as busy.
Start day two with breakfast at or near your hotel, and head to your car. You will be driving north towards Knoxville for your first stop of the day. This will be about an hour drive, but it will be worth it. You are starting your day at the Lost Sea Adventure in Sweetwater, Tennessee. The Lost Sea is America’s largest underground lake. You will head down a tunnel into the caverns and start your short journey through the cavern with your guide to the lake. The caverns themselves are incredible. There is a lot of history here and it is interesting. You will then take a boat ride on the lake, which is beautiful and fun. This adventure will take up a good part of your day. I would get started here first thing and have lunch afterwards.
From here, you will head back to Chattanooga to my favorite thing to do in the city, Point Park. Point Park is located at the top of Lookout Mountain. Point Park is usually not listed as an attraction when searching Chattanooga, but it is worth it. The views from here are incredible, and I would argue that they are the best in the city. There is walking trails, hiking, and a cool museum with a lot of history. I got here a little later in the day on my first trip and regretted it. I wish I had more time. So, plan accordingly (and do not sleep in until 10 before starting your day, like me). You will want to spend a lot of time here, and afterwards your day will more than likely be over.
I should give something an honorable mention. Near Point Park is the top of the Incline Railway. They are open later in the day and you can head here after Point Park. I have never ridden the Incline Railway, but it is highly rated and recommended. However, I have anxiety, and this has never and probably will never be something that interest me. It is the world’s steepest incline and I had already drove up the mountain the Point Park, so I did not need to see the views. But if this is something that sounds fun to you, you will be close to this at Point Park.
So, tell me, have I convinced you to spend some time in Chattanooga? Or maybe you have already visited the city have something to add to the list. I would love to hear what you thought about the article or what you would add, so leave a comment below! And make sure to sign up for our newsletter to keep up to date with There Goes Laura and follow along on Twitter or Instagram to see what I am up to! XO