Last year we went to Chattanooga, Tennessee. If you haven't been before, I highly recommend making it a place on your list. It's a family-friendly vacation spot with lots to see and do. Here's a run-down of our trip:
1. 4 days and 3 nights at Super 8, 7024 McCutcheon Road, Chattanooga, TN 37421
- I like this hotel because it is close to the mall which means a lot of restaurant choices. I have stayed on the west side of town and there are fewer restaurants. It's also reasonably priced, especially when you look at the cost of hotels downtown.
- It's not too far to drive to any of the attractions.
- This hotel has an indoor pool which my boys love! The shallow end is big enough that they have plenty of room to play.
- They have a continental breakfast with a good, varied selection. The only hot thing served is waffles. We enjoy it so not really a con for us, but it may not be enough for some people.
- The drive to downtown isn't far, but if it's rush hour, you will get caught up in it with all the people trying to head south to Georgia.
2. Rock City, Incline Railway & Ruby Falls
Waterfall at Rock City
- You can purchase a 3-in-1 pass and get a better rate on these attractions than if you were to buy each individually.
- My boys loved Rock City the most. As the name implies, it's mostly rocks but has few other features like a waterfall, a gnome village, swinging bridge and Fairyland Caverns. The view from the lookout point is amazing when you think about seeing 7 states at one time.
- The Incline Railway is a slow ride up a steep incline. It's an impressive feat of engineering. You can start your ride at the top or bottom of the incline.
- Ruby Falls is an underground waterfall which makes it impressive. There are many interesting formations to see along the way. This was my third trip to Ruby Falls. The tour has changed little over the years, but the waterfall reveal is very different. You can no longer walk behind the falls like we did during my first visit 25-30 years ago.
- These three filled most of our time.
View from deck at Ruby Falls
- It is pricey, even with the discount. As a solo parent, this package ate up a lot of my budget.
- Rock City is mostly rocks. I believe they do a holiday light display in December, but we were there in March. My boys were entertained, so that made it a worthwhile stop.
- The Incline Railway is slow and there's not much to see beyond the views of the city from the top and the houses and you ride by. This was the least favorite activity of my boys.
- When you've seen one cave, you've pretty much seen them all. The waterfall at Ruby Falls is what saves this from being just another cave tour.
- This did take most of our time which meant not much time to do anything else. Plus it took time to get from one attraction to another.
- There were no family restrooms. This was an issue for most of the trip. Sometimes I dragged my boys in the stall with me and we took turns turning around (this can be an awkward experience when trying to be modest with children of the opposite sex). Other times I checked the restroom as they walked in and waited for them outside the door.
3. Tennessee Aquarium
Trying to touch a butterfly in the Ocean Journey building
- We had a year-long membership to the aquarium that had been purchased in December. Our stop last March made the second visit and was covered by the membership making it practically free.
- There are two buildings that are part of the aquarium. Visitors are sent to the top of each building and then wind their way down through many exhibits. This is my favorite aquarium because of the great layout and flow. Even with kids on a school field trip present, it flowed well.
- There are restaurants within walking distance which makes it possible to take a break between buildings to get a resonably priced lunch.
Watching the sharks and fish
- Parking is downtown and requires payment. There is a small lot close to the corner of Aquarium Way and Walnut Street (near the Walnut street Bridge) that was only $3 for all day. This was a much better option than needing to feed the meter every couple of hours.
- There aren't killer whales. This isn't really a complaint of mine. But a friend said he preferred the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta because of the giant creatures. They are impressive to see, but I still prefer the Tennessee Aquarium for its size, flow and price.
- No family restrooms.
Overall, it was a great trip. I would go again (and have been once since then already) because there is much more to see in Chattanooga. My boys have asked several times about going to Rock City again.
We made one stop on our way home that I will share in my next Hidden Gem.