If you’ve never been to Chattanooga, Tennessee, now is the time to add it to your “cities to see” list.
The Chattanooga Travel Guide
When I moved to Chattanooga in July 2015, I had no idea what was in store for me. I remembered visiting this city several times when we lived in Atlanta, but I didn’t remember much beyond seeing Beauty and the Beast at the Tivoli Theater and eating a few Moon Pies.
If you come to Chattanooga today, you’d never know that, in 1969, Walter Kronkite declared it the “dirtiest city in America.” You’d never guess that the smog was once so bad that people had to drive with their headlights on. You’d never know just how dirty the Tennessee River used to be.
No city is perfect, and Chattanooga certainly has a lot of room left to grow. The Tennessee Riverwalk continues to grow and develop, the Southside neighborhood is going through its own little renaissance, the arts and music community keeps getting better. We’re home to the fastest Internet in the country and an incredible startup community and Innovation District. We’ve got some of the best music, food and drink, and outdoors festivals in the Southeast. And that’s just a start.
There’s certainly enough happening in this city for a Chattanooga travel guide.
We’re not a big city, like Atlanta or Nashville or Knoxville, but we’ve got the charm to make up for our size. If you’re really craving a big city feel, we’re only two hours from each of those other places, and they’re all super easy drives. But I’m not here to talk about those places (even as much as I like Atlanta).
Whether you’re coming to Chattanooga for a day, a weekend, a week or longer, there is plenty to see, do, eat and experience while you’re here. The Chattanooga travel guide will help you put together your ideal stay in the Scenic City and make the most out of your time here.
For First-Time Visitors
Like any city, Chattanooga has its “tourist must-see-and-do” attractions. You can knock out many of these in a day or two, especially if the weather is nice.
- Incline Railway to Rock City (See 7 states from the top of Lookout Mountain)
- Ruby Falls (Underground waterfalls and caves)
- Chattanooga Choo Choo
- Tennessee Riverwalk (You can rent bicycles and bike it, too)
- Tennessee Aquarium (Celebrating its 25th anniversary this spring)
- River Gorge Explorer cruise
- Hunter Museum of American Art
- Chattanooga Farmer’s Market (Sundays, April – November)
- Moon Pie General Store
Related: 36 Hours in Chattanooga
What to Eat in Chattanooga
Chattanooga’s food scene is nothing short of eclectic. Almost any kind of cuisine you may be craving, at any time of day, you can find it here. I said I would never be a “foodie,” but then I moved here and that changed pretty quickly.
Breakfast & Brunch
- Milk & Honey
- Julie Darling Donuts
- Bluegrass Grille
- FEED Co. Table & Tavern
- Wine Down Ooltewah
- First Watch Cafe
- Bitter Alibi
- The Daily Ration
- The Camp House
- Niedlov’s Breadworks
- Embargo 62
- Frothy Monkey
Related: Best Places to Brunch in Chattanooga
Lunch & Dinner
- Tupelo Honey Cafe
- Public House
- 1885 Grille
- Tremont Tavern
- The Boathouse Rotisserie & Raw Bar
- Champy’s Famous Fried Chicken
- Flying Squirrel (Dinner only + Sunday brunch)
- STIR (also great brunch)
- Good Dog
- Tony’s Pasta Shop & Trattoria
- Puckett’s Grocery
- Community Pie
- Urban Stack
- Taco Mamacita
- Fiamma Pizza Co.
- Fiamma Pizza
- Blue Plate
- Big River Grille
- Easy Bistro
- Beast + Barrel (fantastic happy hour specials)
- Two Ten Jack
- Slick’s Burgers
- Main Street Meats
Related: The Chattanooga Foodie Bucket List
Dessert, Coffee & Tea
- Hot Chocolatier
- The Ice Cream Show
- Clumpies Ice Cream
- Cupcake Kitchen
- Goodman Coffee
- VELO Coffee
- Revelator Coffee
- Wildflower Tea Shop & Apothecary
- English Rose Tea Room
Related: Top 5 Ice Cream Spots in Chattanooga
Beer, Booze & Cocktails
- Odd Story Brewing Co.
- Chattanooga Brewing Co.
- Heaven & Ale
- Hutton & Smith Brewing Co.
- Clyde’s on Main (Great drink menu)
- Matilda Midnight
- Robar Cocktail Bar
- Chattanooga Whiskey (Tennessee Stillhouse)
- The Social
- The FIX Lounge
- Lookout Winery
- Chattanooga Tasting Club (wine tasting)
While many restaurants offer great Happy Hour specials, be sure to check out The House, an app that shares exclusive offers for some of the best dining spots in Chattanooga. It’s free to download and sign up, and you can claim special offers for you and your party.
What to Do in Chattanooga
No matter where your interests lie, there is always something going on in Chattanooga to explore. We’re home to some of the best festivals and big events in the state and region. You can easily plan a visit around one of those events, or come and see what’s happening when you get here.
- UT-Chattanooga (collegiate sports)
- Chattanooga FC (NPSL soccer, May – July)
- Chattanooga Lookouts (MiLB baseball, April – August)
- Roller Girls roller derby
- Chattanooga Zoo
- Southern Belle river cruises
- Eat Sip Walk food tour
- Comedy Catch
- Track 29 & Revelry Room (for concerts)
- 4 Bridges Art Festival (April)
- Tennessee Whiskey Festival (May)
- Chattanooga Film Festival (April)
- Riverbend Music Festival (June)
- Riverfront Nights concert series (July & August)
- Pops on the River (July 4th celebration)
- Nightfall concert series (April – August)
- Chattanooga Symphony & Opera (September – May)
- Chattanooga Restaurant Week (August)
- Southern Brewers Festival (August)
- 3 Sisters Bluegrass Festival (October)
- Wine Over Water (October)
- Main x 24 (December)
Bonus: Chattanooga is roughly 2 hours from Lynchburg, where you can visit the Jack Daniels distillery.
For the Outdoorsy Types
If spending time outside and getting in touch with nature is your thing, take a day in your Chattanooga itinerary to explore some of our amazing hikes, rock climbing and water sports.
- Signal Mountain hikes (Edward’s Point, Snooper’s Rock, Rainbow Lake)
- Lookout Mountain hikes (Sunset Rock, Bluff Trail, Cravens House)
- Lula Lake Land Trust
- Stringer’s Ridge (also great for biking)
- Foster Falls & Fiery Gizzard (Sequatchie, TN)
- Fall Creek Falls State Park (Pikeville, TN)
- Cloudland Canyon State Park (Rising Fawn, GA)
- Tennessee River activities (L2 Outside for rentals)
- Harrison Bay State Park
- High Point Climbing Gym
- Chattanooga Marathon (March)
- Chattajack River Race (October)
- 7 Bridges Marathon / 4 Bridges Half Marathon (October)
- Head of the Hooch regatta (November)
A great resource for all outdoors activities is Roots Rated. They have an amazing free app you can keep right on your phone to help guide your adventures.
Where to Stay
If you want to stay downtown and close to all the action, check out these places:
- Dwell Hotel
- The Chattanoogan
- Chattanooga Choo Choo
- The Crash Pad (hostel/hotel type accommodations)
- Read House (word is there’s a haunted room…)
- DoubleTree by Hilton Downtown
- Hilton Garden Inn Downtown
- Hampton Inn & Suites Downtown
- Chattanooga Marriott Downtown
There are plenty of Hilton, Marriott and Wyndham hotel options outside of downtown, too, in the Hamilton Place, Ooltewah, Red Bank and Hixson areas.
I had no idea how much I’d come to love Chattanooga. This city has grown and changed so much over the last two decades, and even in just the (almost) two years I’ve been here. I can’t wait to see what’s next, and I can’t wait for you to see it, too. Chattanooga really is the Jewel of the South.
What’s on your Chattanooga travel guide?