We didn’t commit to a big spring break trip since we recently returned from our first Disney World vacation, but a quick weekend trip to Chattanooga proved to be the perfect family getaway.
Chattanooga is an easy two-hour drive from Nashville and one Tennessee city my husband and I always say we could easily live in. The downtown area is clean and pedestrian friendly, and there is a wide variety of attractions and restaurants for families with kids of all ages, not to mention that there always seems to be an art or music festival going on in the riverfront district.
The Chattanoogan is the city’s only AAA four-diamond rated hotel.
Our comfy room featured two double beds and a contemporary vibe. Amenities include high-speed wireless Internet and a coffee maker, both musts in my travel book.
We were recently invited to review The Chattanoogan, Chattanooga’s only AAA four-diamond rated full-service hotel. I know what you’re thinking. Is this too fancy pants for families with kids? We saw several families with kids, from toddlers to teens, staying at the hotel as it was spring break weekend. This lovely hotel is located just about one mile from the busy riverfront area, where the bulk of the city’s attractions are located. It’s in close proximity to the most popular attractions, yet is more on the edge of the busy downtown district. You can literally park your car and leave it for the weekend as The Chattanoogan is just a quick walk to one of the city’s many electric trolley pickup stations.
Many of the natural materials used to build the hotel, such as in the beautiful open lobby, are from Tennessee.
We arrived late afternoon on a Friday and when we asked the front desk about dinner options within walking distance, we were immediately handed a helpful map and guide to various Chattanooga eateries in just about every category you could think of. Chattanooga has everything from sports pub type restaurants to popular chains such as Mellow Mushroom and Buffalo Wild Wings to fine dining. I was also impressed that so many of the downtown establishments, including The Chattanooga, support and promote each other. We settled on Urban Stack, about a block over from the hotel, since a co-worker and food blogger had highly recommended it, and it sounded like a good casual family option for us and the girls.
A burger is an experience at Urban Stack.
Urban Stack is no ordinary burger joint. The drink menu was also quite extensive and after our drive it was a welcome sight and a great way to kick the weekend off. I had the Morning Glory burger, which featured a fried egg, and it was amazing! Urban Stack offered great service, food and drinks, and yes there is a kids menu. We enjoyed eating outside and enjoying the gorgeous weather. Back at the hotel that evening hubby and I enjoyed the martini bar and we all enjoyed shooting pool and playing indoor shuffleboard in the adjacent game room, as well as relaxing outdoors on the patio by the firepit. We honestly barely spent any time in our hotel room!
I just had to try the Strawberry Blonde. I’m normally not a bourbon drinker, but this drink easily converted me.
Saturday got off to an excellent start as I headed down to the second floor to The Chattanoogan’s spa for my first ever aromatherapy massage (I chose a citrus scent as a wake me up aroma). The Chattanoogan is the only downtown Chattanooga hotel that offers a spa, which is definitely a plus for anyone wanting to squeeze in a little pampering session during family getaway time. I also noticed the great nearby indoor (heated) pool. Although we didn’t use the pool, I saw several families headed to the pool throughout our weekend stay.
The Chattanoogan offers a fantastic buffet breakfast at Broad Street Grille that offers everything imaginable, from slap your mama good Southern style biscuits and gravy and pancakes (my 9-year-old’s favorite) to healthier options, such as fresh fruit and oatmeal and yogurt. Personally I love to start our day off with a big breakfast at our hotel when we travel.
Saturday was our designated aquarium day and because it was spring break for many area schools, the Tennessee Aquarium had organized several extra activities and events throughout the day. We went on two very interesting behind-the-scenes tours — one was of the aquarium’s enormous tank feeding area and one was a look at the “sick bay” area. My older daughter, Miss C, is very much interested in marine biology and my younger daughter also loves animals and nature so the aquarium was the perfect outing. We ended the afternoon watching Born to be Wild at the nearby IMAX movie theatre and loved it. Fair warning, you will want to adopt an elephant or orangutan!
The River Journey area of the Tennessee Aquarium. There is another separate area totally dedicated to ocean life.
That evening we ate dinner at one of Chattanooga’s finest restaurants without ever leaving the hotel, a bonus after a busy day exploring the aquarium. Hubby had a fillet and I had fresh fish at Broad Street Grille. Remember how I said I was impressed with downtown Chattanooga businesses supporting one another? Our amazing bread during our meal at The Chattanoogan Hotel’s Broad Street Grille was from nearby downtown Chattanooga bakery Niedlovs and the herbs in the dipping oil were grown on property in the hotel’s very own herb garden. In all my travels I’ve NEVER known of a hotel property to grow their own herbs! Our server did an excellent job of explaining the extensive wine offerings. We also introduced the girls to one of my all time favorite desserts, creme brulee!
We came, we saw, we kicked some swinging bridge phobia!
On Sunday we headed to Rock City, which was about a 15-minute drive from the hotel. I hadn’t been to Rock City since I was probably 9 or 10. We loved touring the gardens, going to the observation point and Lover’s Leap, and we were all pleasantly impressed by the afternoon bird show. We saw a wizened bald eagle, a buzzard who acted more like a puppy than a bird, and several other beautiful birds. We headed to Ruby Falls next and and went on an amazing tour of this underground waterfall discovered in the 1920s. The tour is more than an hour long, but there were kids who looked to be as young as 2 on the tour. Honestly I would recommend it for children a bit older as there is no bathroom once you descend into the cave.
One of the many breathtaking vistas at Lookout Mountain. You can see seven states from the observation area.
Not wanting to go home quite yet and wanting to take advantage of the hour we’d gain as we switched back to Central Standard Time, we headed to Point Park, an off-the-beaten-path park my husband recalled visiting when he was a Boy Scout. Point Park offers amazing views of downtown and the riverfront area. We then headed back down the mountain to Coolidge Park for an early dinner at North Shore Grille. Coolidge Park is a wonderful family friendly park on the Tennessee River. On my must do list for our return trip is Clumpies Ice Cream.
From the downtown area with its popular attractions such as the Tennessee Aquarium and the Creative Discovery Museum, to more outdoor oriented attractions located on Lookout Mountain such as Rock City and ziplining (for kids 12 and older), Chattanooga has something for everyone.
BlondeMomBlog’s Must Dos For Family Fun in Chattanooga:
- Tennessee Aquarium
- Creative Discovery Museum
- Rock City (go see the bird show…it is surprisingly well done and you literally have birds fly over your head)
- Ruby Falls
- IMAX Theatre (great to do in the late afternoon after a day at the museum or aquarium when you need down time)
- Aretha Frankenstein’s (we’ve been on past trips to the ‘Nooga and it’s a great breakfast spot!)
- Urban Stack
- Coolidge Park (Features a wonderful indoor carousel and fun animal statue fountain area…be prepared for little ones to gravitate toward the water, though!)
- Incline Railway (We didn’t make it to the railway but I remember doing it when I was a kid!)
- Point Park (Great for Civil War history buffs…steep drop offs, though, so I would hesitate to take very young children.)
Disclosure: We were guests of The Chattanoogan Hotel, which provided us with hotel accommodations as well as admission to area attractions courtesy of the Convention and Visitors Bureau.