On the Road with PMC: Chattanooga


On the Road with Pensacola Mom Collective


We are grateful to our sponsor, KIA AutoSport of Pensacola, for supporting our mission of educating, encouraging, and empowering local moms through the lifelong journey of parenthood.

If you want to escape to the mountains, look no further than Chattanooga!

A six-hour drive from Pensacola, Chattanooga is the perfect long weekend destination for a family road trip.

Where to Stay

There are several hotels in downtown Chattanooga, including most of the major chains: Marriott, Westin, Hampton Inn, Springhill Suites, and Holiday Inn Express.

If you’re looking for a unique and historical experience, check out the Historic Chattanooga Choo-Choo Hotel, located in the old Terminal Station. Even if you don’t stay here, be sure to go by and check out this historical landmark. There is a restaurant on-site and fun seasonal events taking place throughout the year.

If you prefer to self-cater and book a vacation property through AirBnB or VRBO, there are some GORGEOUS places with mountain views and peaceful surroundings. Our family stayed in Lookout Mountain, Georgia (about 20 minutes from downtown Chattanooga), and it was the perfect spot to explore both downtown and the surrounding area.

What to Do

You will not be at a loss for things to do in Chattanooga! In fact, you should just start planning your SECOND trip! From the more well-known attractions to museums and hiking trails, there are so many things to do!

Main Attractions

**advance tickets are recommended for the following Main Attractions

Tennessee Aquarium

The Tennessee Aquarium is probably one of the most popular attractions in downtown Chattanooga and fun for all ages. The aquarium consists of two buildings (the River Journey and the Ocean Journey) as well as an IMAX theatre, and it takes approximately two hours to visit. Ticket options include Aquarium, IMAX, or Aquarium + IMAX. Plan ahead and purchase timed-entry tickets online in advance. Some time slots may sell out, especially on holidays or weekends.

Creative Discovery Museum

The Creative Discovery Museum is a children’s museum in the heart of downtown Chattanooga. Open daily (10am – 5pm); closed on Wednesdays. Timed entry tickets are recommended.

Rock City

Located on Lookout Mountain, Georgia, about six miles from downtown Chattanooga, Rock City is a 4,100-foot walking trail that includes a “swinging bridge” where you’ll see caves, gardens, and rock formations and enjoy the view from “Lover’s Leap” where you can see seven states on a clear day (Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama). The trail is not stroller-friendly; however, the Enchanted Trail is a bit shorter  (3/4 mile) and stroller/wheelchair accessible. For families with younger children, Fairlyand Caverns and the Mother Goose Village are always a hit!

Ruby Falls

Ruby Falls, discovered by Leo Lambert in 1928, is the tallest and deepest underground waterfall in the U.S. Lambert named the waterfall after his wife, Ruby. Guided tours will take you through the deep passageways within Lookout Mountain, where you will see incredible rock formations as you make your way to the waterfall.

If you are seeking more of an adventure, High Point ZIP Adventure, also located at Ruby Falls, includes zip lines and a climbing tower. It is only open on Saturdays and Sundays, so be sure to plan ahead.

Incline Railway

Probably one of the most well-known attractions in Chattanooga, the Incline Railway is a one-mile funicular railway that takes you to the top of Lookout Mountain, where you will have an amazing view of Chattanooga and beyond from the observation deck. The trip takes approximately ten minutes in each direction, and you will be amazed at how high you go!

Exploring Downtown

Walnut Street Pedestrian Bridge

The Walnut Street Pedestrian Bridge is the largest pedestrian bridge in the U.S., approximately a 1.4-mile loop that spans the Tennessee River connecting downtown to the Northshore. Begin at Walnut Street, cross the river, and end in the Northshore Neighborhood, which is full of great shops and restaurants.

Coolidge Park

Located on the Northshore, this is a great spot for families! Not only is there a lot of green space to run around and play, but you will also find a carousel and, in the warmer months, a splash pad for cooling off.

Cardboard Hill in Renaissance Park

Also on the Northshore, and only about a five-minute walk from Coolidge Park, you will find Renaissance Park and the infamous “Cardboard Hill,” a grassy mound the kids can “sled” down. Bring a sturdy piece of cardboard for endless fun and “sledding” – which us Floridians don’t get to do very often!

Chattanooga Market

Located at 1801 Reggie White Blvd, the Chattanooga Market is open on Sundays from May through December (11am to 4pm).

Museums/Historical/Civil War Sites

The Chattanooga/Lookout Mountain area is known for several historical sites. If you are a history buff or have older children, you may want to dedicate a full day to the Civil War battlefields at Chickamauga.

If you are spending the day downtown, add in a visit to the National Medal of Honor Heritage Center. In addition, The Passage, an outdoor exhibit on the Tennessee River marking the beginning of the “Trail of Tears,” is also a moving memorial.

Sightseeing Tours

Sometimes the best way to see a city is by taking a tour. Especially if you have little ones (with little legs that tire easily!), hopping on a tour bus (or train or boat!) gives everyone a little break while you continue sightseeing!

Chattanooga provides a few options to choose from:

Southern Belle Riverboat Sightseeing Cruise (approximately 90 minutes; ages 3 and up)

Chattanooga Ducks (approximately 90 minutes; infants welcome)

Hiking, Swimming, and Outdoor Fun

Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park is home to over 30 miles of hiking trails. One of the most popular destinations is Sunset Rock, and you can choose from a moderate 4-mile hike or a 1.5-mile family-friendly hike (from Cravens House).

Cloudland Canyon State Park in Georgia also has an abundance of hiking and biking trails along with caves, caverns, cliffs, and waterfalls. If you are staying on Lookout Mountain, this beautiful state park is close by and definitely worth a day trip.

Our friends at Chattanooga Mom can give you all the good scoop on swimming at Blue Hole if you’re going during the warmer months.

And for the crazy adventurous souls, there is Hang Gliding at Lookout Mountain Flight Park (also super fun to watch if you’re not a thrill-seeker!).

And finally, for a more family and kid-friendly experience, check out Highpoint Climbing, an indoor/outdoor climbing facility with a dedicated kids’ area. Perfect for ages 3 and up.

Where to Eat

Community Pie (great pizza and kids’ menu!)

The Purple Daisy (right next to Incline Railway)

Milk & Honey

Chattanooga Mom also has you covered with their Guide to Family-Friendly Chattanooga Restaurants and Chattanooga Kids Eat Free.

Fun Treats

Julie Darling Donuts

Clumpies Ice Cream (one location is conveniently located right next to the Incline Railway!)

Hot Chocolatier

As you can see, Chattanooga is full of fun things to do for the entire family.

We are already planning our next trip!


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Jen Kinsella
The Navy brought Jen and her family to Pensacola in 2018 following a 3-year tour in Belgium. Born and raised in the Midwest, Jen’s career path took her to Washington, D.C., after college, where she lived until she married her husband, Tim, in 2007. Balancing family and career against the backdrop of military life has made her appreciate the importance of friendships, connections, and finding your “mom tribe” wherever “home” may be. While living in Belgium, Jen took on her most challenging role to date, that of a stay-at-home-mom to her two sons, Timothy and Charlie. In this position, she has been forced to face her fear of cooking, has learned that you never “catch up” on laundry and that she continuously works longer hours for less pay! Fueled by coffee, Pure Barre, and dry shampoo, she feels like she’s “winging it” when it comes to motherhood most of the time, but couldn’t imagine a more rewarding journey. She continues to learn from her kids every day.



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