Top Things to Do During a Weekend in Chattanooga
Earlier this year, I had extra PTO time to use or lose, so my husband and I decided to take a long weekend escape to Chattanooga, which is less than 2 hours from home for us! I have only been to Chattanooga once or twice on day trips, and my husband had been once on an elementary school field trip to the aquarium, so neither one of us really remembered much about it. Once we decided that Chattanooga was our ideal weekend destination, we started planning and put together a fun weekend itinerary!
Chattanooga does have its own airport, with Delta, United, Allegiant and American Airlines flying to 8 direct destinations. It’s also just over a 2 hour drive from both the Atlanta and Nashville airports.
There are SO many hotels in Chattanooga, so it was hard to choose! This is another city where the area you most want to explore, and how walkable you want to be, will determine where you stay. We ultimately decided on Hotel Indigo for its cool vibe and central location. In addition to the many hotels, there are a few Airbnb options as well.
Itinerary for a Weekend in Chattanooga
We left on a Wednesday afternoon for Chattanooga, giving us three full days in the city. Since it’s such a short drive for us, we were able to get in a full days work, leave immediately after, and still be in Chattanooga in time for a late dinner. We left right at 6pm and headed north, quickly checked in to our hotel, then headed over to Urban Stack for burgers before calling it an early night.
Thursday morning started early because it was Aquarium day! We walked to Ruby Sunshine for breakfast, which I highly recommend! We didn’t have a long wait since it was a week day, but times can get long on the weekend, so I’d recommend getting on the wait list if you’re there over the weekend. This restaurant has a New Orleans/Cajun flair, and we enjoyed everything we had. I tried the breakfast sandwich with a creamy vanilla iced coffee that was delicious, and Blake went for the salmon avocado toast with Bloody Mary.
After breakfast, we walked down to the Tennessee Aquarium for our 10am entry time. Make sure to book your tickets in advance for this attraction since they’re operating at limited capacity right now! We chose the first time slot of the morning to be some of the first people in and have more of an uninterrupted experience, and it worked nicely for most of the morning. While weekday visits are certainly less crowded than the weekend, there is one downside to contend with – field trips! We did get overrun by a field trip at one point, but we were able to let them pass and then continue on. I hadn’t been to an aquarium since the Georgia Aquarium first opened in Atlanta, and I forgot how fun they are! We loved watching the penguins play, and the jellyfish exhibit was super cool. My husband loved seeing the trout in the rivers exhibit. There are lots of interactive things to do to keep kids entertained from start to finish – I even stopped at the kids’ stingray exhibit to pet one – but there is plenty to keep adults entertained, too!
Once we wrapped up our time at the Aquarium, we were famished, so we walked over to Big River Grille, a place that came highly recommended by my dad. I had adult mac ‘n cheese – YUM. The cheesy dish included grilled chicken and was topped with housemade garlic bread crumbs.
After lunch, we walked back to our hotel, grabbed the car and headed over to our 2pm tour at the Chattanooga Whiskey distillery. The quick tour of the facilities and process ended in a tasting, where we tried a flight of their current whiskeys in production and available for sale.
After all the food and drinks we’d enjoyed, and after being inside the majority of the day, we decided to enjoy a little bit of nature, so we headed down to the Tennessee River. The Riverpark and Ross’s Landing is a great place for a picnic, running or walking, or just enjoying a scenic stroll along the river, which is exactly what we did!
After our walk, we headed back to the hotel for a little downtime and to get ready for dinner. We decided on STIR for dinner, and I can’t recommend this trendy restaurant enough. Again, I highly recommend a reservation, as this restaurant is super popular and got crowded early. We started with the truffle fries app because I am a sucker for anything truffle, and they didn’t disappoint. Blake was so pumped to see they had a raw oyster bar, and he had a sampler platter of a dozen different oysters for dinner, while I had filet with goat cheese ravioli. And for dessert, I enjoyed an espresso martini, my favorite drink of all time! Overall, this restaurant was one of our favorites on the trip and is the perfect spot for so many occasions – date night, happy hour, girls night, the list goes on!
Since we ate dinner early, we stopped at the hotel bar on the way to bed and enjoyed another drink and a little bit of live music. The lobby and bar area at Hotel Indigo is super cute – the bar is open to the outside, and the weather was perfect for a nightcap on the patio!
On Friday, we headed across the river to North Chattanooga for breakfast at The Daily Ration. This cute little spot has yummy coffee, baked goods, traditional breakfast plates and items with a little bit of flair like chilaquiles and kimchi rice bowls. I had a tasty breakfast biscuit, while Blake went way outside of his comfort zone and ordered the fried chicken and waffles which was surprisingly SO GOOD.
On our drive back into the city, we went by Rembrandt’s Coffee House, which is in the Bluff View Arts District – one of my favorite parts of Chattanooga! Their baked goods are incredible – pastries and fresh baked bread, too. We took a quick walk around the district, which is very small, and realized pretty quickly that we had to come back!
With our coffee in hand, we headed back toward Georgia and went to Lookout Mountain. This stop was one we were torn on – it’s one of those things you have to see at least once but once is probably enough (although, some people do truly love this place and could go back any time. To each their own!). Lookout Mountain is home to the Incline Railway, Rock City and Ruby Falls. We didn’t ride the railway or go to Ruby Falls since we’d both been before, but since it was a beautiful day, we decided to buy tickets to See Rock City. The story behind this attraction is pretty cool but beware – the very end of the journey at Mother Goose Village really is just….weird. Don’t say I didn’t warn you! We were able to walk right up and purchase tickets since we visited on a weekday morning, but I’d recommend purchasing tickets in advance if you plan to visit on a weekend.
If you stick around the area and need a recommendation for brunch, lunch or dinner, I highly recommend 1885 Grill, located in St. Elmo at the bottom of the mountain. We have an 1885 Grill in our hometown, and it’s one of our favorite go-to restaurants!
Since we have an 1885 Grill at home, we decided to forgo that for lunch and instead headed back into the city and stopped at Feed Tavern & Table Co. We enjoyed sandwiches for lunch on the patio, and it was the perfect scenic light lunch.
On our way back to the hotel, we decided to pop into Warehouse Row, a cute shopping area that reminded me of a small Ponce City Market. There are several cute restaurants located here, a ton of office space, and great shopping options including Anthropologie, lululemon, Onward Reserve, J. Crew and The Cosmetic Market.
We crammed a lot into our Friday, so at this point in our day, we headed back to the hotel for some much-needed rest and refreshment before heading out to a late dinner at Flying Squirrel, a really fun tapas-style restaurant. I was obsessed with the décor and vibe of this place – I want a house that reminds me of it! And like I’ve said for most restaurants – dinner reservations are highly recommended basically anywhere you go in Chattanooga! For dinner, we shared several plates including the street corn, pork belly, brussels sprouts, a chicken dish and more. And of course, I ordered a few more espresso martinis for dinner!
On our last full day in Chattanooga, we decided to spend the day sightseeing and exploring, with no real set itinerary. We started our morning with breakfast at Whitebird, a super cute spot connected to The Edwin Hotel. This place was so adorable on the inside, but not going to lie – I was less than impressed with the service. It was very obvious they were not happy we were attempting to eat without reservations on a Saturday morning, yet the restaurant was nearly empty and they sat us in less than 10 minutes. But I know COVID has made things hard on the service industry, so I try to take any negative experiences with a grain of salt right now. So, we still ate there and the food was good – nothing spectacular, but this place seems to be much more about the vibe and location than the actual food. Brunch or dinner may be a lot better, but breakfast felt very hotel-style average.
After breakfast, we headed out to walk the Walnut Street Pedestrian Bridge, one of the world’s longest pedestrian-only bridges. This adorable wooden bridge connects to North Chattanooga, and there’s lots to see and do within walking distance on the other side. The bridge ends just above Coolidge Park, a cute greenspace on the water that was full of dogs playing, picnics and people just enjoying the beautiful weather. We took a quick stroll around the park, then headed down Frazier Avenue and Cherokee Boulevard. We stopped in quite a few shops along the way, then headed to Taco Mamacita for lunch. They have tons of fun tacos that you can combine to make your own plate.
After our time on the North Shore, we headed back to the hotel for a bit of rest and prepped for an early dinner. We’d been dying to try Tony’s Pasta Shop & Trattoria, located in the Bluff View Arts District, but they don’t do reservations and it’s always incredibly crowded. So, we decided to get there early in hopes that we’d beat the dinner rush.
We got there early and still had a bit of a wait, but it gave us plenty of time to wander around the arts district, which is truly the cutest little neighborhood in Chattanooga. All of the buildings are so unique, and there’s several cute gardens and greenspaces to wander through.
When it was finally time to eat, we quickly fell in love with the food. We were sat on the adorable upstairs patio, covered in wisteria and providing great views of the arts district and river beyond. When they served the table bread and dipping oil – I was in heaven. The bread was fresh baked next door at the Bluff View Bakery (and is the same bread that is sold at Rembrandt’s Coffee House). We tried the classic country loaf and the garlic ciabatta, which is baked with whole garlic cloves inside that gave it the best flavor. Plus, it was the perfect combination of crusty on the outside and soft on the inside. I couldn’t get enough! For dinner, I enjoyed the spaghetti carbonara, my all-time favorite pasta dish, while Blake tried the traditional lasagna. Needless to say, we stuffed ourselves so full that night but enjoyed every single bite!
On our last morning in Chattanooga, we decided to walk over to Maple Street Biscuit Company for breakfast. We had a Maple Street close to us at our last home but never get to eat it anymore, and it’s definitely a splurge because the portions are HUGE, so we decide to go on Sunday. We got up early, but the line is always long but trust me when I say it’s worth the wait. My go-to is always The Five and Dime, and Blake gets The Club. They also have delicious coffee drinks, too!
After breakfast, we checked out of the hotel and drove over to the Chattanooga Market. This is basically a cool combination of a farmers market and artisans market, with all kinds of food, homemade items and giftables. We checked out the many vendors, listened to live music and then finally, it was time to head home!
We crammed so much into our weekend in Chattanooga and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, but we just scratched the surface of everything there is to see, do and eat in this cute city. Here are lots of other things to do and places to eat you can add to your trip as you customize your own itinerary for a weekend in Chattanooga:
Things to See and Do in Chattanooga
- Southern Belle Riverboat – Take a sunset or sightseeing cruise along the Tennessee River.
- Kayak to or camp on Maclellan Island – This island is only accessible by water and is located in the middle of the Tennessee River just below the Bluff View Arts District.
- Raccoon Mountain Caverns
- Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park, Signal Point – History and military buffs will love adding in a trip to these sights, all important locations in the Civil War.
- Songbirds Museum – My husband really wanted to stop here, and we forgot about it on our trip! This museum is totally dedicated to the guitar.
- Umbrella Alley in West Village – This is a must-visit spot for Instagram-worthy shots.
- Chattanooga Choo Choo Complex – This area is home to the Chattanooga Choo Choo and hotel, several restaurants and shops, a comedy show and more.
Places to Eat in Chattanooga
- Frothy Monkey
- Julie Darling Donuts
- Syrup & Eggs
- Milk & Honey
- Tupelo Honey Café
- The Camp House
- Bluegrass Grill
- Bantam + Biddy
- The Bitter Alibi
- Bridgeman’s Chophouse
- Puckett’s Grocery & Restaurant
- Boathouse Rotisserie & Raw Bar
- City Café Diner
- Hennen’s Steakhouse
- St. Johns
- Mojo Burrito
- Sticky Fingers
- Universal Joint
- Milk & Honey
- Clumpies Ice Cream Co.
- The Hot Chocolatier
- NoBaked Cookie Dough
- Koch’s Bakery
- Downtown Dough
- Whiskey Thief – The rooftop bar at Edwin Hotel
- Paloma Bar de Tapas – Rooftop bar at The Westin downtown
- Unknown Caller
- Naked River Brewing