Just two hours north of Atlanta and nestled on the Tennessee River, Chattanooga has developed its downtown into a walkable hub of family-friendly activities.
Where to Stay: The downtown Hilton Garden Inn (311 Chestnut Street, 423-308-9000) is within walking distance of all the city's most popular riverside attractions. Another hotel option is the The Bluff View Inn (411 E 2nd St., 423-265-5033), a bed and breakfast located in the tranquil, ivy-covered Art District, several blocks away from the bustle of downtown.
Where to Park: For a weekend trip, families can leave the car parked at the hotel and explore downtown on foot. For a day trip, though, locals know that there are always open parking spots in the Bluff View Art District. Parking here offers proximity to Chattanooga's much-loved walking bridge, as well as Rembrandt's Coffee Shop (204 High St., 423-265-5033), where parents can fuel up on coffee and breakfast for the day, including gluten-free options.
Where to Eat: Located in the middle of downtown hotels and attractions, Lupi's Pizza Pies (406 Broad St., 423-266-5874) serves a creative menu filled with crowd-pleasing pizzas, calzones, and a long list of customizable pizza toppings. Try Carnitas Carmelitas (2604 Amnicola Hwy, 423-201-4841), a local favorite food stand that serves delicious Mexican-style pork in its tacos and other dishes.
What to Do Indoors: Explore the Tennessee Aquarium (1 Broad St., 800-262-0695), home to 10,000 animals, numerous special exhibits, and an IMAX theater. The Creative Discovery Museum (321 Chestnut St., 423-756-2738) is another must-visit family favorite. It immerses visitors in fascinating, hands-on science, art, and cultural exploration that kids will still be talking about on the drive home.
What to Do Outdoors: Wander across Chattanooga's famed walking bridge, Walnut Street Bridge, and watch riverboats float past on sunny afternoons. On both shores, families will find riverside parks like Coolidge Park, Renaissance Park, and Ross's Landing Park, all of which are perfect for picnics and games of Frisbee.
Extras: For a weekend with the kids, it is essential to know where the nearest ice cream shops are. Ben & Jerry's (201 Broad St., 423-265-8606) has a convenient downtown location a short walk from the Tennessee Aquarium. Visitors pop in for their specialty batches, sorbet, frozen yogurt, sundaes, smoothies, and shakes. Tasty seasonal scoops can also be found at Clumpies Ice Cream Co. (26 Frazier Ave., 423-267-5425), which is located in the NorthShore district (there are three Chattanooga locations).
RECOMMENDED VIDEO: Hike these 5 beginner-friendly waterfall trails in North Georgia.