Anyone who really knows me, knows that I love to travel. This love of traveling is shared by my family as well. We typically travel for the Thanksgiving, but Christmas is usually spent at home. But Christmas a few years ago, we decided to take a spontaneous trip to Chattanooga. It was myself and four other family members and we rented a last minute airbnb, then we headed on our short distanced destination. Chattanooga is only abut three hours from the city I live in.
This trip in 2018 was actually the trip that made me realize I wanted a vacation home in Chattanooga. I distinctly remember being on the phone with one of my preferred mortgage lenders and telling him how this is how I wanted to be able to spend my holidays. There were a lot of features in this home that I really liked and have incorporated in my new space. The home we stayed in had the most comfortable memory foam mattresses, and I actually bought a similar mattress for my vacation home in Chattanooga. It was also was pet friendly so my sister was able to bring her fur babies. And it had the perfect family spaces, such as a comfortable couch and open kitchen so we could gather.
After spending those few days in Chattanooga with my family during Christmas, I just knew I wanted to share my love of the holidays in this great city. So here is a list of the top destinations I recommend for the holidays. Most of these places on this list were places we regularly go as a family, but we also visited during this trip.
1. Chattanooga Choo Choo
The Chattanooga Choo Choo is one of my regular stops when I’m ever in town. Market Street has one of my favorite restaurants, Stir, and coffee shop, The Frothy Monkey. The Choo Choo is a hotel and pre covid, you could book a stay in one of their freight trains. You can also explore the lobby and they have one of the nicest bathrooms in the city. (Yes, I said bathroom) The lobby also has a massive decorated Christmas tree that is the perfect photo opportunity for your family. You can also schedule an appointment to have a picture taken with Santa Clause.
Another fun activity on site, is the outdoor ice skating. The skating rink is in the Gardens of the hotel and no reservations are required. There are skate rentals so you don’t have to worry about bringing your own skates, too. This is a fun activity and reflects on how active and outdoorsy are the people in the city. There was also hot chocolate and a food truck to purchase. The truck has some tasty crepes and you could pick the toppings on them!
Ruby Falls is a family favorite for us. I have taken my daughter several times, and in my opinion, it is worth it every time. Ruby Falls is an underground waterfall in Lookout mountain. This is a fun destination that you can book in any weather. Tennessee weather tends to be unpredictable, so if it rains, you can still book a tour and it always stays at a constant 60 degrees in the cave. There isn’t anything different they do during Christmas time, but it is a classic stop if you’re in the city to take your family to see. They also light up the underground waterfall so it is a great photo opportunity.
3. Rock City
Rock City is technically in Lookout Mountain, Georgia, but Chattanooga is a border city where Tennessee and Georgia touch. You get a bird’s eye view of the city from the mountain and it is beautiful and very scenic. There is also a spot that you can see seven bordering states from the mountain. During the holidays, Rock City has the Enchanted Garden of Lights. These tickets are separate from the regular business hours between 5:00-9:00 pm. The exhibit has thousands of lights during this event. Other then the views, the attraction has hundreds of European folklore decorations, paintings and gnomes. The decor and attraction is very eclectic but it is fun to see the decor and remember the storylines of the nursery stories we grew up with in Fairyland. Unfortunately, the year that we went for Christmas, the tickets for the evening shows were sold out, but I purchased tickets in advance so I could go this year.
4. Chattanooga Zoo
Another exhibit I missed out on that year was the Chattanooga Zoo. There are only two weekends this year that the Holiday Lights will be open. The evening hours are from 5:00-8:00pm and the thickets do need to be purchased in advance. These special hours will have Christmas lights throughout the zoo but will also have specific animals open wrapped presents! This is a fun event to go with smaller kids, or even as adults.