One of the biggest and most historic cities in Tennessee, Chattanooga has earned the nickname of the 'Scenic City' for its beautiful surrounding landscapes and multiple parks and green spaces. A big part of the city's culture is a strong, inherent enthusiasm for outdoor activities and nature. With a wide variety of natural and man-made attractions to enjoy and explore, there's a lot to do in this city. CDC information for travelers. Hours/availability may have changed.

1.Chattanooga Kayaking

Chattanooga Kayaking
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Kayaking is a very popular activity in Chattanooga. The city sits right on the 652-mile Tennessee River, with several other rivers and creeks in the surrounding area. Both whitewater and flat water kayaking can be enjoyed in and around Chattanooga, ensuring that kayakers of all ages and abilities with find something to suit them in this city. Things to Do in Chattanooga

Best Kayaking Locations in Chattanooga

There are lots of great kayaking spots to find and enjoy in and around Chattanooga, making this one of Tennessee’s very best kayaking cities. If you’re looking to enjoy some kayaking at this location, check out a few of the top rated kayaking spots listed below.

1. Tennessee River

No mention of kayaking in Chattanooga can be complete without mentioning the famous Tennessee River. This huge, imposing waterway runs right through the center of the city and is one of the most popular kayaking spots for Chattanooga natives and tourists alike. A National Scenic River Trail runs through the town, with the Chattanooga Riverwalk offering a perfect launch site. Kayakers can simply float along the calm waters of this river and admire the city skyline, taking in views of monuments and landmarks like the Tennessee Aquarium and Walnut Street Bridge.

2. Ocoee River

The famous Ocoee River has featured in the Olympics back in 1996 and runs for 93 miles in total. This river is filled with Class-3 rapids and challenging sections, making it best-suited for experienced, skilled kayakers who want to test out their abilities and really give themselves a challenge. Rafting can also be enjoyed in this area and there's a great five mile stretch of the Ocoee River for serious kayakers to enjoy just a short drive away from Chattanooga.

3. Chickamauga Creek

Only a short drive outside of Chattanooga sits the scenic Chickamauga Creek, offering a variety of fun kayak launch spots and trails to try out. The West Fork of the creek offers some really calm waters, perfect for kayaking newbies and paddle boarding. A couple of small rapids can be found here too, with the northern section of the creek offering a bit more of a challenge for seasoned kayakers.

4. Lookout Creek

Arguably the best flatwater kayaking spot in the area, Lookout Creek can be found just a little way southwest of downtown Chattanooga. The beautiful Reflection Riding Nature Center and Arboretum provides a great launch point and some nice nature trails to explore as well. Sunset Rock ad Lookout Mountain can be spotted from this location and the waters tend to be very calm and perfectly suited for families.

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2.Kayak Tours and Rentals in Chattanooga

Kayak Tours and Rentals in Chattanooga
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Various kayaking companies and services can be found in and around Chattanooga. These kayak companies aim to please, offering all the kayak services you could hope to find. Check out the details below on a few of Chattanooga’s best kayak companies.

- Canoe Kayak Chattanooga - 9852 Mullins Cove Rd, Whitwell, TN 37397, Phone: 423-280-3250

Canoe Kayak Chattanooga runs a wide array of kayak and outdoor services and activities, including camping and cabins right on the side of the famous river. Tents, canoes, and kayaks can all be rented from this company, with very attractive prices on single and tandem kayaks in particular. Renting a kayak in Chattanooga is a great way to simply explore the Tennessee River at your own pace with total privacy.

- River Canyon Adventures - 21726 River Canyon Rd, Chattanooga, TN 37405, Phone: 423-488-8211

Just ten minutes outside Downtown Chattanooga, River Canyon Adventures runs thrilling kayak tours, as well as low price kayak rentals on the Tennessee River. Surrounded by forests and mountains, you and your friends or family can set off along the calm waters of this beautiful river, with guides offering full tutorials and instructions to everyone.

- L2 Outside - 131 River St, Chattanooga, TN 37405, Phone: 423-531-7873

Conveniently located in Coolidge Park, this Chattanooga kayaking company runs kayak rentals and fun guided tours at any time of day. Both paddleboards and kayaks can be rented and enjoyed at this location, and the kayaking sunset tour is especially popular, offering a fun new way to enjoy the Scenic City as the sun starts to go down.

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Best Kayaking in Chattanooga

Attraction Spotlight: Reflections Riding Arboretum & Nature Center

Reflections Riding Arboretum & Nature Center is one of the most historic natural wonders in the Tennessee Valley. Located just a few minutes from downtown Chattanooga, Reflections Riding is the perfect outdoor adventure destination.

Reflections Riding is located along the western side of Lookout Mountain, a popular tourist destination in Tennessee. With 317 acres of forest and fields to explore, visitors can walk, bike, drive to experience the gardens, reflection ponds and colorful, lush, meadows. Popular activities at Reflections Riding include canoeing, hiking, camping, visit the plant nursery, gardens and arboretum. Reflections Riding is also an ideal venue for weddings, birthday parties, family reunions, and corporate events.

Reflections Riding facility started in 1941 when John Chambliss expanded his farm to include 300 acres along Lookout Creek. He partnered with Ellis Bishop, an expert bulldozer, to begin clearing away the honeysuckle and opening up the countryside to be able to create winding lanes for car and walking tours of the Landscape Park he was going to create.

The nature center does provide some trails that are wheel chair accessible and over 15 miles of hiking trails total. The center also offers many educational opportunities to learn about endangered, native animals, historic value of the land, and the early pioneer settlers and Native Americans in the region.

Visitor hours change seasonally and are posted to the website for Reflections Riding Arboretum & Nature Center. The trails and gardens are open 7 days a week all year round. There is admission required for entry to the nature center and arboretum, however, acquiring an annual membership can provide discounts on admission as well as other benefits at horticulture centers around the United States.

Reflections Riding has recently become dog friendly. Visitors are welcome to bring their family pets with them on the trails if the dogs remain on leash, are cleaned up after, and are under control. More details can be found on the website.

The attractions at Reflections riding embrace the natural elements and serve as a premier location on Lookout Mountain for outdoor adventures and activities.

The Designed Landscapes- Reflections Riding has been professionally landscaped in the picturesque style, which is one of the most important periods of formal gardening and landscape architecture. The roots are in the romanticism of the English Garden design and philosophy of the 18th century. There are 9 landscapes that can be walked or driven through:

· Candy Flats

· Rickards Reflection

· Gleason Reach

· Cornish Horizon

· Millison Field

· Siren Pool

· Olmsted Outlook

· Sheets Sward

· Upper Reflecting Pond

The Gardens- Many of the gardens at Reflection Riding were begun by Margaret Chambliss and Mary Humphreys in the early days of the center’s creation. The gardens are filled with native and rare wildflower from both Lookout and Signal Mountains. Other gardens have been established more recently through the generosity of other horticultural associations in the region.

· Wildflower Cove

· Fern Glade

· Oliver Freeman’s Hollow

· The Pinetum

· Three Sisters Cherokee Garden

· Herb Garden

· Susan’s Path

· Grandmother’s Garden

· Holsomback Azalea Garden

· Philip Memorial Rhodendron Garden

The Arboretum (Arboreta)- There are trees and shrubs from all over the world collected at the Arboretum with the majority being from the Southeastern United States. The Arboretum began intentional planting in the 1950’s and was reworked under landscape architect Thomas Kane in 1982. Under the Tennessee Arboretum Certification Program, this arboretum is rated a Level IV Arboretum.

The Trails- There are over 14 miles of trails through the mountain, along the creek and through the wild flower meadows. The three most popular are the Mountain Trails, Indian Profile Trail, and Driving Loop. The first two are moderate difficulty and offer spectacular views while the Driving Loop is 3 miles of paved terrain for bikers, joggers, and those who wish to drive around Reflections Riding.

Native Plant Nursery- More than 200 native wildflowers, shrubs and trees are cultivated in the nursery and sold at the annual plant sales on Lookout Mountain. Members have presale access.

Nature Center- The Nature Center is where most visitors start at Reflections Riding and where admission tickets can be purchased. Resources on canoeing, Wildlife Wanderland, and other area attractions are available here. The visitor Center is found inside the Nature Center and includes exhibits that focus on the environment and ecology as well as the Hollow Tree Gift Shop and library, restrooms and play areas for children.

Wildlife Wanderland- This wildlife sanctuary is home to 40 animals that have been negatively impacted by human activity and can no longer live in the wild. These animals which include snakes, coyotes, hawks, and bobcats, among others, are used in educational programs and serve as ambassadors for Reflection Riding.

400 Garden Rd, Chattanooga, TN 37419, Phone: 423-821-1160

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Hotel Spotlight: The Chattanoogan

The Chattanoogan is an award-winning urban hotel in the heart of Chatanooga that offers luxurious accommodations, outstanding guest amenities, and exceptional service. The Chattanoogan features stylish accommodations and world-class amenities, including three acclaimed dining establishments, a 24-hour fitness center, indoor swimming pool, a relaxing day spa with steam room, sauna, and whirlpool, and a 25,000 square-foot conference and business center.

Located on Broad Street, the hotel is ideally situated for exploring the city and all it has to offer and is within walking distance of many of the city's art galleries and museums, restaurants and retail shops and other attractions.

The Chattanoogan boasts stylish accommodations in the form of standard guest rooms and luxury suites complemented with modern amenities and personalized service. Recently updated rooms and suites are decorated in dark, rich earth tones to create a warm and welcoming ambiance and feature exceptional amenities such as queen or king size beds with pillow top mattresses and fine linens, private bathrooms with walk-in showers and baths, fluffy towels and branded bath products.

Other room features include large work desks with dual dial telephones, flat-screen televisions with cable channels, in-room safes and hair dryers, iron and ironing boards, refrigerators, coffeemakers and complimentary wireless Internet. Additional guest services range from same day laundry and dry cleaning services to an express check-out service.

Double Deluxe Rooms are 350 square feet in size and feature classic, contemporary decor with two double beds topped with pillow mattresses, an ergonomic work desk and chair and a small table, while King Deluxe Rooms enjoy the same layout and décor but with a king-size bed.

The 635-square-foot Courtyard Suites add an extra level of luxury with king-size bedrooms and beautifully appointed en-suite bathrooms with rain showers, oversized jetted spa tubs and pampering bath amenities. Spacious living areas feature queen-size sleeper sofas, comfortable seating and four-person dining tables and chairs, as well as wet bars and mini-refrigerators.

The Mountain View Suites are 960 square feet in size and boast stunning views of Lookout Mountain. These opulent suites feature king-size bedrooms and beautifully appointed en-suite bathrooms with rain showers, oversized jetted spa tubs, and pampering bath amenities. Spacious living areas feature queen-size sleeper sofas, guest toilets, comfortable seating and dining tables and chairs for six, as well as wet bars and mini-refrigerators.

The Chattanoogan is home to three acclaimed dining establishments offering outstanding cuisine and exceptional service. The Foundry Lounge serves a menu of delicious all-American fare accompanied by fine wines, beers and spirits, and live music on Friday and Saturday nights. It also has a Game Room with pool and table shuffleboard for added entertainment value.

The Broad Street Grille serves delicious regional cuisine prepared from only the freshest locally sourced ingredients for lunch and dinner, and the Stroud's Sidewalk Cafe boasts a casual atmosphere in which to enjoy light meals and treats, freshly brewed coffee and a range of sweet desserts. Guests also have the option of dining in the comfort of their rooms with the in-room dining option at the hotel.

The Chattanoogan offers exceptional amenities for guests during their stay. These include a 24-hour fitness center equipped with the latest exercise machines and gear for keeping fit, a modern business center with computer, copying, printing and fax services, complimentary high-speed wireless Internet throughout the entire hotel, and a full-service day spa complete with sauna, steam rooms, and a whirlpool.

The hotel is home to three excellent dining establishments, namely the Foundry Lounge, the Broad Street Grille and Stroud's Sidewalk Cafe, and guests can enjoy in-room dining at their will. An outdoor fire pit is perfect for relaxing under the stars with a drink, and over 25,000 square feet of convertible meeting space can accommodate groups of up to 600 people for business functions, conferences and special occasions and celebrations. Valet parking is available for all guests.

The Chattanoogan presents a range of elegant spaces for business and celebratory functions, as well as event services and amenities. The IACC-certified hotel boasts over 25,000 square feet of state-of-the-art conference space, including high-tech Executive Boardroom that seats up to 16 delegates, five general session rooms, and 12 breakout rooms,and a 7-800 square-foot Ballroom that has recently been redesigned and renovated. An 85-seat amphitheater is also available for acoustic-driven functions and events.

The hotel also caters for special occasions such as weddings, receptions, ceremonies and other special celebrations, and offers a variety of packages that include stunning venues, award-winning catering services, and a professional weddings or events management team that will take care of every detail.

Back to: Best Things to Do in Chattanooga and Best Tennessee Weekend Getaways & Vacations

1201 Broad Street, Chattanooga, Tennessee 37402, Phone: 423-756-3400

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Attraction Spotlight: Tennessee Railroad Valley

The Tennessee Railroad Valley in Chattanooga> is a moving museum that offers an interactive experience where guests can experience full sized, historical train rides on vintage trains aboard the Tennessee Valley Railroad. The first rail lines to arrive in Chattanooga were the Western and Atlantic Railroads in the 1850’s. These lines were joined in 1858 by the East Tennessee, Virginia and Georgia Railroads quickly making Chattanooga a railway hub and corridor for transportation and industry.


Passengers train operations mostly ended halfway through the 20th century and freight hauling was replaced by trucks traveling over highways prompting the formation of railroad museums to preserve the history of the railways that were falling into disrepair from discontinued use.

In 1961, The Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum was founded by local residents who had begun purchasing the steam engines in Chattanooga that would otherwise be scrapped. The organization began the process of restoring and returning the authentic railway equipment to operating standards. Many railways such as the Southern Railway made donations of equipment and rail cars, including ordinal roadbeds that the TVRM could use to operate their working steam engines on.

Today, Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum’s passenger trains run on the Missionary Ridge Tunnel Route which was completed in 1858 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a three-mile section of the Southern Railway that is no longer in operation to the public. This museum is not a brick and mortar location, rather it is a moving museum comprised of steam engines, offering rides and experiences rather than exhibits.

The Stations

There are two stations from which passengers can board the historic steam engines.

Grand Junction Station is in Chattanooga. Most of the train rides board from this station.

L & N Depot, is in Etowah, Tennessee and operates the Hiwassee River Rail Adventure and other special events that go through the Cherokee National Forest. This depot is hosted by the Tennessee Overhill Heritage Association. The trains operating out of this station are diesel operated, with most being built in the mid-20th century.

The Rides

All trains operate regardless of weather conditions, unless those conditions are severe. Train cards and coaches are covered and are heated and cooled. Because the trained operated by TRVM are historic, there are not ADA accessible and are exempt from the Americans with disability act.

Rail Baron’s Bash- This annual fundraising event includes live jazz music, hors d’oeuvres and behind the scenes tours and exhibits at the Grand Junction Depot and Office Car 98.

Missionary Ridge Local- This train operates daily in season, crosses four bridges and passes through missionary ridge tunnel before touring the railroad restoration shop.

Railfest Chattanooga- This festival is held annually in September and features live music, trains on display, petting zoos and lots of family activities.

Hiwassee Loop- A long ride of 50 miles through the Cherokee Forest and Hiwassee River gorge, this 3.5-hour trip goes up the mountain.

Copperhill Special- 94 miles round trip, this is the perfect day trip from Tennessee to Georgia and includes a stop for lunch.

Chickamauga Turn- This half day trip includes historic sites of the Civil War era and food options available on board.

Summerville Steam Special- An all-day trip that takes passengers into Georgia to visit the National Military Park and several historic cities in Tennessee.

North Pole Limited- The most popular annual event, this family tradition sees steam engines decked out in Christmas lights and the railway turned into a Winter wonderland.

Santa’s Hiwassee Holiday Train- Santa boards the trains on the Hiwassee loop with refreshments, Storytime and carols.

Summerville Santa Special- Santa heads to Summerville with passengers on this one-hour trip with refreshments, carols, and Christmas stories.

Christmas Special Dinner Train- A four course Christmas dinner is served in a 1924 dining car that travels through Chattanooga.

Valentine Dinner Train- Enjoy a romantic four course dinner as passengers travel through Chattanooga in the 1924 dining car.

New Year’s Eve Dinner Train- A three course meal is served on the 1924 restored dining car with excursions through east Chattanooga. Private or groups meals can be accommodated.

Halloween Eerie Express Train Ride- A train ride over the bridges, through the tunnel and an off-train fun house excursion are offered on this ride that featured autumn and Halloween fun for families. Children are encouraged to wear costumes.

Dinner on the Diner- Most Saturdays during seasonal months diners can eat aboard the restored dining cars while taking a short ride through east Chattanooga.

Hop Aboard the Bunny Train- Take a train ride to locations where passengers disembark to go on egg hunts, storytelling and other family activities for Easter.

Educational Opportunities

Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum offers Railroad Summer Camps for children age 7-17. Most programs are designed for teenagers however and educate on the preservation and engineering of the railroad and locomotives. Details, dress codes, and registration information is available online.

4119 Cromwell Road, Chattanooga, Tennessee, Phone: 423-894-8028

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