Monday, May 20, 2019

Chattanooga for Families

Chattanooga is one of my favorite places in Tennessee, quite possibly the South in general.  It feels like this cool combo of Asheville and Cincinnati, a city that is outdoorsy and unique and friendly.  There's good food and drink, friendly people, and vibrant neighborhoods to explore.  It was one of our fav places to go before we had Kenny, so we decided to head back for a weekend with him as a family getaway.

Walnut St. Bridge


The downside to our visit is that it was a rainy weekend, but we still enjoyed ourselves.  We chose a hotel downtown, knowing that we would be walking distance to so many places.  The downtown area has plenty of sidewalks!  We took a walk across the Walnut St. Bridge, the world's longest pedestrian bridge, until the rain made us take a break.

But the #1 reason we wanted to bring Kenny to Chattanooga was the world-class AZA-certified Tennessee Aquarium.  It's one of our favorite aquariums, and we visited during Chatt trips in 2014 and 2017.  Kenny loves the fish tank at daycare, and so we figured it would be a good time to take him.  He LOVED it.

The sea turtle was going by and doubled back to check out Kenny!




The aquarium is perfect for families.  We took our stroller, but Kenny could stand and look at some of the exhibits on his own.  You can take the elevator to the top and then work your way down, with automatic doors and ramps.  Since it is divided into two buildings (River and Ocean Journeys), we decided to do one building before lunch/naptime and another after.  Your tickets allow you to come back in if you leave!  This is where staying at a hotel nearby came in handy.  The box office opens 30 minutes before the aquarium does, so I went ahead and bought our tickets (there is a discount for Veterans) before heading back to the hotel to help get Kenny ready.  It was nice to be able to visit restaurants nearby and hit the hotel for naptime to make the most of a full day at the aquarium.  We had so much fun!




I think it's obvious that places like the aquarium are family-friendly, but Chattanooga also has a lot of dining options.  One thing I miss about life pre-kid is those foodie dinner dates we used to have.  Public House was one of the restaurants on my list from years ago that I wanted to visit, but I wasn't sure it was feasible with a toddler.  Then I learned they have a three-course kids menu, so they had to be welcoming to families, right?  I made a reservation on the earlier side (I find people are more friendly if you are eating with kids at 5 or 6, because non-kid people tend to eat later) and we braved it.  It was a great experience for all of us, as Dan and I could enjoy cocktails and delicious food in a setting we normally wouldn't take Kenny.  They even validate parking, y'all.

We also ate at Beast + Barrel, Mellow Mushroom, and Milk & Honey, all of which were accommodating of Kenny.  Milk & Honey didn't have a kids menu, and it was very small, but they had the first-ever high top highchairs I've ever soon!

Public House Chattanooga

Years ago, Dan and I decided that we would try to visit only AZA-certified zoos and aquariums.  Would you believe that Chattanooga has TWO such places to visit?  The Chattanooga Zoo is very small, so small that it might be overlooked as a place to go if you're not local.   But if you've got a toddler, it's absolutely perfect!  It wasn't crowded, parking was ample and close by, and the prices are low.  (In fact, for Veterans admission is FREE!)  Kenny loved running around the zoo, and they had some great exhibits.




Petting Zoo



Because it wasn't insanely crowded, we really felt we could let Kenny explore and walk on his own, which was perfect to wear him out before our car ride home.  The zoo is also expanding to add giraffes and lions in the future, so we wouldn't hesitate to take him back!


Chattanooga just has so much to offer.  If we'd had more time, we would have loved to stop by the Creative Discovery Museum or the Hunter Museum of American Art.  

We love Chattanooga, and it's a great place for families!


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