Chattanooga Family Day Trip: Dayton, Tennessee


Chattanooga Family Day Trip: Dayton, Tennessee

Over the past few months, my husband and I have been trying to find a bit of margin in our lives – to have time to read the fiction book, or bake that loaf of bread for a friend, or more so, to have quality family time together. And we only have one kiddo; we know it only gets more busy from here! We’ve been trying to make efforts to spend intentional time together and more than just the Chick-fil-A play place or the local park. However, we’ve discovered that finding family-friendly activities outside of our local playground and that fit in the hours between a meal and nap time, can be quite a challenge. 

So, with hopes of encouraging a little more family time for you, and in an effort to share a bit about our little town in beautiful rural Tennessee, here are a few ideas for your next family adventure. (Dayton, Tennessee is just a short 45 minutes to an hour away from Chattanooga.)

1. Pocket Wilderness

This is a little slice of paradise for us, and quite possibly the most beautiful hiking trails in the area. Tucked deep in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains, this trail runs along a river with areas for swimming on warm summer days and flat, simple trails for parents and kids alike. Parking and admission is free, but gates close strictly at sundown. We’ve spent many a Sunday afternoon here throwing rocks, letting our little guy splash in the water, and enjoying the beautiful fall foliage. No need to hike too far to find a fun spot for a picnic or a swim! 

2. Downtown Dayton

Strap the kiddos in the stroller and take a walk down Market Street in Dayton. Take a stroll through the Scopes Monkey Trial museum, but then be sure to stop in at Scoopy’s for some ice cream. From here, or once the kids decide the stroller straps are too tight, walk a short three blocks to Pendergrass Park. What kiddo doesn’t get excited about a new park? This one will hopefully be totally renovated in the next year, but even now it still has the classic playground vibe we all enjoyed as a kid. Dayton also has incredible local eateries. A local brewery (try the pretzels and beer cheese), fresh, locally sourced, and made-from-scratch food at the Cumberland Café. Finally, stop in and get some of John’s fresh roasted coffee and Harmony House Coffee, located across the street from the local library and next to the post office. It really is a bit of Marberry here in East Tennessee. 

The best part? All of these are within a short walk of one another. 

3. Dayton Festivals

What child doesn’t love a good funnel cake? Or maybe a stroll down Main Street covered in Christmas lights? Most of these festivals offer fun, carnival type games for kiddos, local vendors, and live music. The Strawberry festival offers just about all of those, including a parade. The Scopes Festival has a reenactment play along with festival activities. Pumpkinfest is another opportunity for family-friendly and safe trick or treating. And my personal favorite, the Holiday Stroll, where the downtown shops kick off the official holiday shopping season with great deals and treats. 

If you’re like us and looking for kid- and parent-friendly activities that take you on a new adventure and maybe include some local deliciousness, consider heading up to Dayton. You may feel you’ve entered a small bit of Mayberry and run into Andy Taylor. Or, because it’s rural Tennessee and we don’t quite have the hipster feel that Chattanooga brings, it may be more like Barney Fife. Regardless, we think it’s the perfect afternoon trip to spend time as a family! 


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