Family-Friendly Day Trips From Chattanooga

Family-Friendly Day Trips from Chattanooga
Photo by Contributor/Photographer Kimberly Casey

One of our favorite things to do as a family is travel, but in this season of life, several long, drawn out trips each year just aren’t in the cards for us. We always dedicate at least one week each summer to a family vacation, but school, jobs, and young children hinder much more than that. We’re all about giving our children experiences though, so we make a real effort to see the world around us, even if it’s only a short car drive away.

In my opinion, one of the best things about living in Chattanooga is its prime location to many neat cities and attractions, all within a short drive.

Since I’m a mom and a teacher, I try to take advantage of any school breaks we have and plan a little getaway for the day. We love a good day trip…it’s one of my favorite ways to make memories with my boys!

Here are a few of our favorite day trip destinations:

Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg, TN

Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg are gorgeous, and it takes fewer than three hours to get there from Chattanooga. We’ve gone there more times than I count since we’ve had children, and we’re planning more trips this year. The colors are beautiful in the fall, and the Christmas lights are spectacular in the winter. These two mountain towns literally have hundreds of things to offer families, but here are some of our favorites!

  • Dollywood – Dollywood is a beautiful place nestled in the mountains and you can find something fun there to do every season between the theme park and water park. Even if your children are small, it’s very accommodating and kid-friendly!
  • The Island – The Island is a great area in Pigeon Forge to shop, eat, and play! Our boys love watching the fountains, riding the ferris wheel, and going to the toy stores and arcade. My husband and I love eating and window shopping!
  • Ober Gatlinburg – Some of my fondest childhood memories are of ice skating at Ober Gatlinburg and I can’t wait for my boys to experience the fun!
  • Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies – This is an awesome, family-friendly aquarium. My boys love it!
  • Smoky Mountain National Park and Cades Cove – Our family loves hiking and exploring nature and there are not many places better than the Smoky Mountains. If you go at the right time of year, you can even see elk and black bears!
  • Anakeesta – Located in the heart of Gatlinburg, our mountaintop park is a great family value! With elements of adventure and relaxation, we are sure to offer a memorable experience in the Smoky Mountains! Admission to Anakeesta includes all day park access and unlimited scenic rides via the Chondola or Ridge Rambler before arriving in Firefly village with quaint shopping, dining, and a whimsical mountain atmosphere.

Atlanta, GA

We often head south on our free days for some fun in Atlanta! If traffic is agreeable, it’s under a two and a half hour drive, so it’s very manageable for a day trip! Here are some places we like to hit up when we’re there:

  • Georgia Aquarium – I love the Tennessee Aquarium, but the Georgia Aquarium is hard to beat. It has some of the most spectacular animals I’ve ever seen…my boys loved it!
  • Zoo Atlanta – This is a great zoo and has some animals you don’t typically see like pandas!
  • CNN Center – The CNN Center is right across the park from the Georgia Aquarium and it’s a neat place. It has a great food court and you can take tours to see all the action that happens there.
  • World of Coke – The World of Coke is a museum dedicated to Coca Cola! It doesn’t take a long time to get through, it’s fairly inexpensive, and it’s right beside the Georgia Aquarium!
  • Atlanta Braves – Cheer on the Braves at Truist Park! Located on the north side of the city, it’s much easier to get in and out of this ballpark than it was at their former home, Turner Field.

Blue Ridge/Ellijay, GA

Blue Ridge and Ellijay are another set of mountain towns that are great for families. It takes under two hours to get there and the drive is beautiful. You can’t go wrong with a day trip here!

  • Downtown Blue Ridge – Blue Ridge has an adorable downtown and it’s full of yummy restaurants and quaint shops. We love strolling the streets there. It’s very close to Lake Blue Ridge, which is beautiful, so you can’t beat its location!
  • Mercier Orchards – This is a beautiful farm you can tour and from which you can purchase goodies. It has an awesome store and if your child likes tractors, they’ll be on cloud 9!
  • Amicalola Falls – If you’re into hiking, this is a great spot! The trails are very manageable with small children and the waterfall is breathtaking.
  • Georgia Apple Festival – The Georgia Apple Festival is a big deal in the fall, so this event can be crowded, but it’s fun! There’s great food and lots of cute vendors set up! There are also more apple products than you could ever want!

Nashville, TN

Nashville is a very cool and hip town, and it’s only two hours from Chattanooga! I think this is another pretty drive, so it doesn’t feel like a chore when making it! Here are a few family friendly places we like to hit up in Music City:

  • Opryland Hotel – We’ve never stayed in the Opryland Hotel, but we love to visit it, especially at Christmastime. There’s so much to explore in the hotel and it has some great restaurants and shops inside.
  • Opry Mills – We always go shopping here when we’re in Nashville! Our boys love the Rainforest Cafe and there are some great play areas as well.
  • The Parthenon – This is an awesome attraction that is very inexpensive! It’s a great way to explore history and the property is in a great park!
  • Mammoth Cave, KY – I know this isn’t in Nashville, but it’s not far from it…it’s definitely doable in a day. This is a massive underground cave system and it’s pretty fascinating.
  • Franklin Family Entertainment Center – This little spot is in Franklin, TN, just outside of Nashville, and my boys loved it! They have tiny bowling lanes for kids, large lanes for adults, an arcade, food, and tons of fun! My kids ask me all the time when we’re going to go back.

My list could go on forever because there are so many other awesome locations that are within an hour or so from Chattanooga, but I hope this list has inspired you to travel some with your babies! I know the thought of getting in a car with young children can be daunting, but it really is a fun, inexpensive way to make sweet memories with the people you love most. You can conquer anything in one day, and your kids will talk about it forever!


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