10 Fun Inexpensive Things To Do In Chattanooga, Tennessee

If you are planning a trip to Chattanooga, TN soon or you are a local looking for new things to do, then you need to do the best inexpensive and fun things to do. Having a list of inexpensive things to do in Chattanooga is great if you want to plan ahead for a trip or if you live nearby and want to take a day trip to Chattanooga but not spend a ton of money.

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What are some fun, cheap things to do in Chattanooga?

The best inexpensive things to do in Chattanooga are the Tennessee Aquarium, Chattanooga Whiskey Experimental Distillery Tour, Lookout Mountain, Walnut Street Bridge, Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum, Creative Discovery Museum, River Gallery Sculpture Garden, Hunter Museum, and the Chattanooga Zoo.

These attractions in Chattanooga are all inexpensive or free, which makes them a great choice for anyone looking for something to do in Chattanooga. This list of things to do in Chattanooga has something for everyone regardless of what type of activities you enjoy.

Each of the activities in this guide has been researched and reviewed by not only visitors to Chattanooga, but travel industry experts to ensure that they are fun and also cost-effective for anyone visiting Chattanooga. 

Chattanooga, TN Overview

Chattanooga, TN, is nestled in the foothills of the Appalachian mountains of Southeast Tennessee and is right along the Tennessee River. It is a beautiful city that has been named by Lonely Planet as the “Best In The US,” and on the list of “10 U.S. Destinations You Need To See.” 

With beautiful views, Chattanooga is a must-visit destination with plenty of attractions to offer. If you visit Chattanooga, you are bound to find something to pique your interest, including plenty of outdoor activities, breweries, museums, and shopping.

Chattanooga is located in Hamilton County and was an extremely important city during the American Civil War due to the multiple railways that were brought together in Chattanooga. It became one of the largest industrial hubs in the Southeastern United States. 

The city is divided by the Tennessee River and is at the transition between the ridge-and-valley Appalachians and the Cumberland Plateau. Chattanooga is a well-known city to visit and has been included in many song lyrics due to its popularity of it. 

Best Time to Visit Chattanooga, TN 

Chattanooga is a city that can be visited year-round, but the best time to visit is during the spring and fall months if you are looking for great weather and plenty of activities. Regardless if you decide to hop on a plane or want to make a road trip, Chattanooga is a great place to spend any amount of time. 

During these months, the weather is very mild, and there will be fewer crowds than during the busy summer months. 

There are also always quite a few festivals happening during the spring and fall, including beer festivals, art festivals, and music festivals. These will also provide some additional activities that you can do while in Chattanooga. 

Inexpensive Things To Do In Chattanooga, TN

There are many things to do in Chattanooga that are inexpensive or free and still extremely fun activities. 

1. Tennessee Aquarium

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The Tennessee Aquarium is a great stop to make while in Chattanooga. It is an inexpensive way to do something fun for a couple of hours. There are a wide variety of animals, including fish, reptiles, butterflies, amphibians, and mammals. 

In addition to typical aquarium activities, the Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute works closely with the Tennessee aquarium to educate guests about conservation efforts. TNACI does research to locate areas of diversity in the Southeastern waters that need to be protected. 

The Tennessee Aquarium also features an IMAX theater to watch an adventure down the East Australian Current and learn about how currents affect the fish we eat and the air we breathe. Tickets to the IMAX film are purchased separately from aquarium entry tickets. 

2. Chattanooga Whiskey Experimental Distillery Tour

The Chattanooga Whiskey Experimental Distillery is a great place to visit in Chattanooga. They first opened in March 2015. They were the first distillery to make whiskey in Chattanooga in over 100 years. They have over 100 barrels of whiskey aging in their cellar. 

The tour will take you through the history of the distillery, and its craft production process, and you can learn about how their distillery is different from any other. The tour is approximately one hour, and at the end, anyone that is of age to drink can sample a flight of whiskey. 

3. Lookout Mountain

If you are looking for a scenic activity and a great way to get outside, you can visit Lookout Mountain. It is located a very short distance from downtown and boasts three different ticketed attractions that are very popular. Each of these attractions is full of the natural beauty that Tennessee has to offer. 

If you want to explore the tallest and deepest underground waterfall that is open to the public, you can go to Ruby Falls. For a nature walk and great views, you can visit Rock City. The third attraction at Lookout Mountain is the Incline Railway, which is one of the world’s steepest passenger railways, and you can ride it. 

4. Walnut Street Bridge

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The Walnut Street Bridge is a great attraction to visit in Chattanooga. It is an old highway bridge in Tennessee that is still in use today. It has been restored and is now used as a pedestrian bridge and park. 

The bridge was closed down in 1978 for traffic purposes due to safety and was not reopened until 1993. It is now known as a connection between the North Shore and the Tennessee Aquarium, the Hunter Museum of American Art, and the Tennessee Riverwalk. 

5. Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum

The Chattanooga area is well known for its railroad systems, and they are a large part of the history of the area. The Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum is a great place to explore and learn about these railroad systems. 

The first rail line arrived in Chattanooga in 1850 with the Western and Atlantic railroad. Then in 1858, the East Tennessee, Virginia, and Georgia railroad arrived. These rail lines were popular for approximately a century before railroads began to decline in use in the 1950s due to cars and planes taking over transportation. 

Museums like the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum began to create places to preserve the history of the railroad systems. The goal of the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum is to educate visitors about the history and importance of this industry and how much it impacted the world we live in today. 

6. Creative Discovery Museum

If you are visiting Chattanooga with kids or if you are a local looking for a great activity with young ones, then the Creative Discovery Museum is an excellent option. It is a nationally-ranked children’s museum in the heart of downtown Chattanooga.

There are many different exhibits that suit children of all ages, including children that are under a year old. These exhibits allow children to play and interact while learning in a fun and explorative environment. You can spend as little as a couple of hours all day in the museum. 

7. Chattanooga Riverwalk

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The Chattanooga Riverwalk spans over 16 miles along the banks of the Tennessee River and provides plenty of activities for a fun-filled day in Chattanooga. There are plenty of access points along the riverwalk no matter where you are staying or where you want to hop on.

You can spend the day walking the riverwalk and exploring parks, and museums and enjoying incredible restaurants along the way. 

There are plenty of beautiful sites to see and you will most likely see some wildlife and unique plants along the way. If you do not want to walk the riverwalk, you can also rent a bike and bike along the riverwalk. It is paved the entire way to make it accessible for anybody, and there are restrooms along the riverwalk, which also include handicap-accessible restrooms. 

8. River Gallery Sculpture Garden

If you are looking for an outdoor activity to do in Chattanooga, the popular River Gallery Sculpture Garden is a great one. You can spend as long as you would like walking the paths of the garden and exploring the beautiful artwork along the way. 

It is a two-acre outdoor space and was designed by Joe Baasch. The garden overlooks the Tennessee River and has a formal garden, meditation space, and an informal garden. The River Gallery Sculpture Garden was also chosen as 1 of 195 sculpture gardens selected worldwide to be featured in the International Sculpture Center’s Sculpture Parks and Gardens Directory. 

9. Hunter Museum of American Art

The Hunter Museum of American Art is located in a beautiful building that overlooks the Tennessee River and downtown Chattanooga. It sits on a bluff with additional views of the Walnut Street Bridge.

The museum boasts 100 years of architecture and is the most complete collection of American art in the Southeast. The media included in the museum includes contemporary studio glass, paintings, and sculptures. 

10. Chattanooga Zoo

The Chattanooga Zoo at Warner Park is a popular activity for those visiting Chattanooga. It was first established in 1937 when they built two enclosures for rhesus monkeys. It is located on 13 acres and is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. 

The zoo is located two miles from downtown and is open daily from 9 am-5 pm. They have over 500 exhibits, including over 200 different species of animals so there is plenty to see. 

The Chattanooga Zoo prides itself on conservation efforts, and they promote local and global conservation efforts through partnering with other organizations as well as educating the public about different animals. Their current conservation efforts include working on the Argentine Jaguar Conservation project, the Hellbender Conservation Program, and the Species Survival Plan. 

Where To Stay In Chattanooga

Chattanooga is a beautiful city to visit and has many wonderful areas that are worth staying in. Each of these areas provides great activities as well as multiple options for hotels and restaurants. 

Downtown Chattanooga

If you want to get a true Chattanooga experience, you can always choose to stay downtown. There is great nightlife downtown and plenty of fantastic restaurants and bars. You can find multiple hotel options as well as easy access to almost any activity in the Chattanooga area. 


The riverfront in Chattanooga is a fun place to stay if you want to have beautiful views of the Tennessee River. There are hotels scattered along the riverfront, and it is a very pedestrian-friendly area. For those that want to walk around Chattanooga and have easy walking access to activities as well as restaurants, then the riverfront area is perfect. 

You will also have the ability to hop on the riverwalk and explore the miles of paved pathways.

Lookout Mountain

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If you are more of an outdoors enthusiast and are looking for someone to camp, then hike Lookout Mountain is a great idea. There are plenty of activities in the Lookout Mountain area, and you can easily camp.

Even if you do not wish to camp, there are hotels located near Lookout Mountain if you prefer to be able to relax and get away from the hustle and bustle of city life.