Rhonda Earley wrote an article called Guide to Chattanooga, Tennessee and while it was very informative I wanted to highlight the three main kid-friendly attractions that can be found in the city, the Tennessee Aquarium, IMAX Theatre and Creative Discovery Children’s Museum.
The Tennessee Aquarium
The Tennessee Aquarium is a kid friendly attraction located in the same complex as the IMAX Theatre and you can purchase tickets for both attractions at a discount however I will discuss them separately in this article. The Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga is home to over 12,000 animals in multiple exhibits. Stroller and handicap access is easy so if you have little ones bring your stroller as there is a lot of ground to cover. Concessions are available inside for the usual over-priced charges, but we packed water bottles and cracker packs in the diaper bag to save a little bit. There are a wide-variety of exhibits to see and some were more popular with the kids than others.
Butterfly Garden Located in the Ocean Journey Building, the Butterfly Garden was a huge hit with the kids. A definite kid friendly exhibit, the huge number of butterflies contained in the exhibit area made it easy for the children to see them. Butterfly friendly plants made viewing the butterflies up close a breeze and we discussed how butterflies eat, fly, and the cocoon exhibit made it fun to discuss metamorphosis. Some brave butterflies even landed on the kids hair or arms if they held still and that made for instant celebrity status with the other children! It was worth the price of the tickets for this exhibit alone.
Tropical Cove Petting Pool Right outside the butterfly exhibit on the Ocean Journey building roof is the petting pool with bamboo shark and stingrays. This was a huge hit with the children as the almost friendly animals would glide close enough for them to reach in and pet them. A guide was available to point out the different species of animals for the older children, and feeding times are posted so you can even watch them eat. Some stingray even swam up the walls and seemed to be playing games with the children. The stingray would splash at them and the kids would splash back. It was really a lot of fun watching them interact.
Secret Reef The other aquarium exhibit that really caught the attention of the kids was the Secret Reef exhibit. A huge, multi-level aquarium with reefs, sharks, and a multitude of fish swimming through it was a huge hit with the children. Some fish were very bold and seemed to follow the children as they ran their fingers over the glass and made faces at the fish. It was interesting to see how some fish stayed up near the top, but as you made your way down towards the bottom of the aquarium there were different types of fish there. Plenty of benches and sitting areas allowed for family photo ops, and break times as needed. Definitely an all-around great family experience.
Creative Discovery Children’s Museum
Another building with fantastic stroller/wheelchair access this children’s museum is a prime kid friendly attraction in Chattanooga. They even have a baby room for toddlers too young to enjoy some of the older exhibits, and a nursing station for breastfeeding privacy if desired. While there are always new exhibits being opened up one thing stays the same; this museum is a top-notch kids attraction. There are activities for children ages 2 months to 12+ years and the Creative Discovery Museum was selected as the best museum in Chattanooga. I want to share just a couple of the core exhibits that were so enjoyable for the family.
Riverplay A huge interconnected network of water ways, lock systems, waterfalls and wheels makes this exhibit an incredible learning experience and a lot of hands on fun for the kids. My 12 year old sister spent as much time playing with this exhibit as my 10 month old son did as there were pools and activities at every age and size level. Waterproof smocks are provided for the children to use as cover ups and there are plenty of areas for parents to sit and watch from a camera safe distance.
Rooftop Fun Factory This exhibit is closed during inclimate weather, but is otherwise a fantastic amount of fun for the kids, as well as a great learning experience. A variety of movement exhibits include bubbles, pulleys, levers, wheels and more. Use a pump to learn about air pressure or turn the crank to learn about gears. The rooftop fun factory is a place where kids can experiment and enjoy learning.
IMAX 3-D Theatre of Chattanooga
Located practically next-door to the aquarium it offers a great way to end your time in Chattanooga with a relaxing, but educational movie offering. Of course the IMAX theatre is one of the largest screens in the world so the experience is amazing. By purchasing tickets for the IMAX at the same time you purchase tickets for the aquarium you will get a discount. Military and Group discounts are also available so be sure to call ahead and find out about any special programs or offers.
With so many kid friendly attractions in Chattanooga it’s no wonder that Chattanooga remains such a great vacation destination. Its central location and many family fun adventures make it a wonderful stop on your list of must-sees.