If you haven’t noticed by now, we are big fans of Chattanooga. There are so many things to do that it really is a perfect destination for all sorts of getaways. If your planning on staying a few days, there’s plenty of things to do near Chattanooga too! You know we love a good day trip here at CircaWanderlust, so we’ve obviously put together a list of awesome day trips you can take next time your Chattanooga.
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Awesome Places to Visit Near Chattanooga
There is something to be said about spending time along the backroads, discovering new places. Come to think of it, that is probably the reason I love day trips so much. I love just hopping in the car with only a loose idea of what the day will entail. And there are some really cool places to check out near Chattanooga. So while you’re in town, you should consider a day trip to discover some of the hidden gems in the surrounding areas.
Barnsley Gardens Resort
Barnsley Gardens Resort is a great option for a quick getaway. It’s just an hour south of Chattanooga and has horseback riding, hunting, a gorgeous spa, and the gardens. If you are looking to do more than just a garden tour, you will need to call at least 24 hours ahead of time.
Mayfield Dairy Farms
Just an hour north of Chattanooga is Mayfield Dairy Farms in Athens, TN. You can take a tour of the farm and see behind-the-scenes how one of the largest dairy farms in the country works.
Near Mayfield Dairy Farms is America’s largest underground lake, the Lost Sea. At the Lost Sea, you can explore these caverns that have long been used by the Cherokee Indians as well as moonshiners. The boat ride is so much fun for families! I promise your kids will remember this trip for years to come.
Civil War History
Chattanooga plated an important role during the Civil War due to its location. Being in kind of the epicenter of the South, there are a number of historical sites and things to do near Chattanooga.
You can start by heading to Lookout Mountain where the “Battle Above the Clouds” took place. Here, Union soldiers took the Confederate troops by surprise when they made their way up the mountain and took advantage of dense fog. While there, make sure you stop by the Battles for Chattanooga Museum!
In nearby Chickamauga, you’ll find the Chickamauga Battlefield. It was at this battle that the Union Army experienced its most substantial Western Theater defeat. It is the oldest and largest military part in the country, so if you love history it is definitely worth checking out! There are also a few other historical stops in town that aren’t Civil War-related.
History lovers Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia is another place to put on your radar! The 6th Calvary Museum is there and it honors the “Fighting Sixth” Calvary which fought in the Civil War, Indian Wars, and the Spanish-American War. The regiment was permanently moved to its current Fort Oglethorpe location. Today the museum houses uniforms, vehicles, and various other artifacts.
If you are a family who loves the outdoors and being adventurous, you will love exploring Ocoee! Whitewater rafting is one of the main things that draw in visitors. The Ocoee River has five miles of Class III and Class IV rapids. If rafting isn’t your thing, you can head to Ocoee Zipz and hop on a one-mile zipline. While you’re up above the trees you can catch a glimpse of the Ocoee River and local wildlife below.
Love charming mountain towns? So do we! On the backside of Lookout Mountain, peppered with shops, is Mentone. This if you are heading to Lookout Mountain to do the usual fun things, this is the perfect afternoon follow up. Grab something at one of the cute cafes after hiking to see Desoto Falls or have fun on a horseback trail ride.
This small town has a lot of big town personality. It is located at the base of Fort Mountain State Park with great hiking options for those looking to explore the Cohutta Wilderness. Keep an eye out for the CCC fire tower while you are out on the trails. It is a great piece of local American history from the days of FDR’s Civilian Conservation Corps that helps establish so many great public lands.
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If you take Highway 27 from Chattanooga to Dunlap and then on to McMinnville, you are in for some of the most scenic views in Tennessee. For anyone looking to relax and get back in touch with their inner self, the Isha Institute of Inner-Sciences has a variety of programs worth looking into. Cumberland Caverns are also located in McMinnville. For a fun evening unlike anything else around, check their schedule for their Blues Underground concerts. At 333 feet underground this cave venue is one of the most unique in the country with amazing acoustics.
Cherokee, North Carolina
My memories of Cherokee are very much so the 1990s version where tourists flocked to ogle Native American culture without addressing how we’ve whitewashed the culture or the horrible ways they were treated. Don’t get me wrong, I loved going to see the “dancers” in the “teepees” as a little kid. But as I got older it started to feel icky. So while a day in Cherokee might look different than it use to, I’m here to tell you it is still a great day trip from Chattanooga.
Cherokee has Harrah’s and a few other fun things to check out nearby. If the casino scene is up your alley or you like history, Cherokee can be a fun destination. If you enjoy going to casinos, you know the drill on what Harrah’s offers – machines, gambling, buffets, and entertainment.
For history lovers and those looking for a more genuine and less tourist trap Native American experience, there are some really great options that are suggested by the Cherokee Historical Association.
One of my favorites from when I was younger is the Oconaluftee Indian Village. At the Oconaluftee Indian Village, you can see how how the Cherokee lived in the 18th century and get a historically accurate glimpse of their culture.
Another highly recommended thing to do in Cherokee is going to see Unto These Hills. This stage drama tells the story of the Cherokee. Both the tragic and triumphant history is told going back to before the Trail of Tears in a way that helps preserve and perpetuate the culture and history of the Cherokee people.
While you’re in Cherokee, make sure you stop by the Museum of the Cherokee Indian. The museum, like the Oconaluftee Indian Village and Unto These Hills, tells the Cherokee story. With exhibits, interactive displays, and artifacts, the museum shows the Cherokee people’s 11,000-year history – where they came from, who they are, and why they are in North Carolina.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is year after year, the most visited parks in the country. There is so much to do on both the North Carolina and Tennessee side. There is hiking, waterfalls, wildlife viewing, historic areas, and stunning mountain views. If you have time, it is definitely worth spending some time in the outdoors enjoying our public lands.
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Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge
Gatlinburg backs up to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Pigeon Forge isn’t too far down the road. Both towns are perfect for a family get away, each with different offerings.
In Gatlinburg, you can experience mountain charm and fun. It is the mountain version of Daytona Beach. There is the Ripley’s Aquarium, the Space Needle, Anakeesta, and a number of other attractions as well as restaurants. The main strip is very walkable and peppered with hotels and shops.
Pigeon Forge on the other hand is a little more spread out but still has so much to offer families looking for some wholesome fun. There are a number shows in town, from Dolly Parton’s Stampede to Pirates Voyage to the Comedy Barn, there is something for everyone. If dinner and a show isn’t quite what you are looking for there are plenty of attractions to keep you entertained.
The Island is your one-stop-shop for fun and food. With a giant Ferris wheel, arcade, rides, and ropes course, you can spend a whole day at The Island in Pigeon Forge. And there are plenty of restaurant options like my favorite is Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen you can pick from!
Yes, Dollywood is in Pigeon Forge but it needs its own section if you ask me because, like any theme park, Dollywood has plenty to see, eat, and do – especially if you love roller coasters! Unlike other theme parks, Dollywood has a great mix of performances, rides, and themed artisan workshops. The park has done a great job of expanding its offerings over the years too!
I love spending time at the Chasing Rainbows Museum where you can see Dolly Parton’s life and impact through some really awesome exhibits. And by the way, if you are a Dolly fan, make sure you stop by the replica of the cabin she grew up in! It really makes some of her lyrics come to life.
Sewanee is home to The University of the South (also known as Sewanee University) so you can expect your normal college town offerings. There are trails and great hiking opportunities for both new and experienced hikers. And the campus is worth a tour so you can see its gothic architecture accented by old-growth trees. Sewanee hosts outdoor concerns throughout the summer so make sure you check for performances!
Chattanooga is perfectly located for an awesome whiskey experience. There are several distilleries just a short drive away that makeup part of the Tennessee Whiskey Trail. Jack Daniel’s and George Dickel are both less than a 2-hour drive from Chattanooga! And to be honest, you can easily tour both in one day. There are quite a few
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Whether you live in Chattanooga, have plans to go, or visit every year, don’t forget, there’s plenty of things to do near Chattanooga too! Day trips can be a great addition to any vacation so don’t be scared to go outside of the city limits.