Chattanooga with Teens: A Perfect Family Day
Mom always tells you that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, right? So start your family vacation in Chattanooga with a big breakfast at the Gardens Restaurant at the historic Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel (1400 Market Street, Chattanooga, 423-266-5000). It has a great breakfast buffet that lets you pick the food you want -- not what mom wants! It's a cool place where the garden dècor makes you feel like you're outside, even though you're cozy and warm inside.
Be sure to arrive early, as it does get quite busy. You can also call ahead for a reservation. The restaurant is open daily 6:30AM-11AM, 11:30AM-2PM and 5PM-9PM.
After breakfast, wander through the train station and take some fun family vacation pictures. You will end up at the Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel's Model Railroad Museum, where you can see over 3,000 feet of track and 120 versions of locomotives. The museum is actually really cool: it is the largest model track in the world, and it's amazingly detailed. It's open daily 10AM-6PM.
After all that (and assuming Mom and Dad are still attached to your hip), head downtown on the electric CARTA trolley. The last stop on the trolley (which is entirely free, your parents will be pleased to know) will drop you off in front of the Tennessee Aquarium (201 Chestnut Street, Chattanooga, 423-265-0695).
The Tennessee Aquarium is one of the most popular things to do in Chattanooga with teens and adults alike. It holds a massive collection of cool stuff not only to look at but also to touch. Everything from otters, live redwood trees, thousands of fish, butterflies and creepy crawlies can be gazed at and sometimes handled at the museum. You can extend your adventure even further by jumping the aquarium's "River Gorge Explorer," a fast catamaran that will take you up and down the Tennessee River and show you historic sites and amazing Tennessee wildlife.
The aquarium is open 10AM-8PM daily, but it's best to go in the morning as the last entry is at 6PM. Teens are counted as adults as far as prices go: anyone 13 and over pays $24.95 to visit, although your little siblings can get in for $14.95. If you persuade your folks to let you go on the River Gorge Explorer, it's an extra $29.00. You can always leave them on the banks.
It seems like Mom and Dad may be a bit cranky and ready for lunch at this point, so head over to Niedlov's Breadworks (215 East Main Street, Chattanooga, 423-756-0303), a great place to recharge from your morning of family adventure in Chattanooga. This popular spot has lots of specialty sandwiches to choose from, all of which come on unbelievable, fresh-out-of-the-oven, homemade bread. Don't forget to grab a few of their tasty 99-cent cookies for the road! Opening hours are Monday to Friday 7AM-6PM, Saturday 7AM-4PM, but they only serve lunch from 11AM to 2PM so don't be late.
Now that everyone is refreshed and ready to go, pack the backpack with some water and put your hiking boots on. You are hiking to the top of Lookout Mountain. Okay, so not hiking exactly, but riding the Incline Railway (3917 St Elmo Avenue, Chattanooga, 423-821-4224) to the top of the mountain. You will want those sturdy shoes if you are going to brave the terrifying swinging bridge or gaze at the 140-foot Ruby Waterfalls from below.
Try to make it to the top of the mountain before sunset. It is a little busier during this time, but it's well worth it for the scenic postcard view. Hours vary according to season and teens and adults pay the same price, $14.00 (children 3-12 pay only $7).
After all that fresh air and sunshine, it may be time to head back to camp and call it a night. But first, steer Mom and Dad into the City Café Diner (901 Carter Street, Chattanooga, 423-634-9191), where you will be greeted by a six-foot tower of treats. Before you are seated, make sure to let the spinning display case complete a full circle of the six-inch tall slices of cake and pie -- that way you know exactly what to order after dinner. Don't like cake? That's okay! They have a second case filled with everything from cannoli to cookies. The diner's open 24 hours.
Once you make it out of the café, hop back on the CARTA trolley and head to the other side of the Tennessee River to Frazier Avenue, where you can wander through cool shops, boutiques and parlors. This is an awesome area to walk off dessert, and both you and the parents will love walking on the pedestrian bridge when the stars are out.
You have made it to the end of your family vacation in Chattanooga and still haven't actually gotten rid of your parents. That's okay, as long as you're staying at the Sheraton Read House Hotel (827 Broad Street, 423-266-4121). Rooms come with a refrigerator and two TV sets, so you can watch Glee while Mom watches the news. As soon as mom and dad finally hit the hay upstairs, sneak out to grab a cup of coffee at Starbucks (located conveniently in the lobby) and hang out by the indoor pool.
The perfect end to your best family vacation in Chattanooga - thanks to the fact that you were in charge, of course.