Thursday, April 7, 2016

Planning a Kid-Friendly Trip to Chattanooga

My hubby loves to say, "Traveling with kids isn't a vacation. It's going to another location with your children." That's why going somewhere truly kid-friendly makes life much easier. Chattanooga offers plenty to keep the kids entertained, and it's only a quick drive away from Atlanta. While not as relaxing as say, sipping mai tais on a beach, Chattanooga is a relatively low stress weekend trip from Atlanta.

Tennessee Aquarium Jellyfish
Tennessee Aquarium Jellyfish
Photo Credit: Adventurous Tastes 

I recommend staying downtown  in close proximity to sites like the Children's Discovery Museum and the Tennessee Aquarium. There are multiple affordable hotels in the area, but we opted for the Staybridge Suites Downtown. It's a bit further from those sites than some other choices but the suites are actually two separate rooms, which is ideal for actually getting sleep when you're traveling with two little kids. The hotel has a heated indoor pool and a robust breakfast buffet included in the room rate. Our room was comfortable and spacious, and the weather was garbage, so we wouldn't have been trying to walk to the tourist sites any way.

Gemma checking out the big tank at the Tennessee Aquarium
Tennessee Aquarium

The Tennessee Aquarium was top notch, and for my money even more fun than the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta. Not surprisingly the ocean side of things is more compelling than the river, but even the river part was better than expected. Highlights were the tenuously water-related butterfly enclosure, the gorgeous array of jellyfish and of course the sharks. We easily spent an entire morning checking out all the exhibits and managed to see everything in plenty of time for lunch and naptime. 

Tennessee Aquarium Jellyfish Tank
Jellyfish tank at the Tennessee Aquarium
We hit up Maple Street Biscuit Company for lunch that day. It's fast casual counter service so it seemed like a great family friendly option. While the food was hearty and delicious, the wait for food was interminable, a major minus with two hungry little ones in tow.

Family fun at the Creative Discovery Museum in Chattanooga
Creative Discovery Museum in Chattanooga

Next up was the Creative Discovery Museum. This kid-centric, hands-on museum would be even better for slightly older kids, but my little ones still found plenty to explore. My Dinosaur Train crazy toddler loved digging for dinosaur bones in the sand, blowing giant bubbles and exploring the different sounds made by a huge array of musical instruments. There's even an opportunity to record your own music, which little me would have loved, but my kid was having none of it.

We loved our dinner at Community Pie. It's sophisticated enough for a date night but kid-friendly enough to bring the little ones dough to play with. We settled into a giant corner leather banquette with a view of the pizza oven for salad, Little Italy pizza and gelato, all of which we gobbled up. This is not a spot where you have to sacrifice quality for a meal with the fam. 

Overall I was pleasantly surprised by Chattanooga. It's close enough to Atlanta that your kids don't drive you nuts on the way, and there are enough family friendly options for return visits. Next time, we'd like to go for a train ride. In the spring they do Thomas themed rides and at Christmas, we hear great things about their North Pole trains. 



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