Tennessee has one of the most versatile travel destinations in the South.

Tennessee has one of the most versatile travel destinations in the South.

© Julie Thurston Photography/Getty Images

You’d be hard-pressed to find a better spring vacation spot than this river town. There are so many things to do in Chattanooga, an eclectic, outdoorsy city on the banks of the Tennessee, that a trip here can go adventurous, romantic, artsy, kid-friendly—you name it—depending on how you plan your getaway.

For no-car-required Chattanooga fun, we like booking a stay on the riverfront. From here, you can walk to the fantastic Tennessee Aquarium/IMAX 3D Theater, Hunter Museum of American Art in the Bluff View Art District, and pedestrian Walnut Street Bridge spanning the river, as well as Coolidge Park, with its iconic carousel and expansive green space, and happening Frazier Avenue on the North Shore. Try Marriott’s Courtyard (200 Chestnut Street) or DoubleTree by Hilton (407 Chestnut Street).

It’s easy to get around the city. Bike Chattanooga maintains 38 stations where you can rent and return bikes. A day pass costs $8, or get a 3-day pass for just $15. For a sip ’n see biking experience, book a tour with Pints and Pedals or Chattanooga Brew Choo, and hop aboard a people-powered bike/bar that you and your friends can pedal together. Or keep it simple, and jump onto one of the free electric shuttles that run from the North Shore all the way to the Chattanooga Choo Choo entertainment district and the city’s hipster Southside.

Chattanooga gives locals and visitors lots of interesting reasons to get outside. Explore the 8-mile Chattanooga Riverwalk (aka Tennessee River Park), kayak on the Tennessee River, or take your Frisbee to Coolidge Park. Bike, hike, or hang glide on nearby Lookout Mountain, where you can literally “see Rock City” and Ruby Falls, and ride the famous Incline Railway up the mountain. Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park, steeped in Civil War history and offering spectacular views, includes six different sites, including spots on Lookout and Signal Mountains. And there are more trailheads around Chattanooga than you can shake a hiking stick at.

New attractions include Songbirds Guitar Museum and Station Street, a pedestrian-friendly entertainment alley next to the Chattanooga Choo Choo. At the Choo Choo itself, find locally sourced fare and craft cocktails at Stir; the Backstage Bar at The Comedy Catch; and live music at Track 29 and The Revelry Room. The Tennessee Stillhouse microdistillery and tasting room is nearby on Market Street.

Overall, the dining and bar scene here is booming, with terrific restaurants and watering holes all over the city. Start with some of these: St. John’s, Alleia, Public House, Hennen’s, Clyde’s on Main, Taco Mamacita, Urban Stack, the Chattanooga Brewing Company, and Beast+Barrel. (Don't worry. You can hike it off on the Cumberland Trail.)

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