Blake Walsh

15 Free Things to Do in Chattanooga, TN

  • Published 2021/09/08

Considered one of the United States’ most picturesque cities, Chattanooga is a seat of Hamilton County situated between the Tennessee River and the mountains of Southeast Tennessee.

In fact, in 2018, the Lonely Planet included the city in its list of America’s Top 10 must-see places.

The New York Times also named it one of the “Top 45 Places to Go” globally.

To experience what Chattanooga has to offer, you don’t have to break the bank.

Yes, you read it right, you can explore the city and try many activities for free!

In the scenic city, you’ll find attractions with zero admission fee, ranging from public sculpture gardens to city parks, historic landmarks, and quirky specialty markets.

You only need to know where to look.

Here’s a list of 15 things you can do in Chattanooga, Tennessee, for free:

Hike at Lookout Mountain

Waterfall at Lookout Mountain

RodClementPhotography /

Lookout Mountain is rich in Civil War history and natural beauty and is just 10 minutes away from the city center.

It is one of Chattanooga’s most popular tourist attractions, as it offers a wide variety of activities for visitors to enjoy.

While some attractions in Lookout Mountain require paid admission, it also features some free hiking paths.

A Cave in Lookout Mountain

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Along the way, you’ll see waterfalls, caverns, wildflowers, and a 200-foot bridge.

Sunset Rock on Lookout Mountain, a famous rock climbing and hiking destination that overlooks a wide valley to the southwest, has one of the most breathtaking panoramic views of the Tennessee River and the city skyline.

But most of all, sunset is the best time to be at Lovers Leap, which is 1652ft (504m) above sea level.

Enjoy Local Music at Nightfall Concert Series

If you happen to be around Chattanooga from May till August, downtown Chattanooga offers free live music every Friday night.

All genres are represented in the Nightfall Concert Series, which often includes international performances.

There will be opening bands starting at 7 pm, and a nationally touring headlining artist will be on stage around 8 pm.

Children, lawn chairs, and pets are welcome to Miller Plaza, where you can also take advantage of the delicious cuisine and ice-cold beer at very affordable prices.

The city has a unique and intangible essence that is created by these musical concerts.

Additionally, Nightfall has always played a significant part in improving downtown Chattanooga’s general health and vibrancy.

Camp at Chickamauga National Military Park

A cannon in Chickamauga National Military Park

NadyaRa /

Chickamauga National Military Park is located on the site of a Civil War battleground.

Besides historical reenactments, the park also provides a sightseeing tour guide, an indoor museum, and hiking and running routes.

There are park rangers stationed in different areas of the park who will walk you through the details of the Civil War.

Point Park Entrance in Chickamauga National Military Park

Zack Frank /

Not only that, but it’s an excellent site to discover local ecology, Indigenous history, and Reconstruction-era monumental sculpture and symbolism, among other things.

This Park is a go-to place for families camping out for the weekend, history enthusiasts, and residents out for a stroll.

If you want to teach your children to ride bicycles, its peaceful forest paths provide an avenue to safely do it while you bask in its beauty.

Learn Indigenous History at The Passage

The Passage, which marks the beginning of the Trail of Tears, provides an additional narrative on Cherokee and Native American history.

This memorial recounts the displacement of local Cherokee groups from Chattanooga to what is now Oklahoma.

Before European colonists landed in Chattanooga, it was a major trading hub for indigenous people, especially the local Cherokees, who lived there.

According to legend, John Ross traveled by way of The Tennessee River in the 1800s and befriended the Cherokee tribe.

This achievement led directly to the establishment of Chattanooga, and his landing point is still referred to as Ross’ Landing.

In the following years, the nearby area became the location for the structure that houses Tennessee Aquarium.

Later, the Passage was built as a tribute to the Indigenous people that once inhabited the area.

The Passage, located between the Tennessee Aquarium and the Tennessee River, is a lovely public gathering spot and public artwork.

The place also features staircase fountains and ceramic sculptures based on Cherokee mythology.

Enjoy the Views of Tennessee Riverpark

 Tennessee Riverwalk's Steel Wool

DanielJaneway /

Also known as Tennessee Riverwalk, this park is situated at 4301 Amnicola Highway in Chattanooga.

The Tennessee Riverpark is a popular destination for joggers, cyclists, and everyone in between.

Enjoy walking or bicycling along the Tennessee River on this park’s beautiful concrete trail!

A Hlue Heron Statue in the sidewalk in Riverpark

Shot Stalker /

Considering that it’s 16 miles long, you can think of ample activities for your family all day long.

There is a playground, a fishing pond, and a bike-sharing system accessible.

Aside from that, you’ll find a lot of picnic areas with grills and kayak launch sites as well.

Public restrooms are also available.

Go Stargazing

The Barnard Astronomical Society hosts wonderful nights beneath the stars in different areas within the city throughout the year.

Here, you can visually explore the galaxy with their numerous telescopes on hand at each session.

What’s more?

Astronomical society members will assist you in discovering the marvels of the universe.

And the best part is, it’s free of charge!

Pay Honor to Fallen Heroes at Fallen Five Memorial

Wreath of Honor in River Park

Shot Stalker /

In Tennessee Riverpark, there is another area worth visiting on its own.

Here, you can also find the Fallen Five Memorial, which honors the five servicemen who lost their lives in a terror attack on the nearby US Navy Operational Support Center on July 16, 2015.

Brass-colored stainless steel arc bands cut using waterjet featuring the powerful tribute of the community are woven together to form the artwork.

Its round granite bench provides a spot to sit and reflect.

In Chattanooga, the phrases and the wreath’s circular form became a powerful symbol of unity.

The city will always be connected to the Fallen Five, the symbol of hope, honor, heroism, and sacrifice.

Check Out Spaceship House

Spaceship House in Chickamauga

Heavybluesman, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Are you a fan of Star Trek and other space movies?

If yes, you might want to check out Chattanooga’s Spaceship House at 1408 S. Palisades Drive, Signal Mountain.

This house will make you wonder how it feels living inside a flying saucer.

Since its construction in 1970, the flying saucer house has drawn a lot of attention.

It cost $250,000 to build at the time, but it is now worth much more.

Taking pictures of the exterior of the house is free of charge.

However, make sure to keep a safe distance as it is a private residence.

Take a Dip at North Chick Blue Hole

The Blue Hole, as it’s called locally, is located at the North Chickamauga Creek Gorge, approximately 20 minutes from downtown.

A large watershed and many streams carve deep canyons through Walden’s Ridge and the Cumberland Plateau, making this one of the most magnificent sceneries in the Southeast.

Several blue holes may be reached on foot from the Montlake Road parking lot.

Initially, the path is an old jeep road that crosses a brook (bring water-resistant shoes).

To search for the right place, go everywhere.

Many of the swimming holes in the creek are created by stones that impede the flow of water.

Clear ponds can reach 10 feet deep in certain areas.

The numerous boulders also make for good recreational bouldering activities.

In fact, if you go far enough in, you may discover a nice rope swing.

Those who enjoy natural swimming pools will love it.

On a hot day, taking a dip here is the perfect way to cool off.

There are also a few hiking trails in the vicinity.

Explore Chattanooga Choo Choo Holiday Inn

Outside view of Chattanooga Choo Choo Holiday Inn

, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

This former railway station has been converted into a hotel and is a famous tourist attraction in Chattanooga.

Make sure to see the railroad station from the early 20th century, as well as a nearby park with an ancient train engine.

This railway station was utilized by numerous US presidents, including Woodrow Wilson, FDR, and Teddy Roosevelt.

In Chattanooga Choo Choo’s heart, you may find Glenn Miller Gardens and Station Street.

Taking a stroll in a garden is a great time to stop and smell the roses.

You can also play games like Jenga, giant checkers, corn hole, and more!

In 1941, Chattanooga Choo Choo was recorded in this 2-acre area, which is named after the world-famous artist who recorded it.

After a day’s visit, the fun never stops at Chattanooga Choo Choo!

Check out the exciting gatherings, live concerts, and street festivals on Station Street.

While the cost of staying at the Inn starts at $140 per night, exploring here is free!

Walk Across Walnut Street Bridge

Walnut Street Bridge in Chattanooga

Bob Pool /

This bridge is a crowd favorite.

For almost a century, the Walnut Street Bridge has been a feature of the Chattanooga skyline.

After two mass killings, one in 1893 and the second in 1906, it became a grim emblem of racial divisions in the Jim Crow South.

Because of its poor condition, the bridge was on the verge of being destroyed in 1978.

Closer view of Walnut Street Bridge

Kevin Ruck /

A group of concerned individuals banded together to conserve the bridge and include it on the National Register of Historic Places.

The group raised funds to convert the Walnut into one of the world’s longest pedestrian bridges, and it immediately became a magnet for both tourists and locals.

Travel in Time at Moccasin Bend National Archaeological Site

Ancient artifacts discovered at Moccasin Bend National Archaeological District can be traced back to 10,000 B.C.

Many people visit this location because of a hiking trail called “Brown’s Ferry Federal Road Trace,” lined with roadside displays with an informative plaque containing stories and facts about the Civil War that once took place in the city.

Visit Chattanooga Public Library

Outside view of Chattanooga Public Library

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Near Chattanooga’s Innovation District, the public library has all the literature and historical records about the city.

Certain services may require a public library card, but most are free, and it’s a great way to try out equipment for creative projects.

Chattanooga Library has a unique facility, especially on the fourth floor, that is meant to assist patrons in improving their technological abilities in preparation for future professional and creative roles.

This floor contains a 3D printer, a button maker, and a zine and photography studio, to name a few.

The library also offers activities for your young ones.

Children can participate in book discussions, art and crafts activities, and acquire a library card.

For teens, library cardholders ages 10-17, as well as high school students, can check out an instrument for a two-week period.

Just make sure to accompany your kids to sign together with an Agreement and Consent Form before you check-out.

Appreciate Open-Air Art at Montague Park

Montague Park is a 33-acre outdoor museum dedicated to open-air art.

The park is a wide field accented by huge trees, picnic pavilions, and walking trails.

It is home to “The Blue Trees,” a deforestation-themed artwork created by Konstantin Dimopoulos, which consists of rows of trees that have been painted a non-harmful ultramarine blue.

This is also a pet-friendly park, so your furry friends will enjoy the breeze while admiring Lookout Mountain’s magnificent views.

The Park has been a popular destination for joggers, picture photographers, kite aficionados, and families strolling from their condominiums on the Southside since it opened in 2016.

Meet and Greet Animals at Reflection Riding Arboretum

The upper lake at Reflection Riding

Chattanooga2018, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Arboretum offers a range of activities for all ages.

The exploration treehouse, located in the center of the exchange, is one of the most popular attractions.

As a bonus, there’s an adorable mini zoo with birds and beautiful red wolves that formerly roamed the woods of East Tennessee in their natural habitat!

You can see these creatures for free, but the nature center also accepts donations to help maintain the facility and care for the animals.

Final Thoughts

Whether you’re a fan of the great outdoors or prefer to stay indoors, our list of free things to do in Chattanooga will come in handy.

This city has everything for everyone, from simple historical walks and outdoor movies to free craft workshops and indoor playgrounds!

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