2020 is a different kind of summer in Chattanooga. With social distancing still recommended and being practiced, many Chattanooga events are canceled or are being restructured. However, Chattanooga is still one of the most fun cities in the south and summer is truly the best time to be here. With fresh produce plentiful and available at the smaller farmers markets in the area, ample water to play in and on, gorgeous mountains to hike and explore there are no shortages of fun things to do to truly celebrate the great weather and beauty found in Chattanooga. Here are best bets for fun this summer in Chattanooga.
Paddle the River
Stand up paddle boards or SUP are the hottest things going right now. Super sturdy and easy for all ages (and dogs), the trend for paddling is steadily growing. With all the water surrounding Chattanooga, there are plenty of opportunities to try out a board without purchasing (trust me, however, you will want one). L2 Outside offers rentals for $25 an hour or $75 for overnight and launch from the Coolidge Park side of the Tennessee River. Rusty’s Kayaks and Paddle Boards offers rentals for Chickamauga Lake in Harrison.
Chattanooga has great flat water, perfect for canoeing or tandem kayaking. As we enter into the prime summer camping months, there is nothing better than getting away from it all and being able to paddle to a remote spot and camp. If you don’t have a kayak or canoe and would like to learn how to safely use both, Outdoor Chattanooga offers classes and rentals. Our favorites to paddle are Lookout Creek, North Chickamauga Creek and Booker T. Washing State Park. The Tennessee Valley Canoe Club is a great resource.
Hike A Mountain or Two
Hiking this time of year in Chattanooga offers chances to see wildlife. Turkey, deer, chipmunks, native birds, bugs and snakes can be viewed, depending on the time of day you go. Two of the other perks of hiking this time of year are shade and waterfalls. We had a really wet winter and spring, so waterfalls are still really active and blue holes are calling. Foster Falls and Hemlock Falls are two of the waterfall hikes closest to Chattanooga, but within 1-2 hours of driving, you can hit multiple waterfalls. Rootsrated is one of the best resources online for hiking, and the bonus is that it is a locally run site.
Drive In Movie Fun
As a child of the 1970’s, my family spent a lot of time in the summer at the drive-in. I saw Grease, Star Wars, Coal Miner’s Daughter and many others at the drive-in with the sound box hanging from my window. My parents seemed to love being able to entertain 3 small kids with candy and a show, hoping we would fall asleep for the more adult second feature. Nostalgia led me to take my kids to the drive-in when they were little and while it makes for a very late night, it also makes for a very fun memorable evening. The Wilderness Outdoor Movie Theater, located in Trenton offers a great way to spend an evening at the movies and hang with your family. Offering two screens on both Friday and Saturday nights, they show double features and the cost is only $7 per person. Movies start at 9:40 pm and I recommend you be in the line by 7 pm to enter as there is always a line. More information, including what’s showing visit Wilderness Outdoor Theater.
Camping in the Great Outdoors
Many of us grew up camping in the United States. It seems to be one of the best and easiest ways to escape the grind of everyday life. And whether you are a car camping person or a dedicated backpacking camper, there are many places within an hours drive of Chattanooga to get away for a night or a weekend. Williams Island offers primitive camping on an island in the Tennessee River. The Lookout Mountain KOA offers views of Lookout Mountain and has family friendly offerings such as Frisbee golf, corn hole, a swimming pool and more. Looking for something more off the beaten path, check out Hipcamp which offers info on both commercially run and Airbnb style camping options. I suggest trying out Camp Mountain Lake Retreat which is a converted kid’s summer camp and now serves as a campground near Tracy City. Round up your family and enjoy a nice weekend away in the relative quiet of the great outdoors.
Chattanooga is known as one of the best fishing areas in the Southeast. Best known for Chickamauga Lake’s bass fishing tournaments, the area offers plenty of other hidden spots and well known areas for fishing. Bass, crappie,bluegill, catfish and sauger are native fish that are plentiful in our lakes and rivers. Chickamauga Dam, located just a few miles from downtown offers fishing piers and boat ramps to fish from and is one of the top fishing spots in the area. Booker T. Washington State Park, Chester Frost Park and Lookout Creek are three additional favorites, all just minutes from downtown.
Appreciate Some Art
Chattanooga has a thriving art scene and we are fortunate that private donors have seen fit to create public spaces for us to enjoy. The Sculpture Fields at Motague Park are a wonderful example of that gift we have been given. Featuring 33 acres of public space with sculptures by artists all over the world, it is truly an amazing way to spend an afternoon. The Bluffview Sculpture Garden is another wonderful way to view some beautiful art and the views of the Tennessee River and the Veterans Bridge. Want to take a scenic drive and explore something a little different? Check out Paradise Garden Foundation, the home and showplace of folk artist Howard Finster in Summerville, Georgia. The Rock Garden in Calhoun has been featured on Atlasobcura.com as a place to see and features miniature recreations of towns, cathedrals and iconic world sites. The cool thing is they are made of rock, broken glass and shells.
Chattanooga has so much to offer all the time and while things may be a little different this summer, there is still plenty of wonderful options to be active and have fun.