Fall break, winter break, summer break …oh my! As a mother of a kindergartner, I must admit that making the transition from a year round daycare schedule, to a traditional public school schedule with so many breaks, has been a struggle for my family. We planned to stay home during fall and winter break, focusing our energy and finances on spring and summer breaks… both of which can be costly with peak season pricing for transportation and accommodations.
Spring break came around faster than expected and as I planned for a much needed trip to the beach… life happened. My husband and I had to make a costly home repair which cut our travel budget in half. So, with half the budget remaining, I had to coordinate a trip that would be economical yet super fun for the kiddos. I began to think of ways to cut the transportation cost. I missed the chance to secure discounted plane tickets to Florida playing the “I can get it cheaper next week game”, so I knew we would be driving to our destination. I also remembered we have Hilton Honors Points which we could use to cover our hotel accommodations. After thinking about this trip over and over, I realized that there is plenty to do less than two hours away, in Chattanooga, Tennessee. I have fond childhood memories of Chattanooga, so I started planning. Well, it turns out, that while I was growing up, so was Chattanooga! The city only slightly resembles what I remember from 25 years ago. The area’s development, along its stretch of the Tennessee River has been explosive! The Tennessee Aquarium, which once stood alone, is now nestled between cool restaurants and other attractions like the High Point Climbing and Fitness Club. Just down from the iconic aquarium sits the Creative Discovery Museum. This amazing hands-on museum is a paradise for kids. My six and three year olds spent hours exploring the multi-story building filled with sensory activities from a extensive waterworks exhibit to animation and fine arts. The museum has so much to offer, my kids left no stone upturned. In one day, my children became ship captains, railroad engineers, doctors, musicians, stop motion animators, chefs, scientists, architects, and beekeepers. They were transported around the world to an Ethiopian spice market and went fishing in the crystal clear waters of Zanzibar. The Creative Discovery Museum is not to be missed if you have kids 12 and under. The average cost for a family of four with two kiddos over the age of three is about one hundred bucks but it was money well spent. You can truly spend your entire day there. I loved that the staff was super helpful, the bathrooms were clean and the other patrons were courteous and friendly. We will definitely be visiting again. Family memberships starts at just over $100 and is a nice quick getaway from Atlanta.
Since opening on May 1, 1992, the Tennessee Aquarium has been a staple in the southeast. Located in two contemporary structures just off the bank of the mighty Tennessee River, the aquarium boats some of the most extensive coverage of freshwater wildlife in the country. As we meandered through the halls, we were all filled with wonder and excitement to see creatures like turtles, snakes, and alligators up close. The segment on River Monsters, large creatures living deep below the surface, was a huge hit with my family. We discovered creatures we had never seen before and developed a greater understanding of those that may be in our own backyards. Plan to spend several hours at the aquarium and take in a feature film at the Imax theater. Tickets for a family of four is over one hundred dollars but it offers a full day of fun and education for the entire family.
One of the many things I appreciate about Chattanooga is the fact that parking is reasonably priced and most of the major attractions are within walking distance from each other. So you park the car once and you are good to go for the rest of the day.
After leaving the aquarium we strolled over to Moe’s BBQ restaurant for lunch. The food was amazing, especially the smoked turkey, collard greens and corn bread. The prices are good and the staff was wonderful.
Bluewater Grill is another great restaurant near the museum and aquarium. The food is delicious and reasonably priced. The restaurant has bistro tables outside and makes for a great place to grab lunch or dinner.
After having a wonderful lunch, we took a relaxing stroll over to the Walnut Street Pedestrian Bridge. The bridge spans a half mile over the Tennessee River and ends at Coolidge Park. Coolidge Park is a picturesque setting for family fun, complete with plenty of great spots for a picnic and is home to an amazing carousel.
We had an great time in Chattanooga. We will be returning to visit Rock City, Lookout Mountain and the Incline Railway. During this trip, the weather was cold and windy and we did not have the appropriate attire to stand in line outside for over an hour with small children. I have been to each of these attractions and they are totally worth a return trip. The three aforementioned attractions offer combo deals on admission, so grab a deal online or when you arrive in Chattanooga.
There are great family friendly hotels in the heart of everything. And since the City is walkable, once the car is parked at the hotel you are good to go. We opted to stay about 20 minutes out at the Embassy Suites Hamilton Place for the indoor pool and complementary hot breakfast. If it were warmer, we would have definitely stayed closer to the action.
We had a wonderful spring break and we are looking forward to enjoying some much needed rest and relaxation in the Dominican Republic over the summer. I can’t wait to tell you all about our trip.
Until next time.