Ruby Falls Itinerary 101: Tips for Traveling with Toddlers and Preschoolers
Contributed by Lara Caughman, Corporate Communications Manager
There are numerous reasons why traveling with a toddler or preschooler is an adventure not to be put off. Besides family bonding and the unique learning experience travel offers, it opens the door to imagination, advances brain development and teaches kids to be more adaptable.
A little planning goes a long way when you are traveling with pint-sized side-kicks. Try these essential tips for planning a trip to Chattanooga.
Tot Tip #1: Bedtime Routine
Kids under the age of five are sticklers for routine. In the days leading up to your trip, show your child photos of the hotel, including your hotel room. Most hotels have plenty of images online. This helps your child gain a sense of what will happen on your trip and creates healthy anticipation. Luckily, Chattanooga has many family friendly hotels.
Once you arrive in Chattanooga, keep the bedtime routine as similar to home as possible. A nightlight from home and a favorite blanket helps with the transition by making your child feel secure. Kids are open to new travel experiences when they feel safe.
Tot Tip #2: Bring the Right Bag
Using the right size bag or tote during the day will make or break your Chattanooga adventure! Trust me on this one. Skip bulky bags - they are too cumbersome to maneuver in a crowd and require too much digging to find the must-have to avoid meltdown item that always ends up hidden in the bottom corner.
A small backpack is a convenient choice for exploring Chattanooga. I love the KAVU Rope Bag. It’s big enough for a day supply of diapers, wipes, snacks, toys, plus there’s room for your wallet, phone and keys. It fits close to the body, is washable and looks good on either parent.
Tot Tip #3: Smart Attraction Planning
Plan your day to avoid peak crowds at Chattanooga attractions whenever possible.
At Ruby Falls, you’ll avoid the crowd if you arrive before 9:30 AM on weekdays and before 9:00 AM on weekends. Or plan to visit after nap time, an afternoon swim or an early dinner; arriving around 6:00 PM or even as late as 7:45 PM. (The last classic tour of the day is around 7:50 PM). If you come early or late in the day, you’ll be here during a quieter time of day and will likely be part of a smaller tour group.
The elevator ride into the Ruby Falls Cavern is awesome for kids – try to get a spot at the front of the elevator for the best view through the glass elevator doors of the solid stone surrounding the elevator shaft.
Be sure to make a stop in the restroom before your tour for one last pit stop or diaper change. There are no restrooms in the cavern.
Take advantage of child entrance discounts or even free admission to some attractions. Kids under the age of 3 receive free regular admission to Ruby Falls.
Tot Tip #4: Meals and Snacks
There is no reason to be hangry. Chattanooga is a city with fantastic local restaurants, bakeries and coffee shops. We love food as much as we love the outdoors!
The Cavern Café at Ruby Falls has a good selection of snacky-type foods and drinks. If you’d rather eat before or after your cavern tour, check-out our blog post with staff restaurant recommendations. If your little explorer needs a snack while you are in the cave, it’s okay to break that snack out of your bag. There are a few trash cans along the cavern trail.
Tot Tip #5: Stroller or Not
Most of the natural attractions in Chattanooga have some limitations for using strollers.
Strollers are prohibited in the cavern of Ruby Falls. Fortunately, it’s an easy walk for little legs. The almost half-mile cavern trail to the waterfall was designed to protect the ancient natural formations, which means the path at times is a little uneven, narrow in multiple places and is sprinkled with a couple of stairs here and there. Visitors heading to the waterfall are mostly using the same trail as those leaving the waterfall, which can lead to some congestion during peak hours (refer to Tot Tip #3).
If your little cutie likes to escape from you, the narrow path makes it pretty hard for escapees to be successful; which is always a plus! On the journey to the waterfall, there is plenty to see right at kid eye level, including tucked away little streams and colorfully lit stone formations. Ruby Falls is majestic to adults, it must seem especially immense to kids under age five!
Traveling with toddlers and preschoolers brings a welcome layer of wonder to everything you’ll experience on your trip. With a little planning, kids natural curiosity is a delight and willingness to explore, inspiring. When you travel with young children, you’re teaching them to adapt and be courageous. It’s phenomenal to create precious memories together and begin a tradition of family adventures.
We’d love to hear about your Ruby Falls experience. Feel free to share in the comments below or on our social media channels.