Why Fall is the Perfect Time to Visit Chattanooga with Kids
There’s something extra special about autumn in the south. Crisp days and chilly nights, gorgeous autumn colors, vibrantly blooming mums and pansies, homemade fall treats, and delicious apples, fresh from the orchard, greet you like a hug from a dear friend. October and November in the Tennessee Valley are spectacular, making Chattanooga the ideal destination for fall travel with kids. Grab your favorite fall latte and read on to discover fun things to do in Chattanooga this fall.
See autumn brilliance in an unforgettable way at Reflection Riding Arboretum & Nature Center. This nature preserve at the base of Lookout Mountain is a jewel with 317 picturesque acres. You can happily lose track of time here. Besides miles of hiking trails along meadows, wildflower paths, mountain slopes, and creekside, the center also cares for 29 species of wildlife; all native to East Tennessee that for various reasons are unable to survive on their own in the wild. The Center is one of the few sanctuary facilities in the entire world for the Red Wolf. During fall, a rotating schedule of events includes hands-on sessions with wildlife care experts, canoe trips, guided forest walks, and other unusual experiences. This is a spectacular spot for a leaf scavenger hunt with over 140 identified and labeled tree species, and you’ll have your choice of unbelievably scenic places to enjoy a picnic.
Make the short drive up Lookout Mountain to Ruby Falls. Plan some extra time at Ruby Falls’ Blue Heron Overlook and atop Lookout Mountain Tower to relish sweeping views of the Cumberland Plateau and the Tennessee River. The fall foliage is breathtaking, and the birds-eye view creates an unusually fun spot for a few rounds of I Spy before heading underground for the Ruby Falls Classic Waterfall Tour. During the tour, you’ll descend 260 feet into the cave by elevator. Then a guide will lead you on a round-trip walk that’s just under a mile, pointing out ancient geological formations on the way to the tallest underground waterfall open to the public in the United States. It’s an easy walk for kids. The light show at the waterfall is the icing on the cake! (To ensure tours aren’t sold out, be sure the purchase your tickets in advance online.)
End the day with a sweet treat! The Hot Chocolatier bakes up seasonal treats you won’t find anywhere else. Let the kids munch on decorated, fall-themed sugar cookies, while you try the limited edition Spiced Blood Orange Skull Truffles made with chocolate ganache and blood orange infused with clove, cinnamon, and nutmeg. The in-house made caramel apples and hot chocolate will knock your socks off too, trust us!
Begin day two at the Chattanooga Zoo. Cool fall weather means the zoo’s animals are active throughout the day and you won’t break a sweat as you stroll between the Gombe Forest, Corcovado Jungle, Warner Park Ranch, and the Himalayan Passage. Don’t miss seeing the zoo's newest additions, giraffes! If you want to attend one of the sweetest family-friend Halloween events in Chattanooga, check out the schedule for Boo at the Zoo.
It’s not Fall without at least one trip to a family-run apple orchard for just-picked, juicy apples and pressed apple cider. Fairmount Apple Orchard has the best apples and cider around and is only 20 minutes from downtown Chattanooga! The orchard shop’s deep wooden shelves are brimming with fragrant apples, just picked from the orchard, which you can see from the shop. You’ll recognize some of the apple varieties, while others like Mutsu, Ark Black, Ginger Gold, or Red Dome might be new to your delighted taste buds. No matter what, get some cider! It is heaven. And their apple butter is divine, get a jar (or two)!
From the apple orchard, it is a 3-minute drive to the Pumpkin Patch playground, one of the largest play areas in the region and certainly the most lovely. This playground in the woods encourages kids to use their imaginations, run, and explore. It is nirvana for kids and laid-back for parents. It was created by parents in the community over 25 years ago and just completed a major update in 2018. The hillside slides will bring out your inner child and thrill the kids. Win-win!
Fall in Chattanooga is special. The meandering Tennessee River wraps around the city, framed by mountains blanketed in crimson and gold leaves, with views for days. October and November usher in fun things to do in Chattanooga. You’ll head home relaxed and rejuvenated, with happy memories and plenty of smiles. Chattanooga is wonderful at any time of year and is especially magical in the fall.
Photo Credit: Girl holding red maple leaf by Gabby Orcutt, apple photo by Natalie Grainger, Reflection Riding photo courtsey of Reflection Riding, Blowing Springs Farm photo courtsey of Blowing Springs Farm
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