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Best Things To Do in Chattanooga

AOL PICK from our Editors
Planning a visit to Chattanooga may seem daunting once the map of attractions is sprawled out in front of you. Those unfamiliar with the lay of the land might be concerned with the mechanics of moving about the city and getting it all in. Fret not for the logistics of your visit; instead, focus on what you want to do. The Tennessee Aquarium, Rock City and at least one museum should be on every list. Beyond that, it becomes a matter of taste. Chattanooga is situated in a beautiful setting and offers nature lovers plenty to see and do.

Creative Discovery Museum

Neighborhood: Downtown (Southside)
If you're in search of an attraction for young children, look no further. The Creative Discovery Museum is conveniently located Downtown on Chestnut, which makes it an easy walk to many of the city’s other kid-friendly attractions, such as the Aquarium and its IMAX Theater. More like a huge playhouse than a museum, kids will find exhibits that allow them to interact with music, science and the arts in a way that keeps it all on the fun side. Cap a visit off with the Rooftop Fun Factory, a colorful playground of moving parts situated on the roof of the building.

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Chattanooga Nature Center

Neighborhood: Lookout Mountain
With 30 native species represented at this nature center, it's easy to get a feel for what type of animal population the first western explorers encountered on their way through this area. One of the most impressive species at the center is the Red Wolf. There are only 300 red wolves alive today, most of them in captivity; the chance to see them up close is rare. The property includes a boardwalk through wetland habitat, one of the largest tree houses in the country and a great snake exhibit. The center is open Monday through Saturday year-round and Sunday from April to October. Admission is $8 for adults and $5 for seniors and children ages 4 to 11.

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Chattanooga Nature Center  

IMAX 3D Theater

Neighborhood: Downtown (Southside)
The IMAX 3D Theater in Chattanooga is located in the Tennessee Aquarium facilities. The theater is clean and comfortable—and a perfect escape from the humidity of the South on a sweltering afternoon. Films range from the more scientific in nature to Hollywood blockbusters. IMAX 3D tickets typically cost $8-$11, but combo tickets can be bought with admission to the Aquarium. A ticket for one movie and entrance to the Aquarium is $29.95 for adults and $19.95 for children. Tickets can be purchased online or at the ticket booths near the Aquarium.

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Rock City Gardens

Neighborhood: Lookout Mountain
High atop Lookout Mountain rests one of the city's most iconic attractions. If you have ever driven throughout the American Southeast, you have probably noticed brightly painted red barns with huge "See Rock City" painted across the roof. If you’ve seen these barns, you probably asked yourself, "What the heck is Rock City?" In short, it is a series of rock features sculpted by nature over millions of years that rest on the mountain overlooking Chattanooga. Can you really see seven states from the top? That's debatable. But a fine view it is, and an attraction that consistently surprises even the most skeptical of visitors.

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Ruby Falls

Neighborhood: Lookout Mountain
Ruby falls has been pulling in tourists for nearly eight decades, and it still attracts over 400,000 every year. The draw is the 145-foot underground waterfall located 1,120 feet below the surface. Visiting the cave is another great way to cool off during the summer—and a way to take in some subterranean beauty. The cost to enter is $16.95 for adults and $8.95 for children. Discount tickets can be snagged if you buy in combination with Rock City or the Incline Railway.

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Hunter Museum of American Art

Neighborhood: Bluff View
For a heavy dose of great American art, look no further than the oddly-shaped metal box resting atop a riverfront bluff. This contemporary-styled building is only part of the Hunter Museum complex. A historical mansion and a '70s-era building also house exhibits. The Hunter Museum of American Art focuses on variety. Enjoy works that span the artistic gamut from Winslow Homer to Andy Warhol.

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Lake Winnespesaukah Amusement Park (Lake Winnie)

Forget about trying to pronounce it; the locals just call it Lake Winnie. For the amusement park junkie, Lake Winnie may disappoint. But with 35 rides, it is more than enough to keep the entire family entertained for a day. Lake Winnepesaukah is home to the Boat Chute, which inspired the modern-day log flume seen at so many parks today. Constructed in 1927, the Boat Chute is still splashing kids of all ages. All the usual amusement park rides, like the scrambler, a swinging pirate ship and the old-faithful Ferris wheel, are found at Lake Winnie. If the kids are getting restless with the tourist attractions in town, Lake Winnie will cure their ills.

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Chattanooga Zoo at Warner Park

Although not a world-class zoo, the Chattanooga Zoo is certainly adequate for a city of this size. One particularly interesting exhibit is the Himalayan Passage, which features snow leopards, red pandas and langurs (nimble monkeys with long puffy hairdos). The zoo also has some fun and active chimpanzees in residence that will entertain for as long as you'll watch. But by far the biggest reason to visit the Chattanooga Zoo is the bang-for-your-buck factor. Adults get in for a measly $6.

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Chattanooga Zoo at Warner Park  

Chattanooga Choo Choo

Neighborhood: Downtown (Southside)
The Chattanooga Choo Choo was immortalized in the Glenn Miller swing song that shares the same name. The hotel building is the old train depot, and its ornate architecture inside is worth a look. The hotel houses restaurants, shopping and decommissioned trains, and it's within a healthy walking distance of Downtown. If you're not in the mood for a long walk or are dealing with rain, the electric CARTA buses run regularly from the riverfront area. Look for the huge train with the words "Choo Choo" on the side crowning the top of this brick building.

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Tennessee Aquarium

Neighborhood: Downtown (Southside)
These monolithic structures propped up on the bank of the river's south side have become one of the most-visited attractions in the city—the region, for that matter. The Aquarium is split into two buildings. The River Journey building starts high in the Appalachian Mountains and follows a drop of water as it makes its way to the sea. The Aquarium's playful river otters are particularly popular in this building. The Ocean Journey building begins with a tropical garden filled with butterflies. Working your way down through the Aquarium, you'll pass spunky penguins and gaze into the tooth-packed mouth of sharks. Unique seahorse and jellyfish exhibits will mesmerize and amaze. Don't forget to bring the family's swimsuits, as water features abound near the Aquarium.

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