As we were looking at our route back home while in Virginia, Danny and I realized we had never been to Chattanooga, TN. We didn’t have a lot of time because of our need to be back by Monday evening, but it was enough time for us to quickly hit three attractions and see if it was worth a return visit. In short, it is!
We chose these three stops:
The great thing about these three attractions is they are all near each other and if you purchase the tickets together you can get a discount and have multiple days to visit them, which was perfect for us. We did the Incline Railway on Saturday night after we arrived in town and Ruby Falls and Rock City on Sunday morning.
The Incline Railway is the world’s steepest passenger railway and travels a mile up Lookout Mountainat at an amazing 72.7% grade. The rail cars have glass sides and top so you have a clear view all the way up and down. There is a switch at the halfway point of the track, which allows two Incline cars to pass alongside each other and still travel on a single track. On a clear day at the top you can see over a 100 miles to the Great Smoky Mountains.
Time spent to go up and down the railway, plus have time for those spectacular views at the top, is about 45-60 minutes on this attraction.
(PS: on the ride down gravity pulls your body forward; this is important information if you have spine issues. If you sit up straight and lean back it will relieve the pressure on your neck and back. Now you know more about me than you cared to know!)
Sunday morning we headed out to Ruby Falls which is in a cave inside Lookout Mountain. As a child Leo Lambert played in a cave in Lookout Mountain but it was eventually closed for safety. In 1928, Leo and a group of friends decided to drill down through the mountain to access that cave. While they were drilling they encountered fresh air at approximately 260′ down. Leo and one of us friends crawled into the very narrow openings (I’m having a bit of a panic attack just telling you about it!) and were gone for 17 hours! Can you even imagine? Anyway, they spent all that time on hands and knees before hearing the sound of rushing water. At the deepest point of the cave they discovered a beautiful waterfall inside that mountain.
Leo promptly abandoned his plan to open that childhood cave for this one because it was so magnificent. He had three crews working round the clock for about two years to create this attraction. It. Is. Awesome!
You will not be crawling anywhere (thank goodness!) but you will go 260′ down into the cave by elevator, and ultimately travel another 2/5’s of a mile down into the cave to see the waterfall. That means you travel back another 2/5’s of a mile to get back to the elevator. If you cannot walk for almost a mile this attraction is not for you. I’ve been in several underground caves and this one is truly the best of them all.
Time required for this attraction: 1.5-2 hours.
There is also a lantern tour (not sure how often they have those) that gives you the feel of what those early tours were like without all the electric lights. Here is a picture of the cables near the falls where the tour guide will attach lanterns for you to view the fall in lantern light.
DO NOT SKIP THIS! Oh my word! We had no idea what we were getting into until we started on the trails and were blown away immediately. It’s like being in the most magnificent and massive garden you’ve ever been in! I took so many pictures I don’t even know what to share they are all so fantastic!
Along the paths there is a gnome stop and there is also a fairyland with many childhood characters represented. Your kiddos will love it!
We went through this attraction fairly quickly and still spent an hour there. Like Ruby Falls this requires you to be able to walk a lot, including up and down stairs, as well as squeeze through a few crevices.
Here is the bottom line: we will go back to Chattanooga! This is a great family vacation spot!