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Located along the Tennessee River and nestled among the mountains, Chattanooga is a top tourist destination in the southeastern corner of Tennessee. The state’s fourth largest city, Chattanooga offers plenty for visitors to do, see, and enjoy, from a world-class aquarium to wild outdoor adventures. To get a great vacation started, every visitor should put these top five can’t-miss attractions on their list.

The Tennessee Aquarium

The beautifully-designed Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga is the largest aquarium in Tennessee. Sitting right on the banks of the Tennessee River, it offers close-up looks and interactive experiences with a wide range of fascinating creatures, from playful river otters to serene jellyfish to the largest number of turtle species in the United States.

There are touch-pools where you can touch stingrays, a reef cavern with up close views of cool sharks, a rainforest exhibit that invites visitors to walk amongst hundreds of beautiful butterflies, and a recently opened Alligator Bayou exhibit.

Spending a day at the Aquarium gives visitors an opportunity to discover a wide variety of water-based ecosystems, from deep sea to southern wetlands to sub-Antarctic.

The Aquarium even has an IMAX 3D Theater with a six-story screen, so there is literally something for everyone. The clean, well-organized layout makes it one of the city’s most visited and acclaimed attractions.

Lookout Mountain

Historic and beautiful Lookout Mountain offers a number of activities for visitors that cover a variety of interests.

For thrill-seekers, there is zip lining where you can fly around the forest canopy. History buffs will enjoy exploring Civil War history at the Battles for Chattanooga Museum, where a 3D presentation brings to life the battles that took place here.

The Incline Railway is the steepest passenger railway in the world, taking visitors on a ride into the clouds on tracks with an incredible 72.6 percent grade. Once you’re up on the mountain, it’s a great place to relax and just take in the view.

Whitewater Rafting Near Chattanooga

Only an hour outside of Chattanooga is the famous Ocoee River, site of the 1996 Olympic whitewater events. Visitors to the area can take a ride on rapids that have been voted the best in the nation. Chattanooga Whitewater Rafting offers a great day of excitement and only minutes from downtown Chattanooga. This is the most popular whitewater rafting adventure in the United States.

With commercial rafting expeditions available for most ages (must be 12 years old) and experience levels, all equipment is provided, anyone from families to singles can give it a shot. The Ocoee is one of the greatest destinations in the state and not to be missed on any visit to Chattanooga.

Raccoon Mountain Caverns

Visitors can explore amazing sights beneath the earth’s surface just ten minutes from downtown. With more than 5.5 miles of mapped passageways, visitors can see incredible rock formations hidden throughout the cave system.

Tours range from easy one-hour guided walking tours to more advanced tours for those wanting a more adventurous cave-exploring experience. Outside the caves, there are beautiful views of the area, opportunities to pan for gems, a go-karting track, a gift shop, and more to round out a perfect day trip.

Tennessee Valley Railroad

Take a trip back in history while soaking up the beauty of the Chattanooga area on board one of the oldest operating railroads in the nation. At the Tennessee Valley Railroad you will board at a historic train station that feels like a step back in time, filled with models and artifacts from the railroad’s past.

There are a variety of tours available, including a dinner ride where you can enjoy an excellent meal while you watch the scenery pass by and learn about the history of the tracks that helped build America. This trip will please kids of all ages, even those who are just kids at heart.