Autumn in Chattanooga
For as long as I can remember, fall has always been my favorite time. Growing up in Maine, I experienced the best: beautiful leaves, cooler temperatures, apple picking—you name it!
(Disclaimer: while fall is easily my favorite season, Halloween is not on my favorites list (except the candy part. I know, I know . . . it’s horrible! Because of this, this list does not include any haunted houses, Boos at the Zoos, or any other kind of similar fright-filled activities. )
Since moving to the Midwest, my favorite season just hasn’t been the same. For the last four years, I managed to make it home to Maine in October to soak up as much of the season as I could.
Unfortunately, this year, I wasn’t able to make it because I went to Africa instead. Fortunately, Dave and I were due for another visit back to Chattanooga.
Because of the beautiful surrounding areas, Chattanooga has been nicknamed the “Scenic City.” Between the mountain ranges and the Tennessee River, there’s a lot to see and do. Chattanooga also happens to be the closest city to the midway point between where Dave and I live and the location of our favorite Airbnb host. For these reasons, we keep going back.
We’ve now been there four times, and the city has become somewhat of a second home for us. We’re figuring out our favorite restaurants, things to do while we visit, and spending less time scouring the internet to make plans for the weekend. Since beginning our long-distance journey, three out of the four trips have been between September and November.
So here is a guide to the best fall activities in Chattanooga:
If you’ve driven anywhere near Chattanooga, you have seen the bright red birdhouses adorned with the saying “See Rock City.”
Rock City can be found at the top of Lookout Mountain. Being a mere six miles from downtown Chattanooga, Rock City feels like an escape! It is most well known for the 100-foot waterfall, 200-foot swinging bridge, and Lover’s Leap (a lookout point from which you can city the city of Chattanooga and parts of six other states). In the fall, the park becomes more beautiful as the changing leaves add a touch of brightness.
During weekends in October, the gardens celebrate their German heritage with Rocktoberfest. A month-long festival of polka lessons, German food/beer, and live music/dancing. The gardens are open from 8:30 AM to 5:00 PM (we missed this by one weekend)
If Octoberfest isn’t your style, they also do Rock City Lights in November and December decorating the area with thousands of twinkling Christmas lights.
Unfortunately, since our first visit was in September and the second visit the first weekend in November, we were between events. Despite this, we were still able to experience the beautiful gardens. They were even more beautiful in November with the changing leaves.
Blowing Springs Farm
Although technically in Georgia, Blowing Springs Farm is also only six miles from downtown Chattanooga.
Blowing Springs Farms has a Fall Festival starting at the end of September. Every year they design a new corn maze. If you visit Rock City, you can see both the corn maze and Blowing Springs’ large “See Rock City” birdhouse from Lover’s Leap.
For $10, you get entrance to the farm and four tokens, which can be used at the different activity stations. They have everything from the corn maze to hayrides, duck races, a critter coral (a small petting zoo), and a cow train (in my humble opinion, riding the cow train is the best activity!)
There are also pumpkins for purchase and yard games available.
Tennessee Valley Railroad
When we visited Chattanooga in the spring, we took a ride on the Missionary Ridge Local train (see that experience here). The Mission Ridge train only takes about an hour and costs $18.
In the fall, they have a train called the Fall Leaf Special. This is a 9-hour round trip from Grand Junction Station in Chattanooga to Summerville, Georgia. There is a 75-minute layover in Georgia during which you can enjoy the area and see the engine reversed on an old turntable.
The trip, in coach, costs $79, and you can also purchase lunch on the train for an additional $20. Seats in other cars are available for an increased cost and include breakfast and lunch.
Other seasonal train trips are available on their website.
The Chattanooga Market is open on Sundays from 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM, starting in April and ending in November. They offer many local vendors and live music — everything from produce, meats, and cheeses to local crafters.
Southern Belle Riverboat
If trains aren’t your thing, you could always do your leaf-peeping on a river cruise instead.
The Southern Belle Riverboat offers a 3-hour Fall Foliage Sightseeing Cruise along the Tennessee River and the Tennessee River Gorge. The cruise costs $29.95, but lunch can be added for an additional $11.00.
Most of the fall foliage activities I’ve done have been on foot or from the roadway. The river cruise gives you an entirely new perspective.
Check the website for dates and times as the weekday versus weekend times vary. Also, consider booking ahead of time if you want to add a meal.
If you’re looking to stretch your legs and check out the leaves on foot, the Glens Falls Trail is a great place to start!
We actually visited Glens Falls during our spring trip in April (you can read more here) but would love to see it again with the changing leaves and cooler weather.
The trail is a short two miles round trip; however, the hike to the falls is only about half a mile. You can then follow a set of stone steps past the falls and continue through a cut-out rock before turning around.
While the path is well-traveled and clearly marked, the parking can be somewhat tricky. *important tip* search Glens Falls trailhead on google maps. There is a small parking area to the left off Ochs Highway as you drive towards Rock City from downtown.
Last, but not least . . . what better way to enjoy the changing leaves than from the top of the Incline Railway. The Incline Railway is one of my favorite Chattanooga activities as it reminds me of a tram trip I took while in Italy. (You can read more about that trip here.)
I suggest parking at the bottom and taking the tram to the top (there is minimal parking as it is located in a residential neighborhood). Here, you can look out over the city of Chattanooga and learn more about the history of the incline rail.
You can then enjoy a quick five-minute walk to Pointe Park.
If you’re interested in Civil War history, the “Battle Above the Clouds” was fought here in 1863. The entry to the park is $7.00.
Don’t forget to grab some Clumpies ice cream before you leave. It’s so good!
There’s certainly plenty of activities to do in Chattanooga. Why not avoid the southern heat by visiting in the fall?
November 23, 2019 @ 12:29 pm
Judging by the welcome sign it seems you’re celebrities there!
January 27, 2020 @ 10:18 pm
Hahah we definitely are!
Alexandra @ PerfectDayToPlay BLOG - EcoSmart Sustainable Family Travel
January 20, 2020 @ 10:42 pm
OMG that train with transparent rooftop is absolutely cool! My 4yo son would have enjoyed it a lot!
January 27, 2020 @ 10:20 pm
He might like the cave with 145ft waterfall inside as well! They shut all the lights off and then start the music and illuminate the falls. It’s really cool.
January 20, 2020 @ 11:45 pm
Oooh nice! Chattanooga looks fantastic to explore in the Fall! I love the waterfalls, the sound of Rocktoberfest and the amazing views from the incline railway!
p.s. I totally agree about autumn being the best season. If you can, you should go to japan during that time of year. Their fall colours will blow you away!!
January 27, 2020 @ 10:21 pm
Japan is definitely on my list! I wanted to go for the Olympics this year, but I won’t be able to make it. Maybe I’ll try to visit sometime in the fall instead. Do you have pictures?
January 21, 2020 @ 12:15 am
Chattanooga looks like a great place to visit! Glen Falls would definitely be on my bucket list of things to do in the area.
January 27, 2020 @ 10:18 pm
We hiked a new place this weekend called Sunset Rock, the hike is a little longer, but the views are incredible! Add it to your list if you get a chance!
Rudy @ Backpack & Snorkel
January 21, 2020 @ 12:33 am
Chattanooga is a great place. We did many of the same things when we visited Chattanooga a few years ago. In addition to what you did, we also went to Ruby Falls, which is a 145ft underground waterfall located within Lookout Mountain. They illuminate it beautifully which makes for real nice photos.
January 27, 2020 @ 10:16 pm
We did Ruby Falls on our first trip. I expected it to be really touristy and lame, but when the lights turned on I was so impressed!
January 21, 2020 @ 2:14 am
I love travel during autumn! Your pictures are great
January 27, 2020 @ 10:32 pm
January 21, 2020 @ 2:56 am
I love Tennesee fall! I haven’t spent much time in Chattanooga (besides driving through) but would love to spend a weekend there (:
January 27, 2020 @ 10:32 pm
I highly recommend! I hope you get a chance to visit!
January 21, 2020 @ 1:31 pm
Definitely didn’t realize that Chattanooga had so much going on. So many beautiful vistas! I know Nashville is pretty hot right now. Do you recommend Chattanooga over Nashville?
January 27, 2020 @ 10:31 pm
I very much recommend Chattanooga over Nashville. We also visited Nashville in the fall and it was incredibly overcrowded. We were able to find a few places on the outskirts that seemed to be more for the locals. I like Chattanooga because you still get the feel of a city, but with fewer people. There also seems to be more outdoor activities in Chattanooga.
We’re also not really people who like to spend time at loud bars. Nashville has a ton of “honky-tonks.” It’s worth at least walking down Broadway if you’re there just to see all the people.
January 21, 2020 @ 10:55 pm
I would love to attend the Rocktoberfest! The whole time looks like fun! You have a bit of everything, festive to hiking to museums to ice cream!
January 27, 2020 @ 10:15 pm
Haha! We like to bounce around quite a bit and get the real feel of a place. It’s taken a few trips to see all of it, but each time we fall in love with Chattanooga a little more.
January 21, 2020 @ 11:01 pm
Great post! Now it’s on my bucket lists! Beautiful pictures and informative!
January 27, 2020 @ 10:25 pm
Thank you so much!
January 22, 2020 @ 4:41 am
This is a great way to spend autumn. Everything looks so green and fresh. I would love to visit Chattanoonga.
January 27, 2020 @ 10:26 pm
Thank you! I hope you get a chance to experience it!
January 24, 2020 @ 6:11 pm
Looks like a stunning place, I especially love the hikes. Autumn is a great season, however it’s way too wet in England!
January 27, 2020 @ 10:25 pm
I bet all of that rain is annoying. I hope someday you get a chance to make it over here to experience the season. I actually grew up in Maine. As far as I’m concerned Northern New England has the best “leaf peeping” in the United States. 🙂
January 26, 2020 @ 7:13 am
Fall is definitely one of my favorite times of the year too and those views at Lover’s Leap are just stunning! (I’m assuming that picture is of Lover’s Leap hahaa.) A fall foliage cruise is totally up my alley and I’m going to have to look into booking myself one for this year. Thanks for adding Chattanooga on my radar!
January 27, 2020 @ 10:13 pm
Yes! That is from Lover’s leap! There are some incredible views from Lookout Mountain. There’s another place called Sunset Rock. Check it out if you get a chance!
The cruise sounded wonderful. The only reason we haven’t done it is that we discovered it too late. Keep me updated if you end up going!
January 26, 2020 @ 3:09 pm
These pictures look like something out of a storybook! I’m not far from here and should definitely visit soon.
January 27, 2020 @ 10:10 pm
Thank you so much!
I love Chattanooga. It’s got the feel of a city without being so crowded. I hope you make it there soon 🙂