9 Unique Ways to Get Outside This Spring & Summer in the Heart of Downtown Chattanooga

With its many festivals, restaurants, and indoor and outdoor activities, Chattanooga is truly a city for all seasons. There’s no question, though, that the Scenic City is at its liveliest during the spring and summer months, with seemingly endless things to see and do around town. Everywhere you look people are out and about—playing outside, enjoying food and drinks on patios, and basking in the southeastern sunshine. Here are some of our favorite ways to combine fresh air and urban exploring in the heart of downtown Chattanooga.

1. Catch a Game

The Lookouts are Chattanooga’s beloved minor league baseball team, and they play their home games at AT&T Field downtown. With several games a week from April through August, it’s easy to fit a few innings into your trip to Chattanooga. Keep an eye out for special promotions like Thirsty Thursday, Fireworks Friday, and Food Drive Sunday.

For soccer fans, the Chattanooga Football Club plays just across town at Finley Stadium as part of the National Premier Soccer League. The men’s team was founded in 2009 as part of the National Premier Soccer League, and the women’s team came about in 2014. Enjoy all the excitement of a large stadium while cheering on local teams.

Chattanooga also hosts the Ironman 70.3 triathlon each May, which is an impressive sight to behold. The bridges and riverfront parks are perfect vantage points to applaud competitors as they swim 1.2 miles in the Tennessee River, bike 56.2 miles, and finish with a 13.1 mile run through downtown.

2. Enjoy a Meal Al Fresco

With so many wonderful restaurants with outdoor seating in Chattanooga, there’s a place to suit every meal and craving. For breakfast, head to Mean Mug Coffeehouse/Southside and enjoy a homemade pastry or award-winning biscuit in the flowery courtyard. For burgers, beer, and maybe even a game of corn hole, you can’t go wrong with Universal Joint, a gas station-turned-restaurant with a huge sunny patio. The original garage doors are rolled up when the weather’s nice, making the whole place feel hip and bright.

Public House is a favorite for dinner in the city, with its fresh ingredients, southern classics, and fantastic selection of beverages. This restaurant fuses fine dining with a casual eatery, and the modern patio is perfect for a warm evening. For drinks, you can’t beat the porch and outdoor bar at the Flying Squirrel on the Southside. In addition to its award-winning architecture, the Squirrel serves up specialty cocktails, craft beer, and delicious appetizers.

3. Spend an Afternoon in the Park

There are several great parks in the midst of downtown Chattanooga. The most visible of these is Coolidge Park on the Northshore, which is perfect for picnicking, sunbathing, and tossing around a Frisbee. Wander a few hundred yards downriver and you’ll find yourself in Renaissance Park, a slightly less-manicured area that’s ideal for dog walking and enjoying views of the river and the Tennessee Aquarium. Across town, seek out Sculpture Fields at Montague Park to discover one of Chattanooga’s best-kept secrets: With 50 enormous pieces of outdoor art scattered across its 33 grassy acres, this is the largest sculpture field in the Southeast.

4. Take a Bike Ride

Chattanooga offers a truly remarkable bikeshare program that’s enjoyed by visitors and daily commuters alike. An all-day pass costs just $8 and allows unlimited hour-long trips. With 38 docking stations spread throughout the city, this is one of the best ways to take in the sights and sounds of downtown Chattanooga. For a less conventional but arguably more story-worthy bike ride, book an evening on the Chattanooga Brew Choo or Pints & Pedals for a pedal-powered pub crawl. Bring your own canned beer to sip on between stops, and enjoy a carefree ride on one of these downtown pedal bars.

5. Run a 5K

The Chattanooga Track Club offers short races almost every weekend during the summer months, mostly in and around downtown. The events range from one milers to half marathons, so there’s sure to be a race for runners of all levels. The most famous CTC race is the Chattanooga Chase, an eight-mile road race that’s been around since 1968.

6. Explore the Riverwalk

The extensive Riverwalk Park is a point of pride among Chattanoogans—and for good reason. The paved riverfront path originates at the Walnut Street Bridge and stretches continuously for nine miles to the Chickamauga Dam. This section is scenic, mostly flat, and offers plenty of bathrooms and rest areas. A second segment was added in recent years that travels along the river in the other direction, spanning several miles to St. Elmo at the foot of Lookout Mountain.

7. Get on the Water

The Tennessee River flows through the center of downtown Chattanooga. Experience it up close by renting a Stand-Up Paddleboard from L2 Outside on the Northshore, where you’ll be fully outfitted for a day on the water. Another option is to rent kayaks or SUPs from River Canyon Kayak & Paddle Adventure Rentals in the Tennessee River Gorge. Paddle alongside the abundant wildlife and enjoy views of the magnificent mountains from the river. A tour on the Chattanooga Ducks is another option that’s fun and exciting for all ages. The Ducks are authentic, amphibious WWII vehicles that take guests on a narrated tour of downtown before splashing into the river for a boat ride around Maclellan Island.

8. See a Show

The Riverbend Music Festival has been taking place on Chattanooga’s downtown riverfront for 35 years, with a variety of musicians performing across five stages for a full week. In 2018, the acts include Flo Rida, Luke Combs, Switchfoot, Third Eye Blind, and many more. Chattanooga is also home to a free annual concert series called Nightfall, which takes place each Friday night at Miller Plaza in the summertime. Pack your folding chair and prepare for a fun, casual evening in the city.

9. Visit a Local Market

Who doesn’t love a good outdoor market? During the spring and summer, two separate markets are held on the Southside each week. On Wednesdays, the Farmers Market sets up camp from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., and local farmers come from all around to sell fresh, seasonal produce. On Sundays, the First Tennessee Pavilion hosts the Chattanooga Market for most of the day. Part farmers market and part craft fair, you’ll find everything from fresh flower arrangements and succulents to gourmet popcorn and small-batch hot sauce. Food trucks and live music make this the perfect place to while away a Sunday afternoon.

Written by Madison Eubanks for RootsRated in partnership with Chattanooga CVB.

Featured image provided by Kathryn Crouch

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