Nooga combines a bustling downtown core with an ideal location on the Tennessee River and in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. All of which means, no matter what you’re into, there are plenty of free things to do in Chattanooga. Here are 18 (and counting) of our favorites!
Free Things to Do in Chattanooga
The Walnut Street Bridge
Built in 1891, this icon of Chattanooga was once the city’s primary bridge for automobile traffic. In 1993, it was saved from demolition and repurposed as a pedestrian bridge — the longest in the United States, in fact. It connects the downtown core with the bustling North Shore.
You’ll also find some of the best views of the Tennessee River and Lookout Mountain here. Bonus: it’s the perfect vantage point for July 4th fireworks on the river! The bridge is free, open year-round, ADA compliant, and pets are welcome.
Tucked below the Walnut Street Bridge, 13-acre Coolidge Park is a great place to relax in downtown Chattanooga. It’s quiet, family-friendly, and free — a great place to bring the kids and the dogs and enjoy a picnic lunch.
There’s a floating restaurant, a restored historic carousel, and the interactive water fountains are a great spot for children to run around too.
For paddlers, there are also numerous spots around the park to launch canoes and kayaks. Along nearby Frazier Avenue, visitors can find more than 30 shops and restaurants.
The Passage at Ross’s Landing
The Trail of Tears began in what is now downtown Chattanooga — officially at The Passage at Ross’s Landing. To honor the people of the Cherokee Nation, a series of lovely Native American Art lines the staircase here leading out to the Tennessee River.
Running through the heart of the city, The Tennessee Riverpark is among the world’s largest walking trails. From Chickamauga Dam, the paved trail runs for 13 miles through the heart of Chattanooga to the base of Lookout Mountain.
Of all the downtown locations with free things to do in Chattanooga, this offers a ton. You’ll find fishing piers, playgrounds, dedicated grilling spots, and plenty of fantastic city & mountain views. Plus, there are bathrooms along the way.
Situated adjacent to Coolidge Park, Renaissance Park feels almost like an extension. It’s likewise relaxed, quiet, and scenic — a great place for dogs, kids, and families to enjoy the lovely downtown views. It also features locally “famous” Cardboard Hill where visitors can bring a piece of cardboard and sled all the way down the hill.
Short Day Hikes in Chattanooga
There are hundreds of miles of hiking trails within a short drive of downtown. If you’re keen to get outdoors, it’s one of the best free things to do in Chattanooga. Here are four of our favorite easy hikes near the city.
Signal Point is a favorite among locals because it’s an easy hike with a huge payoff. The 13-mile trail is pet-friendly, features waterfall views and clear, panoramic vistas of the entire area around Chattanooga. The visibility is so ideal, in fact, that it was used during the Civil War for inter-troop communication between battalions.
Perched atop Lookout Mountain, aptly named Sunset Rock offers unobstructed views of the Tennessee River Valley. Hikers have the option of following the winding trail down the mountain or, for a bit more excitement, rock climbing amid its well-known bluffs.
Lula Lake Trails
Lula Lake is arguably Chattanooga’s best-known spot for hiking and outdoor exploration. It’s absolutely stunning! The waters inside the “bowl” of the lake are so unbelievably turquoise, they feel as though they’re fed from the islands of the Caribbean.
North Chick Blue Hole
Along the North Chickamauga Creek, you’ll find this trail which traces a dramatic gorge sandwiched between Mowbray and Signal mountains. Along the way, discover a series of beautiful pools to cool off in as well.
Free Live Entertainment in Chattanooga
If you’re keen to enjoy an outdoor concert, you’ll find plenty of free live shows in Chattanooga without getting too far outside the city.
Riverfront Nights Summer Music Series (Saturdays, July through September)
Held on the banks of the river, the Riverfront Nights music series is among the best free things to do in Chattanooga. It’s the perfect way to spend a cool Saturday night in summer!
The event focuses on local people and institutions who promote healthy lifestyles, sustainable development/business practices and, of course, an intense love of outdoor, adrenaline producing recreation — widely considered to be the three-legged stool that’s given Chattanooga a step-up and over our neighboring municipalities in the southeast.
All shows are child- and pet-friendly. Doors open and beer sales begin at 6:30pm. Local opening bands start around 7pm, and headliners kick into high gear promptly at 8pm and play till 10-ish.
Nightfall (early May through late August)
For more than three decades, Nightfall is played to downtown Chattanooga. The live music series is free, and visitors are welcome to bring their kids, pets, and lawn chairs. Food and beverages are available to purchase.
First Thursdays on Station Street (first Thursday in June, July, & August)
From Southside’s Station Street, this three-part series features live music and entertainment on the first Thursday of June, July, and August. It’s basically a block party with bluegrass music, food, and an extended happy hour.
Noontunes (Wednesdays in fall)
Every Wednesday in the fall, Miller Plaza hosts Noontunes. This free live event hosts some of eastern Tennesse’s best performers.
Levitt AMP Music Series
This free event at the Bessie Smith Cultural Center brings 10 weeks of live entertainment and music to the heart of Chattanooga. It’s a great way to appreciate the city’s famed musical heritage and cement ‘Nooga’s status as a serious cultural destination in its own right.
Free Arts & Culture Things to Do
Bluff View Art District
Modern American art in a vaguely old-timey European garden setting makes the historic Bluff View Art District a popular destination for locals and tourists. The two-acre River Gallery Sculpture Garden is arguably the biggest draw here. It’s one of the Southeast’s most impressive temporary American sculpture collections.
But, the views overlooking the Tennessee River, downtown Chattanooga, and the Walnut Street Bridge are fantastic as well! For a casual caffeine pit stop, there’s Rembrandt’s Coffee Shop; for something more substantial, Tony’s Pasta Shop & Trattoria offers authentic Sicilian meals served with fresh, garden ingredients.
Main Terrain Art Park
Situated on Chattanooga’s Southside between West Main Street and West 13th Street, Main Terrain Art Park is a quaint and beautiful green space. The unique art installations here are designed to double as fitness alternatives.
First Street Sculpture Garden
Just over the south side of the Walnut Street Bridge, turn right on 1st Street. Here, you’ll find the accurately named First Street Sculpture Garden. It’s small, but lovely.
Sculpture Fields at Montague Park
This, Chattanooga’s newest arts & culture attraction, features 27 beautiful, large-scale sculptures spread across 33 acres of green space. Whether you’re an art fan or not, there’s plenty of room to spread out here so you can bring the kids, the dog, or both.
What are your favorite free things to do in Chattanooga?