Where to Eat, Stay and Play in Chattanooga

Earlier this summer we took a road trip to the delightful city of Chattanooga, Tennessee. To be honest, it wasn’t even on my radar until I started searching for nearby waterfall hikes after we moved to Athens. I was surprised to discover that not only is Chattanooga surrounded by beautiful hiking but it was also voted in the Top 10 for Vegan-Friendly Small Cities by PETA in 2020. That’s my kind of place!

Obviously having a toddler and two dogs in tow means traveling looks a little different these days. We aren’t always able to do as many hikes as we would like, go out for a nice dinner together, or even stay at a hotel. But we find ourselves having just as much fun doing kid-friendly things that we wouldn’t have done otherwise and the joy of experiencing new places and things with Grant is priceless.

Where to Stay

Airbnb. After doing some research it seemed like the northern side of the city was the best area to stay, and from our time there I feel like it was a great choice. The airbnb I found was safe, super clean, and was within minutes from everything we wanted to see and do. The fact that they offer complimentary bicycles was a huge bonus. I would book it again in a heartbeat!

Lucy enjoying a treat on the patio of our airbnb

Where to Play

Cloudland Canyon. As I said above, there is a ton of great hiking nearby Chattanooga. However, between the rain and time limitations with a toddler we didn’t get to do many of them but the one we did do was pretty incredible. The trail is roughly 2 miles out-and-back but it descends over 400-feet with over 600 stairs to climb on the way back up. Brandon was a champ doing this with Grant’s nearly 30lb body on his back!

A few tips:

  1. I don’t recommend bringing dogs on this one as the stairs will likely be difficult for them to navigate.
  2. There are two separate waterfalls, Cherokee and Hemlock. If you are short on time (as we were) I would go to Cherokee first and if there is time left, venture over to Hemlock. We did Hemlock first and felt rushed at Cherokee which turned out to be far more enjoyable and a great place for a dip on a warm summer day.

hemlock waterfall- this about as close as you can get without going off of the trail

stunning pool at cherokee falls


Lookout Mountain. This is more of a tourist attraction than a hike but it does involve a 4100-foot round-trip trek with a few tight squeezes. We brought Grant and both of the dogs which made it semi-stressful but still fun.Overall it’s definitely worth a visit when you’re in Chattanooga!

real life photo: hot and sweaty with Grant reaching for the dog’s leash


Coolidge Park. This waterfront park is the perfect place for a stroll, run or bike ride. It’s impeccably maintained and even has fountains and a carousel for little ones. We packed a bike trailer for the dogs so that we could bike around the park but Brandon forgot the hitch that attaches it to the bike so he had to jog behind me the entire time. It made for a a good laugh!

impossible to get a photo with both of us looking at the camera

Tennessee Aquarium. I’m usually not one to visit aquariums or zoos because I question the ethics behind them but given the rainy weather and the fact that we had a toddler to entertain, we made an exception for the day. I was super impressed with how well laid out this aquarium is and I didn’t see anything that made me uncomfortable so I think that’s a good sign. The otters are the first thing you see when you walk in and they are so entertaining!


Learning Express. I love a toy store that’s set up to allow children to explore and discover new things and this one accomplishes that perfectly. We spent a good 45-minutes here and Grant loved every second.


Children’s Discovery Museum. Another great stop for kiddos, this children’s museum has a separate area for children under age 5 which makes for a calmer environment to allow them to explore. We had a tough time getting him to leave but it was worth it.


Riverview Park. This is a great little park to stop and spend some time after grabbing a meal at Southern Squeeze. The neighborhood is beautiful and feels very safe. I would definitely take Grant here on a regular basis if we lived in Chattanooga.


Botanica Plant Shop. Plant shops are more for mama than anyone else but I’m pretty sure everyone enjoys perusing beautiful plants. This shop was a little far from where we were staying but still worth the trip for their unique plant selection. I couldn’t resist taking a few home!


Bees on a Bicycle. I adored the pot selection at this shop. So many great options to choose from and plenty of beautiful plants too!


Where to Eat

Cashew. This was hands down our favorite restaurant of the trip. The menu isn’t huge but we ate there twice and everything blew us away. I found the meatballs and the black bean avocado brownie to be especially delicious and am working on recreating my own version soon!

Grant scarfing the meatball sliders


the scrumptious beet burger


flourless black bean avocado brownie- working hard on recreating this for you guys!


Southern Squeeze. Definitely a close second for our favorite. The waffles are incredible and the healthy lunch options are packed full of flavor. Between the tasteful decor and nourishing food, you can’t wrong with a meal here!


Real Roots Cafe. This is a great place to grab a casual plant-based lunch. The vegan pimento cheese panini and the taco salad were delish.


Sluggo’s North. More of a classic vegan restaurant, Sluggo’s offers options like tofu, seitan, chili and nachos. I had the lentil patty melt and loved it. This would be a good option for lunch or dinner.


Milk and Honey. Although this isn’t a plant-based restaurant, they do offer several options for vegans. Brandon went for the tofu scramble burrito and I opted for classic scrambled eggs and avocado toast. I loved the vibe here but to be honest, I wasn’t blown away by the meal. It’s a good choice if you need to please multiple diets though.


Home Slice Pizza. When I first saw the menu here I was blown away by the vegan options. Mozzarella sticks? Cauliflower wings? Vegan ranch? Hell yes. However, I think I set my expectations a little too high. The pizza was kind of meh as were the mozzarella sticks. But I loved the cauliflower wings and the cinnamon dough bites. Holy dangerous!


Mojo Burrito. I’m always up for Mexican food and this place didn’t disappoint. They offer Cashew’s vegan nacho cheese in place of dairy which I think is just the coolest thing ever. Needless to say, I would definitely go back!


Duck Donuts. I haven’t had donuts this good since we went to Portland back in 2018. Holy delicious. I’m normally all about the chocolate and vanilla but the fruit flavors (hello raspberry lemon) blew me away. So dang good!


Sleepyhead Coffee. For sure the best iced matcha latte I had in Chattanooga. Sleepyhead is known for their vegan and gluten-free friendly baked goods including VEGAN POP TARTS. The chocolate hazelnut was so flaky it made us worry that it wasn’t actually vegan. Also the lemon lavender donut made in house was phenomenal. This was the last thing we ate before driving home and it was such a great way to end the trip!

vegan chocolate hazelnut pop tart of my dreams

ridiculously good lemon lavender donut