Editor’s Note: As of press time, the businesses and activities contained in this story were open and allowing visitors with COVID-19 protocols in place. Please be sure to research before visiting to ensure shutdowns have not occurred.
While exotic vacations still may not be on the itinerary for your spring break, sunny skies and warmer weather mean it’s time to plan a road trip. Whether it’s the world’s longest pedestrian bridge in Chattanooga, a barrier island with room to roam in Jekyll Island, or white water rafting and zip lining in Asheville, we can help you find the right spot for an awesome spring break. Keep reading for ideas on your next road trip, below.
Change into bathing suits and let the kiddos splash in the animal-themed fountains at Coolidge Park. You can drive to the park, located on the city’s North Shore, or walk across the world’s longest pedestrian bridge. Bring a blanket to picnic while you watch boaters float by on the river.
Located adjacent to Coolidge Park, Renaissance Park is a unique place to bring the dogs, have a picnic, and enjoy scenic views of Chattanooga's downtown. Renaissance Park also includes what is known to locals as "cardboard hill," where people are encouraged to bring their own piece of cardboard to ride and slide all the way down.
The Passage at Ross's Landing marks the spot where the Trail of Tears originally began. Today, the area serves as a place to honor and remember those of the Cherokee Nation with beautiful Native American Art alongside stairs which lead out to the Tennessee River.
While in Chattanooga, take a hike from one of the trailheads that are easy to access from town. For majestic mountain views, give Sunset Rock a try. Situated atop Lookout Mountain, this trail starts off on a bluff looking out over the Tennessee River Valley. You can follow the trail down the mountain or even rock climb on the mountainside bluffs.
Ruby Falls is the nation's tallest and deepest underground waterfall open to the public. Names for the wife of the explorer who found them on accident, the falls opened to the public in 1929 and today welcomes over half a million visitors each year from around the world. You descend 260 feet by elevator into historic Lookout Mountain, explore the underground cavern, see the falls and discover this unique destination.
The Choo Choo Hotel is a beacon of history located in the heart of Downtown Chattanooga. In 1909 the Terminal Station opened as the first railway station in the South, designed in the famous Beaux Arts style. The Choo Choo Hotel was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974 and remains one of the city’s first historic preservation projects. And, if decide not to stay at the Choo Choo Hotel, you can still swing by for a meal or drinks.
Rock City is located atop Lookout Mountain, just 6 miles from downtown Chattanooga, and is a marvel of nature featuring massive ancient rock formations, gardens with over 400 native plant species, and breathtaking "See 7 States" panoramic views. Take a journey along the Enchanted Trail, experience the magic of Fairyland Caverns and check out Mother Goose Village.
The 3rd Deck Burger Bar sits 40 feet above the Tennessee River on the 3rd deck of a riverboat, and offers outside patio seating, flat screen tv's, arcade games, darts, foosball, and ping pong—in addition to a build your own burger menu.
Find creamy gelato at Milk & Honey, but don't visit Chattanooga without a stop to the MoonPie General Store, where you can pick one up (or one dozen) and enjoy the hometown's pride—a perfect combo of marshmallow, graham, and chocolate.
Feel like barbeque? Head to Sugar's Ribs for a local's take on a great rack and pulled pork.
Chattanooga Downtown Hotels offer the most convenient location for access to Chattanooga’s top attractions, restaurants and boutique shops. Ride the free electric shuttle around the compact and easy to navigate downtown Chattanooga area. The Gatsby themed Read House is conveniently located in the heart of downtown and is in walking distance from the city’s greatest attractions.
Cabins in Chattanooga are perfect for family vacations or couples preferring a bit of privacy in rustic or modern cabins. Chattanooga Vacation Rentals currently manages over 25 cabins and homes available for rent around the Chattanooga area. The historic Pot Point Cabin on the Tennessee River sleeps up to 10 and the Trail’s End log cabin on Signal Mountain sleeps up to 12.
Jekyll Island, Ga
For the beach lovers, Jekyll Island offers wide, flat beaches that are particularly appealing to kiddos for their endless supply of castle-ready sand that doesn't seem to invade swimsuits and swim diapers as much as the fluffy white dunes found at the Gulf. And while many of the beaches on Jekyll Island are sure to please, don't pass up a chance to take the littles to Driftwood Beach.
While the island's developed space is limited, there are still plenty of dining options for families. Playground-side pizza at Red Bug Motors Pizza is served up hot and al fresco, Zachary's River House overlooks the Jekyll River, and Tortuga Jacks dishes solid Mexican food and live music nightly. Additional options can be found at the newly developed Beach Village (The Jekyll Market—complete with a deli, bbq and ice cream options—Fuse Frozen Yogurt, and the Jekyll Island Seafood Company, to name a few) and in the historic district.
Stay at the Jekyll Island Club Resort the recently revitalized historic resort, for an experience that is as family-friendly as it is charming. Or, stay beachside at the new Westin Jekyll Island, perfectly situated between the beach and the market (with really stellar ice cream).
Find out more: redtri.com
Asheville’s 8 million acres of backyard offers the perfect blend of urban adventure and outdoor exploration for an unforgettable family vacation. For adventurous outdoor activities, The Adventure Center of Asheville is 5 minutes from downtown, where you can enjoy expansive views of the Asheville skyline from Asheville Zipline Canopy Adventures or hop on one of the top-end mountain bikes and learn the meaning of “flow” on an on-site trail system created and groomed for the KOLO Bike Park. Or head up into the trees at KidZip, America’s first zipline adventure designed for kids under 10.
Every Friday night in the rounded outdoor amphitheater of downtown's Pritchard Park people join together to play thundering sounds on drums, dance to the powerful rhythms, or just sit back and enjoy the show of individuality and diverse community. The Drum Circle is a free event, and anybody is welcome to join in the music by bringing their own drum.
At the Asheville Pinball Museum, pay a flat fee to play as much as you like from the collection of about 35 pinball machines. Some are even original games from the 1940s.
At Asheville Adventure Co., you can take a guided scenic float on the French Broad or a heart racing paddle down the scenic and thrilling Green River. For a glimpse at the opulence of the gilded age, spend an entire day at the Biltmore Estate to take advantage of the gardens, as well as take the house tour. There’s a farm, children’s maze, trails, horseback riding, a playground, and lots more family-friendly activities.
Stop for a snack just so you can eat in a real London double-decker bus at Double D’s Coffee and Dessert. Enjoy a cold one while kids romp in the beer garden, explore Millers Estate Garden, and jam to live music at Sierra Nevada Brewery.
The Omni Grove Park Inn has luxury accommodations, a subterranean spa, and a laid-back, welcoming atmosphere. There is a Hampton Inn & Suites only a half-mile from Biltmore Village and Biltmore Estate. Downtown Asheville is 10 minutes away.
— Shelley Massey
Feature photo: iStock