One of Tennessee’s most popular cave systems, Raccoon Mountain Caverns is located just outside Chattanooga, a historic town, two hours north of Atlanta. My family and I have visited the caves twice—once with the scouts and a second time just our family alone. The guided trips into the cave are both fun and educational. One night, we opted to sleep in the cave. Not a bad experience–actually, a very memorable one.
Raccoon Mountain Caverns offers two kinds of tours:
- The Crystal Palace Tour – a very easy, 45 minute walking tour. It covers just the front portion of the cave. The cave stays at a comfortable 60 degrees year round.
- Wild Cave Expeditions – these tours range from 1 to 6 hours. Prepare to get muddy and crawl through some narrow spaces (this may not be a great activity for claustrophobic types). A guide will stay with you, and they equip you with gloves, knee pads, helmets and lights.
We chose the Wild Cave Expedition—the three hour tour. The cave is very comfortable and fun to navigate. Man-eating bats swooped down to devour our flesh and suck out our blood. Not really–we saw only one small bat the entire trip. You will get dirty, so bring some old clothes (see picture above). Kids seem to love dirt. Can you tell? And remember, don’t forget the camera.
Where to Stay
If you like camping, Raccoon offers tent campsites, RV sites and cabins. I list the Cavern’s website at the end of this write-up. Several hotels abound in nearby Chattanooga. My wife and I have stayed at the Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel which has 48 Victorian train cars converted into hotel rooms. Check out the website: http://www.choochoo.com/
Where to Eat
Our two favorite places to eat are Big River Grille and Sticky Fingers, both located in downtown Chattanooga. Several other great restaurants can be found in the downtown area.
Other Attractions and Activities
For the Civil War buffs, there is Lookout Mountain and several museums around the city. I highly recommend the Tennessee Aquarium, located downtown. The Aquarium also offers an IMAX 3D movie theater. If you like train rides, try out the Inclined Railway which carries you up Lookout Mountain at a 72.7% grade. While on top the mountain, check-out the Civil War museum and Point Park.