Saturday, August 01, 2009

Chattanooga Fun

We just got back from our first family vacation--a few wonderful days in Chattanooga! Kate's first vacation, theoretically (other than visits to grandparents' houses) was to the cabins in June, but since Matt was unable to join us due to VBS and Annual Conference, this was our first trip with the three of us. Chattanooga is a great town for kids and families--lots of fun things to do, free shuttle between the major attractions, and a very walkable, stroller-friendly downtown.

We arrived Thursday afternoon, and after checking into our hotel, headed straight for the zoo. The forecast called for thunderstorms all weekend, so we figured it might be our only clear day to be outside. The Chattanooga zoo is small and cheap (only $6 for adults) but plenty entertaining for a short excursion. We only had 45 minutes there, since we had a little trouble finding it (vague map and poor signage) but while we could have easily spent a couple hours, 45 minutes was enough time to see everything.

Here's Kate enthusiastically enjoying the camels ("like Suzette," we kept saying, referring to the floral, stuffed camel on Kate's dresser, which she splattered with the famous "shotgun $hit" of her first week home.) The chimps were the zoo's big draw. They really celebrate "Hank," their oldest chimp, who turned the big 4-0 last year.

We ate dinner at Big River downtown, where the waiter was thoughful enough to ask if we'd like some hot water with which to heat Kate's bottle! (We don't do that, but I thought it was very impressive of a young, single guy to ask!) Then we went for a dip in the hotel pool before bed. Kate loved splashing, and would even kick her legs and wave one arm when we glided her on her belly across the surface of the water.

To save a little money, we stayed at a hotel just outside of downtown, and as I'd hoped, we were able to walk the one mile from the hotel to the riverfront area. We could have taken the free shuttle most of that distance, but we figured that folding up the stroller and lugging it aboard might be more hassle than it was worth, and we really enjoyed the walk. That was actually the only time it rained (at least during the day) during our visit, but it was still a lovely walk, leisurely strolling through the steady sprinkle. We put Kate forward-facing in her stroller for the first time so that she would be able to see the fishies at the aquarium better, and generally, that worked fine, except when she fell asleep and her head didn't stay in the headrest.
Chattanooga is known for its aquarium, and it really was great. There is a nice plaza area connecting the two aquarium buildings ("River Journey" and "Ocean Journey") and the visitor's center, and the structures--not to mention the marine life--are beautiful. One of the coolest things we saw, actually, were these fish that swim vertically, nose down, in very tight schools. They honestly looked like bunches of leaves being dangled from strings, the way they quivered together in that perfectly vertical arrangement.
Here are Kate and I "inside" a tank with the clownfish. "Look, it's Nemo!"

Returning to the hotel in the late afternoon, I decided to take advantage of the fluffy white, king-size comforter to do a little photo shoot of Kate. She's taken to blinking when the flash goes off, but I got several really good shots. Look for more where this came from on Wordless Wednesday this week!
This being our first vacation with a child on board, we knew evenings would be a little different, trading nights on the town for nights in the hotel room, while Little Bit snoozed in the Pack&Play. We brought wine and a Netflix movie ("Rachel Getting Married"--good) and turned in early.
This morning, we went swimming again before packing up and checking out.
"Don't forget my iPod!" Before leaving town, though, we went to see the iconic "Chattanooga Choo-Choo." The station is also a hotel, featuring numerous shops and restaurants. It is essentially Chattanooga's equivalent of the Opryland Hotel. Pretty neat.
Our 48-hour/three-day getaway was pretty quick, but lots of fun, and a great time just to focus on each other and spend quality time as a family. It was also a good introduction to the new experience of Vacationing With Small Children (VWSC), which we will be enjoying for the next decade or so.
What locations have you found best for VWSC? Do you have any tips for making it safe and enjoyable for kids and parents alike?

1 comment:

Chris Reed said...

Wow, that's kind of crazy. We went to Chatanooga on Friday and were at the Aquarium too. Willow had a big time. Glad to hear you guys had fun. Gatlinburg is also a great place to VWSC, although its a tourist trap its designed for walking and is often a great place to just escape.


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