I openly admit that I suffer from serious wanderlust, as a result my little trio travels quite a bit. While on our way back from the latest in our adventures, I thought about how I could transfer our experiences over to Boy at Will. It came to me that it would be really helpful to have a list of cities that could be considered “boy friendly.” While I know that any city/town can offer a learning experience, there are certain places we’ve traveled that just offer so many opportunities for boys to be boys and frowns of disapproval by onlookers are minimal if non-existent. So, here is my first installment of a segment I’d like to call Boy-Friendly Cities:
Chattanooga, Tennessee, USA
This city is a great weekend getaway that offers a lot of diversions for active minds and bodies. Chattanooga has invested quite a bit of time and energy into re-invigorating their downtown and it has paid off with a consistently recognized aquarium, a beautiful river walk, a growing arts community and nice combination of chain and local restaurant options. Another nice thing is that, for the most part, you don’t need a car to get around. You can either walk, bike or take a very eco-friendly transit system and get to most places in the city easily. While we didn’t visit them, the tourist spots of Rock City, Ruby Falls and Lookout Mountain are also very close by car.
Our little getaway was an easy drive from our home and we packed quite a bit into essentially two days. Since we arrived late in the day, our main focus after settling in at our hotel was finding some food. The Terminal Brewhouse fit the bill. Located next to the infamous Chattanooga Choo-Choo, getting there required us to drive, but parking was easy and the ride was brief (because no one wants to get back in a car after being in the car for a couple of hours). While initially unsure if The Terminal accommodated those not of age, a quick check with the very friendly staff provided reassurance that all ages were welcomed and accepted. The Boy sauntered straight to a bar stool and a Shirley Temple was ordered. There were plenty of diversions (aka televisions and bartenders) to keep The Boy entertained while we waited for a table to open and the cheese pizza appetizer was given a huge thumbs-up. For the Husband and me, the food was tasty and the drinks were cold. We retired to our hotel room satiated and road-weary.
First item after breakfast the next morning was the aforementioned aquarium. The Chattanooga Aquarium is an impressive blend of form and function. Rather than placing everything in one monster building, it is divided into two creative, separate spaces: Ocean Journey and River Journey. We let the Boy pick which building he wanted to see first and started off without a wait up the Ocean Journey escalator. Don’t be fooled by the smaller size of the buildings, these aquariums are stocked with an interesting collection of rays, fish, turtles, penguins, amphibians, reptiles and sharks. Most impressive is their collection of jellyfish and seahorses. In the River Journey building, they also have some of the largest and most interesting fish I believe I’ve ever seen as part of their River Giants exhibit. To completely tour both buildings takes no time and because the crowds are minimal, no one was offended by Speedy (aka the Boy on hyper-speed) dashing through the exhibits and down the ramps.
After viewing the Aquarium, we wandered over to Big River Grille & Brewing Works for some lunch. Again, very warm and welcoming staff who took care of all of us. (As an aside, the restaurants in Chattanooga seem to be very up-to-date with regard to celiac disease – of which I suffer. This made dining far more pleasant for me because it did not require detailed explanations of what could or could not be placed on, near, with my food. I almost felt like I was dining pre-diagnosis.)
From lunch, we walked over to the Creative Discovery Museum. You cannot go wrong with a warehouse that has a water table, music room, art studio, science lab and rooftop play area. The Boy (and the Husband) spent the most time soaking themselves and others at the water table, but also enjoyed the varied sections. We purchased our tickets for entry to CDM when we purchased our Aquarium tickets and received a discount. CDM can be an all-day experience if you let it, but for us about two hours was good enough. However, the Boy has already asked when we can go back.
Before heading back home on Sunday, we visited our final attraction, the Chattanooga Zoo. The Boy loves going to the zoo no matter what time of year or where in the world we might be. If there is a zoo, we will visit it. For its size, the Zoo provides a lot to see but is not so large that you are overwhelmed or worried about missing something. The Zoo – as the Aquarium had shown us the day before – had very unique exhibits of items that are not typical “zoo” and this added to our enjoyment and excitement. The extensive reptile and spider collections really appealed to the Boy and, yet again, the lack of a crowd and the well-spaced paths allowed the Boy to run ahead of us to his little heart’s content.
All in all, the weekend was full of a lot of laughter and has already prompted questions of when we can go back and stay for longer.