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Southeastern TN Tour
Explore the Cumberland Plateau
With a wide range of excellent attractions for the entire family, the tour through southeastern Tennessee and Chattanooga is a can't miss. As you explore the Cumberland Plateau, you'll find an ease of access into nearby cities like East Ridge and Dayton.
You’ll want to start this tour in the city of Chattanooga. Intersected by the Tennessee River, Chattanooga is home to a variety of premier attractions – plan your visit soon and see as many as you can.
Whether you’re passing through Chattanooga for the Riverbend Festival, hoping for an outdoor adventure at Ruby Falls, or planning on spending time at the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum, launch this trip in Chattanooga.
Embark on this southeastern Tennessee drive tour during the first weekend in June and check out the Riverbend Festival. An annual nine-day outdoor music event, the Riverbend Festival began in 1982, and always features a slew of top musical acts.
Most of the music at the Riverbend Festival is country and classic rock, but there is often a blues and jazz presence, too. All of the performances across the nine days are held at Ross’s Landing Park, with headlining acts hitting the Coca-Cola Stage, an enormous barge resting on the Tennessee River.
Enjoy some local flair and culture with a day spent at the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum. Established in 1960, this railroad museum is less than eight miles east of downtown Chattanooga on Cromwell Road.
Visit the TVRM for up close views of classic steam locomotives – there are six you can check out at TVRM. The museum also acts as a train station, offering rides and local tours along Missionary Ridge.
Experience one of the most unique outdoor adventures in Chattanooga with a visit to Ruby Falls. Head for Lookout Mountain, which is found less than seven miles southwest of downtown along the Ochs Highway.
Ruby Falls is a naturally formed waterfall standing 145 feet high. You can tour the Ruby Falls Cave, explore Lookout Mountain Tower, or enjoy some fun at the Zipstream Aerial Adventure – exceptional ideas for your summer visit to Chattanooga.
Head east along I-24 from Chattanooga into nearby East Ridge. The drive is less than eight miles and should be a breeze. See the sights in East Ridge as you make it stop number two on this Cumberland Plateau drive tour.
You can check out the nearby Tennessee Aquarium, or get out and explore at the Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park. The Chattanooga Zoo is only minutes away, and the Creative Discovery Museum is ideal for families embarking on this southeastern TN drive tour.
Any visit to East Ridge should yield, at the very least, an afternoon at the Tennessee Aquarium. Found just inland of the Tennessee River near Ross’s Landing Park, the Tennessee Aquarium opened in 1992 as the River Journey Building. Kids and families have been touring every since.
There are more than 12,000 animals across the 1.1 million gallons of water at the Tennessee Aquarium – plenty to see and do when you visit with the family.
For a fun and quirky experience on your trip into East Ridge, make your way to the Incline Railway. There are many ways you can advance to the top of Lookout Mountain – make sure the Incline Railway is your method of choice.
Known as “America’s most amazing mile,” the trolley cars guide you up Lookout Mountain at an incline of 72.7 percent. Head for the Rock City side of Lookout Mountain and enjoy the leisurely tour up to the top.
Once you’ve made it to the top of Lookout Mountain, you’ll find a wide range of historic landmarks, including Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park. With its roots tied to the US Civil War, Chickamauga yields plenty of insight and history to visitors.
Ideal for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts, Chickamauga features five premier trails in the area – the Cannon Trail (the longest, at 14 miles), General Bragg Trail, Confederate Line Trail, Memorial Trail, and the Historical Trail.
Continue on from East Ridge to the final destination on this tour – Dayton. You’ll head north along US Highway 27 for about 45 miles to find downtown Dayton. The seat of Rhea County, Dayton is a charming city, and an ideal place to end this southeastern Tennessee drive tour.
If you make your way into Dayton during the early to mid part of the May, be sure to spend a day at the Tennessee Strawberry Festival. Spanning nearly two weeks, with assorted strawberry events littered throughout, the Tennessee Strawberry Festival is a can’t-miss event in Dayton.
Each year, the Strawberry Festival kicks off with the Strawberry Pageant, typically staged at the Rhea County Middle School. Other events include the Family Fun Night, Dayton Art League Fine Arts Show, and the various types of live entertainment at the Centennial Park Stage.
Ideal for history buffs, the Rhea County Courthouse and Scopes Trial Museum yields an enlightening afternoon. It’s the site of the 1925 Scopes Evolution Trial. There are courtroom tours available, where you’ll see photos from the trial, and glean insights in to the key figures.
Not far outside of Dayton is Fall Creek Falls State Park. Make the drive northwest along the Dayton Mountain Highway less than 33 miles and you’re there! Found within the Cane Creek Gorge, Fall Creek Falls State Park is nearly 26,000 acres in size, and is home to the Fall Creek Falls Lake.
Make the most of your visit to Fall Creek Falls and check out the Rocky Point Overlook, the Cane Creek Overlook, or the Buzzard’s Roost – all three yield stunning views of southeastern Tennessee. In mid-April, be sure to check out the annual Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage. Mid-May brings the annual Tennessee Spring Star Party.