The Force Was With Us in Chattanooga

***Stop #11 on the #MiLBRoundTripper: the Chattanooga (TN) Lookouts***

AT&T Park would have been a perfect landing spot for Star Wars’ Millennium Falcon.  The home stadium of the Chattanooga Lookouts is positioned about 50 steps above the nearest downtown street level – a road appropriately called Power Alley.

Fans would gladly climb those stairs tonight – the allure of Star Wars night at the ballpark provided an equitable trade for the unplanned leg workout to get to the ticket window.

The Lookouts’ initial Star Wars themed night was rained out – leading to a packed house on the night we visited.

This was our first Minor League Star Wars encounter and, regrettably, I was ill-prepared.

AT&T Park in Chattanooga, TN. – home of the Lookouts, Double A affiliate of the Twins.

The Minor Leagues celebrates Star Wars in many parks throughout the year and, I wish I would have known a couple of important features to maximize my family’s experience.

Tips for taking the kids to Star Wars night at a ballpark near you:

  1.  Fans can (and should) dress up as their favorite character.  The Lookouts staff embraced the theme – Princess Leia tended to the kids area while Storm Troopers patrolled the concourse.  My kids love to dress up – a make-shift Halloween at the ballpark would have been a lot of fun.
  2. Be prepared to talk about the “new” Star Wars movies with your kids – it is likely the movies we 40-somethings grew up with are artifacts to our little ones.  Certain, staple characters are open for discussion – Darth Vader, Chewy and Storm Troopers.  Going any further outside the box will only lead them to call you “old” or “lame” or to, simply, ignore your “so yesterday” reference.
  3. There is a charitable thread to these Star Wars nights at the stadium.  Often, the home team, sports special jersey’s that are later auctioned off to benefit a local charity.  I Chattanooga staffer (dressed as Yoda) shared that the jerseys garner “several thousand” to a local charity.  I should have come ready to bid.
  4. Take notice of the team’s mascots raising their game due to the one-night-only, Star Wars competition.  On this night, Looie the Lookout took down several Star Wars intruders during a first baseline light-saber match.  Looie wasn’t finished, even engaging Storm Troopers in an outfield chase.  My 1 year-old has a love of mascots and her obsessive pointing told me that she was impressed with his ability to stand up to the Star Wars invasion.

    Storm Trooper secured the concourse.

Despite being caught off guard by Star Wars night, we escaped the Chattanooga Lookouts’ visit uninjured, in a civil argument about the best Star Wars movie and smiling from ear-to-ear at my insistence that Luke is the toughest Skywalker.

Evidently, tonight, the force was with us.

A day with kids in Chattanooga, TN

During our day in Chattanooga, we visited two versions of the same city.

Ruby Falls, 145 feet below Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga, TN.

First, our expedition led us to a mountainous retreat – close to the city but desolate enough for a getaway feel.  Our retreat to nature took place about 10 minutes from downtown on Lookout Mountain.

Our Lookout Mountain adventure began at Ruby Falls – a majestic waterfall located 145 feet inside of the mountain.  The round trip was nearly an hour and a half – the first 45 minutes spent walking through caves and seeing spectacular rock formations.  At several points during the hike, the story of Leo Lambert, the local entrepreneur who discovered the falls, blared overhead.

The hike was about half a mile and slippery – but seeing Ruby Falls was worth every step!  For 10 minutes, we watched the falls glisten in a show of bright, colored lights.  The view was nothing short of spectacular.

My family’s second Lookout Mountain retreat was an Incline Train Ride to the top of the mountain – a 72% grade at the steepest point.  I must admit, being pulled up a steep mountain was nerve-racking – I hate heights!  The nail-biting ride to the top was rewarded by amazing panoramic views.  If we missed any views on the way up, the way back down the mountain allowed us to take it all in again.

The base of the Incline Train that would take us a mile up on Lookout Mountain.

The second version of our trip to Chattanooga was to a thriving, vibrant, metropolitan-feeling downtown anchored by the Tennessee Aquarium.

My family spent the remainder of the afternoon in a five block radius on Broad Street – from Aquarium to 5th.  And, trust me, a half day was not enough time to do everything downtown Chattanooga had to offer!

The Tennessee Aquarium is really a community center – a campus of activities at the end of Broad Street.

The outside grounds of the Tennessee Aquarium.

The aquarium is two, massive exhibition halls – one for salt water creatures, the other for fresh water.  The grounds surrounding the buildings are as captivating and kid-friendly – equipped with several areas of wading streams for children, a green space fit for a great game of tag and interesting concrete features fit for climbing.

Our next stop in metropolitan Chattanooga was to the Creative Discovery Museum – a great stop for kids of any age.  The museum held my kids’ attention for over two hours – a monumental feat for 5 kids from age 1 through 11.

The CDM offers water features, an area to uncover fossils, a work room with hand’s on building activities and, my personal favorite, a special exhibit featuring the work of author Eric Carle (of “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” fame).

On the rooftop of the building are several more activities – a pulley system connected to a swing, bubbles and outdoor games like checkers and chess.

My kids operating the pulley swing on the rooftop of Creative Discovery Museum.

The last downtown stop of the day united both sides of this lovely, southern city – a Chattanooga Duck ride through downtown and on the Tennessee River.

The hour-long tour is a slow troll up and down the river with the vessel’s captain pointing out various points of interest along the way.  In hindsight, doing the Duck ride earlier in our trip would have provided a better plan for our time spent downtown.  When the trip started to drag a bit for the little ones (the Duck travels at 4 miles per hour on the water), they were thrilled with the chance to drive the amphibious vehicle themselves.

Our day in Chattanooga certainly felt like a day spent between two cities – one, a mountainous escape and the other, a bustling city full of family fun.  This diversity will ensure that whichever version you prefer, Chattanooga is ONE destination worth a visit.

About Chattanooga, TN:

Chattanooga, Tennessee is one of the top destinations in the South. Named “Best Town Ever” twice!

In fact, the New York Times named Chattanooga one of the “Top 45 Places to go” in the World. And it’s no wonder. Tucked between the mountains of Southeast Tennessee, along the beautiful Tennessee River, Chattanooga is one of America’s most breathtaking cities. There’s a world of outdoor adventure, amazing restaurants, live events, art and world-class attractions waiting for you here. So, go ahead. Plan your Chattanooga vacation today.

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