As the first set of spring break students arrives in this area, local tourism officials are hoping for a strong start through the Spring Break Safari.
"Within such a close proximity from Lookout Mountain to the riverfront to the Bluff View Art District, there are so many diverse things to do," said Steve Genovesi, vice president of sales and marketing with the Chattanooga Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Now in its fourth year, the safari is a citywide tourism effort bringing together attractions from the area to offer special, behind-the-scenes access to students of all ages. To help document their trip, students can download the Spring Break Safari Field Guide on the CVB's Web site. Officials estimate more than 2,000 have been downloaded so far this year.
Staff photo by Danielle Moore/Chattanooga Times Free Press Alex Scruggs, 13, finishes a toy for the Hyacinth Macaws at the Tennessee Aquarium. On Tuesday afternoon, participants at the Spring Break Safari were invited to create new "enrichment boxes" for the birds.
Katrina Craven of the Creative Discovery Museum, one of the area attractions, said the initiative is good for business.
"It really sharpens the draw if we band together, because it is appealing for people to be able to see what the city has to offer," she said.
This year, the safari features activities from 11 local area attractions: the Tennessee Aquarium, Lake Winnepesaukah, the Creative Discovery Museum, the Chattanooga Zoo, Hunter Museum of American Art, the Tennessee Valley Railroad, Chattanooga Choo Choo, Ruby Falls, Rock City, Bluff View Art District and the Southern Belle Riverboat.
Though each attraction offers a different experience, many say the primary aim is to make each interactive and educational.
The Aquarium, which has participated previously, is offering a "Keeper Kids" program for the first time. The program allows visitors to choose two of 19 activities with each lasting between 15 to 20 minutes.
Tuesday afternoon in the Ocean Journey section, one group of spring breakers made enrichment toys for the Hyacinth Macaws. Students of all ages tapped into their creative side to construct them out of bamboo, raffia, newspapers and other materials.
And parents said the Spring Break Safari has been a great experience.
Chattanooga area attractions
Some area schools' spring breaks
Hamilton County Schools: April 5-9
Bradley County Schools: March 15-19
Walker County Schools: April 5-9
Whitfield County Schools: April 5-9
Rhea County Schools: April 5-9
Sequatchie County Schools: April 2-9
Catoosa County Schools: April 2-9
Source: School Web sites
"We're animal lovers and we love doing stuff like this as a family that we can all enjoy," said Angel Grammer, visiting from the Birmingham, Ala., area with her husband and children ranging in age from seven to 17. "We have five kids so it's hard to find things to do. ... Our kids loved it," she said.
Area hotels also could see a boost in business with several offering packages that include tickets to some of the safari attractions.
Richard Pauley, director of sales and marketing for the Chattanoogan hotel, said its Spring Break Getaway 2010 package offered for the first time this year has gotten a positive response.
"We want to give everyone the opportunity to build their own package so they can do exactly what they want, especially in this economy," he said. The getaway package starts at $109 a night, runs through April 15 and includes options such as lunch to go and tickets to Rock City attractions, among others.
Although Hamilton County Schools do not begin spring break until early April, Candace Davis of the CVB says the safari also has something to offer for area residents.
"People tend to forget what they have in their own backyard," she said. "So whether you've been before, it gives you the opportunity to see and experience an attraction in a different way."