It's summer vacation time and that means new hours, new rides and new things to see and do at area attractions.
The changes are made to entice people to come back for repeat visits and to attract new customers, according to spokespeople at attractions such as Ruby Falls, Lake Winnepesaukah and the Tennessee Aquarium.
Below is a list of some of the new things you will find.
* Beach Blanket Movie Night: Watch from your boat or from a blanket on the beach as Hamilton County Parks and Recreation presents this free film on a three-story screen at Chester Frost Park on May 28. The title can't be publicized, but the 2009 animated film features the voices of Freddie Highmore, Nicolas Cage, Kristen Bell and Nathan Lane. Information: 842-6748.
* Rave's Summer Movie Series: This free series of films starts June 8 at East Ridge 18 theaters. The films, which are rated either G or PG, are screened at 10 a.m. Tuesday and Wednesday of each week. Information: 855-9652.
June 8: "Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel"
June 15: "Ice Age in 3D"
June 22: "Astroboy"
June 29: "Planet 51"
July 6: "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs"
July 13: "Monsters vs. Alien"
July 20: "Hotel for Dogs"
July 27: "Shorts"
* Movies in the Park: First Things First is still finalizing the films to be screened in its family outings the last four Saturdays in July at Coolidge Park. Vote for your favorites by following the links at www.firstthings.org. Information: 267-5383.
* Kids Bowl Free: AMF Tri State Lanes, 3636 Ringgold Road, in East Ridge is among 825 bowling centers in 45 states offering kids two free games of bowling this summer. The promotion, for ages 15 and younger, starts Monday. Families must register at www.KidsBowlFree.com to receive coupons by e-mail address every Sunday morning through the close of the program on Sept. 19. A $2.99 Kids Club meal will be available to participants. Information: 867-2281.
FREE ART ACTIVITIES
* Free First Sundays: The first Sunday of each month grants free admission to the Hunter Museum of American Art. From 1 to 5 p.m. the museum offers children's activities and music on the terrace. Those who haven't toured the collection in a while will find that technology is changing the way people experience the Hunter. Visitors now can take guided tours by cell phone, and get detailed information about the art on the website. Social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter allow visitors to comment on their experience, ask questions and interact with museum staff. Information: 267-0968, www.huntermuseum.org.
* Chattanooga Nature Center: You can watch 60,000 endangered gray bats emerge from Nickajack Cave any summer night for free, but you might enjoy it more if you increase your knowledge of bats. Chattanooga Nature Center offers three chances to learn more about these mammals in programs scheduled June 25, July 10 and Aug. 21. Participants will see a Power Point presentation, then caravan to the Marion County cave to see the bats in action. Nonmembers pay $9 for adults, $4.50 for children 4-11. Registration is required: 821-1160, ext. 0.
* Chattanooga Zoo: Behind-the-scenes tours aren't new, but some of the animals are. Among the latest arrivals are jaguar brothers Gene and Phil. Guided tours of the zoo's inner sanctums leave every hour between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Thursday through Sunday and last about two hours. Tours ($15 adults, $10 seniors, $8 kids 3-15) are in addition to regular admission ($8, $6 and $5). The zoo will be open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily this summer, with special events including a Frog Watch on June 4, Family Fun Day on June 5 and a 42nd birthday party for Hank the chimpanzee on June 19. Information: 697-1319, www.chattzoo.org.
* Rock City: Back for its sixth year is the Rock City Raptors show featuring eagles, vultures, hawks and other birds of prey flying and walking through the crowd. New this year are Theo the owl and Bonnie the peregrine falcon. Shows start at 11 a.m., 1 and 3 p.m. Thursday through Sunday (additional 4:30 p.m. show on Saturdays) from Memorial Day through Labor Day. This Save Our American Raptors program is free with regular admission: $17.95 adults, $9.95 ages 3-12. Information: 706-820-2531, www.seerockcity.com.
* Tennessee Aquarium: The Backstage Pass option is being expanded to allow more people each day to experience what goes on behind the scenes and to interact with the animals. Ocean Journey adventures will be offered in the morning and River Journey in the afternoon, with both lasting about 45 minutes. About 15 people will get the chance to help feed the penguins and see what it is like to put on scuba gear, for example. The Backstage Pass ($15) is in addition to regular admission ($24.95 adults, $14.95 children under 12). Information: 265-0695, www.tnaqua.org.
* Creative Discovery Museum: The summer exhibit at Creative Discovery Museum will take visitors on a freewheeling ride through the human body. "Grossology," based on the best-selling book, explores all the mushy, oozy, crusty, scaly and stinky stuff our bodies produce. The exhibit opens May 29 and closes Sept. 6. Admission: $10.95. Information: 756-2738, www.cdmfun.org.
* Lake Winnepesaukah: Joining the Cannon Ball roller coaster and the Boat Chute at Lake Winnie, which is celebrating its 85th anniversary, are two new rides, a make-your-own pizza outlet and a new game, according to Talley Green, park spokeswoman. The Sea Warrior is a family thrill ride for people who like to spin in circles. The seats rotate and undulate as the whole ride turns in a circle. For the younger set, there is a new teacup ride, Silly Saucers. Visitors this year also will discover Tin Can Alley, a game that requires you to toss a bag into a can with snapping lids. Gate admission is $5. Unlimited rides cost $21. Information: 706-866-5681, www.lakewinnie.com.
* Ruby Falls: The underground waterfall is still the main attraction at Ruby Falls, but the new ZipStream Aerial Adventure has people zipping through the trees on Lookout Mountain. The ZipStream has three courses offering differing challenge levels. Each takes between 45 minutes and an hour and fifteen minutes to complete. There are height, age, weight and physical ability limitations, so check ahead. Information: 821-2544, www.rubyfalls.com.
Barry Courter is staff reporter and columnist for the Times Free Press. He started his journalism career at the Chattanooga News-Free Press in 1987. He covers primarily entertainment and events for ChattanoogaNow, as well as feature stories for the Life section. Born in Lafayette, Ind., Barry has lived in Chattanooga since 1968. He graduated from Notre Dame High School and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a degree in broadcast journalism. He previously was ...