Museums — big, small, weird and wonderful — dot the landscape in Chattanooga, and many offer affordable ways to see their wares.
The biggest player in the local museum scene is the Hunter Museum of American Art. Traveling exhibits allow it to change constantly while visitors still can enjoy the permanent exhibits.
You’ll notice the museum atop a bluff along the Tennessee River just east of the Walnut Street Bridge. It’s the mammoth, three-building complex that represents three distinct eras of American architecture.
Not every museum offering in Chattanooga is as well financed or even as well known, but most are pretty affordable.
Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum
Celebrating its 50th year in 2011, this institution plays home to many relics from the Southern Railway System. Restored steam-powered trains take visitors through picturesque East Tennessee hills on trips as short as 55 minutes and on tours that last up to six hours.
* Address: 4119 Cromwell Road, Chattanooga
* Hours: Vary by season and rides, call ahead for details
* Admission: Tickets vary based on distance, $19 to $55
* Information: www.tvrail.com, 423-894-8028
Hunter Museum of American Art
Art from colonial times to the present graces the walls of the Hunter. Andy Warhol, Winslow Homer and George Segal are on display, among others.
* Address: 10 Bluff View, Chattanooga
* Hours: Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; except on Thursday: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Wednesday, Sunday: Noon to 5 p.m.
* Admission: $9 adults, $4.95 for children 3 to 17 years old; free on first Thursday of the month
* Information: www.huntermuseum.org, 423-267-0968
Creative Discovery Museum
Just a few blocks from the Tennessee Aquarium, the Creative Discovery Museum is hailed as a premier hands-on museum for children. It’s appropriate for children ages 2 to 12 years old.
* Address: 321 Chestnut Ave., Chattanooga
* Fall and winter hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. except on Sunday, when it’s open noon to 5 p.m. Closed Wednesday.
* Spring: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. most days, but the facility is closed on Wednesdays during winter. Call ahead.
* Admission: $10.95 adults and kids, discounts for military and bundles with the Tennessee Aquarium
* Information: www.cdmfun.org, 423-756-2738
Siskin Museum of Religious Antiquities
Religious antiquities collected from around the world. The collection, commissioned by Mose and Garrison Siskin, is valued at more than $350,000.
* Address: 1101 Carter St., Chattanooga
* Hours: 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Friday, and by appointment
* Admission: Free
* Information: 423-648-1700
Dragon Dreams Museum
It’s all about dragons. Accumulated over 35 years, the collection ranges from current-day designs to medieval style and antique representations.
* Address: 6724A East Brainerd Road, Chattanooga
* Hours: Wednesday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sunday, 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.
* Admission: Children: $4.50; Adults: $10
* Information: www.dragonvet.com, 423-892-2384
Medal of Honor Museum
The first four recipients of the Medal of Honor are buried in the Chattanooga National Cemetery, so early organizers thought a hall that paid homage to every recipient of the medal would be appropriate here. Displays focus on several recipients, and there is a listing of every medal winner.
* Address: Northgate Mall, Hixson
* Hours: 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday; 1-5 p.m. Saturday-Sunday
* Admission: Free
* Information: 423-267-1737 or www.mohm.org
International Towing and Recovery Hall of Fame
The towing industry traces its history back to the earliest days of the automobile, and since the first wrecker was built in Chattanooga, the museum’s location is fitting. The museum has many exhibits and a hall to honor those killed while on the job.
* Address: 3315 Broad St., Chattanooga
* Hours: 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Monday to Friday; 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday
* Admission: $8 adults; $4 children 6 to 8
* Information: 423-267-3132 or www.internationaltowingmuseum.org