It's been said a lot over the last few weeks as the coronavirus has claimed one holiday after another, but for the record, this Memorial Day weekend will be unlike any other in recent history.

Memorial Day is considered the unofficial kickoff of summer and is usually a big weekend for getaways. This year, not so much. For the first time in 20 years, AAA didn't even bother issuing its annual travel forecast.

Still, there are places where you can get out and stretch your legs, with a little social distancing. They may be small victories, but even small victories are important these days.

Here are five ideas for how to spend the long weekend close to home.


Animals in captivity

Chattanooga Zoo opened earlier this month, the first major attraction to do so, but your visit may be a little different than you remember. First, you need to buy your tickets online, and you'll choose either a 9 a.m.-noon or 1-4 p.m. visit, as available. You'll receive a ticket as a PDF attachment in your email, which can be scanned as a printout or from your phone screen.

The path through the exhibits is now one-way, so no backtracking to see a favorite animal before you go. However, this will be a good chance to see the African expansion area, where three giraffes will soon be living.

Most indoor exhibits are temporarily closed, as are the Zoo Choo Train, carousel, camel rides, petting zoo and Nature Play areas. No wheelchairs, scooters or strollers are available for rent.

Chattanooga Zoo is at 301 N. Holtzclaw Ave. Admission is $12.95 adults, $10.95 seniors 65 and older, $9.95 children 3-12, free for younger children. To limit personal contact, no vouchers, coupons or discounts will be honored at this time.

Get more information at or 423-697-1322.


Lookout Mountain vistas

Is it possible to get through Fat Man's Squeeze while social distancing? We'd say, yes, as long as you don't get stuck and need a push or pull as you pass through this iconic feature at Rock City Gardens.

After initially reopening to only passholders, the Lookout Mountain attraction is now open to all visitors, through there are capacity restrictions per hour. For that reason, online reservations are encouraged so you can get your preferred time slot.

New safety measures include a one-way traffic pattern along the Enchanted Trail. Guests are encouraged to wear face masks. The park's employees will be wearing masks and are subject to health screenings, including temperature checks.

Gift shops and food locations also will be opening with capacity limitations. Rock City's outdoor restaurant, Café 7, is reopening at 50% capacity from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Rock City is at 1400 Patten Road. Get more information at or 706-820-2531.

Ruby Falls, 1720 S. Scenic Highway, also has resumed tours to see its namesake underground waterfall. Participants must wear a mask on the tours, and groups are limited in size to aid in social distancing.

Hugh Morrow, president of Ruby Falls, said the 91-year-old attraction is running at 10% to 20% of capacity but the hope is to expand group sizes moving forward.

Reservations must be made online at Call 423-821-2544 for more information.


A walk (or a ride) in the park

Most area parks are open, with some restrictions, including limited restroom access. In the Chattanooga area, try the Tennessee Riverpark, Enterprise South Nature Park, Chester Frost Park, Coolidge Park, Greenway Farms, Chickamauga greenways and Walnut Street Bridge. Tennessee state parks are open for day use.

Good eats

Here's just a sampling of what you'll find in restaurants over the weekend. Some places have dine-in service; some don't.

* Steaks on the grill: Throughout the weekend, LongHorn Steakhouse will offer a social-media hotline for anyone needing immediate guidance at the grill. To ask for help from the chain's in-house experts, use #LHGRILLUS on Twitter or Instagram or post a question on LongHorn's Facebook page. And if the cooking goes south — or if you just want to hand the tongs over to LongHorn's grill masters, you can order a steakhouse meal online to take home using Curbside To Go.

* Family bundles: Cheddar's Scratch Kitchen offers fully-cooked meal bundles, including scratch-made entrées like hand-breaded Chicken Tenders and House-Smoked Baby Back Ribs, as well as family-style side dishes, all accompanied by Cheddar's signature Honey Butter Croissants. Iced tea, flavored lemonades and, where permissible, alcoholic beverages are available to complete the meal. The Chattanooga Cheddar's is at 2014 Gunbarrel Road. To order for curbside takeout, visit

* Barbecue party packages: Sticky Fingers has added a patriotic twist to its takeout options over the Memorial Day weekend with color-coded Red, White and Blue meal deals. Choose Red ($59) for eight to 10 people, White ($99) for 12-15 and Blue ($195) for 24-30. The smaller package comes with barbecue pork; the others include barbecue pork and hickory-smoked chicken. You'll get the appropriate amounts of baked beans, coleslaw and mac and cheese, along with buns, sauce and tea.


To market, to market

Chattanooga Market opens Sunday as the Chattanooga Essentials Market, a rebranding reminder of changes caused by the coronavirus. Similar to the Collegedale Market, which opened Mother's Day weekend, the Chattanooga Essentials Market will have a limited number of farmers, food artisans and vendors selling merchandise such as soaps and lotions. Food trucks will be available for take-and-go items, but there will be no on-site dining. Neither will there be live music nor cultural themes, festivals or activities. Also, no pets and no families, to help limit crowd size and enhance social distancing.

Don't forget your face mask. Patrons are expected to wear them, per state guidelines, just as vendors will be. Parking is also being intentionally reduced to limit the number of customers on the premises at any one time. If you can't find a parking spot in one of the open lots, you're asked to come back later.

Hours are 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at First Horizon Pavilion, 1826 Reggie White Blvd. Hours are the same at Collegedale Market at The Commons, 4950 Swinyar Drive.

The temporary changes are expected to last through the summer months.


Small-screen, big-screen movies

Over long holiday weekends, the folks at the Swingin' Midway Drive-In Theatre in Athens, Tennessee, like to queue up the reels for dusk-to-dawn movies. That won't happen this year because of coronavirus restrictions, but they have received the OK to show three films on two nights.

They'll start with two films on Friday: Disney/Pixar's "Onward" (rated PG) followed by "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker" (rated PG-13). They'll complete the triple play Saturday and Sunday when "Ford v. Ferrari" (PG-13) is added to the lineup.

The property opens at 7:30 p.m. Showtime is at dusk. Admission is $7 Friday, $8 Saturday and Sunday for adults; $5 for children 4-11; free for younger children. The address is 2133 Highway 30 East.

Keep in mind there will be no use of the playground or picnic tables. You'll be expected to social distance when you go to the snack bar or restrooms, which will be cleaned several times throughout the night.

Find out more at or 423-263-2632.

Note: The Wilderness Outdoor Movie Theater in Trenton, Georgia, will open the following weekend, May 29-31.

Meanwhile, if you'd rather stay home, the Chattanooga Film Festival is going virtual this year, with notable guests including actor/musician Ice-T, heavy-metal band Gwar and director Joe Dante ("Gremlins"), along with Hollywood hyphenates Ernest Dickerson, Joe Bob Briggs and Alex Winter.

Features and shorts will be on available on-demand Friday through Monday on the festival's streaming platform, accessible at Live events will be linked in the platform with specific time and dates and accessed on Microsoft Teams.

Email Lisa Denton at