Chattanooga is primarily known to the rest of the country from Glenn Miller's "Chattanooga Choo Choo" and then...., that's about it. But there is considerably more to Chattanooga, TN. In addition to its place as a railroad hub to the south that saw the city become famous for its choo choo, Chattanooga played a large role in the Civil War decades prior. The flooding of Chattanooga was largely responsible for the Franklin D. Roosevelt's Tennessee Valley Authority that ultimately became a cornerstone of the New Deal which shaped the nation. Chattanooga saw wild swings of fortune during the 20th Century, but presently is firmly on the rise with Volkswagen opening its first North American plant in decades and a thriving art community has risen along with this economic uptick. Chattanooga offers a fantastic indoor/outdoor experience for those that visit this southeastern Tennessee city and are often surprised to find all that the city has to offer.
It's not just a song, but a functioning hotel and piece of Americana. There is a no small amount of irony present in the story of the railroad and Chattanooga. Before becoming the Chattanooga train station, the building was a hotel. The train station closed in 1970 and thanks to a group of local businessmen the building was spared when they returned it to its original function as a hotel. The hotel still has tracks from the railroad running through the property as well as the original Chattanooga Choo Choo Train. While you can explore the hotel to your heart's content the audio guided trolley will cost you a few bucks to learn the history of this hotel/station/hotel which has repurposed train cars as sleeping options for its guests.
Thanks to the Chattanooga Bicycle Transit System you have the option of checking out this lovely city by bicycle. There are over 300 bikes available, located at 41 stations throughout the city. A single day pass costs $8, and a three-day pass runs $15. Once you pay this at any of the stations, you can grab a bike as you please and return it to any station. The pass allows for unlimited trips under 60 minutes. Grab one and return it to any of the 40 other stations and grab another when you need it. It's a great way to leisurely explore the city at your own pace rather than having an Uber pass something possibly interesting at 30 MPH.
The Houston Museum of Decorative Arts, The River Gallery and the Hunter Museum of American Art all call this scenic bluff with Tennessee River, and downtown views home. The River Gallery has a brilliant sculpture garden that can only be called a great job of yard work, while the Hunter Museum displays work in tune with the architecture of the three buildings with one of the buildings hosting the work of Andy Warhol. There are also a number of quaint coffee shops and restaurants to be found in this neighborhood.
The Tennessee Aquarium is two buildings; one freshwater and the other salt water. The aquarium tries to follow the journey of a raindrop on land to the ocean, and it does it with spectacular effect. The freshwater journey will give you the birds, river otters, turtles and alligators that populate the rivers in Tennessee and elsewhere. This trip continues to the other building and its saltwater denizens like penguins, sharks, reef fish and a fantastic mirrored jellyfish habitat that seems to stretch forever.
Chattanooga's proximity to the Georgia border makes this a lot closer than it reads. This 4,100-foot walking trail on the far side of Lookout Mountain offers bouldering for the adventurous or a simple, lazy hike through this border state splendor. It provides the kids something while also providing space for your romantic side if you and your partner stop to admire the 90-foot waterfall at Lover's Leap.
The Raccoon Mountain Caverns measure over five miles on its well-lighted walking trail. Opened in 1931, the caves have remained a popular tourist destination for those traveling through the south given their proximity to the highway. Despite all the foot traffic, there remains an active and very much alive ecosystem comprised of spiders, bats, and salamanders. There is an excellent campground available outside the entrance if you wish to make a weekend out of your visit.
Chattanooga hosted Confederate and Union victories and defeats during the Civil War. The park itself is located in Chickamauga, Georgia less than 10 miles from downtown Chattanooga. However, even if you were to stay on the Tennessee side, you will still have an opportunity to visit Chattanooga National Cemetery, Signal Point, Lookout Mountain and parts of Missionary Ridge. In the summer take a guided tour with a park ranger free of charge to have the battles put in perspective by someone who has done their homework.
What do you do with a bridge scheduled for demolition? Use one of the many others spanning the Tennessee River? No, you turn it into the world's longest pedestrian bridge and host concerts and an annual wine tasting to compliment the grand river views. The Walnut Street Bridge connects the north and south sides of Chattanooga which was quite significant when it was turned into a pedestrian bridge given the racially segregating nature of the river running through town.
This accidental discovery along the Tennesse River Gorge is one of Chattanooga's most visited tourist attractions. The Lookout Mountain Cave was closed in 1905, for railroad construction. A local cave explorer, Leo Lambert, led a team to build an elevator from the surface so the cave could be reopened to the public. As it happens, a newly found 18-inch crack in the rocks turned out to be the entrance to Ruby Falls. It's the United States largest underground waterfall now and includes zip lines and various other activities on top of the majesty of this discovery.
Rainy day in Chattanooga with the kids? Look no farther than the Creative Discovery Museum, one of the nation's most exceptional children's museums. This interactive museum appeals to kids of all ages while their parents remark on the intelligence put into this museum by its curators. This hands-on-family experience is open 10AM-6PM daily.