Escape To Chattanooga
Explore Art, History and the Outdoors in Tennessee’s “Scenic City”
By Jackson Reeves
Located just two hours from Atlanta, the city of Chattanooga, Tenn.,is an outdoorsman’s paradise. Surrounded by majestic mountains and nestled along the Tennessee River, it’s known as the Scenic City for its gorgeous nature views and plentiful outdoor activities. But this thriving city has something for everyone, from captivating museums to first-class restaurants and beautiful, historic hotels. Whether you’re looking for a weekend road trip or an extended excursion, this popular travel destination is the perfect choice for a spring break getaway.
Fans of Atlanta’s BeltLine will enjoy the Tennessee Riverpark (423-842-0177), a 10-mile path that stretches from downtown Chattanooga to the Chickamauga Dam, with stops at different parks throughout. Along the way, enjoy the public art, fishing piers, wildlife and picnic facilities. The Riverpark is perfect for walkers, cyclists and anyone interested in stunning views of the river.
From March 12 through April 19, Spring Break Safari (423-756-8687) transforms Chattanooga into a wonderland of fun and imagination, where kids can become high-tech animal trackers, rock climbers, trolley engineers or even pirates!
Located just south of Chattanooga right below Lookout Mountain, Ruby Falls (423-821-2544) is the nation’s tallest underground waterfall (145-feet), featuring the deepest cave accessible to the public. While at the waterfall guests experience a brilliant light display which takes place in the large vaulted dome room known as Solomon’s Temple.
Turn one way while visiting Rock City (706-820-2531) and see the 90-foot aboveground waterfall, along with the Lover’s Leap ledge, named after a Cherokee legend about star-crossed lovers. You can also take in a panoramic view of seven states. If hiking along the mountain leaves you hungry, stop by Cafe 7, which serves Southern cuisine with a modern twist. If you visit during March, make sure to explore Shamrock City, open throughout the month to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. Listen to Celtic music, watch an Irish jig, and pan for gold.
At the Tennessee Aquarium (423-265-0695), you can spend hours checking out more than 12,000 animals, from river and ocean creatures to penguins and alligators. Expand your child’s intellectual horizons through the art lessons, science demonstrations and storytelling activities at Creative Discovery Museum (423-756-2738), where your little ones can learn all about how a river works at the Riverplay exhibit, create sculptures in a multimedia visual arts gallery, visit a simulation of a doctor’s office and much more.
Art lovers shouldn’t miss the Hunter Museum of American Art (423-267-0968). Housed in an early twentieth-century mansion joined to a contemporary structure of steel and glass, the museum boasts a diverse collection with works by everyone from Thomas Cole and Mary Cassatt to Robert Rauschenberg and Andy Warhol.
The River Gallery (423-265-5033), located in a turn-of-the-century home in the city’s Bluff View Art District, showcases paintings, jewelry, sculpture and other fine art. The gallery is also known for its picturesque sculpture garden, featuring a collection of sculptures throughout a 2-acre outdoor space overlooking the Tennessee River.
Where To Grab A Bite
Uncle Larry’s Restaurant (423-757-5894) is the perfect spot to enjoy down-home seafood, hush puppies and fried green tomatoes. 212 Market (423-265-1212) offers such casual brunch options as shrimp and grits and bread pudding. Opened in 1989 by sisters Sally and Susan Moses and their mother Maggie, this laid-back restaurant is a local mainstay.
For a night of exquisite fine dining, reserve a table at St. John’s Restaurant (423-266-4400), and indulge yourself with four-star regional cuisine and a deep wine list.
Finish off your trip with a cup of Counter Culture coffee at The Camp House (423-702-8081). Order one of the restaurant’s famed Belgian waffles before heading back to Atlanta, and you won’t need to take any snack stops on the way home.
Places to Stay
Chattanooga features a plethora of lodging options from which to choose—and some of them offer a glimpse into the city’s history, as well. Children will love the Historic Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel (423-266-5000), where you can let down your hair in a refurbished train car. Older history buffs, meanwhile, will likely find downtown’s Read House Historic Inn and Suites (423-266-4121) of interest. This hotel originally opened in 1872 and has played host to such celebrities as Winston Churchill, Gary Cooper and even Al Capone.
Looking for a romantic weekend? Leave the kids at home and enjoy scenic river views at the Bluff View Inn (423-265-5033), a romantic bed-and-breakfast located in three turn-of-the-century homes once owned by Chattanooga’s elite.
Just 10 minutes away from downtown, the Garden Walk Bed and Breakfast Inn (706-820-4127) on Lookout Mountain offers a lovely oasis, surrounded by 100-year-old pine trees and lush gardens.
For something a little more modern, The Chattanoogan (423-756-3400) offers an elegant, upscale hotel experience in the heart of the city’s downtown district, just a short walk from great restaurants, museums, shops and attractions.
Still not sure where to lay your head? Make contact with the Chattanooga Convention and Visitors Bureau (423-756-8687), which can point you in the direction of all-inclusive packages to meet your needs and personal interests.
From its wide variety of recreational activities to its stimulating arts museums and family-friendly attractions, Chattanooga has plenty to offer those in the mood for a fantastic vacation.