Tucked between the mountains of Southeast Tennessee, Chattanooga is one of America’s most breathtaking cities. It was fall when I visited Chattanooga. The oppressive heat that summer brings to Atlanta has subsided, and I was easing into shorter days bookended by cool mornings and nights. It’s the perfect time to get out of the city and slow down. For me, that means a spontaneous weekend trip to Chattanooga.
The New York Times named Chattanooga TN one of the “Top 45 Places to go” in the World. Only four US destinations were named and the Scenic City was the only place outside of California. It’s my first time in Chattanooga and I thought it would be fun to share a few of my favorite spots.
Visible from nearly any spot in Chattanooga, Lookout Mountain offers visitors the unique opportunity to explore nature and history.
I was on budget and didn’t want to pay for (overpriced) Rock City tickets so I decided to go on hiking to Point Park where admission is free (plus I got to do some exercise).
Point Park, with an elevation of 2,135 feet, offers the best and most famous view of Moccasin Bend and Chattanooga. The hike was fairly easy and straightforward. I started from Craven’s House and just followed the signs posted throughout the north end of Lookout Mountain.
Lookout Mountain is also part of Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, which memorializes one of the most decisive battles of the Civil War.
Whether you have been to the Point once or a thousand times before, it will be worthwhile to visit the oil painting of the Battle of the Clouds in the Visitor’s Center, and to walk down to the Ochs Museum and the famous Umbrella Rock, where a map of trails in the area will be found.
To the right is the less-traveled Point Park to Sunset Rock route, no scratch that, it’s the Mountain Beautiful Trail, which loops down to the Cravens House.
When Chattanoogans envisioned a renaissance for their city more than 2 decades ago, they looked no further than the Tennessee River. It was the inspiration for the opening of the world’s largest freshwater aquarium as well as a saltwater aquarium that was added later to reflect the river water’s eventual journey to the sea.
Located right on the banks of the river, the Tennessee Aquarium is Chattanooga’s most popular attraction, providing visitors the opportunity to go eye to eye with sharks, giant spider crabs, river otters and alligators through attractions like its Special Animal Encounter programs and the Tennessee Aquarium Backstage Pass.
BLUFF VIEW ART DISTRICT
As the name indicates, the Bluff View Art District sits high above the Tennessee River. The neighborhood is filled with restaurants, an art gallery and an outdoor sculpture garden.
Adjacent to the Art District is the Hunter Museum of American Art and the historic Walnut Street Bridge, which is now a pedestrian-only bridge connecting Chattanooga’s downtown with the North Shore district.
CHATTANOOGA CHOO CHOO
Opened in 1909 as Terminal Station, the train depot welcomed thousands of travelers during the golden age of railroads. Today, Terminal Station stands as part of the world famous Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel.
The 24-acre complex boasts two hotel buildings, on-site dining, retail shops, tranquil rose gardens and much more.
Guests can overnight in beautifully restored authentic sleeper cars, once reserved for only the wealthiest of passengers during the railroad era. There is again the bustle that was so familiar in the railroad days at Chattanooga’s Terminal Station.
For generations, Chattanooga’s Terminal Station has been a place of many memories made and it continues to be today.
Instead of flying directly into Chattanooga, consider flying into Atlanta or Knoxville, TN, and driving into town from there. These cities are respectively 2 to 3.5 hours away and are connected to Chattanooga by scenic byways.
You can easily navigate the compact and vibrant downtown by foot, free electric shuttle or on a bike from the bike share system.
Have you been to Chattanooga? What are your favorite spots? Share below in the comments.