Chattanooga is a city of many facets that delights and intrigues at every turn.
I was looking for excitement, culture, history and an activity-filled holiday, and I found it in “the Scenic City of the South.” Chattanooga is nestled in the southeast corner of Tennessee along the Georgia border, conveniently located to Nashville, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Atlanta International Airport. I stayed at the delightful 4-Diamond Chattanoogan Hotel for what would turn out to be a fun-filled three days, surrounded by gracious people and an abundance of things to do.
Exploring Downtown Chattanooga
My first day began downtown along Chattanooga’s riverfront on the Tennessee River. First stop was the nation’s largest freshwater aquarium, the Tennessee Aquarium. I came face-to-face with a prehistoric-looking arapaima fish, a couple of grumpy-looking lake sturgeon and a really ugly alligator snapping turtle.
Next, I took a stroll on the blue Walnut Street Pedestrian Bridge. Erected in 1891, it’s the world’s longest pedestrian bridge, linking the city’s vibrant North Shore with the Bluff View Arts District, bed-and-breakfasts, cafés and the Hunter Museum of American Art.
I boarded a free electric shuttle that took me to the world-famous Chattanooga Choo Choo Terminal Station Complex. It’s easy to imagine what is now the grand hotel lobby bustling with passengers hurrying to catch their trains. Glen Miller’s 1941 “Chattanooga Choo Choo” was the world’s first gold record. As I strolled through the train carriages, now converted into hotel suites, I thought about my parents singing in the old-time musical during my childhood in Staffordshire.
At the end of the day, I visited The Passage, a memorial to the Trail of Tears and Chattanooga’s Cherokee Native American history. The Passage symbolizes the seven clans of the Cherokee Nation with the flowing water representing the tribe returning to their native home.
Fountain outside the historic Chattanooga Choo Choo hotel
Waterfalls, Caves and Views at Lookout Mountain
My second day started at Lookout Mountain, just six miles from downtown. The name “Chattanooga” is a Native American word meaning “rock coming to a point,” referring to Lookout Mountain’s tip pointing toward downtown Chattanooga.
I took a guided tour of Ruby Falls, a massive underground cave system. The caves are still active, and my reward at the end of the pathway was to watch the magnificent 44-meter underground waterfall, accompanied by a light and music show. In 1928, Leo Lambert found this amazing waterfall, 341 meters feet below the surface of Lookout Mountain, and named it after his wife, Ruby.
After riding the Incline Railway and seeing “America’s Most Amazing Mile,” I strolled around the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park unit called Point Park. I then headed to the famous Rock City Gardens. My garden stroll took me to Lover's Leap, where the panoramic views of seven states were breathtaking.
Memorial structure located at Point Park
Coolidge Park and the North Shore
Before leaving town, I headed to Coolidge Park on the North Shore, took a ride on the 1895 carousel and watched children play in the interactive fountains. With the river and city as a backdrop, it was the perfect place to pull out a blanket and have a farewell picnic.
I was sorry to say goodbye to this wonderful city. Three days in Chattanooga, Tennessee was just not enough.