Most people have heard of it because of the Choo Choo, but did you know it’s been voted consistently as one of the best places in the US to live? I can see why – it has a lovely downtown area with lots of places to eat and explore, and yet it’s close to mountains, waterfalls and nature too. It’s such an underrated place, and I had a magical time visiting.
1. Catching the sun rise from Signal Mountain
Chattanooga has some amazing nature on offer, but my favourite experience was watching the sun rise from Signal Mountain, a short car journey outside of the centre of town. This has to be one of my most special holiday memories ever. You can park a little way from this view point and then hike to watch the sunrise from this rock, which we had all to ourselves. It’s moments like these that make travelling so worth 4.30am alarms and hikes in the dark.
2. Learning about the American Civil War at the Battle of Chattanooga site
Not only does Chattanooga offer nature, it also offers history. At the top of Lookout Mountain is Point Park and a Battlefield Museum which tells the story of the Battle of Chattanooga. This series of battles led to victory for the Unionists and forced the Confederates back into Georgia, ending the siege of the vital railroad junction of Chattanooga and paving the way for Union General William T Sherman’s Atlanta campaign and march to Savannah, Georgia, in 1864.
Even better, the views from the Park are insane over the Tennessee River and you get to ride the Incline Railway to the top of the mountain – which is steep and offers beautiful views out over Chattanooga. Overall the site is definitely worth a few hours to visit.
3. Waterfall Chasing
Waterfalls are one of my favourite things. As we visited Chattanooga in the Fall we didn’t quite have the weather to swim in them, but the waterfalls in the area are stunning nevertheless, and nice without the crowds. There are a few to choose from – including Foster Falls, Lula Falls and Hemlock Falls. Our favourite was Foster Falls, and the stunning view we were presented with.
4. Rock City Gardens and Ruby Falls
Chattanooga also has some cool more touristy attractions, which are great for kids. The first is Rock City Gardens – which are completely mad and equally as fun. They were designed by a German lady and her husband in the 1920s and 30s. She had an obsession with gnomes, so they are everywhere. It’s basically a beautiful park that combines nature with German Fairytales. There’s a big (man made) waterfall, you can see 7 states from the viewing point on Lookout Mountain, a swing bridge and there’s even a huge fairytale cavern with models of all the famous Grimm stories. Bizarre and amazing all at the same time!
Ruby Falls is an underground waterfall. It’s fun as you get to go through all the caves to reach the Falls, and then there is a little light show illuminating it in different colours. I’m not sure how legit it is, but worth a visit if you’re in the area.
5. Downtown and The Walnut Street Bridge
Downtown Chattanooga is a really cool area, with lots of nice restaurants and shops. To eat we loved Alleia, Tony’s Pasta Shop, and Taco Mamacita, and to drink we liked the The Flying Squirrel.
Also in Downtown is the largest collection of art in the US South at The Hunter Museum of American Art, the world’s longest pedestrian bridge – The Walnut Street Bridge, as well as the super fun Tennessee Aquarium.