After living there for three short but enjoyable years, I learned that Chattanooga, or Chattie, as I affectionately call it, is a fantastic place to live and visit.
Where to start? For history buffs, there are numerous landmarks in the area, commemorating events that have changed the course of American history, from the Trail of Tears to the Civil War battles in and around Chattanooga. For families with young children, there is the spectacular Tennessee Aquarium, the Creative Discovery Museum, Coolidge Park with its charming fountain and antique carousel, and Ruby Falls – an underground waterfall reached by guided tours of caves and narrow passages. For outdoor enthusiasts, there is the promise of a place called "Boulder, Colorado East"; Rock climbing, fly fishing, biking, hang gliding, hiking, rafting and more await adventurers.
What I am offering here is an itinerary for a three day getaway to Chattanooga. It is an activity guide that has passed the test of many visits from our family and friends and includes our favorite places we try to visit again on our return trips. Three days are quickly filled in Chattanooga; so you should know that for all of the following places, there are at least five other alternative attractions or activities. Also, this itinerary assumes that you woke up in Chattanooga on the first day. I recommend you wake up at the Bluff View Inn, located in the city's popular Bluff View arts district.
The Bluff View Inn is perched overlooking the Tennessee River, which runs down the center of Chattanooga. Within a minute's walk of the inn (and that's no exaggeration), there's the Hunter Museum of American Art, the Houston Museum of Decorative Art, a sculpture garden, a bocce ball court. , an art gallery, three restaurants, a 22-kilometer trail that runs upstream to Chickamauga Lake and Walnut Street Bridge, one of the longest pedestrian bridges in the world.
Another relatively new accommodation option in Chattanooga is the Delta Queen steamboat, which has retreated to life as a floating boutique hotel. Hotel guests and tourists alike can board the Coolidge Park Queen and enjoy the bronze nautical history of it all.
Day one: Signal Mountain and North Shore
Café Rembrandt in the Bluff View arts district is a great starting point in Chattanooga, so consider this hot spot for breakfast on your first full day in the scenic city. Locals love and frequent this place as much as tourists. Shop windows are filled with sweets and desserts, chocolates, pies and cakes, while the menu offers paninis, soups and salads. At breakfast you can't do better than an almond croissant. Take it outside and enjoy its beautiful patio seating.
Then drive to Signal Mountain, a ten-minute drive from downtown Chattanooga. Our visitors particularly loved the "W" road, which abruptly runs along the rocky side of the mountain – a vertical road if I've ever been on one. Once you reach the top, consider driving north along East Brow Road for beautiful homes on the left and stunning views of the valley below on the right. Then turn south on Highway 127 and head for the "old towne" area of Signal Point. The streets here are lined with quaint stone houses and magnificent properties, and you can still see the tram tracks that used to run through this neighborhood. The area here was developed at the turn of the twentieth century as an escape from diseases such as cholera and yellow fever in the valley below.
When you have enough of the car and the historic view of the house, stop at Signal Point Park. From this location, you can look out over the lush, green Tennessee River Gorge and forget that civilization is near. The park's signage explains that Signal Point was part of a signage system used first by Native Americans, then by Union troops during the Civil War. Depending on your energy level at this time, you can embark on a walk in the park. The Cumberland Trail, part of the Great Eastern Trail, begins at this park and is an impressive hike through the mountain forests.
There are a few options for lunch at Signal Mountain, but I go down the mountain for lunch in the North Shore area. Two of our favorite places were the River Street Deli, with amazing muffulettas, Stromboli and Brooklyn accents; or Mercantino for an atmosphere that cannot be beaten. And once you park near the action on North Shore (which would be Frazier Avenue), you can leave your car behind for hours.
Arrive at the boutiques after lunch, not missing Blue Skies, Plum Nelly and Sophie. It is impossible to enter any of these three stores and leave empty handed; so give up. Pamper yourself or with a friend in vintage style, exclusive home and personal accessories, handmade jewelry, glass and ceramics. These three stores, along with many other businesses throughout Frazier – including a local bookstore, an outdoor clothing store, and art galleries – are a gift giver's paradise.
When you need to take a break from shopping, grab a gift at Clumpies Ice Cream and stroll down to Coolidge Park overlooking the river. You'll be surrounded by people of all ages as they play in the fountain, play Frisbees and soccer balls and relax within a beautiful urban green space. While there, you can see if there are any pieces to watch during your stay – Chattanooga Theater Center is on the edge of the park.
For dinner, Boathouse Rotisserie and Raw Bar are a great choice, just a five-minute drive from the city center. They serve Louisiana oysters and other great seafood (the wood-fired tilapia is excellent) and, interestingly, their Mexican dishes – especially the quesadillas – are equally popular. If you have room for an aperitif, the Mexican Shrimp Cocktail is unforgettable. The Boathouse is right on the Tennessee River, and they have plenty of outdoor seating overlooking the water.
Day two: The great outdoors
A trip to Chattanooga without some kind of outdoor adventure is a missed opportunity. It's like going to New York City without seeing a play – you've lost a key element of local culture. Stock up on a hearty breakfast from the Bluegrass Grill on Main Street. This family restaurant takes people from 6.30 am for omelettes and tasty hash variations. Carry carbohydrates; You will need them today.
For peace and quiet, a guided fly fishing excursion is a great excursion, as is an easy and enjoyable ride on the Hiwassee River in an inflatable kayak or raft. We also enjoy walking the extensive trails of the Chickamauga battlefield, part of the country's first national military park. There is an 11-kilometer drive on the battlefield, but on foot or by bike is the best way to experience the beauty and historical significance of this land. And the terrain here is relatively flat, a huge advantage for those in regions challenged by elevation.
For the more adventurous, there is the aforementioned Cumberland Trail on Signal Mountain, or dozens of other fun trails on Lookout Mountain. We never had a chance to go, but Cloudland Canyon State Park – just beyond the Georgia border – must be incredibly beautiful in an area called "God's Country." The trails range from two to almost seven miles, and there is a 600-step ladder for hikers who make the trip to the bottom of the park's gorge.
Outdoor enthusiasts will be happy to hear that Chattanooga is considered the regional climbing capital and attracts cyclists from around the world. Prentice Cooper State Forest is one of many options for these two activities. Please, oh, please, don't try to climb rocks without a guide. On the water, the Ocoee River offers the sought after death rafting experience. Yes, I thought I was going to die in the upper Ocoee. Twice. But it's fun if you like that kind of stuff (the jury is still out of my mind). Some of the most endearing names in Ocoee's Class IV + rapids are "Broken Nose", "Diamond Splitter" and "Hell's Hole". Finally, those not interested in land or water activities can try hang gliding alongside Lookout Mountain. I couldn't tie a glorified kite, but two friends from France did, and they said it was chouette.
After a day outdoors, a satisfying bath and dinner are in order. Since your body won't want to be too far from your bed at the Bluff View Inn, stroll around the corner to Tony for an Italian dinner. The atmosphere is one that forces you to stay long after the meal is over, especially if you're lucky enough to set a table on the second floor terrace. A green salad with roasted tomato tarragon dressing and all pasta dishes are deliciously delicious.
Day three: Mountain Lookout, Southside and Downtown
Between the hotel and Lookout Mountain is Niedlov's Breadworks, which has amazing cinnamon rolls, muffins, scones – think about it, everything at Niedlov is good. Artisan owners "love to knead and knead," and you can taste the baked passion. Try breakfast this morning.
There are several roads that take you to the top of Lookout mountain; each is scenic, so choose one to go up and one to go down. Once upstairs, enjoy the breathtaking views and mansions, especially those of West Brow Road. (This Lookout Mountain exploration looks a lot like the Signal Mountain itinerary from day one; but if the Signal Mountain residential area is charming and affordable, Lookout Mountain is a caviar's dream. Each mountain is worth a visit as it offers different clues about Chattanooga culture.)
Lookout Point Park – not to be confused with Signal Point Park – is a must-have as an easily accessible part of the Lookout Mountain battlefield. A small museum across the street will explain the "Battle Above the Clouds", which sounds like the Lord of the Rings, which took place on the mountain during the Civil War. Another treasure on Lookout Mountain is the Reflection Arboretum and the Botanical Garden, which offers driving and hiking trails through a bucolic backdrop of meadows, wildflowers, forests, lakes and streams.
After a morning on the mountaintop, Mojo Burrito at the foot of Lookout Mountain in the lovely historic St. Louis Elmo takes you back to earth with tortillas wrapped in super-fresh ingredients. Southern Star, located in the Southside neighborhood, also keeps it real with true southern home cooking. Don't skip dessert – the banana pudding leaves you speechless.
While you are in the Southside neighborhood, there are four stores that are very much worth a visit. Revival is located inside Warehouse Row, and although I couldn't afford much for this store, I just had fun being in the presence of its grandeur. Just like any luxury store, you can find Juliska and Tin by Match table accessories. But what defines this store in its own league is a beautifully organized collection of household items, from 18th-century Italian white leather chairs to modern Belgian coffee tables. You'll find in Revival elements of home design that you never knew you wanted. The Shadow Box Paperie on Main Street will make you put pen to paper and forgo all forms of electronic communication. They also have other home accessories, all beautifully presented. For serious antique enthusiasts, the Southside Antiques is an essential corner cabinet, dining tables, antique books and cabinets. Finally, Southside Galleries, like The Foyer in Baton Rouge, are a collection of under-the-roof sellers selling gifts, accessories, art and antiques for many prices.
In the late afternoon, return to the inn to park your car and enjoy the incredible pedestrian activities in downtown Chattanooga. Visit the sculpture garden and spend time on the river on one of the banks of Walnut Street Bridge. The bridge was converted for pedestrian use in 1993 and, like the Pont des Arts in Paris, people can't get enough time. Suspended above the Tennessee River, they exercise, create art, gather for festivals, commute to work on bicycles, and, yes, snuggle here as if they were in Paris.
Leave enough time before sunset to experience The Passage and Ross & # 39; s Landing Plaza, a Cherokee Nation, and the Trail of Tears memorial located next to the Tennessee Aquarium. The Cherokee inhabited this area that would become the first Ross's Landing, then Chattanooga, until they were forced west on the trail of tears. Thousands died during the terrible journey. In this memorial, you will find moving quotes from Cherokee and American leaders at the time of native removal.
For dinner on your last night in Chattanooga, you can also have a breath. St. John's Restaurant is the most perfect restaurant I have ever tried. Chef Daniel Lindley has been nominated for the James Beard Award this year and last year, and you'll know why after just one meal at St. John's John. From your kitchen come the finest ingredients available, many of them organic and local, and the menu often changes to reflect growing seasons. The current menu includes artisan quail tortellini, Kobe steak, and melted chocolate cake. The service is dreamy, the flat iron building is a beauty and everyone leaves happy.
And everyone makes Chattanooga happy, even though I was kicking, screaming, and crying the day my husband and I said goodbye to our hilltop home in northern Chattanooga. My husband says I'm designing, but I swear even our dog misses Chattanooga. The attraction of family and old friends took us home to Louisiana, and of course we're happy to be back with them, but we'll be back to Chattanooga as soon as possible for the rest of our lives. It's that kind of place.