Interesting in taking a road trip to Chattanooga, Tennessee? This Chattanooga Road trip planner, put together by our guest correspondent Gretchen Holcombe from Boxy Colonial On the Road, will show you the way! To listen to Jeremy and Stephanie chat about Chattanooga (see what I did there?) just click on the media player above.
Chattanooga, TN entered the 1970’s in rough shape. Like so many US cities, deindustrialization threatened its economy and its population. The EPA had just named it the “dirtiest city in America.” The city, once celebrated in song as the final destination of the Chattanooga Choo Choo, faced an uncertain future.
But over the past few decades, Chattanooga has deliberately and successfully reinvented itself as a tourist destination. It is also an environmental and technological success story. Today it’s a vibrant city that mixes great dining, scenic beauty, and plenty of sites and attractions to keep visitors busy. And it manages to do so without ever losing sight of its rich history.
Where to stay:
Raccoon Mountain Caverns and Campground offers RV and tent sites plus cabin rentals, with views of both Raccoon and Lookout Mountains. It is fifteen minutes from both downtown and the Lookout Mountain attractions. The campground has a full slate of amenities, including a saltwater pool, playground, hiking trails, and a dog park. Raccoon Mountain is also the site of a five and a half mile system of underground caves. They offer daily walking tours of a developed section as well as “wild cave expedition” tours for the more adventurous. Rates for full hook up RV sites are around $45-50/night.
Cloudland Canyon State Park is just over the state line in Georgia. It is a great option for visitors who want more of a rustic, public campground setting. The state park is on the western end of Lookout Mountain. Which is about a thirty minute drive down the mountain to Chattanooga. The campground has tent and RV sites. It also has yurt and cabin rentals. The park boasts 64 miles of scenic hiking trails and a couple of gorgeous waterfalls. Rates for water/electric sites are $30-38.
What to do:
Tennessee Aquarium: The aquarium’s two large buildings dominate the downtown riverfront. With one focusing on life in the world’s rivers and the other on ocean aquatic life. Star attractions include the otters in the River Journey building and penguins and the butterfly garden in Ocean Journey.
Chattanooga Lookouts: Catch a ballgame downtown, with this Cincinnati Reds double-A affiliate team.
Creative Discovery Museum: This excellent downtown children’s museum hosts both traveling exhibits and fun permanent ones like the Riverplay water area and the Rooftop Fun Factory for learning about simple machines.
Walnut Street Pedestrian Bridge: one of the world’s longest pedestrian bridges spans the Tennessee River and connects downtown Chattanooga to the North Shore
Coolidge Park: After a stroll across the Walnut Street Bridge, check out this riverside park with its historic carousel and fountain to play in.
Even More To Do!
Chattanooga Choo Choo: the former railroad station is now a hotel and entertainment hub. Visitors can check out the shops, restaurants, and entertainment venues. You can also go for a walk amongst the train cars in the Glenn Miller Gardens. Overnight guests can sleep in a restored Pullman train car.
Incline Railway: This more than one hundred year old funicular railway takes visitors up Lookout Mountain at a 72.7% grade—not ideal for those with a fear of heights, but great fun for everyone else!
Chattanooga National Military Park: this National Park Service site, a few blocks away from the Incline Railway station on the top of Lookout Mountain, commemorates the Civil War’s Battle of Chattanooga. Watch the “Battle Above the Clouds” movie in the visitor center. Then visit Point Park for stunning views of Chattanooga from above.
Ruby Falls: An elevator ride down into the cave inside Lookout Mountain takes visitors to a guided walk leading to a 145 foot underground waterfall.
Rock City: Take a walk down the “Enchanted Trail” to see rock formations, walk across the swinging bridge, and encounter a whole bunch of gnomes. During the holiday season, Rock City transforms at night into the “Enchanted Garden of Lights.” It has Christmas light displays, live holiday music, and visits with Santa.
Where to Eat:
Terminal Brewhouse: Creative food menu with locally sourced ingredients and excellent craft beer in a Southside location near the Choo Choo.
Lupi’s Pizza Pies: Lupi’s has been serving up excellent pizza in its downtown location since 1996
Clumpies Ice Cream Co.: Clumpies sells its handcrafted ice cream at four Chattanooga locations. The Northshore shop is a great place to stop after a walk across the Walnut Street Bridge.
Chattanooga offers a free downtown electric shuttle to get you from the riverfront area to the Chattanooga Choo Choo. It stops every block in between. It runs daily every five minutes or so until 11 PM.
We hope your Chattanooga Road Trip is just as amazing as Gretchen’s was!!! Have any other recommendations? Leave them in the comments below!
To listen to more episodes with Gretchen from Boxy Colonial–please click here!