HOW TO SPEND A DAY IN CHATTANOOGA
Here’s the thing about Chattanooga. All of the attractions are fairly close to each other. You can still wear comfy, cute boots like I did to stroll the city streets and take in a number of attractions without your dogs barking at the end of the day. If you want to get the lay of the land, though, you’ll need to head up Lookout Mountain.
But we’ll get to that later.
8:30 a.m. I woke up in my suite in Embassy Suites at Hamilton Place. This Embassy Suites is top-notch with a Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse inside along with a nightly Manager’s Reception in the atrium. Drinks are on the house and it’s a great way to meet people and swap travel stories.
9 a.m. Check out the continental breakfast station at the Embassy Suites as well. Pancakes, waffles and an omelet station make the most important meal of the day extra special.
10 a.m. Hit the road toward downtown Chattanooga. It’s time to explore the Tennessee Aquarium’s extensive exhibits. You’ll want to carve at least two hours of your schedule to explore this attraction.
Taking up two buildings, one freshwater and the other saltwater, there is plenty to see in the River Journey building, America’s Largest Freshwater Aquarium with an exhibit called River Giants, playful otters, turtles and even opportunities to see scuba divers!
Head next door to Ocean Journey where an extensive array of stingrays, sharks and tropical fish reside. You can even dip your fingers in the cold water at Tropical Cove to feel the stingrays’ slimy skin. After you’ve washed your hands, make your way through the rest of Ocean Journey, where you’ll have a magical experience as fish swim above and beside you. I may or may not have started singing The Little Mermaid’s “Part of Your World.”
12:00 p.m. Take in a movie at the IMAX Movie Theater for only $6 more where you’ll come face-to-face with penguins, great white sharks and can take a ride on the Rocky Mountain Express in 2D. I saw “Penguins! 3D” and have never squealed and laughed so hard in my life. The movie follows a penguin family as they raise their first chick. It’ll melt your heart. I’ll definitely make a second trip to watch “Great White Shark 3D” for an added adrenaline rush.
The Tennessee Aquarium is also a great option for Spring Break fun March 17 to April 20. Give your child an opportunity to be a Keeper Kid where he/she can go behind the scenes with SCUBA divers, feed turtles and songbirds, see baby sharks and huge fish, and meet the aquarium’s veterinarian. Find out the full list of activities Chattanooga offers during its annual Spring Break Safari.
12:45 p.m. Lunchtime! The Blue Plate is just a short distance from the Aquarium. I stopped in for a quick bite of the Blue Plate Turkey Club stuffed with rotisserie turkey, bacon, lettuce, tomato, avocado cream & mayo, cheddar & Swiss cheese. If that’s not enough, it comes with their famous hand-cut chips which are out-of-this-world addicting. And, of course, your meal comes on a blue plate. Back in the day, a blue plate was reserved for a diner’s daily special. At The Blue Plate, each dish is served with fresh ingredients and a made-from-scratch flare.
1:30 p.m. In order to work off lunch, I took a stroll to the Chattanooga Pier where The Southern Belle Riverboat at Pier 2 was docked. You can chug along the Tennessee River during the daily lunch cruises, a daytime sightseeing cruise or a wonderful dinner cruise. I made my way over to Ross’s Landing Riverfront Park as well where modern public art, a variety of birds and reptiles and beautiful open spaces can be enjoyed.
2:30 p.m. If you want to admire even more art, specifically from the Colonial period to the present day, be sure to add the Hunter Museum of American Art to your list of attractions. The museum, housed in an early 20th-century mansion, a 1970s building and a modern steel and glass structure, is home to paintings, sculptures, furniture and more from some well-known artists including Winslow Homer, Mary Cassatt, Helen Frankenthaler, and Andy Warhol. Browse the exhibit “African American Art: Harlem Renaissance, Civil Rights Era, and Beyond” which features art from 43 black artists who have explored the African American experience from the Harlem Renaissance to present day in the midst of social and political changes.
3:30 p.m. The sun began to poke its rays from the clouds. The day got a bit warmer and it was time to drive up Lookout Mountain with the windows down to Point Park Battlefield, the site of “The Battle Above the Clouds” during the Civil War. In 1863, the Union and Confederates fought for control of Chattanooga. The Union ended up victorious, opening the gateway to the Deep South. The park is part of the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park which has 1,400 monuments and historical markers. The visitor center also has a large mural painted by James Walker, an eyewitness to the battle. Expect to see these views, too:
4:15 p.m. Give yourself plenty of time to read about Point Park. Once you’ve soaked in the history and the stunning views, travel to Rock City, an approximate 10-minute drive from the park. Take a walk along The Enchanted Trail where you’ll see rock formations, beautiful gardens, the Swing-A-Long Bridge, Lover’s Leap where you can see seven states, and Fairyland Caverns. The trail will get even more magical beginning March 28 through April 20 as Fairytale Nights comes to Rock City. Travel to a faraway kingdom where Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, sword-wielding knights and Jack and the beanstalk reside.
6 p.m. All that walking can work up an appetite, so travel back down the mountain, toward downtown and stop in at 212 Market Restaurant. Local and seasonal foods are always incorporated into the daily menus which feature fried green tomatoes with a Cajun slaw, feta cheese and a tomato serrano jam; pan roasted, all-natural chicken accompanied with a Riesling pear compote and a beet and spinach risotto. Top off your meal with peanut butter pie, cheesecake, bread pudding or the chocolate truffle cake.
7:30 p.m. Take a walk along Walnut Street Pedestrian Bridge, one of the world’s longest pedestrian bridges. Don’t forget a coat as it’s a bit chilly walking near the water. The city lights twinkle as the attractions are lit up in the night sky. It’s a brilliant view, one not to be missed.
8 p.m. If you want to check out Chattanooga’s nightlife, head to The Foundry, an upscale lounge, Rhythm & Brews, or Track 29; take in a movie or symphonic event at the Tivoli Theatre; or have a nightcap at The Honest Pint, an Irish-inspired pub with bright red doors.
What are your favorite spots in Chattanooga? Let me know in the comments below!