See Summer Music, New Exhibits at Rock City
The forever famous destination Rock City Gardens is as much a part of the South as sweet tea and tupelo honey.
I recently revisited the favorite tourist site on Lookout Mountain and — as always —had a great time.
The mountain flowers, like trumpet lilies and flame azaleas, are dressed in their finery along the winding garden paths, just as they were when Frieda Carter sought to preserve them in 1920s. Frieda and her husband, Garnet Carter of Sweetwater, began Rock City in 1932. I wonder if they ever imagined 400,000 people a year would visit this special place?
With the growth of Chattanooga, the view of the city has changed, but the rock formations and waterfalls have not. The famed 1,000-ton rock hasn’t budged from its precarious perch. People pose for pictures at the Lover’s Leap overlook, just as they did decades ago. They follow stone pathways underneath rock overhangs for a view of a 140-foot waterfall. They squeeze through cracks like Needle’s Eye in the massive cliffs and climb into moist rock shelters. A long swinging bridge and looping walkways bring playfulness to this adventure high above Chattanooga.
Like me, most Tennesseans remember coming during childhood. Back then, the gnomes of Fairyland Caverns and storybook characters of Mother Goose Village were absolutely spellbinding. The gnomes still toil in workshops and Mother Goose presides for the pleasure of children as before.
Yet, Rock City is a vibrant, ever-changing destination with new attractions every year. Summer Music Weekends feature Rock City’s house band, The Old Time Travelers, at the Lover’s Leap stage. The band plays Southern Appalachia folk music. Additionally, Rock City Raptors, a birds of prey show with owls, eagles and hawks, runs through Labor Day.
Raptors inspired one of the new outdoor sculptures. “Perched Raptor” shows a shining metal bird before a massive nest; another sculpture, titled “Invitation,” depicts a trellis made of reclaimed steel combined with a red oak that had fallen on the property. The woodland gardens, embellished with whimsical signage and ornaments, change with the season so guests can experience beauty whenever they schedule their visit.
At Café 7, guests relax under umbrellas at outdoor tables to take in gorgeous views of the valley and enjoy entrees like pan-seared rainbow trout with succotash. The Big Rock Grill near the Fudge Shop and gift shop has indoor seating with views of the woodland. Attentive staff members at this family-friendly attraction maintain a wholesome atmosphere for guests. They offer directions, give friendly service and keep the paths litter-free.
Recently National Geographic named Rock City one of “America’s Iconic Places.” It is a major attraction in the Chattanooga area and a visit here is easily combined with several other attractions on Lookout Mountain, including Ruby Falls, Lookout Mountain Incline Railway, and the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park.
What are your memories of Rock City?