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Chattanooga: Southern charm and plenty to do inside and out

Written By | Jun 22, 2017

CHATTANOOGA, TN, June 22, 2017 — With the first days of summer in full-swing, it is time to get outside and participate in the outdoor activities we enjoy all summer long. There are fewer places in the USA more suited for outdoor adventure, regional food and unique lodging than Chattanooga.

You read that right – Chattanooga, a relatively small city in the southeast corner of the state of Tennessee is close to the Georgia border and offers-up some of the best in outdoor activities you’ll find anywhere.

Kayaking on the Tennessee River in Chattanooga

This city of roughly 180,000 persons, was founded in 1839 on the banks of the Tennessee River. It’s warm climate and natural resources make it a great destination for travelers that want to be outside.

The city has gone through major development over the last decade, including becoming one of the first cities in the country to have widespread fiber connectivity. This forward thinking has helped lead to a surge of tech companies starting business there; this business surge has also led to the development companies that cater to the local resident and vacation traveler.

There’s no doubt that the city does a great job of combining the things we crave while on vacation like great places to eat and play while still providing elements of that “small town feel”.

Where to stay:

The Chattanooga Choo-Choo Hotel:

Victorian Sleeping Car at the Choo Choo Hotel – Image courtesy of the property

This hotel is the only one we’re aware of in the country that has converted luxury Pullman train cars into luxurious guest suites that pay homage to their history.

Each car is  full of amenities and modern conveniences like high-speed wireless internet access, flat screen TV, desk with chair, coffee maker, and iron/ ironing board.

The charm will certainly appeal to train aficionados, brides and grooms, business groups and families with kids looking for a unique lodging experience.

A fabulous breakfast is served inside the main building. For lunch and dinner there’s an adjoining restaurant. For evening relaxation and a chuckle or two there is a comedy club as well.

All this in addition to a number of regional food restaurants within easy walking distance or a super quick cab ride.

Check-in desk at the Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel

The Crash Pad:

For those traveling on a budget, hostels have become very popular – namely amongst millennials – and The Crash Pad provides some very nice amenities in a clean, if not, basic environment.

It was the first hostel in the world to be LEED Platinum Certified – this means it’s noted for its exceptional green design and resource-efficiency.

Where to eat downtown:


This restaurant at the Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel has an upscale, modern aesthetics and is known for its artisan ice, craft cocktails. Ingredients in its dishes usually fall from within a 100-mile radius.

Fried green tomatoes at STIR

Terminal Brewhouse:

This locally owned brewpub serves some of the tastiest bar food you’ll find in the area. It’s world-class beer pairs extremely well with the menu and they use the most local ingredients they can source.

House made meatloaf at Terminal Brewing

Flying Squirrel Bar:

If you’re looking for a swanky bar that offers some good vibes, modern design and hand-crafted decor, then this is the one for you. They’re known for their infused mixed drinks and have an exhaustive line-up of fresh beer as well.

Blue Plate:

An easy walk from the Tennessee Aquarium, Blue Plate specializes in comfort food with a modern interpretation. Its chef prepares these meals, from scratch – cultivating homegrown ingredients from local bakeries, farms and ice cream producers.

Blue Plate chips

Easy Bistro:

Housed in what was the original Coca-Cola bottling plant, Easy Bistro provides an upscale menu, wine list, and bar. The service is impeccable, the food is expertly prepared and showcases much of what the local region provides.

Braised brisket at Easy Bistro

Adventures in town:

High Point Climbing Gym:

If the weather outside is ever dreary – a rare occasion for this area – or you’d like to start your rock climbing and bouldering adventures with the safety of training, then this is the place to be.

There are walls for every level of experience and available staff to help spot you and make sure everyone has a safe time.

Rock wall climbing at High Point Climbing Center

Perhaps one of the best climbs, however, is on its outside wall which gives those who are able to go to the top, a great view of the city as well.

Tennessee Aquarium:

This is the world’s largest freshwater aquarium. Devoted to the life that lives in the Tennessee River, the Tennessee Aquarium opened in in 1992 and went through a major renovation in 2005. Since its opening, it has attracted over 20 million visitors and is frequently rated as one of the top public aquariums in the USA.

Some of the massive tanks inside the Tennessee Aquarium

There are over 790 species of water life in the aquarium and it offers plenty of self-guided aids along the way. Since it’s on the banks of the Tennessee River, it tells the story of the “River Journey” – starting in the Appalachian Mountains and ending in the Gulf of Mexico.

Chattanooga Market:

This seasonal marketplace is open from April 21st through December 20th, each year. It’s the only market in the region to feature artwork by local and regional artists, live entertainment, a bakery, cooking demonstrations as well as produce each week – all based around a different theme.

Comedy Catch:

This comedy club, also at the Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel, hosts comedians from all over. Some of its notable acts have been Jeff Foxworthy, Ron White, Paula Poundstone and Jerry Seinfeld.

Revelry Room:

This live-music venue, located in the Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel, has hosted such artists as Dale Watson, Keifer Sutherland, Surfer Blood and Brett Dennen. Concert goers can enjoy drinks served-up at the inside bar – when we were here, the music was being performed by virtuoso guitarist, Joe Robertson.

Adventures just outside of town:

Ruby Falls:

Deep under Lookout Mountain you’ll hike to a magnificent underground waterfall that is 145 feet tall. First discovered by the chemist, Leo Lambert back in 1928 this cave was intended to simply be a tourist attraction with an elevator that’d take visitors to the top of the mountain. However, during the drilling process, his crew discovered a 4-ft wide gap that was 18-inches tall, the passage that lead him to the falls.

Upon returning to the falls with his wife, Ruby – he told her he’d name them after her.

Ruby Falls

It’s an easy, guided, tour that is about a 20 minute walk with roughly 10 minutes at the base of the falls for photos and the light show with music.

Hang Gliding:

Lookout Mountain is one of the premier hang gliding destinations of the south. With its high altitude, there are viewing spots that allow you to actually see into four other states. offers the perfect foray into the world of hang gliding for beginners.

Yours truly up in the air, near Outlook Mountain

Coming towards the landing!

Rather than have you run off the top of the mountain, you do a tandem flight with one of their veteran pilots – strapped in together, you’ll take off from the ground, being towed to altitude by an ultralight airplane. This slow ascent makes for a very peaceful, enjoyable experience that is something you should really try – even if you’re “scared of heights”.

The pure professionalism of the pilots, talking you through the whole process and even teaching you how to steer the glider, make for an incredible time!

The ultralight that tows you up to altitude

Ocoee River Rafting:

So far, you’ve climbed rocks, journeyed underground and have soared with the birds; now it is time to get your feet wet – literally.

The Ocoee River boasts some of the best class three and four rapids anywhere in the country – people from all over the nation come here just to raft or kayak on it.

The great folks at Outdoor Adventure Rafting have amazing guides whose focus is on your safety and fun. In fact, during our safety briefing, our guide said: “If one of you fall in, chances are that I’ll have him or her back into the raft before you can blink”. A few of us thought to ourselves: “yeah, right”. Well as it turned out one of the guys on our team did fall over and from the time it took to watch the raft start to go by him, the guide literally snatched him out of the water by his life vest and had him back into the boat in literally under 20 seconds.

A few of us thought to ourselves: “yeah, right”.

Well as it turned out one of the guys on our team did fall over and from the time it took to watch the raft start to go by him, the guide literally snatched him out of the water by his life vest and had him back into the boat in literally under 20 seconds.

Our total travel time on the river was roughly 3.5 hours – just enough time to work-up a healthy appetite and let it really sink in what we all not only survived but also had a blast.

That’s a wrap:

Clearly, there are many other great things to do and places to see while in Chattanooga – the take-away is the sheer surprise of the seemingly never-ending things to do and great places to eat and sleep.

Chattanooga does a superb job of offering southern charm in a fully modernized,”wired” (it was one of the first U.S. cities to be wired with fiber Internet), and action-packed city.

Whether you’re looking for high-flying, low-drifting or street-strolling – Chattanooga has a surprise around nearly every turn.


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Duane Pemberton

Duane Pemberton is a lifestyle writer and CDNs Auto Editor. Pemberton loves anything that helps bring people together which is why he writes about food, wine, cars, and travel.