Travel Guide: Chattanooga, Tennessee in 8 Hours
When April was here #waybackwhen (specifically November), I wanted to go on a day trip somewhere else aside from Nashville or the immediate surrounding area. Researching various options (including other nearby states), and asking others who are from here, Chattanooga was the chosen city considering it was nearly everyone's first recommendation.
We initially had the idea to set out super early, had even bought tickets to ride the Southern Belle Riverboat cruise at 12:15pm. But sometimes not everything goes as planned.
The night before, I got a flat tire. So the next morning — the one where we were supposed to head out super early — we had to go to the tire shop instead. We got breakfast after, thinking we had a lot of time, and left around 11am. After realizing we might just barely make it, we called the Riverboat company at about 11:30am asking what would happen if we were five minutes late, to be informed that the boat had left 15 minutes ago. We were so confused until we realized that Chattanooga is one hour ahead of Nashville.
We had literally missed the boat.
I was able to get a gift certificate for the money I spent so I could go back later. I'll be sure to share the actual experience. But in case you want to go now, I recommend you get a Groupon.
Here's what we actually did instead:
- Lunch at Good Dog and dancing on the sidewalk ;)
- The Incline Railway
- Clumpie's Ice Cream (made from local ingredients)
- Drive through Lookout Mountain en route to Rock City
- Side trip to Georgia look out and a fairytale village
- Walnut Street Pedestrian Bridge — awesome at sunset
- Carousel Ride at Coolidge Park
- Took night pictures at the Polka Dot Wall — exact location hard to determine. By Broad and Main St, near The Feed restaurant.
- Dinner at Sugar's
With additional time, we could have explored:
- Tennessee Aquarium — world’s largest freshwater aquarium
- River Gorge Explorer
- Raccoon Mountain Caverns
- A show at Track 29
- Some more districts of downtown Chattanooga —see a breakdown here.
For all pictures and trip details/experience, read on...
Southern Belle River Boat
As mentioned, we missed the actual cruise. But we did stop by to explore their gift shop and pick up the gift certificate that I'm so excited to use sometime this summer!
Food is usually a first priority for me. Luckily, it also is with April. I had researched best places to eat in Chattanooga, and Good Dog came up. Hot dogs sounded like a good choice, and we were not disappointed. I loved the atmosphere and also that they have holes cut out in the tables to place the fries in. #clever If you're not convinced, check out their menu to see all the delicious choices for yourself. It's worth it.
Also, the location of Good Dog is right next to the entrance for Coolidge Park (a later stop on our itinerary) and a neat alleyway leading down to it.
Bonus: Be sure to look down as you're walking here. The sidewalk has different basic dance steps to enact by yourself or a partner. April and I succeeded at the waltz.
There are two ways to take The Incline — from the bottom or the top. We started from the top, but parking wise I'd recommend starting at the bottom. (Also, make sure to bring quarters for parking.) Then you could more accurately quote the line from Drake's "Started from the Bottom now we're here".
The total round trip is $15, unless you get a package deal that also includes Rock City and Ruby Falls — both locations we didn't have as much time to explore. If you do have the time, I'd recommend getting the package. Although I heard Rock City and Ruby Falls can be tourist traps, Rock City at least has some of the best views.
Either way, the Incline Railway is still really one of my favorite things we did that day. It has an incline that reaches 72.7%, making it one of the steepest passenger railways in the world. And riding it and watching how it adjusts to the incline is a neat experience.
Plus the views from the top are incredible.
What trip, or day as it seems to be right now anyways, is complete without ice cream? NONE.
Clumpies was on the list, and it felt like a sign that we needed to try it when we got off the incline and it was right there! #icecreamforalways
According to our maps, we weren't too far from Rock City from the top of The Incline. We mapped it to the Rock City Gardens, which was actually in Georgia. I loved that I was in two states in one day so easily (in Los Angeles, you're closer to another country versus another state). And the drive was like a fairytale. I mean literally, there is a community right before the Rock City Gardens that has street names like Red Riding Hood and Peter Pan Lane, along with Disney prince or princess references. Apparently the lady who owned the land loved fairytales.
I thought it was also super funny that you had all these signs for finding Rock City and other attractions — including Starbucks. Starbucks must be a highly requested attraction. Probably because you'd think you wouldn't find it up in the mountains. #youwouldbewrong
We pulled over at Rock City but decided it wouldn't be worth it to get a ticket at that point because it was later in the day. But we drove on through some winding streets and paths in Georgia and found an overlook that was stunning. We considered signing up with the hang-gliding store next to the view right then and there.
We saw the last light of the day from the Walnut Street Pedestrian Bridge. I was pretty tired at that point, but the walk along the bridge was refreshing. It was an active area too with other walkers and bicyclists. I imagined their life in Chattanooga and how they might have just gotten off of work and this was their refreshment as well.
On the other side of the bridge, we were really intrigued by the building that overlooked the water and bridge. It ended up being the Hunter Museum of American Art. Probably a really beautiful museum inside, but we were mostly interested in the views and architecture on the outside.
The bridge connects two areas of Chattanooga that would be equally worthwhile to explore if we had more time. Instead, we opted to go back to the other side and go to our last three items on the list.
We were afraid we wouldn't make it in time, but lucky for us — despite it's older looking age — this carousel stays open late. And for $1 a ride, it was an obvious YES.
I'm always surprised by how much I love carousels. I don't know whether it's nostalgia or just going around in circles carried by a random animal (one of the best parts is getting to choose), but I don't miss an opportunity.
The Polka Dot Wall
April saw this painted polka dot wall on Instagram, and was very intent on finding it. There was no specific address, and no internet search brought it up. It was elusive. After much investigating, and almost giving up, she found it. The location is a bit tricky, but as mentioned above, it's by Broad and Main Street, near The Feed restaurant.
It actually is a very impressive piece of work. It reminds me of those candy buttons on the paper that you'd have to tear off to eat. This had a gradient of dots on a gradient background.
It's too bad it was so dark and my camera isn't the best with night shots. We had fun creating shapes of light with a low shutter speed. It took practice. But eventually, we got a happy face. And love.
Sugar's for dinner
Several people recommended Sugar's and I had this impression that it would be pricey, but it turned out to be well priced, with a lot of really great food. The okra was something I missed so much and they cooked it amazingly. I don't believe you can go wrong in anything you choose on their menu. Unless you're a vegetarian or vegan.
The Sugar's we went to on 15th Avenue was above the highway and lent itself to a nice view from the outdoor dining area.
Definitely the best way to end our eight hours in Chattanooga.