Chattanooga's riverboat on the Tennesee River
Dubbed the “Scenic City,” Chattanooga, Tennessee ranks high on the nice-place-to-live and -visit meter all year long. Tucked into a valley and surrounded by the Appalachian Mountains and the Cumberland Plateau, you can enjoy many wonderful views of the ridges from all kinds of vantage points around town. With almost 200 thousand inhabitants, Chattanooga bustles with lots of doings, particularly along the Tennessee River, which eases itself through the city.
Since the weather in this part of southeast Tennessee is often pleasant, people recreate along Chattanooga’s terrific waterfront area all year long. Here a paved pathway, known as the Tennessee Riverwalk, stretches some sixteen miles along the southern shore of the Tennessee River. Enjoy the nature and panoramic views from the seat of a bike or by foot where you’ll also discover a variety of other ways to embrace outdoor fun. Or, just sit and relax at one of the restaurants you’ll find along the way. Perhaps the biggest attraction here, however, is the Tennessee Aquarium, the largest freshwater aquarium in the world. Home to some 10,000 animals and an IMAX Theater, this place will wow you many times over. Plan to spend a good part of a day here to take it all in.
For a different type of water-themed fun, go to the Creative Discovery Museum and check out their RiverPlay area; it showcases a rooftop exhibit that kids love to dive into. Most every exhibit at this museum, in fact, offers children the opportunity to enjoy a hands-on experience and learn through play. (Isn’t that the best way to learn?) You’ll find two other fun spots that also serve up a good helping of nostalgia within the town center: check out the Classic Arcade Pinball Museum and the Moonlight Roller Skate Shop for unique experiences. Go ahead and buy a snazzy pair of roller skates at the latter.
This is a pretty cool part of town, one that’s peppered with nice restaurants, bars and eateries, some of which are housed within historic buildings constructed during the River City’s heyday. By the end of the nineteenth century the city had grown into a large industrial hub and clearly some of its wealth was funneled into its Victorian and early twentieth-century architecture. Many of these buildings were later put on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Tivoli Theater, as well as two other historic theater venues–the Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Auditorium and the Walker Theater–serve as fine examples of Chattanooga’s rich architectural and cultural history. All were designed by the same renowned architect, Reuben H. Hunt, although it’s the Tivoli Theater that’s referred to as the “Jewel of the South.” All three put on a variety of shows and events throughout the year, so try to take in at least one of them when in town.
In terms of the visual arts, let yourself be dazzled by a fine collection of works at the Hunter Museum of American Art. The paintings here from the Hudson River School and the Impressionists are especially easy on the eye.
For a hoot (and a holler) of a time, go to the International Towing and Recovery Museum just outside of the downtown area. Considered to be one of the most unique museums in the world, a visit here is both fun and inspiring. Make sure you see their Wall of the Fallen, which pays homage to the many tow truck operators that lost their lives in the line of service. Indeed, they are first responders of a different sort.
It’s wonderful to learn about Chattanooga’s history but it’s also important to know that this Tennessee town is super progressive as well. They’ve invested heavily in solar energy and other infrastructure over the years, so much so that they’re supposed to have one of the fastest internets around. Chattanooga has their own typeface, too. It’s called Chatype and was created in 2012 with the intention of giving the town a more cohesive identity. And how about all of that public art (especially on the Southside)? Hop on a bike from one of their bicycle sharing outposts (many of which can be found along the Riverwalk), pedal around and take in this hip scene. With the wifi so dialed in throughout, you’ll have no problem posting lots of images on social media as you go.