Chattanooga along the Tennessee River as seen from Lookout Mountain
It should come as no surprise to learn that the name Chattanooga is of Native American origin. Meaning “rock coming to a point,” the name references what is today known as Lookout Mountain and how it stretches almost ninety miles through Alabama and Georgia. Originally called Ross’s Landing and also Lookout City, the name Chattanooga turned out to be quite apropos for a town that would become synonymous with trains choo choo-ing down the tracks.
This important river port settlement grew into quite the town with the arrival of the railroads in the 1840s and 1850s. Its unique geographic location established it as an important transit hub for both the railroad and later highways. Freight trains still transport goods to, through and from Chattanooga but believe it or not, there is no longer any passenger train travel here.
Still, choo choo-ing through Chattanooga, Tennessee will always remain an essential part of the identity of this southern town thanks to the internationally-known hit, “Chattanooga Choo Choo” that rocked the charts throughout the world when it was released in 1941. Originally recorded as a big band/swing tune by the Glenn Miller Orchestra, this catchy song was first presented in the movie “Sun Valley Serenade.”
There are plenty of ways where you can savor the Chattanooga Choo Choo flavor around town and certainly one of the best places to start is at the Chattanooga Choo Choo. Part hotel, part food, drink, entertainment and shopping complex, Chattanooga Choo Choo has been the hub of Chattanooga for well over half a century. Considered one of the city’s first historic preservation projects, this property, formerly known as the Terminal Station, was saved from the wrecking ball in 1973, and then eventually renovated and restored to its original glory. Listed on the National Register for Historic Places, today people come from all over to admire its splendor and to have fun in a lively twenty-first century fashion. For a truly unique experience, book a room in one of their Pullman train cars or just take in a show put on here by The Comedy Catch. This place is a must!
At the Tennessee Valley Railroad you can learn about the railroad history of the area both through its museum and also by taking one of their historic train rides. You can even shop for some cool stuff such as a T-shirt that features the Southern Railway. As one of the best places to experience the sights and sounds of yesteryear and the rich history of the rails in the area, this place is a treasure and certainly a one of a kind in Tennessee.
Experience a whole different kind of rail travel on the Lookout Mountain Incline Railway. For over 125 years people of been hiked up Lookout Mountain, the iconic beacon of Chattanooga, in a funicular. The views from this mile-long tour dazzle as much as the panoramic scenery at the top. And at the base you can explore historic St. Elmo and its collection of shops, restaurants and bars. There’s even a microbrewery that offers tours. Plan to spend a whole day in the area, since nearby you can take in other cool attractions such as Rock City, Ruby Falls, Battles for Chattanooga Electric Map & Museum and Point Park. The latter two sites are of particular interest to Civil War aficionados. Note that the International Towing & Recovery Hall of Fame is nearby as well.