What is There to Do in Chattanooga ?

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        Chattanooga is a great place especially if you like nature-related activities and scenery which seem to be everywhere in the city. Even the downtown area has a lot of trees along the sidewalks and a very unique park (Miller Park) with a waterfall and fountain. All the power cables are underground so there is a feel of openness which adds to the sense of natural beauty and softens the appearance of what would normally be expected of a downtown area.

      A nice one-hour to two-hour downtown walking route starts at the corner ML King and Broad Streets. From there, walk north (the freeway will be on your left) down Broad Street pass several nice restaurants, the
Majestic Movie Theater, and to the Tennessee Aquarium. Turn left at the Aquarium on 2nd Street and then turn right on Chestnut Street. Walk across Riverfront Parkway.  At this point, you should explore the revitalized riverfront area and then take the Riverwalk (going in the upstream direction) that goes along side the Tennessee River.

If you so desire, you can stay on the Riverwalk for the next 8 miles but I doubt if many people will want to walk that distance.  After walking about 10 minutes, you will come to the
Walnut Street Bridge which is the first major bridge that you will get to.  There you will find some fairly steep steps to climb to get to the bridge level.  This bridge has been converted into a pedestrian walkway so as you approach the bridge, you will see people walking across the bridge or sitting on one of the benches placed along the bridge. You can now turn back, keep going on the Riverwalk, or climb the steps to the bridge level. 

If you choose to climb the steps up to the bridge level -
You can stroll across the Tennessee river without worrying about cars. At the bridge entrance is a unique pedestrian bridge (with see-through floor) that goes over Riverfront Parkway to Hunter Art Center. My tour takes you over that bridge to Hunter.  If you choose instead to walk across the Walnut street bridge you will find on the other end of the bridge the popular Coolidge Park which has an antique Denzel carousel that has been restored and fitted with 52 carved animals.  In any case, to get back on my tour, eventually make your way across the bridge (with the see-through floor) to Hunter Art Center.

If you choose to continue on the Riverwalk without going to the Walnut Street bridge level -
The path will take you under the Walnut Street bridge and there will be (you guessed it) another set of steps to climb (albeit not as steep) that will take you to the Hunter Art Center

Inside Hunter is an art museum and a connection to a very interesting mansion.  My tour will stop here because (I am guessing) you have had enough walking for a day.  If you want to continue, then leave Hunter and walk down Bluff View Street for a 3-minute walk that will bring you to an interesting outdoor culture park.  You can continue on the Riverwalk just beyond the park and keep walking down the river until you drop!

      If you want to venture out of the downtown area, drive 10 miles south on Rossville Blvd (Hwy 27) to the
Chickamauga Civil War Battlefield (Officially known as the Chickamauga National Military Park) where many times deer are seen grazing.  To find Rossville Blvd. from downtown, get on the freeway going east using the entrance ramps on either Market Street, or ML King and drive like you are going toward Atlanta. You will see the Rossville exits after traveling only a short distance of less than a mile. Take the Rossville exit going south and follow that road (Hwy 27) untill you reach the Battlefield. There you will find trails on which seldom anyone is seen and trails that have a lot of walking traffic; so there is a choice of environment depending on your level of adventure. This park is located on highway 27 just across the Georgia state line and has a free museum that includes a very large display of Civil War era guns and cannons.  In fact, this location is second One of the cannons at the Battlefield(in the nation) only to Gettysburg when it comes to the number of cannons positioned over the wide expanse of the battlefield park and is our nation's first National Military Park.  Many monuments and signs tell somberly of the battles that took place on these grounds in and around September, 1863 where over 4,000 soldiers were killed, over 7,000 wounded and 15,000 were left missing. This is a free attraction.

      Another interesting place to go the few people know about is the TVA Raccoon Mountain Pump Storage Visitors Center and Reserve about 15 minutes from downtown. There you can discover many facts about the Tennessee Valley Authority and the interesting pump storage generating plant. Also there are may dirt bike and walking trails and a very nice view of the Chattanooga downtown area and the Tennessee River Gorge from the overlook points. This is a free attraction. UPDATE: The Raccoon Mountain Visitor's Center is closed while some extensive maintenance is being done on the generators, but you can still explore the dirt bike trails and drive across the longest dirt filled dam in Tennessee (1 mile long). About two thirds the way across the dam is a road which takes you to a park called Laurel Point where there are rest rooms and picnic areas. For more information on this area, go to this link.

      There are too many parks, walkways and nature trails to mention singularly in this short article but I will say that if walking is a favorite activity of yours, Chattanooga is a place that you will like.  In general, you can find specific information about festivals and other attractions at The Chattanooga City Web Site.  

        Tourist attractions in the downtown area skyrocketed over the last decade. Restaurants of all types can be found in that general downtown area. Also, there is one of the most unique aquariums you might expect to see. It is at the end of Broad street, close to the Tennessee River. In that area, you will also find the IMAK 3-D theater, the Creative Discovery Museum, the Bell South Baseball Stadium, and the Majestic Movie Theater.  There is a free shuttle that runs every 5 minutes which will take you from the Aquarium area (one block from the Majestic) through downtown and all the way to the Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel complex. The shuttle has stops in almost every block. The Chattanooga Visitor's Center is now located at the parking garage on the left side of the hotel. Also located at the Choo Choo is one of the most unique and entertaining restaurants in Chattanooga: The Station House. Your server and all the other servers are also singers and will perform for you on stage or out in the restaurant. Believe me, they are all good! I suggest you call ahead for reservations. They are open 6PM to 10PM, Tuesday through Saturday. You will need to dial the hotel number (423.266.5000) to be transferred to the restaurant.

Bessie Smith Hall was named after a renowned Black jazz singer from Chattanooga and contains a Museum of Black history and hosts various activities including a jazz festival, dances and other community programs.  During the week of the annual Riverbend Festival, the street in front of the Bessie Smith Hall is closed to traffic on that Monday and a wide selection of R&B bands, barbecue stands and thousands of Festival participants crowd the street in what is known as the Bessie Smith Strut.  There is now a small admission price for the strut. The Riverbend Festival itself is one of the top 20 festivals in the nation and draws around a half million people to see the big name entertainment and to sample the multitude of different types of food. Look for it to be held in the second week of June. There is usually a big fireworks display at the end of the festival but there seems to be fireworks (for other reasons) just about every other month. The entertainment on the major stages on the River has been trending toward country in recent years but there is also R&B entertainment.

        Don't miss seeing the traditional attractions like Rock City, Ruby Falls and Point Park on top of Lookout Mountain complete with spectacular views overlooking Chattanooga.  Just travel down Broad street from downtown toward the big mountain and then follow the signs.  Also, at least once, ride the Mountain Incline Railway on it's nearly one mile trip straight up the face of Lookout Mountain. Even is you don't ride the Incline, stop at the Incline visitors and souvenir shop on top of the mountain for a free panoramic view of the city. Point Park also has a panoramic view but there is an admission charge. If you would rather ride or look at one of the old trains of yesteryear, visit the Tennessee Railroad Museum. This wonderful place is located about 15 minutes from downtown. Take 75 North to Highway 153. Then get off 153 on the Jersey Pike exit. Turn left on Jersey Pike and then right on the first street you get to. Travel about a mile to the Railroad museum.

      Shopping is a traditional attraction that is constant for many people regardless of what city they visit.  One of Tennessee's largest malls, Hamilton Place, is located about 9 miles from downtown Chattanooga. In that area, you will also find a great selection of restaurants ranging from all fast food types to great sit-down types like The Chop House, Outback, Olive Garden, Red Lobster, and even a Chris's Steak House (next to the new Embassy Suits Hotel). Take I-75-north and take the Hamilton exit (just after the Hwy 153 exits). If you miss that one, you can get off the freeway at the very next exit,Shallowford Road. On that exit ramp, stay in the right lane. You will be forced onto the road that leads directly into the mall.

      Chattanooga has an abundance of churches including a variety of denominations and with fifteen churches within one mile of downtown alone. My church is First Baptist on East Eighth Street in the downtown area.  Our web site is http://www.FBCE8.com

      Chattanooga is in a good starting location for making one-day trips to the popular cities of Atlanta and Nashville which each are only two hours away. The only thing that I don't like about our city is it seems freeway construction is always going on.  I hope one day they will actually let us drive on the freeways without having to dodge orange barrels ...

I don't have all the answers so call the Visitor's Bureau at
(423) 756-8687 for other information.

2015 by F. L. Marsh


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Frederick Marsh