It was a railroad and industrial hub for many years but fell into disrepair in the twentieth century. In 2005, a plan was made to redevelop the waterfront area that is now home to the Tennessee Aquarium.
Since that time, Chattanooga has become one of the “greenest” cities in America, running a free electric shuttle around town and having public rental bike stations.
It’s tucked below Lookout Mountain, making it one of the best places for hikers and climbers to live and play. Outside magazine named it the best place to live in the country.
Young entrepreneurs have moved in and developed start-ups. Neighborhoods like the North Shore and the Southside have become hip areas to live and work.
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What to Do
Chattanooga Zoo– If you didn’t get your animal fix at the aquarium, check out the Chattanooga Zoo. They have a collection of African creatures and native species, as well as jaguars, Komodo dragons, and red pandas. Get your Skip the Line: Chattanooga Zoo Admission Ticket before you go. 301 North Holtzclaw Avenue
Incline Railway– Chattanooga’s Incline Railway was created in 1895 and runs a 72% grade track from the St. Elmo neighborhood to the top of Lookout Mountain. The horsepower motors pull the trolley up the mile, where the glass windows allow guests views of Chattanooga. 3917 St. Elmo Avenue
Tennessee Aquarium– As one of the best aquariums in the region for exhibits and conservation, the Tennessee Aquarium is the top attraction in town. All ages will enjoy the River Explorer and Ocean Explorer, which feature beloved creatures like the river otters, butterflies, and sharks. One Broad Street
Chickamauga Battlefield– As the site of one of the Civil War’s bloodiest battles, this battlefield straddles the state lines of Georgia and Tennessee. You can learn more about the war in the visitor’s center and hike or ride a horse around the sprawling grounds. 3370 LaFayette Road, Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia
Creative Discovery Museum– Younger children will enjoy the Creative Discovery Museum, which has permanent and traveling exhibits on inventions, science, and performing arts. 321 Chestnut Street
Hunter Museum of American Art– This art museum, hanging over a cliff on the Tennessee River, features works from notable 19th and 20th-century American artists. Set in the Faxon-Hunter mansion as well as a modern addition, the museum has hosted exhibits featuring works from Dorthea Lange, Norman Rockwell, and countless others. 10 Bluff View Avenue
Rock City– Bordering on the kitsch, Rock City has been a famous attraction in the southeast since 1932. Their advertisements on barns may be dwindling, Rock City Gardens has never been more popular. Features include ancient rock formations, panoramic views of seven states, a swinging bridge, and the infamous Lover’s Leap. 1400 Patten Road, Lookout Mountain, Georgia
Ruby Falls– The nation’s largest and deepest waterfall open to the public is located 1,120 feet below the surface. The 145-foot high waterfall first opened to the public as a tourist attraction in the 1920s. The limestone cave is one of over 40,000 in the state of Tennessee alone. 1720 South Scenic Highway
International Towing & Recovery Museum– What sounds like an offbeat concept is a museum devoted to the rarely recognized towing and recovery industry. The first wrecker was created in Chattanooga, making it an appropriate home for the museum, which also honors the servicemen and women who have lost their lives. 3315 Broad Street
Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum– Located on the grounds of the Chattanooga Choo Choo, the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum document’s the industry’s importance to the city over the last 200 years. Check out the collection of locomotives and passenger cars the museum has acquired over the years or take a ride on one. 4119 Cromwell Road
Raccoon Mountain– As one of Chattanooga’s lesser-known attractions, Raccoon Mountain Caverns is well worth a visit. The family campground and caves consist of 5.5 miles underground. Try spelunking tours or even spend the night underground. 319 West Hills Drive
Chattanooga Whiskey Distillery– Tour the city’s only distillery and first since Prohibition. The experimental distillery offers tastings of their lineup of bourbons and whiskeys. Make a reservation because space is limited. 1439 Market Street
Chattanooga Lookouts– Stop by a minor league baseball game for the team that’s an affiliate of the Minnesota Twins.
Chattanooga Ghost Tours– Explore the spooky locations around the city, including the Native American grounds where the Hunter Museum was built, an apartment building with a sinister history, and the hotel that was a former Civil War morgue.
The Chattanooga: Multi-Attraction Pass provides access into most of the city’s top attractions including Ruby Falls, Songbirds Guitar Museum, the Tennessee Valley Railroad, and the Chattanooga Zoo.
Where to Eat
Niedlov’s Breadworks– Part bakery and part restaurant, don’t miss the carbs here. Breakfast sandwiches and pastries are specialties along with lunch options. They also offer tea and coffee. 215 E Main Street, (423) 756-0303
Urban Stack– Set in a LEED certified building, Urban Stack Burger Lounge takes your standard burger up a notch or two with their specialty toppings. Located on the Southside, this is a great spot for a guy’s night out, as it has the city’s best selection of bourbons, scotches, and whiskeys. 12 West 13th Street, (423) 475-5350
Bluegrass Grill– Open early daily, expect to wait on weekends for breakfast at this cozy Southside eatery. Grits are smothered in toppings and omelets are filling. Biscuits and gravy are another favorite, made half with whole wheat and half with standard flour. 55 E Main Street, (423) 752-4020
Two Ten Jack– In its second location after the Nashville original, this underground ramen bar is located at trendy Warehouse Row. Grab an order of edamame or dumplings to share before tucking into a heaping bowl of ramen. Warehouse Row, 1110 Market St FC4, (423) 551-8799
The Flying Squirrel Bar– Located next to Crash Pad, this popular bar also serves great food, including Sunday brunch. Plates are whimsical and take as much from local vendors as possible. Their cocktail menu and happy hour are also a hit. 55 Johnson Street, (423) 602-5980
Champy’s– Although a chain, there’s nowhere else in town quite like this Mississippi Delta-inspired eatery. It offers fried chicken, crawfish, and hot tamales along with 40-ounce beers with their own koozies. 526 East MLK Boulevard, (423) 752-9198
Main Street Meats– Originally a family-run butcher shop, local restauranteurs took over operations, turning it into a restaurant that focuses on meat. Hearty sandwiches and charcuterie are on the menu and the shop has a small provisions shop. 217 East Main Street, (423) 602-9568
The Bitter Alibi– Set in a former home, this place is equal parts dive bar and restaurant. Come for the noodles, sandwiches, and weekend brunch. They’re open late for when you need something to soak up the booze. 825 Houston Street, (423) 362-5070
Aretha Frankensteins– This quirky breakfast restaurant is a local favorite, frequently with a line out the door. Their pancakes are the stuff of legends and they’re open until midnight every day. It’s breakfast time all the time! 518 Tremont Street, (423) 265-7685
Beast + Barrel– Located on the North Shore, the gastropub has a little bit of everything, including weekend brunch, large sandwiches, and craft cocktails. Sit on the patio in good weather. 16 Frazier Avenue, (423) 805-4599
Easy Bistro– Considered to be one of Chattanooga’s top restaurants, this eatery offers brunch, dinner, and cocktails. Try the oysters from around the region or the popular shrimp and grits. 203 Broad Street, (423) 266-1121
Public House– The white tablecloth version of traditional meat and three, this restaurant has must-try dishes like the fried chicken, Carolina trout, and the daily specials. They use ingredients from local farms. 1110 Market Street, (423) 266-3366
Where to Stay
The Crash Pad Chattanooga– Opened in 2011, this LEED platinum-certified hostel appeals to budget travelers with both private rooms and bunk rooms. It’s located on the Southside near the bus stop and restaurants and offers daily breakfast. Read our review here. 29 Johnson Street
The Dwell Hotel– This is a trendy mid-century inspired design hotel on the Southside in a building dating back to 1909. Each room is decorated differently. The hotel also has a popular bar and restaurant. Read our review here. 120 E 10th Street
Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel– The Historic Hotels of America property is located in a former 1900s train depot. It has a variety of rooms, including some in old train cars, as well as multiple restaurants and shops. 1400 Market Street
Moxy Chattanooga– The Marriott-branded hotel has millennial-friendly amenities like a bar that doubles as the front desk, stylish rooms, and murals on the walls. It’s located in the heart of the Southside and has frequent events. 1220 King Street
The Edwin Hotel– The 90 room luxury hotel downtown has a rooftop bar, restaurant, and stunning decor in its rooms. There’s also a spa. 102 Walnut Street
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I was hosted by the Chattanooga Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, which included my stay at Crash Pad and entry into attractions. Some attractions are located in Georgia but are included in the greater Chattanoooga area.