Thursday, July 13, 2023

our two recent trips to Chattanooga

Chattanooga is a little gem about 4.5 hours from Louisville. It doesn't have the big-city allure of closer destinations like Nashville, Indy, Cincy, and St. Louis. But if you're looking for medium-city allure and some excellent outdoor ops, it's definitely worth the trip. We went two weekends ago with long-time friends and then last weekend with three of our sons. Good times, both times!

Things to definitely do: 

1.) Rock City Gardens (9-7) is one-of-a-kind and amazing. They also have a Raptor / Birds of Prey show (hourly 10-5, except noon) that is hard-to-find (about halfway through the path) and definitely worth the stop.

2.) Ruby Falls is a solid cavern with the largest (known) underground waterfall in the U.S.

3.) Walking around downtown and through the Bluff View Art District, before crossing the Walnut St Ped Bridge to walk around North Shore on Frazier Ave. (including the Dance Paving Stones on both sides of street)

If you're interested:

1.) Biking along the riverfront was amazing. We rode from downtown to the Chickamauga dam-- a nice 13-15 mile ride. It's only $10 per day, but you have to dock the bike (briefly) every hour. (The app gives you details on location and availability.)

2.) If you're into cars, I'd recommend the Coker Auto Museum and the Intl Towing/Recovery Museum (Chattanooga had the first tow truck and key innovators in the field). 

3.) If you're into history and good views of the city, I'd recommend Point Park on top of Lookout Mountain ($10). Make sure to catch a tour by one of the guides (@11, 2, 5). If you're really into the history of the battles, the "Battles of Chattanooga" show is worth the 30-minute narration and 3D topographical map on stage.  

4.) We saw the famous Chattanooga ChooChoo and walked through the Chattanooga Mkt on Saturday. Both were solid as you would expect.

Things we didn't do, but were on the list:

1.) The Hunter Museum of Contemporary Art looked good (the outside art was impressive), but our friends and sons were not interested, so we didn't go.  

2.) The Classic Arcade Pinball Museum is interesting but expensive ($20 or $16 if you look for coupons in tourist info), It's all-you-can-play, but unfortunately, they don't have an evening discount or the ability to play for an hour at a lower rate.  

3.) The Lookout Mtn Incline RR looked solid and takes you to the top of Lookout Mtn (within walking distance of Point Park if you want to combine it), but we'd already done one in Johnstown, PA.

4.) The Chickamauga/Chattanooga National Military Park is probably solid, if you're into such things. But we did enough for our tastes with Point Park.  

5.) There should be some great hiking options. Lula Lake and Land Trust (careful to reserve a spot when they're open) and the Rainbow Lake Trail @ Signal Mtn were on our list. But the weather both weekends was a combination of 90+ degrees and storm threats, so we stuck to biking.

6.) Raccoon Mtn Caverns looked good, but I couldn't find a price on-line-- and couldn't imagine prioritizing it over Ruby Falls.

7.) Their AA baseball park looked nice.


Food and music

The first weekend, we caught Ben Van Winkle (amazing cello combined with quirky bee-bop, percussion, etc.) as the opening act for The New Quintet (solid bluegrass/folk combo) at Songbirds. BVW was unique; catch him if he's in your area!

We were also happy with the food in Chattanooga-- reasonable prices and strong quality. Hickory Pit BBQ was excellent and inexpensive. Mayan Kitchen, Burger Republic, Lupi's pizza were all very good. Universal Joint had good food in an interesting setting. I had the best Pad Thai of my life at Sawasdee Thai but the fried rice was pedestrian. And for dessert? We hit Clumpie's Ice Cream three times-- and had some really good, creative flavors.


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