BlinkPack ShortList: The Chattanooga Five

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The BlinkPacking blog continues a new featurette in today’s edition of the ShortList. Say you find yourself in a certain city for a handful of hours and want to experience a whole lot more than the airport. Well friends, high-tail it out of the terminal and head for a jolly time — armed with a cornucopia of ideas from the BlinkPack veteran.

The next locale featured in our ShortList is an often-overlooked gem — perched halfway between the much larger cities of Nashville and Atlanta, Chattanooga has enough history and intrigue to charm even the most demanding tourist. So here are five must-sees-and-dos in the Scenic City. (Read the other installments, The Boston FiveThe Key West Five, and The St. Louis Five.)

BlinkPack ShortList: The Chattanooga Five

Sleep in a choo choo at the Choo Choo
True, the Chattanooga Choo Choo (owned by the Holiday Inn) is not the city’s cheapest accommodations, but the extra bucks will buy you an overnight snooze in half of a retired railcar, reworked and refurbished into a comfortable hotel room with all the amenities. The now-defunct railway terminal gone hotel offers several indoor and outdoor pools, quality on-site dining choices, and room service. And there are plenty of fun gawking opportunities for the railroading fan, including self-guided tours of the retired engines and passenger cars, a ride on a restored New Orleans trolley, a model railroad museum, and even a restaurant serving pizza pies in a sleek, shiny diner car.

Ride the Incline
The incline railway that scales Lookout Mountain is one of the steepest passenger railways in the world Though the ticket prices share a similar grade, the experience is unique and the scenery is gorgeous. The summit of the railway’s climb is the site of the Battle of Lookout Mountain, and a resulting cocktail of civil war education and general tourist kitsch await its detrained passengers. Spend as long as you wish exploring this haven for camera-happy people; your roundtrip ticket is good for any two same-day trips on the funicular’s roster.

Flap with the butterflies
Everything about the Chattanooga Aquarium — its airy atriums, its endless exhibit halls, its general lack of crowds — is delightful. But one of its most unique and captivating displays is the butterfly greenhouse at the top floor of the oceanarium. Hundreds of butterflies flit this way and that, sipping nectar from a cornucopia of richly colored exotic flora. If you are lucky, a big pretty one will perch on your head.

Head across the bridge
Downtown Chattanooga has plenty to offer its visitors, though many think that its parks, eateries, and attractions end at the riverfront. Keep marching soldier. Drive that car across the bridge to find a remarkably charming neighborhood of narrow streets and storefront facades. You will be delighted by funky gift shops, artisanal pastry houses, and plenty of tchotchke-purveying boutiques wherein you may find and purchase a plethora of overpriced, under-needed material goods. Worth a visit for sure.

See Rock City
For hundreds of miles north and south of Chattanooga, red painted barns and birdhouses urge road travelers to exit the highway and take a tour of Rock City. One part breathtaking beauty, one part extreme cheese, and one part black-lighted singing elf figurines, this meander through the rocky outcroppings of a once-private mountaintop garden leaves its visitors at once thrilled and perplexed. For an ectoplasmic rush of gaudy merriment that ‘goes to eleven’, calendar your tour during Christmastime.

PS – Yes, the nice-looking people in the photo are my family members.

If you have been to Chattanooga, did you hit all five on the list? And what are your suggestions for additions to make the visit more complete?

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4 thoughts on “BlinkPack ShortList: The Chattanooga Five

  1. As a Chattanoogan, I do hope you enjoyed your stay as much as your post sounds like you did. I would be remiss if I didn’t thank you for visiting my blog, but I am more thrilled with your kind words about my city. Thank you so much.

    • I think Chattanooga is a gem, and I look forward to many future visits. My family and I often travel from Atlanta to Chicago and pass right through. Thanks for taking the time to comment — my whole motivation for blogging is hearing from great folks like you. Cheers!

  2. You hit the most popular places. If you go to Rock City, there are lots of things to see/do on/near Lookout Mountain while you’re in the vicinity (the farthest is about 30 minutes away):
    Point Park. You can walk around the “point” and see North, East, and West from atop Lookout Mountain.
    Cravens House. There’s an interesting historical house there and a view, but it’s also a trail head for a nice hike to Sunset Rock, which has yet another spectacular view.
    Rock City in the summer–the Rock City Raptors perform from Memorial Day to Labor Day. It’s an awesome birds of prey show.
    Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park. Call ahead and take the interpretive tour. Chris, the ranger, is spectacular at turning history into a moving experience. In the summer, Outdoor Chattanooga organizes interpretive tours by bike and even provides bikes. I have zero interest in military history and I was fascinated.
    Cloudland Canyon. Walks/hikes for any fitness level, all with surprisingly spectacular views of the canyon.
    Lookout Mountain Hang Gliding. Just watching hang gliders is pretty cool if you’re not up for a tandem flight or lessons.
    Chattanooga Nature Center and Arboretum. Lots of hiking and a red wolf breeding program.
    I’d better stop . . . 🙂
    Love your photos!

    • Wow – what a great list! Thank you for the insider’s track. Now I really can’t wait to go back and visit — always good to pass by the touristy haunts and go local. Cheers!

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