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 Five, The 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?