Chattanooga Weekend Guide
One of America’s most scenic cities, Chattanooga, TN, is a sophisticated urban oasis surrounded by amazing natural beauty. Take in the breathtaking sights of the Tennessee River while strolling along one of the world’s longest pedestrian bridges. Go eye to eye with fish, reptiles and more at the largest freshwater aquarium in the world. And kick back at the only historic hotel of its kind in all of Tennessee, located right in Chattanooga. That’s just the start to an exciting weekend in Chattanooga.
The Chattanoogan makes a big deal of its AAA Four Diamond rating -- and it should. The downtown hotel features 199 exquisite guestrooms with contemporary decor; a full-service spa; and Broad Street Grille, one of 3 on-site restaurants, where the chef posts the names of the local farms that supplied the food for that day’s menu. At sunset, guests often gather around the large fire pit in the hotel’s finely manicured courtyard.
Read House Hotel
Opened in 1926, Read House Hotel maintains its original charm while being fully updated with modern amenities. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it is now part of Sheraton Hotels and has 241 guestrooms. Even if you don’t stay at the hotel, you should consider a meal at the restaurant, Porter's Steakhouse, or stop by the lobby to see its 2 stories of black walnut paneling, marble flooring and a detailed plaster ceiling with 2 bronze chandeliers.
Bluff View Inn
The Bluff View Inn is a collection of 3 bed-and-breakfasts: an 1889 English Tudor, a 1908 Victorian and a 1927 Colonial Revival. While each property is unique, they all offer the same level of personal service. Guests have some of the best views of the snaking Tennessee River and easy access to the surrounding Bluff View Art District, a creative haven within walking distance from downtown Chattanooga.
Where to Eat
While the restaurant might close at night, the kitchen at Sugar’s is humming 24/7 as mouthwatering ribs, brisket, pulled pork and chicken are prepared fresh daily. You can have lots of fun here sampling the various barbecue sauces. The restaurant has a downtown location and one southeast of downtown on Missionary Ridge. There is live music every night at the downtown location.
As you savor your tasty burger at Urban Stack, you can also feel good about your carbon footprint. The restaurant is located in one of the oldest buildings in Chattanooga, the Southern Railway Baggage Building from the 1870s, which was refurbished into a LEED-certified establishment. In addition, all of the meats are all-natural, organic, grass-fed or free-range, from sustainable and humane farms.
Easy Bistro & Bar
Owner and chef Erik Niel describes his menu as “French-inspired Southern cooking.” Niel believes strongly in fresh ingredients -- be they from a nearby farm or flown in the same day from a New England fishery -- which is why new menus are printed daily. In addition to the delicious cuisine, the white-tablecloth Easy Bistro has an extensive wine list and takes great pride in its creative cocktails.
What to See & Do
Visible from nearly any spot in Chattanooga, Lookout Mountain offers visitors the unique opportunity to explore nature and history. Located deep within the mountain is Ruby Falls, a 145-foot underground waterfall, accessed by a cave filled with stunning geological formations. Above ground, there is Rock City, a 4,100-foot-long walking trail that takes you on a journey through lush gardens and provides breathtaking views of the Chattanooga Valley. Lookout Mountain is also part of Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, which memorializes one of the most decisive battles of the Civil War.
When Chattanoogans envisioned a renaissance for their city more than 2 decades ago, they looked no further than the Tennessee River. It was the inspiration for the opening of the world’s largest freshwater aquarium as well as a saltwater aquarium that was added later to reflect the river water’s eventual journey to the sea.
Located right on the banks of the river, the Tennessee Aquarium is Chattanooga’s most popular attraction, providing visitors the opportunity to go eye to eye with sharks, giant spider crabs, river otters and alligators through attractions like its Special Animal Encounter programs and the Tennessee Aquarium Backstage Pass.
Bluff View Art District
As the name indicates, the Bluff View Art District sits high above the Tennessee River. The neighborhood is filled with restaurants, an art gallery and an outdoor sculpture garden. It is also home to one of Chattanooga’s most popular coffee shops, Rembrandt's. Adjacent to the Art District is the Hunter Museum of American Art and the historic Walnut Street Bridge, which is now a pedestrian-only bridge connecting Chattanooga's downtown with the North Shore district.
Much like its cousins Memphis and Nashville, Chattanooga loves music. National touring acts appear regularly at Track 29, an entertainment venue located on the campus of the historic Chattanooga Choo Choo hotel. Another popular spot is Rhythm & Brews, which serves up music as well as handcrafted beers.
Instead of flying directly into Chattanooga, consider flying into Atlanta or Knoxville, TN, and driving into town from there. These cities are respectively 2 to 3.5 hours away and are connected to Chattanooga by scenic byways.
Having received what some locals call a bad rap as the “Scruffy City,” Knoxville is, in fact, anything but. Often overlooked while traveling on I-40 west toward Nashville or east to Asheville, NC, Knoxville is tucked away in the rolling hills of Tennessee, less than 1 hour from the Great Smoky Mountains.