How to Spend a Weekend in Chattanooga
A weekend guide to the fourth largest city in Tennessee.
When thinking of cities in Tennessee, Chattanooga is probably not the first city to come to mind, but it should definitely be on your radar. Chattanooga is within driving distance of several major cities in the South, making it a perfect weekend destination. About two hours from Atlanta; Nashville, Tenn.; Knoxville, Tenn.; Birmingham, Ala., and Huntsville, Ala., Chattanooga has quite a lot to offer in terms of outdoor activities, restaurants and family fun. Here are some suggestions and tips to plan your weekend.
Where to Stay
The Dwell Hotel: Part of the Design Hotels group, this boutique hotel is a midcentury modern lover’s paradise. One of Chattanooga’s newest hotels, it’s within walking distance of major sites and attractions. The Dwell’s 16 rooms are beautifully designed and each of them has their own unique personality. From The Palm Springs to The New Yorker, you’ll feel well-rested and ready to explore in the mornings and ready to unwind and relax at the end of the day. Book your stay here.
The Crash Pad: For a more budget-friendly option, book a stay at The Crash Pad, a LEED-certified hostel also right in the hub of downtown. A bunk bed will only cost you about $35 a person or about $85+ for a private room. If you go with a bunk, each one has curtains around the bed that you can draw for some level of privacy. Mingle in the communal living and dining area on the first floor where kitchen supplies, coffee and basic breakfast foods like cereal, toast and eggs are included with your booking. Kick back in the outdoor area or head to The Flying Squirrel right next door for a drink or a bite to eat.
Hostel Fish, Denver
With an eye for design and attention to even the smallest details, Hostel Fish in downtown Denver, Colorado, offers some of the swankiest dorm accommodations you’ll find. Its private rooms are especially full of character. Every bed has easy access to charging stations, and guests can go on hostel-hosted pub crawls.
The Crash Pad, Chattanooga
The LEED-certified Crash Pad in Chattanooga, Tennessee, was inspired by Camp 4 in Yosemite National Park, known for being a climbers’ community. The Crash Pad’s co-founders moved to Chattanooga for its incredible rock climbing, and founded the hostel when they realized the community was lacking an outdoor recreation base camp, says co-founder Max Poppel. So they took the best of a community hostel, he says, and paired it with the the cleanliness and amenities you’ll find at a hotel. Boutique hostels like The Crash Pad are a growing trend, says Poppel, who visited hostels around the U.S. before opening his own. "It’s the experience, it’s the communal nature," he says. "It’s the guests you’ll meet and become friends with forever." Bonus: The Crash Pad has a sister bar and restaurant next door, and supplies fresh, free ingredients for you to make your own breakfast in its kitchen.
The Bunkhouse, Vail
The Bunkhouse, in Minturn, Colorado, opened in 2016. Instead of using wide curtains for privacy in its bunk room, it built pods with walls. Crawl into your bunk like it’s a cocoon, and sleep tight: each pod has a fan for white noise, so your neighbors can snore away without bothering you one bit. Couples or families staying at The Bunkhouse can rent a private quad room, where you can push two twin beds together to form a king.
Sweet Pea's, Asheville
At Sweet Pea’s in downtown Asheville, North Carolina, dorm dwellers can make themselves at home after a long day in the mountains. The large and open kitchen is fully-equipped and ready for guests to cook up a storm together.
HI Houston, The Morty Rich Hostel
At HI Houston, The Morty Rich Hostel, guests stay in a historic mansion complete with an in-ground pool. "The bar for hostels has definitely been raised over the past 20, if not 10, years," says Netanya Trimboli, director of PR and communications for Hostelling International USA, which runs more than 50 hostels. "You’ll start to see more amenities and nicer linens, and a more thoughtful approach to design."
Freehand Miami bills itself as the United States’ "first upscale hostel." With amenities like bocce ball courts, a large in-ground pool, a bar that serves cocktails made with herbs and spices grown in an on-site garden, and richly decorated bunk rooms and common areas, they’re certainly not joking about being high-end.
Travelers' House, Portland
Hostels are quickly becoming a safe, affordable way for people to travel within the U.S.—vital for millennials looking to stretch their dollars. "Post-recession, the hotel market significantly suffered," says Grant Williams, founder of the Travelers’ House in Portland, Oregon. "Not to say that hostels are 'recession-proof,' but we had to move toward community more. We had to look at [different] ways of traveling." At Travelers’ House, guests can choose between bunks and private rooms with shared bathrooms, all under $90.
The Bivouac, Breckenridge
The Bivvi in Breckenridge, Colorado, may be the pinnacle of high-end when it comes to hostels. Guests can soak in the communal hot tub—or stay in a private room with its own—eat a home-cooked breakfast every morning, play board games with other guests in front of a roaring fire in the fancy lounge, and, in the winter, have rental skis delivered right to the hostel.
You can score a bunk bed for less than $30 at the Freehand Chicago. But if you’ve got money to burn, you can rent a lavish penthouse for $850. A bar and cafe in the hotel serve specialty cocktails and light fare. The chain is run by hotel developer Sydell Group, which is building new Freehand locations in Los Angeles and New York City.
What to Do
Known as an outdoorsy town, Chattanooga has hiking trails, rapids and biking paths galore. But if it’s your first time visiting or you’re traveling with children, you might not want to devote an entire afternoon to an outdoor adventure. Instead, head to Lookout Mountain.
Lookout Mountain Incline Railway: Take the scenic route to get from the top of Lookout Mountain by taking the Lookout Mountain Incline Railway, billed as one of the world's steepest passenger railways. Round-trip tickets cost $15, and it’s totally worth it. Once at the top, take in the views from the station, then exit to the right, walk a few blocks and land at Point Park, a national park site, for another incredible vantage point.
Ruby Falls: Also on Lookout Mountain, Ruby Falls is an attraction in and of itself. Easy to access, Ruby Falls is the nation's largest and deepest underground waterfall open to the public.
The Tennessee Aquarium: If you’re traveling with children, the Tennessee Aquarium is definitely a can’t-miss activity. Located on Chattanooga's riverfront, it’s considered the city's top attraction.
Terminal Station + Chattanooga Choo Choo Historic Hotel: The Chattanooga Choo Choo is home to a historic hotel, restaurants, shopping, gardens and more. Take a stroll through the courtyard on your way to dinner or a comedy show at The Comedy Catch. The engine of the famous Chattanooga Choo Choo, the inspiration for the hotel and the song, is on display, too.
Where to Eat
Aretha Frankensteins: There might be a wait, but the pancakes will be worth it. Since it's open 7 a.m. to midnight every day, be sure to fit in one meal at Aretha Frankensteins during your weekend stay.
The Yellow Deli: Offering lighter fare, The Yellow Deli is a great lunch spot and a unique atmosphere. If the weather’s nice, snag a table on the covered deck. Order the Yellow Submarine sandwich (pictured).
Public House: An easy walk from both The Crash Pad and The Dwell, Public House, located in Warehouse Row, is the perfect dinner spot. You won’t regret ordering the pot roast.
Where to Drink
Coffee: So many good options, but Frothy Monkey, Velo Coffee Roasters and Camp House are all are a few favorites and all centrally located. Velo Coffee has a great patio area but not much indoor seating. The Southside Frothy Monkey location is in the Terminal Station and beautifully designed. They also have locations in Nashville and Franklin, Tenn. Camp House is your best option if you need to plug in or get a little work done.
Late-Night Drinks: Drinking spots close to lodging is always a plus. The Flying Squirrel Bar, located right next to The Crash Pad, has a relaxed environment and plenty of outdoor seating. The Matilda at Midnight is a bar located in The Dwell Hotel that is open to non-hotel guests. They serve delicious tarot-themed cocktails and the atmosphere is cozy and romantic – there are even twinkling stars on the ceiling.
While you can definitely cover a lot of ground in Chattanooga in a weekend, you’ll leave wanting to come back for more.