choo choo choose chattanooga

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Chattanooga, Tennessee is such an up and coming city in the South.  First off, it’s beautiful!  There are seven bridges criss-crossing large expanses of the Tennessee River.  There are so many natural wonders, mountainous hiking trails and cavrens to explore.  There is also world class art and the crown jewel of the city, the Tennessee Aquarium.

And there’s a bunch of famous people from here including Usher, Samuel L. Jackson, Reggie White, Bessie Smith and Dennis Haskins.

Hey, hey, hey, Mr. Belding, is that the Chattanooga choo choo?

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Most of your visit to this gorgeous city should be spent outdoors.  Bring your bike or just prepare to hoof it all over town.  There are seven bridges (for seven brothers) that link the two sides of the city, remnants of a long history of racial segregation and socioeconomic separation in this city.  Walnut Street Bridge is a long pedestrian bridge that provides such an incredible vantage point of the wide green expanse that is the Tennessee rocky mountainside while you’re ambling across it.

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Directly across the river on the south side is the Hunter Museum of Art.  You can’t miss it, it’s the dramatic glass building precariously perched on a cliff overlooking the river.  This museum houses a large collection of American art across many mediums from paintings to photography, specially very comprehensively covering Southeastern art.

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One of the most notable features is the sculpture garden that features works by Calder, Segal and the above Butterfield horse.

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After a morning of working up an appetite, head to Warehouse Row, one of the best curated shopping arcades I’ve seen.  This converted industrial space has drawn popular upmarket purveyors (think anthropologie, lululemon, j crew) along side local artisans (Amanda Pinson Jewelry, Lines Orchids, shadowbox paperie).  One of my favorite boutiques, Hemline is located in this mall, along with Southern favorites Tupelo Honey Cafe and Nashville’s Two Ten Jack ramen shop.  Both are great options for delicious lunch fare.

Because there wasn’t enough time to see everything, I chose to head to Lookout Mountain rather than going to the Aquarium (probably a great option if you’re traveling with kids).  If you have a lot of time plan to check out Ruby Falls (a spectacular kaleidoscopic indoor waterfall), or Rock City (trails with gardens and panoramic views of the 7 states that surround this area).  I took a ride on the Incline Railway one mile up the mountain because there’s just no way in hell I could make it up there on my own.

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I love a good funicular, but this one has a pretty steep grade at 73%.  It’s also a bit pricey at $15 roundtrip. It’s so worth it when you get up there though, the views are sweeping and otherworldly.

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From the rail station, Point Park is a little ways down the road.  Check out the homes all around the area as you’re making your way to the fortress like gates of this memorial park.  St. Elmo’s is the neighborhood, but you won’t find Rob Lowe or Emilio Estevez here.  Or maybe you will, these houses are for the very rich.

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Lookout Mountain was the site of the Civil War’s ‘Battle Above the Clouds’. Not one of the most famous, but interesting in its poetry nonetheless.   Point Park is a part of the National Park Service, and is the only memorial to both Union and Confederate soldiers.  There’s a nice museum that has photographs and relics from the era, and there are tons of trails all over.  It’s so tranquil and transcendent when you’re high above the valley below, a world away.

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You came for the view, so enjoy it as long as you can.  It’s truly breathtaking.

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Before you leave town, bid adieu to the riverfront by walking along the waterfront area of the northshore.  Bars, taverns and restaurants dot the shorefront, but a standout for a cool down is Clumpie’s Ice Cream.

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This modern ice cream parlor has classic flavors alongside more colorful offerings such as firecracker and mango chili cilantro sorbet.  Take your cone out back to Coolidge Park, a very popular destination for families and picnickers.

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Pick out a bench facing the river and treat yourself to one last view before chugga-chugging outta here. Choo choo!

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