Our drive from Stone Mountain Park to Chattanooga took just 2.5 hours- on paper this is a tiny distance compared to the equivalent in UK. Despite the short distance, many things have changed as we crossed the state line from Georgia into Tennessee, as each state has its own set of rules, and so in some cases crossing the state line in USA can make you feel like you’re entering a new country.
Our hotel, Comfort Inn Downtown felt like the ritz compared to our previous home from home in Atlanta. It’s located just on the outskirts of downtown and walkable to the Southside of Downtown, which is home to a number of eating and drinking establishment. There’s also a shop nearby to get some room drinks and snacks. We were happy O’Gormans and memories of that hideous hotel in Atlanta were fading fast.
After a refresh, and a few minutes taking in the fact we were now in Chattanooga, we took ourselves by foot into Downtown to find a beer or three and some food. I’m happy to report we felt much safer here compared to Atlanta exploring by foot.
Our first event was spent investigating three establishments; Five Wits Brewing Co.,
Terminal Brewhouse where I got to try the Chattanooga Gin.
and HiFi Clyde’s Sportsbar where we ate.
Welcomes from all three places were outstanding- everyone here was so friendly and we enjoyed an evening chatting at bars to locals.
Our server in Hifi Clydesdale, a young girl who’s never been out of Tennessee before, was FASCINATED by us English folk. She’s never met someone from England, got extremely excited when we produced our English driving license for ID- federal law in this state is to ID EVERYONE on the purchase of alcohol regardless of whether they look under 21 or not! So you just carry photo ID in this state if you want a beer.
Bailey our server was so interested in us Brits therefore we spent the evening answering her questions, first and foremost “do we drink tea and how do we like their sweet tea?” When we said we hadn’t had any before she rushed away and brought us two big tumblers full- we can report whilst their sweet tea is very nice it bears absolutely NO resemblance to our tea! It’s like sweetened ice tea!
Our meal here was great, buffalo shrimp to start, fried chicken for Keith and bison poutine for me.
We went to bed hoping we’d sleep longer – we woke up at 5am which was an improvement.
Today the weather was taking a temporary vacation. Yesterday was hot and sunny, today was grey and freezing (low teens in C).
Our first activity was to take a ride on the Incline railway- the steepest incline railway in the world at 72% near the top of the mile straight journey up Lookout Mountain. Sadly the weather meant the view wasn’t as good as it could have been but the incline on the top stretch was incredible to feel the pull as this car makes its way up through a mountain gauge.
At the top of Lookout Mountain we took a short walk to the Chattanooga battle exhibition. We enjoyed an informative video outlining about the civil war battle here which was fairly unique due to it taking place generally on the side of this mountain!
This area was an important one in the civil war because of the amount of rail lines crossing here. Sadly the weather had deteriorated so we didn’t go into Point Park to see key areas of what was known locally as the battle in the clouds. Instead we retreated back down the mountain on the Incline railway – in the thunder and lightening and yes it was very very frightening!
From here we drove for an early lunch at Sugar’s Ribs. This is on the outskirts of town, situated on the ridge which played a key role in the civil war battle here. The location however was a coincidence for us- we were here for one thing. BBQ and it did NOT disappoint! The place had a brilliant feel- very retro with duke box etc. we loved it!
From here we drove back into town for a visit to the Coker Museum. This is a private collection of historical cars and motorbikes and was fascinating. There were some incredibly old vehicles dating from as early as 1908. They all looked brand new and we really enjoyed spending a rainy hour here.
Our final attraction for the day was Ruby Falls, which is underneath lookout mountain – 1000ft underground actually! We took a guided tour through the very small and in some places tight and low passages that work their way a mile into the cave which was discovered in the early 1900s.
Once you are 1000ft in, the tight passages open out into this chamber in which a 90ft natural waterfall towers above you. Absolutely awesome- we’ve never seen anything like it!
The walk through the cave takes you past lots of unusual shapes and textures made up by stalagmite formations. It really was a brilliant tour!
From here it was almost time for a rest at the hotel for an hour, but not before a quick ice cream at clumpiest, made here at Chattanooga. It was nice but didn’t blow us away. We love to try the local ice cream though!
After a recharge we head back out into town on foot, this time taking in Chattanooga brewing company
and the Chattanooga Choo choo complex.
Just wow- Americans do this so well. The Choo choo complex is the old railway station. When the last trains from Cincinnati arrived and the station was closed down, a group of local investors brought the station and turned it into an entertainment complex and hotel. The history of the station and its importance is kept alive by keeping it looking very much like a train station still- huge Locomotives stand on tracks, some turned into bars (sadly not open for our visit). Waiting rooms turned into restaurants and even a distillery here too. It was a magical place with railroad paraphernalia everywhere.
We adored our evening here and had a great night chatting to the barman about all things American- including Chattanooga whiskey!
As a big Glen Miller fan, I’ve always wondered what the link between him and Chattanooga was (his famous song Chattanooga Choo Choo broke records in terms of sales). It turns out he hadn’t been here when it wrote it, it was just a play on words. A play on words that became a local phrase and the whole city has embraced it still now all these years later.
We absolutely ADORED the small city of Chattanooga – there is enough to do here to fill a week- we have had 2 nights and one full day. As we leave tomorrow we have one more stop- the historic Chickamauga battlefield which links with Chattanooga battle also.
Our final morning in Chattanooga began with a quick grab and go breakfast from our hotel, the very nice Comfort Inn on the edge (walkable) of Downtown.
We drove the 15 minutes or so out of town to Chickamauga, and started our visit of the battlefield area at the National Military Park office.
The battle of Chickamauga was fought over 3 days in challenging circumstances- the battlefield was set mainly within dense woods which made visibility once guns and canons were fired, difficult. Neither of us knew much about the battles here, but this was rectified by watching an informative video in the theatre of the visitor centre.
Once we’d finished there we were let loose on our own on our car, with a map to navigate our way around the 7 mile road loop that takes in much of the battle area. It was well signposted and there were information boards everywhere. Keith, an avid history fan, was in his element. For me- I really enjoyed and appreciated being there but found the information points overwhelming after an hour or so as there was so much info to take in.
We spent around 4 hours there in total and probably could have spent a bit longer, however it was time to leave Chattanooga, and in fact the Eastern time zone.. we were heading into Central…
Stay tuned for where next.
Until next time