Chattanooga, Tennessee City Guide

Chattanooga | The Fresh Exchange

This year, instead of trying to drive half the distance of America with a 4-month-old, Megan and Hayes flew up to Michigan and the pups and I made a road trip north. It can be pretty brutal to try and just drive the 14-20 hours to Michigan, so I decided to pick a midpoint city and made a mini trip out of it. I honestly love this way of exploring. It removes all expectation and makes the entire trip all about discovering new things. For this road trip, my midway point city was Chattanooga, Tennessee. Before arriving in the city, I had only heard great things about the city but honestly didn’t know what to expect.

All I can say is that I was blown away. I’m not sure why I didn’t know more about this city but it felt like a perfect mix of Durham and Asheville, North Carolina, two of my favorite cities in NC. If you drive from the east coast, you won’t be disappointed. The drive through the Smokey Mountains is one only second to Big Sur in beauty. I drove through the mountains just as the sun was setting and made it into Chattanooga close to midnight on my first night.
Chattanooga | The Fresh Exchange
My plan was to spend two nights and two full days exploring the city before heading out. I’ll take you on my path, and give some suggestions on the way. However, my best recommendation is to check the weather and if it is not raining get outside and explore and when the rain comes, check out some of the places I am going to recommend.
First, where you should stay.
With the strongest recommendation I can possibly give, stay at The Dwell Hotel. Unfortunately, they don’t allow dogs, so I stayed at the La Quinta which was actually the nicest La Quinta I have ever stayed at. So thumbs up on hotels.
Chattanooga | The Fresh Exchange
Chattanooga | The Fresh Exchange
The Dwell Hotel was just opened this year, but the building has been a hotel since 1909. Literally every piece of this 16 room hotel is thought through and is unique in a refreshing way. It feels fun and quirky, but at the same time sophisticated and classy. All 16 of the rooms are unique and can be booked individually. I would recommend making this your homebase.
Chattanooga | The Fresh Exchange
Chattanooga | The Fresh Exchange
Chattanooga | The Fresh Exchange
I began the first day with a much-needed pour-over cup of coffee and raw juice from The Camp House . The raw juice was from the also must visit Local Juicery. The Camp House is also a music venue so it has a lot of room. I think it is probably the best place to get a little bit of work done if you need a remote office. I cannot explain how refreshing it was to get a couple of juices and a great coffee after a late night of driving and a full day of packing the day before.
Chattanooga | The Fresh Exchange
Chattanooga | The Fresh Exchange Chattanooga | The Fresh ExchangeChattanooga | The Fresh Exchange Chattanooga | The Fresh ExchangeChattanooga | The Fresh Exchange
Chattanooga | The Fresh Exchange
Feeling refreshed and awake I left the car in the parking area around The Camp House and grabbed my camera and began walking. Chattanooga’s downtown area is pretty walkable and is really beautiful. The city has a lot of history and it is preserved in it’s architecture.
As I began walking through the city I started to notice how easy it was to get around. There is a lot of parking for a downtown area and everything seems to be pretty accessible. On my walk, I didn’t really have a plan other than ending up at Public House for lunch. So with a couple hours to explore I walked in the Warehouse Row.
Chattanooga | The Fresh Exchange Chattanooga | The Fresh Exchange Chattanooga | The Fresh Exchange
As I was getting close to the door I noticed a lot of people walking in and out with yoga mats and workout gear. I always try and do some yoga when I travel, it’s a great low-impact workout and it keeps you loose. Without much of a plan, I followed a couple yoga mat carrying people up the stairs and ended up at Yoga Landing. I didn’t have any workout closes in my camera bag, so I asked if there were any other classes later in the day. None of the later times worked, so I asked if I could borrow some shorts and jump into the next class.
Chattanooga | The Fresh Exchange
So with a borrowed yoga mat, lost-and-found yoga shorts, and the shirt I wore in, I jumped into a 1 hour 15 minute heated Vinyasa flow class. It was amazing! I have never done hot yoga, but Vinyasa flow is my go to travel yoga. It was the perfect “just say yes to adventure” moment.
When the class let out, I was dripping with sweat and only had the shirt I wore in. So I grabbed a quick shower in the dressing room and quickly ran down to JCrew to pick up a fresh shirt.
Chattanooga | The Fresh Exchange
With my new shirt on, and feeling cleansed by raw juice and hot yoga, it was time to enjoy some beer and fried food. Balance is an important part of travel. So, I headed to the other side of Warehouse Row and got a table by the window at Public House. Which was just in time, right as I got inside the door a huge storm came through.
Chattanooga | The Fresh ExchangeChattanooga | The Fresh ExchangeChattanooga | The Fresh Exchange
Chattanooga | The Fresh Exchange
After a great lunch, I headed over to the Hunter Museum of Art in the Bluff View district. Before walking in I walked across of the many pedestrian bridges that help bring the two side of the city together.
Chattanooga | The Fresh Exchange
Chattanooga | The Fresh Exchange
Chattanooga | The Fresh Exchange
Chattanooga | The Fresh Exchange
Chattanooga | The Fresh Exchange
Chattanooga | The Fresh Exchange
I was really excited to walk through the Hunter and to explore the collections. The Architecture reminded me of my favorite art museum, the Bilbao Guggenheim. The permanent collection is pretty diverse and covers a lot of different movements, it was absolutely worth seeing and the building alone is a piece of artwork.
Chattanooga | The Fresh Exchange
Chattanooga | The Fresh Exchange
Chattanooga | The Fresh Exchange
Chattanooga | The Fresh Exchange
After walking through the Hunter, I headed back to the hotel to change for dinner.
Chattanooga | The Fresh Exchange
For dinner, I was planning on going back to the Dwell Hotel to eat at their restaurant Terra Mae. To be expected, the restaurant carried through the same 50’s vintage pop vibe but kept a low palette of pastels. I just cannot get over how well all of this comes together. After a day of walking, I was absolutely starving so I arrived around 6:30 and realized I was way ahead of the hip crowd. Which was great to get some shots before the seats filled up.

Chattanooga | The Fresh ExchangeChattanooga | The Fresh ExchangeChattanooga | The Fresh ExchangeChattanooga | The Fresh Exchange

After finishing dinner, I grabbed a drink at the Matilda Midnight cocktail bar also in the Dwell Hotel. It had a different vibe, but I absolutely loved it as well. I kept to the bartenders recommendation and ordered an Air Raid and it was one of the best bourbon cocktails I’ve ever had. I would absolutely recommend it.

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I called it a night after that and headed back to the hotel completely in love with the city I had just seen.

After a full day of city, design lover things, I needed to feed my outdoor adventure side and again started the day at one of the other amazing coffee shops Revelator in town.

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With a hot cup of coffee and some trail mix from the car, I headed south to toward the Georgia border to go see Lover’s Leap at Rock City. I’m not sure if this area is usually this rainy, but as soon as I got in the car it began raining again. Which made for a beautiful haze in the trees, so I loved it.

Chattanooga | The Fresh Exchange

Chattanooga | The Fresh Exchange

The drive out to Rock City is absolutely beautiful. It is about 20 miles south of the city, but it is on mountain switchbacks so it takes a bit longer than the average drive, but it is worth it.

I didn’t know a lot of the background on Rock City, but it is actually the park you have to walk through to get to Lover’s Leap. It was raining when I began my walk so it probably felt longer than it usually would, but it takes about 30 minutes of walking to get to the falls. The path to the falls takes you through narrow gaps in between rocks and through underground tunnels. The only thing I didn’t expect, and totally loved the oddness of, was the crazy amount of little gnomes all through the path. I have no idea why they were there, but I think it has to do with Appalachian historical mythology. Either way, it weirded me in.

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Chattanooga | The Fresh Exchange

After checking out the falls, and the gnomes, I headed north to grab a sorbet at Milk and Honey before heading onto Michigan. Unfortunately, it was still raining when I got to Milk and Honey so I didn’t get to experience it with the windows and doors open, but it was still great to grab a sorbet for the drive.

Chattanooga | The Fresh Exchange Chattanooga | The Fresh Exchange

I really was surprised by how much I loved this city. Next time I will bring an extra shirt for yoga, and try and go on more outdoor adventures in the area.

I would love to hear any Chattanooga travel stories or other places you have visited and loved in the area!

This post was sponsored by Tennessee Tourism. All thoughts and opinions are our own. Thanks for supporting the brands that support The Fresh Exchange.

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  1. i’ve only been in chattanooga once, when my friend and i were stranded on our way to bonnaroo a few years ago. (pro tip: if your craigslist carpool shows up in a car they bought yesterday, which is almost as old as you are, don’t go with them.) we got picked up by the sweetest tow truck driver just outside chattanooga. he took us back to his shop, called his boss to see if he could give us a ride to the festival, talked his boss down in price (!!!) for said ride, and drove us through hours of festival traffic to get us there in the middle of the night. so, i can’t say much about chattanooga, but if this tow truck driver (whose name was james brown!!!) is any indication of the generosity of chattanoogans, it’s a place i’d like to visit again someday.

    1. Lindsay – this is literally the best Chattanooga story I have ever heard. I didn’t meet any kind hearted tow truck drivers with the name James Brown, but I now think that needs to be a must do in the city.

  2. … Speaking of which, Chattanooga is home to the International Towing and Recovery Museum. Well worth a visit, despite what you might think.
    We were really impressed with how lovely a town it is. From a former SuperFund cleanup site, the folks of Chattanooga have done a fine job.
    And isn’t Rock City wonderful?! Thanks for the report.

  3. I loved this post. I missed seeing Megan, though. Next time you and Megan should try rock climbing at High Pont Downtown. And when thE little one gEts older you must take him To the Tn aquarium! You will love. Walk across the bridge at the TN River to a fun splash park for the little one. Rent SuP’s on the river. Also close by is South Cumberland State park. Foster Falls is beautiful! Lots of rock climbers to watch, too. And Greeter Falls is a mUst do hike! You can swim in both.
    One of my favorite places is Natahala Outdoor Center, about 2 hrs east. IT Has a GREAT OUTDOORSY VIBE. HAVE bBq lunch a Weeser’s and dinner at River Bend. Local music on Saturday nights sometimes. And you must take a rafting trip down around midday, probably aftEr lunch. The APPALACHIAN Trail cuts Through here also. THe store is pretty awesome. Lots of great outdoors products. They even have a box you can leave stuff for the Appalachian Trail through hikers.
    You can also raft the Ocoee River if yOu are up to a very ADVENTUROUS time!
    Have fun on your tRip!!

  4. Chattanooga! Amazing adventure and refreshing hotel scenery with lot of varieties of food, coffee and relaxing yoga room. the post informative and i will be happy one day to take the trip. thanks.

  5. you have some blanks in your post. in the first paragraph where it says “my midway point city was” and in the last paragraph where it says “this post was sponsored by”

  6. I love Chattanooga!! Ive contemplated moving there because its such a great city. You have all the amenities of a bigger city like Atlanta but still have the smaLl town vibe. The Aquarium is awesome, as is Rock city (you must get some fudge at the candy shoppe) and the Ruby falls. The incline railway and Chattanooga ChOo-choo. Horse and carriage rides downtown and lets not forget all the fine Food venues. You will never regret going to chattanooga!!

  7. i live in chattanooga and work at rock city! im so glad you enjoyed it 🙂 maybe mext time it wont be as rainy

  8. I really enjoyed your report. I grew up in Chattanooga, and have seen it transform from an old worn-out city to a new thriving destination. Next time you go, ride the incline railway up Lookout mt., which is an experience in itself, and walk down to point park, which looks out over moccasin bend in the tn river and parts of the city itself. the park also has several statues from the civil war and many beautiful views. Don’t bother with ruby falls, it’s a big disappointment. but You should be sure to visit the tn aquarium, which has two buildings, one of fresh water creatures native to tn, and the other of salt-water sea life including penguins. it is downtown amid many other attractions and restaurants that you would enjoy. if you have a chance to visit signal mt, you can find many trails and more beautiful views of the river and city from the east. There is also a road to the top called the “s”, because it’s a series of switch-backs and hairpin curves. We had lots of fun driving up and down it in high school! anyway, there’s lots to see in this “scenic” city that I think is the most beautiful city in Tennessee!

  9. It would be really nice if you gave more info about meals-I.e., what you ate, how was the food, what were the price ranges, etc.also, what was in your Air Raid cocktail?
    Would also have enjoyed seeing pictures of the gnomes!!! (And maybe not a picture of sweaty you!!!)

    1. Hi Amy,

      Sorry about the sweaty photo, had to prove I did the yoga class. Good idea on the meal prices and cocktail recipe. I cannot remember those details anymore, but I will keep that in mind for the future. And be careful what you ask for… the gnomes are pretty creepy

  10. I enjoyed your observations about a city I have visited a few times over the years. In fact, I am highly considering Chattanooga as a retirement home! No state income tax there, although the state sales tax is rather high. I would recommend that you spend a little time at the Chickamauga National Battlefield on your next visit. It’s a very short drive from downtown Chattanooga, and loaded with history and scenery. I once toured the park on a bike, which was an awesome way to experience the scenery and wildlife. Take the Battlefield Parkway exit off of I-75 and follow the signs. For a great southern meal, go east on Battlefield Parkway (the opposite direction from the park) until it ends in maybe 2 miles. Go north a short distance (maybe a miel?) and look for Baiely’s BBQ on the left. It’s a family mom and pop shop, and a true southern dining experience!

  11. Over the years we’ve made countless trips from indiana to florida alWays just ‘passing thru’ chattanooga. This spring we decided to do an overnight there, break up the 14 hour trip. We stAyed at the la quinta and wEre equally surpriseD.

    Along the Freeway signs beckon to see rock city or ruby falls or lookout mT, tourIst traps we always thought. But noW that We were staying overnight with 2 of our grandkids in tow, we decided to check out ruby falls. We were not diSappointed. An amazing jouRney inside the mt to a sTunning waterfall.

    So We have decided, eSpecially at our age, to make this midpoint in our journey, our stopping place. you’ve given us so much more to check out each tiMe we’re in chattanooga. Thank you

  12. Went to chattanooga fir the first time this year a d loved meats on main and a bike trip down the tennessee river. Loved your comments! We want to go back!