A dear friend recently said to me that “People don’t seem to really enjoy and appreciate the season of life that they are currently in. Always wishing for their babies to grow up, or their teens to be babies. Wasn’t it nice when we could travel on the spur of the moment because we didn’t have kids, or man I wish I had kids!” I really took what she said that day to heart. As much as I want to have babies, and have a family right now, I need to remember that I do have a husband that loves me very much. I need to work on appreciating and enjoying what I have…because you know what…I have a really special life!
So in order to try and stop “grown-up life” and truly enjoy this beautiful life we have, Hubs and I have made a commitment to try and travel to a small local town once a quarter. Just to explore this beautiful part of the country we live in. Each summer we want to take a bigger trip, like this summer we are heading to Jamaica, but why not enjoy what’s close by too….because there is some really beautiful stuff to see and explore right in our own backyard!
A while ago, I shared my thoughts on a close-by city that I really fell in love with…Ashville, NC. I could live there people!!! So today I thought I would give you our run-down on Chattanooga, TN. Take it for what it’s worth, just one person’s opinion, but maybe it will help you make some decisions if you decide to try Chattanooga out for yourself!
1. Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel
Of course, while we were visiting Chattanooga we had to stay in the Historic Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel. The location of the hotel was perfect, and within walking distance of everything in downtown. The lobby had been renovated and had beautiful architecture. But unfortunately, I am sad to say that this wasn’t my favorite part of the trip. The hotel had a cool vibe because it was located in the old train station, and you could stay in the train cars that had been turned into guest rooms…but, everything was VERY outdated – 80’s style. I will say that hotel was undergoing a 8 million dollar renovation, so maybe you don’t want to count it out just yet, but overall it (as it stands today) it definitely makes the top 5 list of yuckiest hotels I have ever stayed in.
2. Rock City
One of the many places we explored while in Chattanooga was Rock City. I really enjoyed walking the trails and seeing the beauty of the mountains. The overall feel of Rock City is slightly too touristy for me, and I wouldn’t go back on my own (one of those “been there done that” kind of things), but I would totally go back with my kids. It really was fun for the day, and because we went in the winter there weren’t too many people on the trails. The best part of Rock City is the top…where you can see 7 states at the same time! Pretty cool!
3. Raccoon Mountain Caverns
My absolute FAVORITE thing we did on our trip was explore the Raccoon Mountain Caverns! We almost didn’t go to the Caverns because it wasn’t on our list of things to do, but we had time so we headed over to check it out…and wow! It was totally worth the time! Raccoon Caverns is a little “hole-in-the-wall” kind of place on the side of Raccoon Mountain. I was a little nervous until the young tour guide opened the door and led us into a world of underground beauty! I haven’t seen many things as beautiful as the underground caverns! This was not touristy at all, and I think that was why I loved it even more. It was really just a bunch of guys that love the beauty that nature provided us and want to preserve it and share it! We only explored about a mile of the caves, and there are 4 1/2 more miles we didn’t get to see yet!! I HIGLY recommend checking out Raccoon Mountain Caverns if you are in Chattanooga! I would drive the 1.5 hours up there, just to see them again and come right back home!
4. The Hot Chocolatier
Directly across the street from the Chattanooga Choo Choo was The Hot Chocolatier. Um…Yummo! It was Valentines day so we stopped in for a special treat. This place had specialty hot chocolates and cakes and candy. We picked up a piece of red velvet cake and a chocolate peanut butter cake. It was delicious! If you are looking for a special sweet treat, and willing to pay a little more than normal for it, then check out The Hot Chocolatier while you are in Chattanooga.
5. Walking Downtown
One of my favorite things to do in a new city is to walk the streets of downtown, looking for specialty shops, local book stores, and of course specialty pet stores. Chattanooga was no different. The city itself is actually fairly small, and the walk was beautiful. As you walk around downtown you can tell that the city is trying really hard to revitalize itself. There are a lot of cool, swanky restaurants in town, but not really a lot of good shopping. And no pet stores…boo. You would walk past a beautiful refurbished building and then three really run-down joints, repeating that pattern over and over. The walking bridge over the river was gorgeous, and the small art district was really beautiful! I give downtown 4 stars because I think in about 5-10 years, this would be a city that will be a lot of fun! Right now it is still a little early in their revitalization process for me to consider it as a city I would like to come back to. I think we saw everything there was to see in our 6 mile walk of the city. I may come back in a few years to see how far they have come, and hopefully someone will open a cute bookstore or pet store before we return!
6. Ruby Falls
Okay – so a hidden underground water fall is pretty amazing. I loved the story of how Ruby Falls was started, but the love of this place stops right there. They have really pushed the tourism here and you have literally 1 min and 30 seconds to see the falls, get your picture, and get moving. Our guide was super funny, but he definitely had to do his job of herding us like cattle through the caverns and out again. The falls were absolutely gorgeous, but I didn’t get the time to truly enjoy the beauty. Honestly, I felt like the mission of Ruby Falls was to push through as many tourists as possible in one day…not my kind of fun. I will return when I have kids so that they can enjoy the beauty and learn the history, but won’t ever go back on my own. Been there – done that.
7. Terminal Brew House
My other favorite thing to do when I am in a new city is to try out restaurants that are only local, that I can’t eat at anywhere else. The Terminal Brew House fit this to a T! The food was local, organic, and delicious! Joe’s bison burger and my fresh-made hummus were top notch! The 3-story brew house had a super cool vibe, and I would eat there EVERY time I visit that city.
8. DeBarge Winery
Of course if you know us at all, or keep up with our blog at all, you know that we added a wine cellar to our home a while back. One of my goals was to stock this wine cellar with wine from tons of local wineries that I toured myself! So when I noticed we had a little extra time I hit Google to find somewhere local. I didn’t have high hopes, because where in the world would you have a winery in the middle of a city? But we did find one, and it was AMAZING! DeBarge Winery has a local vineyard right outside of town, but they also have the winery right in the middle of downtown. Their tasting room was beautiful, the staff was sweet and super knowledgeable, and we LOVED our 12-flavor tasting! Of course we came home with three bottles, and I would visit again in a heartbeat!
9. Natural Body Spa
Our last stop on the way out of town was the Natural Body Spa. We treated ourselves to a couple’s massage that was world class! The facilities were beautiful and calming, the staff was friendly, and our massages were just what we needed for the long ride home. I would totally visit the Natural Body Spa again, without hesitation!
Overall, we really enjoyed Chattanooga. It was a great weekend away from our everyday life. We would give Chattanooga an overall rating. If you are looking for a quick weekend getaway, and you love the outdoors, this may be a city you would like to check in to!