Chattanooga checks all the boxes: mesmerizing natural beauty, a vibrant arts culture, some seriously thrilling outdoor adventure, and irresistible food and drink options. From almost every neighborhood pocket of Chattanooga, you’ll find sweeping views of the snaking Tennessee River and lush green foliage of the surrounding mountains. We never tire of this Tennessee town, and here are 12 new reasons to push it up to the top of your weekend getaway list.
1. The Chattanoogan Hotel brings new dining and drinking hot spots.
The renovation of Southside District’s The Chattanoogan Hotel — now part of Curio Collection by Hilton — is in its final, food-centric phase of completion. Elevated American fare will be served at the first-floor restaurant, Forge, which is set to open this month. The hotel’s rooftop bar, High Rail, is already a hot place for views, vibes, and a selection of elevated bar snacks and creative cocktails.
2. Password, please!
Just down the road, an intriguing new social club has landed in Chattanooga from its popular Richmond and Charlottesville, Virginia, flagship locations. Common House is a business-meets-pleasure members’ club with a stunning coworking space, a handful of hotel rooms, and a forthcoming bar and restaurant. Members and their guests can sunbathe on the lavish veranda by an outdoor heated pool. Opening Thursday, May 6, this social club also boasts an Airstream office, as well as a spacious event space for weddings, and much more.
3. Strong female artists and strong drinks flow at The Kinley.
New to Chattanooga’s ever-growing boutique hotel scene, Kinley Chattanooga opened in April and holds one of the first hotel collections by exclusive female and local artists. The work spans from the outdoor murals to the lobby walls to each guest room. Whether or not you have a Kinley room key, the speakeasy Company within the hotel is a must-visit. Pull up a stool to the long, copper-top bar beneath Edison bulbs and sip your classic cocktail in a perfectly swanky setting.
4. Stroll the new pedestrian Patten Parkway.
A new pedestrian-focused space and square in the heart of downtown, Patten Parkway is nearly complete! In January of this year, hungry locals flocked to the opening of Lil Mama’s Chicago Style Hoagy shop located right along Patten Parkway. And there are many reasons the crowds haven’t subsided. The shop aims to dish out “spunk, flavor, and ’90s nostalgia,” as its website states. Owner Tiffany Pauldon-Banks, a Chicago native, has realized her dream of creating a hip, vibey hoagy shop offering some of Chattanooga’s tastiest sammies.
5. Explore Food Truck Alley and Cooper’s Alley.
Known for its pastries, pints, and old-world vibes, Cherry Street Tavern opened earlier this year in the Instagrammable, art-driven Cooper’s Alley. Two blocks away, the most picture-perfect Food Truck Alley opened in January with parking spots for six of the city’s tastiest mobile eateries.
6. Hollywood stars come to Chattanooga.
Nic & Norman’s is a new concept from director Greg Nicotero and actor Norman Reedus of the hit show “The Walking Dead.” The pair opened the concept’s second location within the Chattanooga Choo Choo in a space they renovated and restored. The first restaurant is in Senoia, Georgia, a town where much of “The Walking Dead” is filmed. On the menu, look for everything from salads to flatbread pizzas, and don’t forget to snag some Nic & Norman’s swag — t-shirts, hats and more.
7. The trendy West Village gets a new bistro.
Recently relocated from downtown Chattanooga’s riverfront to the trendy West Village, Easy Bistro has unveiled a revamped menu with its new address. Owner and James Beard-nominated Best Chef Erik Niel has played a vital role in landing Chattanooga at the top of every culinary list in the South. Easy Bistro is equal-parts visually and tastily appetizing.
8. Find funky NorthShore’s hidden gems.
North of the river in the flourishing NorthShore neighborhood, expect to see lots of new eateries, shops, and watering holes. A local I spoke with called Bela Lisboa “an unknown amazing Portuguese restaurant.” And another is excited about the buzzing whispers surrounding The Rosecomb, a New York City-style cocktail bar coming soon to NorthShore.
9. Experience a new, FREE way to get to Lookout Mountain.
Chattanooga’s Free Electric Shuttle will expand its service this May to include a route to St. Elmo and the Lookout Mountain Incline Railway — a glass-enclosed, mile-long funicular train with sweeping views. From the top of the extremely steep, heart-pumping ride, you can see seven states from Lover’s Leap and hike a few different trails before you ride back down. Don’t forget to get a scoop of ice cream at Clumpies at the end of your trip.
10. Take me to the river!
River Gorge Excursions opened in 2020 and specializes in half- and full-day boat rentals (for up to 14 people) and informative boat tours. Their Tour The Gorge option is two hours of sightseeing through the Tennessee River Gorge while learning about its history and nature from the owner and captain, Jesse.
11. Walk or bike the better-than-ever Riverwalk.
The last connecting mile of the Tennessee Riverwalk will be completed this year, creating a 25-mile loop around Chattanooga. Trust for the Public Land is working on the last mile to complete the 12 miles of the South Chickamauga Creek Greenway, which will connect to the 13-mile Tennessee Riverwalk.
For a culture-filled urban hike, cross the modern Holmberg Bridge or zigzag up the sidewalk to the Hunter Museum of American Art. If you don’t have time to tour the museum, there is lots of outdoor artwork to behold. Then, continue up to the quaint, straight-out-of-Europe Bluff View Arts District where you can visit the River Gallery Sculpture Garden and refuel with a latté from Rembrandt’s Coffee House. Here’s a great guide to making the most out of the Riverwalk.
12. Explore the world’s aquatic life at the Tennessee Aquarium.
No trip to Chattanooga is complete without a trip to the South’s beloved Tennessee Aquarium, which recently launched a Global Passport program: a yearlong celebration of all seven continents’ animals. Print off your “passport” and, after your trek through the aquarium’s two massive buildings, River Journey and Ocean Journey, get it stamped at the gift shop. After you leave, keep learning through virtual events as well. Across the street, Into America’s Wild 3D and Turtle Odyssey 3D are playing at the Tennessee Aquarium IMAX 3D Theater. Just in case the weather turns on you!
This roundup is only the base of the mountain of fun to be had in Chattanooga. As so much opened in 2020 and the first part of 2021, it’s time to discover, or rediscover, this Tennessee treasure.
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