While not the most exotic place to visit, a day trip to Chattanooga, TN is definitely underrated. I’ve had the pleasure of visiting this quaint riverside city numerous times over the past five years, and it just keeps getting better. Below I’ll detail what I would consider to be a wonderful lineup for a day trip.
1. Lookout Mountain: Ruby Falls
This is touted by their official literature as being one of the seven natural wonders of the United States, and that assertion is absolutely true. Get to the falls in the morning, right when they open. As long as you are there within the first hour your tour group will be relatively small, which is allow you to experience the falls more intimately.
You will be led on an approximately 1.5 hour tour through caverns within the mountain before arriving at Ruby Falls. Then you’ll be given time to admire the falls and snap a few photos before being whisked back through the caverns to the elevator. The overly commercialized tour and steepish price are still well worth it in my opinion. After all that walking, you will most certainly have worked up an appetite. Take a quick drive around Lookout Mountain and take in the idyllic scenery and plantation style southern mansions, then head to Champy’s.
2. Champy’s Famous Fried Chicken
On a recent trip to Chattanooga in March, one of my travelling companions pulled out a clipping from Southern Living magazine about a purportedly famous fried chicken establishment and suggested we try it for lunch. I’d imagine of all the places to find good fried chicken, Tennessee is probably towards the top of the list.
With some creative navigation on my part we found the chicken joint. I would describe the decor as rustic-turn of the century-southernesque-chic. Considering we were visiting on a Sunday for lunch in the Bible Belt, we found ourselves to be somewhat under dressed – a first for me in TN. Irregardless, our fried chicken, fried onions, fried pickles, and fried sweet potatoes were absolutely heavenly, and you can’t beat the price!! Now head down towards the river, where you can relax and see a more cultured side of the south.
3. Hunter Museum of American Art
This museum is located right in downtown Chattanooga perched atop an 80 foot cliff along the Tennessee River– walking distance from the Tennessee Aquarium. The collections here are absolutely amazing and part of the museum is a historic mansion from 1904 which embodies classical revival architecture, if you are into that sort of thing. Everything is American, which can be refreshing as most art museums in the US feature art from outside the US. Finish up at the museum and head downtown for some shopping.
4. Downtown Chattanooga
To wind down your day trip to Chattanooga, TN head towards the shopping district, which is walking distance from the museum. The best shopping can be found on Cherry, Market, and Broad Streets where you can stroll in and out of antique shops, art galleries, souvenir shops, and everything in between. By the times you finish up, you should be feeling pretty exhausted and ready to head home after having experienced an amazing day in the southern gem city of Chattanooga.