Kevin and I recently took a long weekend trip to a cabin in the mountains with a day set aside for visiting Chattanooga. Since this was his first time to Chattanooga, I had to make sure we made it to some of the city’s most famous attractions. Here are three great things to see in Chattanooga if you only have one day:
See Rock City
We drove into the city for lunch then made our way to our first attraction, Rock City. We took the scenic Lookout Mountain Parkway, and hitting this route just as the colors on the trees are changing make this the perfect drive.
If you’re anywhere near a road that leads to Chattanooga, you’ve seen the distinctive sign with three simple words: See Rock City. When the area was discovered by missionaries in the 1800s, it was praised as a “citadel of rocks” with large boulders arranged as “as to afford streets and lanes.” In 1924, Frieda Carter began working on her expansive rock garden on the land purchased by her husband Garnet for a residential neighborhood that never panned out. She mapped out the trail with string and transplanted wildflowers all along the trail. She populated the trails with German statues of gnomes and fairytale characters. Garnet realized his wife had build something that people would pay to see, and Rock City opened as a public attraction in 1932.
Rock City still follows Frieda’s mapped out 4,100-foot trails around and through the incredible rock formations, including Fat Man’s Squeeze and Lover’s Leap, from which you can look out and see seven states. The garden also includes Fairyland Caverns and Mother Goose Village complete with characters from Frieda’s favorite fairytales.
Marvel at Ruby Falls
Our next stop was Ruby Falls, just a short drive down the scenic highway. This 145-foot underground waterfall was discovered in 1928 when local cave enthusiast Leo Lambert was looking for an alternate way in to the sealed off Lookout Mountain Cave. Instead, his team discovered this cave, 160 feet above Lookout Mountain Cave. Lambert and a small crew entered the cave through an opening 18 inches high by five feet wide. Then they crawled for seven hours before finding a space open enough for them to stand in. At the end of the main passage, they found the falls, which Lambert named after his wife Ruby.
Lambert’s first trip to the falls took 17 hours, but a regular cave tour today takes about an hour and 15 minutes to walk the one mile round trip. The caves feature many unique rock formations, but the highlight of the tour is the waterfall illuminated by a colorful LED light show.
Search for Spirits on a Chattanooga Ghost Tour
After dinner, when it was nice and dark, we made our way to Market Street for the Chattanooga Ghost Tour. The tour’s storytellers take you on a haunted history tour of the downtown area, meaning you’ll get a good look at downtown and you’ll get to learn about some of the city’s most historic buildings. Stops include the Hunter Museum of American Art, where you may catch a glimpse of a figure in the window that has been boarded from the inside; an underground parking lot that harbors a spirit in its corners; the Tivoli Theatre with a ghost that must be acknowledged before the show can go on; and the Read House Historic Inn & Suites, which you will actually get to go inside, with a room so haunted they’ve changed the room number and turned it into a storage closet.
What’s your favorite Chattanooga attraction? Let me know in the comments!