You’ll start your journey through East Tennessee at the region’s southern end in Chattanooga. For many Americans, the name is most familiar from the 1940s big band song, but past travelers and the city’s residents are in on one of America’s best-kept secrets. It’s a city with an exciting, decidedly unpretentious restaurant and bar scene—from lounges to microbreweries—and the great outdoors are always just a few minutes away.
You may want to spend the night at a hotel that shares its name with the famous song, the Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel
. Located in Terminal Station, constructed in 1906 in the Southside neighborhood, the hotel has both standard rooms as well as Pullman Train Cars converted into guestrooms. You can explore other options from historic hotels like the Read House or a boutique hotel like The Edwin Hotel or Moxy Chattanooga by visiting the Places to Stay page on TNVacation.com
and find a hotel or inn that suits your style.
One of the best ways to get the lay of the land in Chattanooga is by getting out on the water. Blue Moon Cruises offers cruises on the Tennessee River
—the waterway that was central to the city’s early history, when cotton and corn drove river commerce. The company has naturalists on board their ships, and their routes include the Tennessee River Gorge, nicknamed the Grand Canyon of Tennessee and located just a few miles downstream.
In the afternoon, explore more of the natural beauty near Chattanooga. Audubon Acres
is just a short drive east of the city center and has five miles of hiking trails. Bring your swimsuit: The South Chickamauga Creek makes a big loop around the nature sanctuary, and visitors can swim, kayak, and canoe here. Head six miles south of town and you’ll arrive at Rock City Gardens
; its collection of 400 different species of plants is a must-visit for botanists and gardeners. The Fairyland Caverns and Mother Goose Village, with their scenes from favorite children’s tales, will appeal to any young kids in tow. And everyone will appreciate the stunning views of seven states and the dramatic rocky outcropping known as Lover’s Leap and its postcard-perfect High Falls. Finally, nearby Prentice Cooper State Forest
has 35 miles of trails, which you can explore on foot, mountain bike, or horseback.
Back in downtown Chattanooga, you won’t have to travel far to experience some of the city’s musical culture. Terminal Station also houses the Songbirds Guitar Museum
. Its collection includes guitars made from the 1930s to the 1970s—electric, acoustic, jazz, bass, and even some banjos. In all, the museum houses 1,700 instruments; those on display are regularly rotated.
In addition to the museum, Songbirds
is Chattanooga’s premier music venue. You may see a band you like or discover your new favorite group or singer.