Chattanooga in the Fall

My Dad is in town for a few weeks. Last weekend, we treated him to a weekend in the mountains. It’s been a few years since we visited Chattanooga, and even longer since we experienced the Lookout Mountain Attractions. Since we’d never visited in the fall, I was excited to see the explosion of color. As usual, I was determined to squeeze in as much as we possibly could in a mere 48 hours.

Ruby Falls

We drove up Friday after work and hit the ground running on Saturday morning. Our first stop was Ruby Falls – the nation’s tallest and deepest underground public waterfall. We took a guided tour which began with an elevator ride down the mountain. We wound our way through impressive stalactite and stalagmite formations, parallel to the original route Leo Lambert took in 1928, which was just 2′ of crawl space. As we made our way to the viewing platform, the sound of the water roared through the cavern and there was a light and music show to enhance the experience.

On our last visit in 2014, the falls were light due to a drought. However the horrendous 2019 flooding in Chattanooga changed that.

Up on the Observation Deck, we took in the sweeping views of the city below. Stinky and Blinky especially enjoyed feeding quarters into the tower viewers. Thanks Grandpa!

Incline Railway

Next, we made our way to the Incline Railway, the mile-long trolley car ride with connects the top of Lookout Mountain to the valley of St. Elmo below. What makes the Incline Railway different from every other trolley ride is that this one is on a 7.27% grade! Hard to believe the first incline was constructed in 1885.

Walnut Street Bridge and North Shore

By this time it was mid-afternoon. After grabbing a very quick lunch, we headed to downtown Chattanooga to walk the Walnut Street Bridge. Completed in 1891, the Walnut Street Bridge connects downtown Chattanooga with the North Shore (my new favorite neighborhood!). It is Tennessee’s oldest non-military highway bridge and one of the longest pedestrian bridges in the world. Amidst a struggling economy, it closed in 1978 but was reopened in 1993 after a major fundraising effort led by community leaders facilitated the renovation. The Walnut Street Bridge helped revitalize the surrounding areas and became the symbol of rebirth.

On our walk to the North Shore, we saw highschoolers taking formal photos, family on bike rides, lovers walking hand in hand, and tourists like us. The views were absolutely spectacular!

The North Shore is an artsy district with many interesting pubs, restaurants, independent stores with locally made goods, and galleries. But our favorite feature were the bronze dance steps like the Cha Cha and the Waltz all along the sidewalk. It was easy to imagine owning a nearby condo and walking to dinner on the weekend. I don’t know what this neighborhood looked like 30 years ago, but it is very desirable now.

After a full day, we returned to our hotel where Grandpa took the kids to the indoor pool and the DH and I ordered Red Lobster to go. Modern conveniences!

Rock City

The next morning we were off to Rock City – a 4,100′ walking trail atop Lookout Mountain featuring a 90′ waterfall, 180′ long suspension bridge, and Lover’s Leap where on a clear day you can see seven states. Described as a natural geological and botanical wonder, Rock City was designed by Frieda Carter, the daughter of German immigrants, and opened in 1932. You can see the influence of her heritage throughout, especially in Fairyland Caverns, which prominently features original German fairy tales.

Fun Tidbits:

  • Rock City is an attraction on Lookout Mountain that’s physically in Lookout Mountain, GA. Because of its proximity to Ruby Falls and the Incline Railway, it is often grouped as a Chattanooga attraction.
  • The many gnomes scattered around the attraction personally belonged to Frieda.

Again Stinky and Blinky were drawn to the tower viewers, where Grandpa had just enough quarters left for them each to get a view of the Chattanooga valley below. They also made a four-legged friend and now Blinky keeps asking for a bigger dog. Ah, no!

South Side

After a great many hours enjoying the scenery and crisp, mountain air, we headed toward the South Side for lunch. If you’ve never eaten at State of Confusion, put this on your list ASAP! The design alone is worth seeing. It’s industrial chic and totally hip. The DH joked that we weren’t cool enough to eat there. Speak for yourself! The food was divine! Grandpa and I had the skirt steak, steamed rice and grilled veggies. The DH had steak and eggs. Ever the adventurous eaters, Stinky and Blinky had chicken tenders and fries off the kids’ menu. Ha!

Similar to the North Side, the South Side of Chattanooga looks like a neighborhood in transition, learning toward the hip and preppy. There were gorgeous murals all around, and more independent restaurants and shops. I definitely plan to explore this area more on our next visit.

Chattanooga Choo Choo

After lunch, we walked over to the Chattanooga Choo Choo. Much like the Walnut Street Bridge, this former train station from 1906 was transformed into a landmark, historic hotel in 1972 thanks to visionary leadership. In mid-November, it was dressed for Christmas. Santa was on his sleigh and we could not resist stopping for pictures, even though none of us were dressed for the occasion. The train outside was decked out as well. We played corn hole for way too long and saw families ice skating on a makeshift rink. We had to reluctantly drag ourselves away for the long drive home.

It was a super fun, albeit short visit. My favorite memories include watching Grandpa tell jokes to Stinky and Blinky in line and hearing them giggle way too loud. Good times!

Read more about our mountain adventures:

Great Smoky Mountains Fun – Laurel Falls and Dixie Stampede

Great Smoky Mountains Fun – Dollywood and Christmas Place

Great Smoky Mountains Fun – Scenic Drive and Chattanooga

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