Chattanooga Getaway: River City

Chattanooga offers trendy dining and shopping in a scenic natural setting at the foothills of the Appalachians.

Approaching Chattanooga from the south, the city opens like a gift before you. You’re welcomed by the Appalachian Mountains surrounding the city and the Tennessee River that carves its way through the Cumberland Plateau, creating what many call “the Grand Canyon of Tennessee.” It is this outdoor playground that draws thousands every year to experience the Scenic City. The urban core buzzes with life, as well. Developers and entrepreneurs have rejuvenated the downtown area, which offers several distinctly different dining, retail and entertainment districts.

The Chattanooga Market draws people to the First Tennessee Pavilion every Sunday for food, fresh produce and art (CHATTANOOGA CONVENTION & VISITORS BUREAU)

The Southside
Once the urban section of industry in downtown Chattanooga, the Southside is now the place to find an eclectic mix of art, entertainment, cuisine and people.

This once-desolate area is experiencing a new life, with more than 50 thriving Southside businesses as proof. You can easily spend a full day here, starting your trek at the Chattanooga Choo Choo. Look up to see the magnificent stained-glass dome under which folks once stood to buy their tickets before boarding the trains. Today, the former railway station is a hotel where old sleeper cars—now hotel rooms—are flanked by beautifully landscaped gardens, as well as shops and restaurants. In winter, you can practice your ice-skating skills with a few whirls on the outdoor rink.

On any given day, you can start with breakfast at Frothy Monkey or Niedlov’s Breadworks, go for some Latin cuisine at State of Confusion or a poke bowl at Stir for lunch, then play a round of ping pong at Clyde’s or go bowling at Southside Social. Later, settle into an Italian dinner at Alleia under the direction of award-winning chef Daniel Lindley. You may find yourself sitting alongside a politician, banker or biker, but it’s this wonderful mix of people that adds to the vibe of the Southside.

Public art found along the streets and in galleries showcases the array of local talent and celebrates the artistic and creative nature of the city. Visit Art on Main and its collection of outdoor sculptures, or Area 61 Gallery and check out an eclectic mix of works by local craftsmen and artists. Grab some giggles at The Comedy Catch (at the Choo Choo) or sample the suds on a tour of the Chattanooga Brewing Company.

The Northshore
From downtown, you can drive across the Tennessee River on one of two bridges or walk across the world’s longest pedestrian bridge to reach the Northshore. Enjoy a spin on the restored antique carousel with its hand-carved animals and calliope organ located in Coolidge Park. On warm days, you might want to pack a picnic or grab lunch from River Street Deli or any of the dozens of nearby restaurants. Adjacent to Coolidge Park is Renaissance Park, where you can explore the woods and wetlands.

The Northshore offers a mixed bag of activities with local art shops and galleries, and restaurants where you can dine on tapas or tacos, sip a soda or fine wine. There’s a taste for every palate thanks to a bevy of locally minded chefs and business people who have revitalized this neighborhood.

It’s easy to get around by foot or car, but the city also has a good bicycle transit system with 41 stations in the downtown area. Rent by the hour and cross the Tennessee River via the Walnut Street pedestrian bridge, then head to the Tennessee Aquarium where you can drop off the bike at another station.

Although there are no hotels on the Northshore, there are plenty across the river, including the newest, The Edwin, in a prime spot on the bluffs of the Tennessee River.

The historic Chattanooga Choo Choo train depot now serves as a stunning hotel complex (CHATTANOOGA CONVENTION & VISITORS BUREAU)

West Village
In West Village, you can spend the night in the new Westin Hotel with its sweeping city and/or mountain views from every room. From the hotel, the walk to the aquarium or the children’s Creative Discovery Museum is an easy stroll through town—one that takes you past many of the city’s historic buildings from the 1800s, including St. Paul’s Church, which was used as a military hospital during the Civil War. If the kids need to expend some energy, there’s a climbing wall along the way at High Point Climbing Gym.

West Village itself is small—just one square block—and filled mostly with locally owned eateries, Old Gilman Grill, Alimentari and Citron et Sel, among them. Or venture to the Westin’s 10th-floor Alchemy rooftop bar. The million-dollar view of Lookout and Signal mountains is free; you can enjoy it while sipping a manhattan straight from the smoker.

Weekends in West Village offer a spectacular laser show, rain or shine. The streets are closed to traffic, and the party begins at sundown with family friendly activities, food trucks, wine, beer and cocktails. For more information, go to


Allegiant Air flies nonstop to Chattanooga out of Orlando Sanford International Airport. Or, take Interstate 75 north for an 8-hour drive to the Scenic City.

Riverbend Festival
Ross’ Landing, on the river side in downtown Chattanooga at the Tennessee Aquarium, is the site of this five-day event that brings artists from almost every music genre to perform on five different stages. The 2019 festival begins June 7.

Wine Over Water
Wine Over Water celebrates wines from around the country and takes place on the Walnut Street Bridge. This October wine and food festival benefits Cornerstones, an organization dedicated to saving Chattanooga’s historic buildings.

Chattanooga Market
Dozens of regional farmers, food artisans and artists gather at the open-air First Tennessee Pavilion to showcase their wares and talent to thousands of shoppers and hungry folks on Sundays, late April through Thanksgiving.

Acts from jazz to rock take the stage at Miller Plaza every Friday night. It’s free and fun, so bring the family, including your pets. The concert series, which features national headliners and local talent, takes place May through August.