Chattanooga has been featured as one of the most beautiful cities in the U.S. on a number of lists and it's not difficult to figure out why. Surrounded by the Appalachian Mountains and bisected by the Tennessee river, nature abounds in this small but mighty city on the rise in southeastern Tennessee. Take one look and it's easy to see how Chattanooga earned its reputation as the Scenic City.
We reached out to a handful of local Chattanooga business owners and professionals to see where they like to spend their free time. Below is a collection of their responses, designed to help locals maximize their free time and make first-time visitors feel like full-time residents.
1. Coolidge Park
If there's one person that's qualified to capture and comment on the beauty of Chattanooga, it's local photographer Christian Grant. She breaks down her favorite way to spend a day in Chattown by saying, “I love to take my daughter to the antique carousel at Coolidge Park. The rides are only one dollar and she's technically still free so we can ride multiple times without breaking the bank!"
Christain goes on to describe this local gem in detail by saying, “The antique carousel at Coolidge Park is in a pavilion so we can go no matter the weather. In the summer, there are fountains to play in right outside and the walk along the river is beautiful! I do photos there for clients quite often. We love ice cream and there is a Clumpies Ice Cream Co. right there by the carousel so we usually stop in for a treat."
If that's not an ideal day in the Scenic City, what is?
2. Frazier Five & Dime
When you're the premier distiller in Chattanooga, where do you go for quality cocktails and stellar food at the end of the long day? William A Lee, Founder and Master Distiller at Gate 11 Distillery had this to say.
“My new go-to spot is Frazier Five & Dime. It's a great restaurant and bar that opened recently on Chattanooga's North Shore."
Recommendations don't come much more qualified than that.
3. Sweetly Southern and Nic and Normans
“Sweetly Southern at the Chattanooga Choo-Choo complex is the largest and oldest gift shop in Chattanooga."
Currently celebrating its 50th anniversary, Owner and Buyer Suzan Boutz explains, “I have everything from unique T-shirts to regional jam and honey. There is even a Christmas shop."
When she's not providing the thriving tourist and local community with sweet keepsakes, she stays around the Choo-Choo complex, and with good reason. “I must say, we love Nic and Normans, which is also at the Choo Choo. Our staff is there all the time for a quick lunch or dinner. The meals are so big you can have half for lunch and half for dinner."
4. Heritage House
“We love hanging out at Heritage House," says Kris Hacker of Hacker Medias. “It's where my husband and I got married, we can take the kids there and our fur babies. It's a nice and relaxing place for all of us."
Offering everything from rugged terrain to refined wedding venues, don't be fooled by Chattanooga's smaller metropolitan footprint. This city is not short on options for excitement, relaxation, romance and more.
5. Joli Jardin Floral Shop and Frothy Monkey
When asked how she would spend a free day in Chattanooga, local portrait photographer, Jessica Pope, owner of Venya Portrait responded with three simple suggestions for the perfect day in Chattanooga.
“Build your own bouquet at Joli Jardin Floral Shop. Get a hummingbird coffee at Frothy Monkey. Walk the Riverwalk."
Why spend the day running around town when you could stroll along the river at your own pace? Go ahead, soak in the sights, smell the flowers and catch a buzz of some spectacular coffee.
6. Bluegrass Grill on Main Street and Sculpture Fields
Photographer, Kelley Hoagland was excited to share her thoughts on the city she loves and it's easy to understand why.
“I do love Chattanooga! My go-to would be breakfast or brunch at Bluegrass Grill on Main Street. I usually get the #1. My husband loves the “glorious grits" and my daughters love the honey wheat pancakes. If we have time after our meal, we love visiting the Sculpture Fields or the Downtown/Southside portion of the Riverwalk."
What better way to walk off “glorious grits" than with a view of Chattanooga's stunning section of the Tennessee river?
7. Chester Frost Park
“Our family loves spending the day at Chester Frost Park," says photographer Liza Reifsnyder of East Ivy Photography. “It's the closest you can get to being at the beach without the six-hour drive. They have a large playground, clean restrooms and places to swim, fish and boat. Not to mention the views of the mountains. As a photographer, I often recommend Chester Frost Park for family photo sessions, too."
8. Reflection Riding Arboretum & Nature Center
“Our favorite place to go on a day off," explains Angela Ballard, Managing Partner at ChattaBrew Tour LLC, “is Reflection Riding Arboretum & Nature Center. We love to hike the trails and look for native wildflowers, and we also try to plan a leisurely canoe trip down Lookout Creek at least once a season. Their spring and fall campfire concert series are always awesome, too!"
Pristine nature and great music. What more could you ask for?
9. Fountainhead Taproom and Creative Discovery Museum
“It may sound cheesy, but I actually prefer my own business for free days if I want food or drink," explains Burt Casey of Fountainhead Taproom. We opened Fountainhead because we loved the concept of being able to pour your own beer in whatever amount you want."
“Otherwise, we enjoy hiking the thousands of amazing trails surrounding Chattanooga. With kids, we like to go to the Creative Discovery Museum."
10. Staying in the Southside
“Living and working on the Southside of Chattanooga has its perks," says Piper Stromatt, Partner and Director of Design at Boutique Living By Curate. These are the Chattanooga hidden gems she loves the most:
- Relaxing spot for a beer: Pax Breu Ruim
- Wine lovers unite: JMac's
- Cocktails and Mocktails: Common House
- Speakeasy (shhh): Unknown Caller
- Taco Tuesday: Taqueria Jalisco
- Entirely unique experience: Exile Off Main Street
- Date night: Flying Squirrel Bar
11. The Daily Ration, Easy Bistro, Mean Mug Coffeehouse, Boneyard Bar and Niedlov's Bakery & Cafe
Photographer Rachael Crowe, of OkCrowe Photography, was full of food and drink recommendations for us. No surprise there considering the ever-growing culinary and cocktail scene emerging in the Scenic City. “My favorites are The Daily Ration, Easy Bistro, Mean Mug Coffeehouse, Boneyard bar, and Niedlov's Bakery & Cafe."
From cold brews to cold beers, baked goods to bistro bites, any of the above Chattanooga gems are sure to kick your time in Chattown up a notch.
12. Tennessee Aquarium
Local photographer, Julie Babb highlighted some of her Chattanooga hidden gems by breaking down her previous weekend.
“My husband (owner of local recording studio Sound Resources) and I recently spent a hot summer afternoon at the beautiful Tennessee Aquarium in downtown Chattanooga. Not only did we cool off, but we also enjoyed strolling through the River Journey and the Ocean Journey complexes. With always something new to discover, the aquarium hosts penguins, otters, and even a butterfly garden. The large ocean exhibits are spectacular. The Tennessee Aquarium reaches out to the community and plays a part in the education of countless children and adults through their many programs and available activities emphasizing conservation and research."
“Across the Tennessee River from there is Coolidge Park — a great place for a picnic, a ride on the artfully-restored, century-old carousel or cooling off in the interactive play fountain. We took the walkway along the river to enjoy the breeze and watch boaters and paddleboarders play."
“And with our day at an end, we watched the sun set behind the mountains of the Cumberland Plateau. Chattanooga is known as the Scenic City. I see why."
Other popular spots within Chattanooga's five districts
Chattanooga's five main districts are Brainerd, Downtown, Hamilton Place, Lookout Mountain and North Shore.
Your personal concierge to Chattanooga, Kacey Swindell, the Director of Sales at MOXY Chattanooga Downtown has plenty of suggestions for people of all persuasions.
“I moved to Chattanooga about four years ago. So many friends and family as well as loose connections, like high school classmates and former colleagues, travel into town and ask for my recommendations of what to do. I created the list below that I send each time someone asks. It helps me cover the wide array of interests people may have while they are visiting."
- Donut mural
- OddStory Brewing Company
- Julie Darling Donuts & the pink wall outside
Bohemian/hipster (in a good way) vibes:
- Bitter Alibi
- Hifi Clydes
- City Cafe (24-hour diner)
Chattown is calling
If you're not sold on why the Scenic City is a great place to call home, I don't know what else can be said to convince you. Get out there and enjoy the great outdoors, the stellar local stores, businesses, bars and restaurants that make Chattanooga one of America's most exciting cities on the rise.