Chattanooga travel guide: Scenic riverfront, a popular Aquarium and the famous Choo Choo


The fourth largest city in Tennessee, Chattanooga is located in southeastern Tennessee on Chickamauga Lake and Nickajack Lake, both part of the Tennessee River. The city lies at the transition between the ridge-and-valley portion of the Appalachian Mountains and the Cumberland Plateau. Surrounded by mountains and ridges, it is often referred to as the Scenic City. A survey by Forbes Magazine ranked Chattanooga at No. 8 out of 100 in housing, affordability and quality of living among cities that offer you the “Best Bang For Your Buck.”

The first inhabitants of the Chattanooga area were Native Americans. Chattanooga was originally the Cherokee Indian name of a small hamlet, situated near the base of Lookout Mountain, on the bank of Chattanooga creek. In the Cherokee language the word means, "to draw fish out of water.” As the years passed the name was inherited by the town.

During the Civil War, Chattanooga was the center of the Chickamauga Campaign. Union artillery bombarded Chattanooga as a diversion and occupied it on September 9, 1863. Following the Battle of Chickamauga, the defeated Union Army retreated to safety in Chattanooga. On November 23, 1863, the Battles for Chattanooga began with Union forces led by Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, who had reinforced troops at Chattanooga and advanced to Orchard Knob against Confederate troops besieging the city. The next day, the Battle of Lookout Mountain was fought, driving the Confederates off the mountain.

Sometime in the early 1930s, Chattanooga became known as the "Dynamo of Dixie," and inspired Glenn Miller’s big-band swing song "Chattanooga Choo Choo.” For much of the rest of the 20th century, Chattanooga was besieged by economic and pollution problems, though the 1990s saw economic and environmental rebounds, which continue today.

Why you should go

The Walnut Street Bridge Historic area, The Tennessee Aquarium, eclectic shopping opportunities and a collection of outstanding restaurants are enough to keep any tourist busy for many days. When you need a break, settle back, relax and check out the skyline mountain views. They’re breathtaking.

Main attractions

* Raft One Whitewater: Located on the Ocoee River, Raft One is an excellent choice for whitewater rafting and mountain adventuring. The outpost offers a 64-person lodge, bath house and more than 20 campsites. More fun to be had: mountain bike rentals, guided fishing tours and river rafting.

* Tennessee Aquarium: America’s top-rated aquarium offers a River Journey like no other with otters, turtles, alligators, giant catfish and thousands of freshwater wonders. Ocean Journey introduces guests to penguins, sharks and butterflies.

* Raccoon Mountain Caverns: Tennessee’s highest rated cave system, located just outside of Chattanooga, is the Raccoon Mountain Caverns. Nationally recognized for its incredible array of diverse, natural cave formations, it’s considered by many one of the most beautiful caves in the country. Consisting of more than 5.5 miles of explored and mapped passageways, new discoveries are still frequently uncovered. Visitors can choose from either a 45-minute walking tour known as the Crystal Palace Tour, or for the more dedicated spelunker, the opportunity to really get in to some of the tight spots.

How to get there

I-75 North is a straight shot directly to Chattanooga from Atlanta. Driving time is about two hours.

Links of interest

* Chamber of Commerce:

* Tourist Board:

* Hotel/Motel Association: