IF YOU GO
Chattanooga is less than two hours from Atlanta via I-75 North and I-24 West.
Where to stay
The Chattanoogan. The city’s only four-diamond property, this large, modern hotel is conveniently located between Southside and downtown. There’s a bike stand across the street, a trolley stop a block away and top restaurants within easy walking distance. Rates start at $119. 1201 Broad St., Chattanooga. 1-800-619-0018, chattanooganhotel.com.
The Crash Pad. This boutique hostel in Southside caters to the adventurous, sporty set. Affordable, clean and safe, it has dormitory quarters with sturdy wraparound wooden bunk beds, each with a privacy curtain. Private rooms also are available. Bunk rates are $28 per bed, private rooms start at $75. 29 Johnson St., Chattanooga. 423-648-8393, crashpadchattanooga.com.
Where to eat
Alleia. Rustic, Italian-inspired cuisine that incorporates regional flavors. Owner-chef Daniel Lindley has been nominated for the James Beard Award five times. Main courses start at $16. 25 E. Main St., Chattanooga. 423-305-6990, alleiarestaurant.com.
Urban Stack Burger Lounge. A gastropub whose main focus is burgers and bourbon. The grass-fed meat used for the burgers comes from local farms. The whiskey selection is extensive. Burgers start at $6.99; sides are extra. 12 W. 13th St., Chattanooga. 423-475-5350, urbanstack.com.
Taqueria Jalisco. Authentic, tiny taqueria tucked away on a side street in Southside. There’s also a downtown location, but this one is worth seeking out for its charming hole-in-the-wall vibe. Full meals under $10. 1634 Rossville Ave., Chattanooga. 423-509-3430.
Chattanooga Visitors Center. 2 Broad St., Chattanooga. 1-800-322-3344, chattanoogafun.com.
It’s no secret that Chattanooga’s downtown revitalization — anchored by the Tennessee Aquarium and Riverwalk — has been wildly successful, but other parts of town are now experiencing their own renaissance, including Southside.
If you haven’t been to Chattanooga in a while, you’re in for a surprise. It’s much more than an aquarium, a choo-choo train and those time-honored Lookout Mountain attractions like Rock City. These days, it’s a full-on positive urban experience unlike any other in the South. It’s a place to park the car and hit the streets by foot, bike or trolley, with a big river and a looming mountain providing the scenic backdrop for your adventure in the city.
The booming Southside neighborhood is one tourists used to barrel through to get downtown from I-24, passing boarded up buildings and empty warehouses along the way, only stopping at the Chattanooga Choo Choo. Now, what was once a no-man’s land beyond that famous old train is a hip district filled with locally owned shops, art galleries, restaurants, bars, breweries, music halls, open air markets, even a traditional butcher shop and artisan bakery.
That bakery, Niedlov’s, and butcher shop, Main Street Meats, are next door to each other on Main Street. Along with having a thriving walk-in business, their products are part of the menu at many restaurants in town, from fine dining spots like St. John’s Restaurant to brewpubs such as the Terminal Brewhouse.
The culinary scene in Chattanooga now sports a diverse and bountiful array of eateries using locally sourced ingredients from the many area farms — in short, Chattanooga has become a foodie nirvana where fresh and local is the order of the day.
And, best of all, you don’t have to get back in your car to go on a culinary adventure after you pull into town. It’s easy to walk, ride a bike or take the free electric trolley to get where you want to go in the Scenic City’s core urban area, which includes Southside and the North Shore neighborhood across the Tennessee River from downtown. North Shore also has experienced a major rejuvenation over the past decade.
The free trolley runs between the Chattanooga Choo Choo in Southside, through downtown and across the river to North Shore, making multiple stops along its route. And it seems there’s never more than a five minute wait for the next trolley.
If you prefer to bike on your urban adventure, leave yours at home. Bike Chattanooga is a bike-share program with stations set up all over town. Swipe your credit card at the kiosk, unlock the bike and you’re on your way. The streets are wide and the Riverwalk is bike-friendly. For only $6 you have access to a bike for 24 hours.
Along with the bike-share program, Chattanooga has something else you won't find on the streets of Atlanta: A 15-seat covered bike with a bar. Pints and Pedals (pintsandpedalstn.com) is a small tour company taking patrons on a one-of-a-kind pub crawl of Chattanooga. You and your party provide the propulsion by pedaling in your seat while the guide does all the driving. The bar on the bike doesn't serve alcohol — it's a BYOB tour — but your guide will take you to the best bars and restaurants in town. Kids aren't allowed on the bike, but Pints and Pedals is a fun and safe way for adults to experience the bar scene while leaving the driving to someone else.
When summer rolls around in Chattanooga, so do a couple of weekly outdoor events that shouldn’t be missed on your visit: Nightfall and the Chattanooga Market.
Nightfall is a summer concert series that takes place Friday evenings (through the end of August) in Miller Plaza downtown. Locals show up in droves each week for this concert, at which two bands perform as the sun sets.
The Chattanooga Market is held at the First Tennessee Pavilion in Southside every Sunday though fall. It features local farmers and artists selling their wares as well as performances by local and touring musical acts.
Both events are free. The Chattanooga Market also stages the River Market in front of the aquarium every Saturday.
For live music after dark, Track 29 is a large music hall behind the Chattanooga Choo Choo that brings top regional and national acts to town on a regular basis. It could be hard-core punk one night and a sensitive singer-songwriter the next, so check the schedule before your trip to see what’s on the calendar.
Once a month Track 29 plays host to “Scenic City Roots,” a live radio-TV broadcast that brings top Americana and roots music acts to the stage, sort of like Chattanooga’s own modern version of the “Grand Ole Opry.”
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