Visit to enjoy the view

A former industrial center with air so dirty you could barely see two states from Rock City, much less seven, Chattanooga has undergone a transformation in the past two decades.

The redevelopment of the downtown district, in particular, revived areas that used to resemble post-industrial ghost towns. And if you’re up for some serious strolling, shopping and people watching, Chattanooga makes it easy with a pedestrian-friendly atmosphere and a free electric shuttle that carts passengers between major attractions, from the Chattanooga Choo Choo to the riverfront.

Thanks to years of effective rooftop advertising on barns and birdhouses throughout the Southeast, many in the region already know about Rock City and Ruby Falls on Lookout Mountain. In the modern era, the Tennessee Aquarium has become an anchor of the local tourism industry. But there is plenty more to do here. Just try and find another place where you can stay on a 19th-century era riverboat one night and in a historic train car the next.

Civil War sites beckon visitors out of downtown, and the air is much cleaner now, so take a trip up the mountain for a view from Point Park.

Don’t miss

Bluff View Art District

On a high bluff overlooking the Tennessee River near downtown, the Bluff View Art District feels a bit like a hilltop European village with its narrow alleyways, courtyard fountains, inns, cafes, galleries and even a bocce ball court. A sculpture garden on one end of this cul-de-sac starts the one-and-a-half block district, which extends to the Hunter Museum of American Art and Houston Museum of Decorative Art at the other. The River Walk connects the aquarium to the Hunter museum and the Bluff View neighborhood.

www.bluffviewart district.com

Walnut Street Bridge and North Shore

From the River Walk in between downtown and the Bluff View district, you can access one of the world’s longest pedestrian bridges. The Walnut Street Bridge, an iron-truss suspension bridge built in the late 19th century, served as a major thoroughfare for vehicle traffic into the 1970s. Now closed to traffic, the bridge also features a bike lane. Start the trek by daylight and head back at night to take in the lights of the city. At the north end of the bridge is the North Shore, worth the stroll for its boutiques, eateries, coffee shops and riverfront park. Fun fact: People often dance by the side of the road on the North Shore, following the many dance step patterns emblazoned on the sidewalks here. [Note: the Walnut Street Bridge is closed for repairs until spring. In the meantime, you can drive to the North Shore via the John Ross Bridge from Market Street downtown.]

Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park

The military park — established in 1890 and maintained by the National Park Service — contains two important Civil War battlefields: Lookout Mountain and Chickamauga. Chickamauga is in the valley, a few miles southeast of Chattanooga at Fort Oglethorpe, Ga., and home to a 7-mile self-guided auto tour loop road. Point Park on the mountain is part of the Lookout Mountain battlefield. Drive up the mountain, or take the Incline Railway up and walk a few blocks over, to see one of the best views of Chattanooga and the Tennessee River. Troops used Point Park as a prime lookout spot during the Civil War, due to its strategic vantage point over the river and the city below.

www.nps.gov/chch

Chattanooga Market

Every Sunday afternoon from April through December, an old industrial-sized train shed on the south side of Chattanooga comes to life. Local craftspeople set up booths to sell their wares, from jams to wicker baskets and other useful handmade items. Not just anyone can show up, pay a booth fee and sell here, though. Everything goes through an approval process to provide the best marketplace experience, including the food and beer vendors. Each week the market features free entertainment from local musicians and regional touring acts, usually in the folk, rock and bluegrass vein. www.chattanooga market.com

Getting there

Chattanooga is about 120 miles from downtown Atlanta. Take I-75 North to I-24 West, which will take you into Chattanooga.

Where to stay

The Delta Queen. A national historic landmark, this hotel is on a classic riverboat permanently docked on the North Shore. Rates: $79-$179. 100 River St. 423-468-4500, www.deltaqueen hotel.com

The Chattanooga Choo Choo. Offering cabins on Victorian train cars and regular hotel rooms at the famous station, this landmark is one of the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s “Historic Hotels of America.” Rates: $90-$230. 1400 Market St. 1-800-TRACK-29, www.choochoo.com

Where to eat

Lupi’s Pizza. Downtown pizza joint with funky decor, high-quality ingredients and out-of-the-ordinary toppings like roasted corn kernels. Whole pies start at $10.35, toppings $1.25-$1.70 each. 406-A Broad St. 423-266-5874, www.lupi.com

Back Inn Cafe. Upscale cafe serving global cuisine; part of the Bluff View Art District. Entrees: $14-$28. 411 E. 2nd St. 1-800-725-8338, www.bluffviewartdistrict.com

Visitor information

Chattanooga Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. 423-756-8687, www.chattanoogafun.com

Provided by Demand Studios