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Chattanooga, Tennessee, was the last stop for us on our two-week road trip, and I’d say we definitely ended on a high note. Chattanooga is full of amazing restaurants and bars, as well as plenty of exciting outdoor activities that are sure to keep you occupied during your trip! There are so many trails around the area, and if I wasn’t totally pooped out from the our previous stops, I wouldn’t have minded staying here longer! Alright y’all, here’s your Chattanooga travel guide!
NOTE: Because of COVID many restaurants have cut down on their hours, and may not be open every day. When traveling, we found many places weren’t open on Mondays, for example. Some trails were also being shut down because they were getting too heavily trafficked. Make sure to check these places’ websites before visiting!
Where to Stay in Chattanooga
I am not going to recommend the place where I actually stayed. It was a free stay I had from work, and it wasn’t in the downtown area.
A couple of places I found that came highly recommended in great downtown locations were the Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel and the Read House Hotel. These both may be a little pricey though, so I will also mention a couple more affordable options!
Chattanooga Choo Choo
This hotel is currently closed Mondays through Wednesdays to do deep cleanings, so this is only an option if you are going over the weekend. This hotel has a lot of history. You can even stay in a train car if you want to pay a little more (and book far enough in advance, because they book up!).
Read House Hotel
Read House is a little more expensive because it is a luxury hotel. The rooms here look extremely beautiful. The hotel also has a restaurant and bar with a speakeasy vibe and billiards room! That got me excited!
I also highly recommend using Booking.com when searching for a hotel. You can put in your specific dates and specific preferences to find something within your budget, availability, and location parameters!
Both of the hotels I mentioned can be found on Booking.com (sometimes with free cancelation), so make sure you compare prices of booking directly as well as through Booking.com!
Hotel Indigo Chattanooga
I have stayed in numerous Hotel Indigo hotels, and it is always a delightful experience! Their hotels always have a unique twist to the design! The location of this one is perfect for exploring the city, and it’s a super affordable price! Check it out for yourself here!
Holiday Inn & Suites Chattanooga Downtown
Something that is always so great about Holiday Inn is that they have “kids eat free” in any Holiday Inn on-site restaurant! This is so great for families traveling on a budget! Not to mention, the cost of the rooms is super affordable, and you’re in the heart of downtown!
Getting Around Chattanooga
We were doing a road trip, so we had our car with us. Even on the weekend, parking wasn’t too much of a hassle. We sometimes had to feed the meter, but it was nothing crazy. We had to drive to all of the nature activities that we did, so if you don’t have a car with you, you may need to use Uber or Lyft.
As far as getting around downtown, it’s pretty big. You absolutely can walk, but if you don’t want to worry about parking or taking too long getting somewhere by walking, they have the bike rentals I mentioned throughout downtown. You can rent a bike for a day for just $8!
Where to Get Your Coffee + Breakfast Fix in Chattanooga
This was my favorite breakfast and coffee I had in Chattanooga! We got it to go because we were heading to an early morning hike, but the outdoor area looked so cute and I would’ve loved to have enjoyed it there! I got a sausage and egg breakfast sandwich on an everything bagel and the Hummingbird latte to drink. The Hummingbird has house-made pecan syrup, a hint of banana, and is topped with cinnamon and dried pineapple garnish. They have other fun specialty lattes as well, but I highly recommend this one!
The aesthetic here is too freaking cute! You know when you find a place that’s so aesthetically pleasing and you’re praying that the food and drinks are up to par? Well, Sleepyhead Coffee is more than just a pretty face— it has delicious coffee to match! I got a simple vanilla cappuccino and thought it had a really nice flavor. We had to get it to go, but if you have time, enjoy it there and get a picture with their adorable neon sign while holding your pink coffee cup!
Mean Mug Coffee
The breakfast and coffee here were also on point! The barista even put a lovely design on the vanilla cappuccino for us! I had a super basic breakfast (eggs, sausage, and an everything bagel— again), but Remi had the breakfast plate, which is two scrambled eggs, cheese grits, your choice of meat, and toast or a biscuit with housemade preserves. I didn’t get this because I normally don’t like grits, and I prefer bagels to biscuits and toast, but y’all, I messed up. The cheese grits were amazing, and the housemade preserves was like a strawberry jam that was BOMB.
Where to Eat + Drink in Chattanooga
We nibbled here and had a cocktail, but I would’ve loved to go back here for a full meal. I can recommend the charbroiled oysters! To drink, I did their Strawberry Moon Sangria. I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted, and the waitress was kind enough to get me a sample of the sangria to help me with my decision. I normally despise premixed sangrias— however, this one rocked. Had she not offered me a sample I would’ve never known it was premixed! It was very light, had just the right amount of sweetness. The vibe inside the restaurant is industrial-chic, and we couldn’t stop gushing over how much we loved the design of the place. 10/10 recommend for food, drinks, and interior design inspo.
It sounds like it’s just pub food, but the salad I got from here was one of my favorites from the trip! But before we get to the main, you have to start with the pizza pie rolls! This is not a request, it’s an order. They took two things I’d say almost everyone loves, pizza and egg rolls, and had them join forces. Pure genius. My taste buds started dancing just reminiscing about this experience. *Wipes drool off computer*
Okay, anyway, they have so many delicious-sounding salads, but I got the BrewHouse Salad and added onion and salmon (although I think chicken would have been a better choice with this salad). I also subbed out the wheat beer vinny dressing they usually pair with it for their citrus honey vinny, and it was 100% one of the best dressings I’ve had in a long time. Their pizzas are really bomb too, if the rolls don’t give you your fix! And the cherry on top? They have rooftop seating for you to enjoy your food and drinks on.
Okay, this place is so much more than a place to eat, but I’ll dive into that under the what to do section! As far as food goes, on Sundays, they have an all-day brunch menu and limited normal menu. The mac and cheese balls are a must, but pro tip— get ranch instead of the marinara they normally serve with it. For entrees, they were unfortunately out of pizza (but it looked very yummy when we’d seen it earlier), so we tried their boneless wings with their Chattanooga whiskey sauce and their brisket with baked beans and grilled veggies. The baked beans were everything I didn’t know I needed. The Chattanooga whiskey sauce was like a smoky, semi-sweet BBQ, and I thought it had a nice and different flavor.
This is Chattanooga’s first speakeasy. The entry of this place is so cool! Luckily, your GPS will take you right to a phone booth; walk into the first door, where you’ll see a pay phone to your left and another door in front of you. Typically, you would have to enter the correct number on the phone for them to answer and let you in, but you now are just able to enter since they want to limit the amount of touching. I’m obsessed with the furniture, art, music choices (they played it all), and bar presentation. The vibe here is very cool, and unlike anything else I experienced in Chattanooga. The staff was super friendly and the bartenders were craftsmen. Remi got an Old Fashioned and I got a Clover Club. We absolutely loved this place, definitely go enjoy a cocktail or two here if you have the chance!
Clumpies Ice Cream Co.
Clumpies has multiple locations in the downtown area. Lucky for me I didn’t try this until our last day, because I definitely would have been back several more times. They have such unique flavors. I decided to do the peach cobbler, which was yummy, but Remi’s scoop of brown sugar cinnamon coffee cake 100% stole the show. If you’re an ice cream lover (heck even if you’re not) make sure you don’t skip out on grabbing a scoop!
What to Do in Chattanooga
Funny story— I like to get to trails early, like pretty much once they open, so I can avoid the potential crowd. This trail opened at 8 am, and we were running behind because we had to wait a little bit for our breakfast to be ready. So, we actually weren’t heading there until like 8:30 am, and it’s a 45-minute drive from Chattanooga. I was bummed thinking it was already going to be somewhat busy by the time we got there, but like 25 minutes into our drive… the time changed! And we got an hour back! I was so stoked!
Moral of the story, though: if you want to do this hike and get there when it opens, leave at 8:15 am, and you’ll end up getting there on time. Don’t forget that means you lose an hour when heading back, in case you have other plans!
This trail is about a mile-and-a-half-long loop and so worth the rocky trek! There are two ways to begin the trail— you can either start with the waterfall or end with it! Or if you don’t really feel like hiking and just want to enjoy a pretty waterfall, well, then you can hike less than half a mile to reach Foster Falls and experience its beauty, and then turn your butt right around if you choose!
North Chickamuga Creek Conservancy
This was one of my favorite gems from the whole trip. Remi and I stumbled on this and began hiking down and saw this body of water. It was so blue and clear— we were like, “Ah, totally makes sense why they call it the blue hole!” We spent over an hour in this oasis enjoying Mother Nature’s pool. We even found an area that had some natural jets (it was just water running over rocks, but it felt nice). Once we decided it was time to head back to the hotel to meet my mom, we went back out the way we came and encountered a sign that said “Blue Hole .7 miles ←.” It was at that moment we realized we just had the most magical moments in what wasn’t even the main event!
We obviously had to turn back around and begin our trek again to find the true Blue Hole. Let me tell ya, I liked our Blue Hole better. The actual Blue Hole was extremely crowded, and there was absolutely no social distancing. It was a ton of younger kids and some families waiting in line to jump off a huge boulder.
The area where we stopped maybe about .4 miles into the hike was so much nicer and more secluded. We didn’t have anyone around us, which now, thinking back, we should have known that wasn’t the Blue Hole, because the parking lot was completely packed and we didn’t have anyone near us when we were swimming.
We went on a Sunday and Monday in the late afternoon. The parking lot was way less full on Monday. You are not allowed to have alcohol, but you can take food, drinks, non-alcoholic beverages, and a speaker and make a day of it. Had I not wanted to do so many other activities, I could’ve spent all of my time here! The best things in life really are free.
Like I previously mentioned, the food here is pretty delish, but more than that, this place has SO MANY GAMES. You know I love a good game place. Bowling, foosball, ping pong, darts, corn hole… I could really keep going. The place is a huge warehouse with a huge yard as well, so all of the games are very spaced out. On top of that, you have to get your game pieces from a kiosk. The game pieces are sanitized between each use.
We went here on a Saturday night and a Sunday night, and it was totally different vibes each time. I recommend going on a Sunday because it was way less busy. We had the dart room completely to ourselves! Definitely a fun place to have a nightcap and show off a little bit of your competitive side.
Pro Tip: Due to COVID, the next four activities are limiting capacity and availability, so make sure you get tickets a day in advance. The websites show how much availability there is for each time slot, so you can determine from that how long you can wait before booking.
This was SO beautiful! I haven’t done a cave tour since elementary school, so this was super neat to me. It was so cold during the tour that Remi actually asked if they used AC down there. All natural, baby! Prior to the tour, you watch a video giving information on the history and discovery of Ruby Falls, and it really sets the tone for the expedition. The video was so nicely done! They really paint you a love story and plot behind the whole thing. The tour lasted about an hour and a half, and it covered about a mile of paved cavern trail. Walking through the cave was really cool, but once you got to see Ruby Falls itself, that was something else. I saw many waterfalls on this trip, but seeing one inside of a cave was a very unique experience!
Zipline at Ruby Falls
If you are an avid zipliner, this may not be for you. But if you want to test the waters and get a quick thrill, this is an awesome, affordable way to do so! Ziplining is usually around $100, but Ruby Falls offers it for only $20! Full disclosure, it is very brief. You zip two lines, and it lasts a total of five minutes from start to finish. The views are nice, though, and you also get some time to do their rock climbing walls beforehand if you choose. So, it’s really not a super long experience, but it’s a great, cheap way to catch some air.
The Incline Railway
We didn’t actually do this or Rock City because we ended up doing the North Chick Blue Hole for the second day in a row and didn’t have time. This is super close to Ruby Falls, though, and you can actually knock out the last four things on this list within half of a day. The Incline takes you up Lookout Mountain and back. It’s $15 round trip to take the world’s steepest incline! At the bottom, you can explore Historic St. Elmo, which has some unique shops and restaurants. At the top, you can catch beautiful panoramic views from the observation deck
Less than 10 minutes from the Incline, you can experience beautiful views of seven states, some gardens, and trails! Here are some things you don’t want to miss when visiting Rock City!
*They are currently unavailable, but sometimes, you are able to purchase an all-in-one ticket package that includes Ruby Falls, Rock City, and the Incline Railway. It’s typically around $57.
We absolutely loved our time in Chattanooga. I hope you enjoy yours!
What are you looking most forward to doing on your visit to Chattanooga?!
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