What to Do Safely in Chattanooga

Sat. November 28, 2020 12:00 AM
by Jerry Nunn

Heading to Hamilton County to visit Chattanooga, Tennessee can be a long and windy road, but the uphill battle is certainly worth it. This southeastern city in Tennessee runs along the Appalachian Mountains with unbelievable natural wonder to take in, especially when the leaves change color in the fall.

While it may be difficult to decide on where to start with attractions, begin by hiking northeast up to the Bluff View Art District to see breathtaking landscapes and the beautiful sculpture garden by The River Gallery on the cliff overlooking the Tennessee River.

The Hunter Museum of American Art is right there, built on a ninety-foot limestone bluff. Named after Coca-Cola bottler George Hunter, the museum collection ranges from classical to contemporary art and is attached to a mansion originally known as the Ross Faxon House. Works by Ansel Adams, Andy Warhol and Elizabeth Catlett can all be found inside along with traveling exhibits that rotate throughout the year.

For animal lovers, the Chattanooga Zoo is small with only 13-acres, but mighty! Over 300 animals are represented with 130 different species. The zoo's path takes a little getting used to, but fairly easy to navigate. Sleepy red pandas, majestic giraffes and curious tamarins are all part of the indoor and outdoor habitats. The komodo dragons may incite nightmares when spotted, but are kept safely behind glass in their humble abode.

The Tennessee Aquarium packs in even more wildlife with 1000 animals housed in two buildings, one with freshwater habitants and one with saltwater habitants. After checking out the River Journey and Ocean Journey houses, head over to the nearby IMAX 3D Theater, a six-story screen projection system much like the AMC Navy Pier IMAX theater in Chicago, full of entertainment to see.

There are numerous outdoor excursions to be enjoyed in Chattanooga these days, making this the perfect time to come visit. One of the best and most original experiences to try is a vehicle called the Swincar at Adventure Sports Innovation. This French made electric car allows the driver to use hand controls and climb over rough terrain with a patient, personal guide leading the winding way.

Rock City is another popular, natural attraction that is part of Lookout Mountain, Georgia. It is strangely possible to view seven states while wandering in the rock formations on this 4,100-foot trail. The Enchanted Garden of Lights is not to be missed as it only happens seasonally each year, although booking the limited amount of tickets at as soon as possible is strongly encouraged. Four legged pets are currently allowed, but shouldn't be, as one dirty dog urinated in the middle of the dark trail forcing the group of guests to walk through the puddle unknowingly. This is why we can't have nice things!

While some of the Southern Belle Riverboat is enjoyable outdoors on the top floor and also along the open air sides on the lower levels, the first and second floors are largely populated indoor dining rooms. Beware of tourists on the boat as masks were removed during my trip and the DJ even encouraged group line dancing. The staff wore masks during the boat ride, but did not enforce mask wearing to outside patrons. Once again, bad behavior triumphed as many just simply won't do the right thing when left unattended.

"Pardon me, boy, is that the Chattanooga Choo Choo?" Why yes it is and this area is full of the holiday spirit including gift shops, ice skating and a huge Christmas tree right in front for photos at 1400 Market St. The Choo Choo Hotel is newly renovated for guests and is located in the heart of downtown Chattanooga for convenience of exploring the nearby area full of classic architecture.

Breathe in that fresh air at the Ruby Falls waterfall or cross over the Walnut Street Bridge to see how the other half lives along the longest pedestrian walkway bridges in the world. The Sculpture Fields at Montaque Park was also another spacious outdoor activity desinged by artist John Henry with 27 large sculptures on 33 acres.

Finish off your outdoor adventuring by following an experienced guide on foot presented by the award-winning Chattanooga Ghost Tours organization. Bring along your camera to hopefully catch an elusive phantom peering from a window in the historic buildings in the downtown area. Learning about The Read House's haunted room 311 and the history of a scary, abandoned asylum were all a part of the highlights of the evening. Keep in mind, masks are suggested to be worn, but not mandatory on this hair raising tour.

Many locals wore their masks proudly during my visit to this neck of the woods and the majority of businesses required putting on a mask before entry. Overall, the people of this area have adapted well to a terrible pandemic and the warm temperatures have luckily made dining on patios last longer than expected in the latter half of 2020.

Chicagoans have plenty of things to see and do in Chattanooga, outdoors and safely. Simply pack up the car for a long, scenic drive down south or just book a short, direct flight on United Airlines from the Windy City. can assist with even more on planning a real getaway today!