Chattanooga: Best Town Ever

Sure, it’s a fun place to say out loud, but that’s probably the extent of thought you’ve given to Chattanooga, Tennessee. Your loss.

Its current tourism tagline is “Best Town Ever,” which a) awww, and b) is actually not far off.

Chattanooga sits on both banks of the Tennessee River at Moccasin Bend. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Chattanooga sits on both banks of the Tennessee River at Moccasin Bend. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Southern spot is the ideal place to lose your iPhone and detach from day-to-day race of urban living.

Chattanooga lies in a valley in southeastern Tennessee between the Appalachian and the Cumberland mountains. Chattanooga sits on both banks of the Tennessee River at Moccasin Bend and is bordered by Signal Mountain on the north and Lookout Mountain to the south which shelters the city from major weather systems.

Tennessee’s fourth largest city with a population of 175,000, Chattanooga has a downtown elevation of 680 feet; Lookout Mountain is 2,388 feet in height. The city is a great family destination with lots of things to do and see.

There's something for everyone at the world famous Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel located in the heart of Chattanooga. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There’s something for everyone at the world famous Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel located in the heart of Chattanooga. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The city has received national recognition for the renaissance of its beautiful downtown and redevelopment of its riverfront.

Chattanooga offers an incredible combination of breathtaking scenic beauty, revitalized riverfront; 13-mile paved Riverwalk scattered with attractions, parks, restaurants, and riverboats; outdoor adventures, rich history, numerous accommodations, restaurants to please every palate, thriving arts scene, shopping, and many annual events that provide plenty of year-round fun.

Glenn Miller gave Chattanooga some extra attention when he performed the big-band swing tune “Chattanooga Choo Choo” in 1941 about its rich railroad history.

Opened in 1895, the Incline Railway transports passengers up the steepest part of the mountain that at its extreme reaches an incline of 72.7 percent, making it one of the steepest passenger railways in the world. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Opened in 1895, the Incline Railway transports passengers up the steepest part of the mountain that at its extreme reaches an incline of 72.7 percent, making it one of the steepest passenger railways in the world. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

From 1909 to 1970, all trains to points south passed through Chattanooga’s famous terminal. Unable to compete with faster modes of travel, trains stopped running in 1970; but the terminal was saved from demolition in 1973 by a group of local investors.

Today, the 1909 Terminal Station, with its magnificent 85-foot free-standing dome, stands as  part of the world famous Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel. The 24-acre historical complex boasts two hotel buildings, on-site dining, retail shops, tranquil rose gardens, and, of course, the finest in Southern hospitality. Sleep aboard an authentic railcar room or choose from a spacious standard room or luxurious suite.

We drove up Lookout Mountain making brief stops at Incline Railway, Rock City, and Ruby Falls. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

We drove up Lookout Mountain making brief stops at Incline Railway, Rock City, and Ruby Falls. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Following a look-a-round at Chattanooga Choo Choo, we drove up Lookout Mountain making brief stops at Incline Railway, Rock City, and Ruby Falls. Since a heavy smoke and haze hung over the city during our visit last November, we decided against exploring these attractions further.

Opened in 1895, the Incline Railway transports passengers up the steepest part of the mountain that at its extreme reaches an incline of 72.7 percent, making it one of the steepest passenger railways in the world. The original coal-burning steam engines were replaced by two 100-horsepower motors in 1911, but other than that the railway hasn’t changed much in its more than 120 years of operation.

Woo, woo, Chattanooga there you are. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Woo, woo, Chattanooga there you are. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Located atop Lookout Mountain, Rock City features massive ancient rock formations with over 400 native plant features and panoramic views. One a clear day, view seven states.

Known as the “Jewel of Lookout Mountain” and voted one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the U.S., Ruby Falls is America’s highest underground waterfall open to the public. The falls crash 145 feet down through the mountain. The tour begins with a 260-foot elevator ride.

Leaving Lookout Mountain we stopped at Sugar’s Ribs for take-out. The Carolina style of barbecue is highlighted by a menu full of slow-roasted meats and wood-fired sides. But the restaurant also serves tacos and potato nacho plates, salads and “mini” versions of your favorite main dishes.

This spot on Missionary Ridge serves up great mountaintop views (on clear days) and tasty smoked spareribs moist on the inside and crunchy on the outside. The prices are completely fair for the quality and quantity of food you receive. A half-slab of spare ribs was $15.95 with a side.

Located on Missionary Ridge, Sugar's Ribs serves up great mountaintop views (on clear days) and tasty smoked spareribs moist on the inside and crunchy on the outside. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Located on Missionary Ridge, Sugar’s Ribs serves up great mountaintop views (on clear days) and tasty smoked spareribs moist on the inside and crunchy on the outside. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Also took home tasty pulled pork. We paired the delicious meat with Texas pintos, turnip greens, miniature cornbread, and a trio of sauces. All the sauces are “Carolina-style” with a vinegar base.

Worth Pondering…

Chattanooga Choo Choo

Is that the Chattanooga choo choo? (yes yes)
Track twenty-nine

When you hear the whistle blowin’ eight to the bar
Then you know that Tennessee is not very far
Shovel all the coal in
Gotta keep it rollin’
Woo, woo, Chattanooga there you are

—Songwriters Mack Gordon and Harry Warren, first recorded 1941 by Glenn Miller

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