My family went to Chattanooga this year for vacation. Although I had driven through Chattanooga, I had never stopped and visited anything. I must say that I would give the small city moderate reviews after our visit there.
We stayed at the campgrounds at Harrison Bay. The bay is a state park and is a magnificent body of water. One of the best things about it is looking out over the water and watching the people on jet skis and in boats glide over the beautiful stillness. The downside to the bay was that it really is not made for swimming. We did find a little area down by a picnic area where we could slip into the water. We had anticipated being able to swim from a beach or bank, however. My in-laws, who went with us, had been before and had stayed along the bay. We did not get there in time to stay at the bay because some locals apparently paid for a week of bayside spots so that they could arrive on the Fourth of July weekend.
Still we were able to swim for at least an hour each day in the bay while we were there, which was a very nice way to cool off. Being from the Deep South, I loved the heat, since I do not often feel it now. People who are not accustomed to the heat, however, should bring along plenty of water and should be sure that they are wearing light-colored clothing in very lightweight fabrics.
Our first tourist attraction was the Chattanooga Choo-Choo. This place was a little different than I had imagined from the descriptions. It is essentially a shopping district within downtown Chattanooga. The buildings were once a train station, and train memorabilia and factoids decorate the ways of the building. Today it is home to shops, restaurants, and other fun places for tourists to visit. We ate while we were there and purchased a tourist t-shirt for our son.
We also took a ride on the historic trolley. This trolley began its life in New Orleans and made its way to Chattanooga about 50 years ago. Today it is restored and used only for transporting tourists around the train depot and giving them an idea of how the trolley worked. The trip was interesting as we were able to get an idea of the lighting used and the way that trolleys worked. Children will enjoy this part of the trip as they will have a great view in the trolley seats.
The next day we took a ride on the Incline Railway. The railway is the steepest passenger train in the world. At the top, the railway is at a 72.9 percent grade, so you feel as if you are moving straight up into the air. If you have a weak stomach, then this ride may not be for you. Instead you can drive up to meet your family at the top of Lookout Mountain. The mountain is home to many beautiful estates although most of them are guarded by privacy walls so that no one can see the whole house. There also is a lighted re-enactment of the battle that took place atop Lookout Mountain during the Civil War. This re-enactment uses thousands of lights to depict soldiers playing out the battle. There also is a national park that has cannon balls and a magnificent view. This park is only for viewing the historical memorabilia, however, so do not plan a picnic lunch or any roughhousing on the grass.
Our final stop was Rock City. After getting over the initial shock that we could not bring our stroller in (no one told us that when we paid), we found that the caverns were beautiful. The best part was the view of the waterfall along one of the larger rocks. Rock City is not suited for people who have trouble walking for long periods as little of the park is wheelchair accessible or for small children as there are many dangerous spots. The area is pristine, however, just as it was when it started in the 1930s.
Chattanooga does not offer enough for a weeklong visit, but for a four- or five-day trip, it is worth the drive.
By Julia Mercer