View seven states from Lookout Mountain at Rock City.(Photo: Marla Cimini for USA TODAY)
A compact city with a multitude of outdoor attractions, Chattanooga is ideal for a weekend getaway. Situated just about a two hours’ drive from several metropolitan areas — including Atlanta, Nashville, Birmingham and Knoxville — this city is an optimal spot for road trips and weekend visits. A family-friendly destination, Chattanooga offers a balance of indoor entertainment as well as opportunities to enjoy nature. Although downtown is walkable, the city offers a free electric shuttle that runs daily.
A few must-see sites when visiting Chattanooga:
Located in the historic Chattanooga Choo-Choo terminal (and adjacent to Songbirds Guitar museum), the Revelry Room is a stylish live music venue. With a capacity of 500 people, the space features bands several nights a week and a spacious bar with craft cocktails. revelryroom.com
With two massive buildings, the Tennessee Aquarium offers an abundance of intriguing sea life exhibits in modern facility. Situated on the banks of the Tennessee River, it provides kids and adults the chance to view sharks, reef fish, butterflies — and a variety of animal encounters. tnaqua.com
Hunter Museum of Art
With architecture that includes an early 1900s classic revival mansion connected to a modern 2005 structure, the Hunter Museum of Art has one of the top art collections in the southeast. Set atop a cliff overlooking the Tennessee River, the museum displays artwork and sculpture from the colonial era to today.
A short stroll away from the museum is the Walnut Street Bridge. One of the longest pedestrian bridges in the world at nearly 2,500 feet, it offers picturesque views and connects the downtown and historic north shore neighborhoods. huntermuseum.org
With stunning panoramic views from Lookout Mountain, Rock City features a meandering, 4,000-foot walking trail accented with ancient rock formations, caves, waterfalls and a scenic view of seven U.S. states. Fun for the family, this unique park includes restaurants, rest stops and viewing platforms. seerockcity.com
The great outdoors
With easy access to the surrounding mountain range, Chattanooga is a world-renowned rock-climbing destination. Professional (or beginner) climbers can practice at High Point climbing, a gym with over 30,000 square feet of climbing walls. highpointclimbing.com/downtown
Other popular sports are easily accessible, including hiking, kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding (with rentals available at the waterfront).
Where to eat
Easy Bistro: Situated in the world’s first Coca-Cola bottling plant, this hip, bustling farm-to-table restaurant offers seafood, meat and vegetable dishes featuring ingredients from local farms. Several standouts are shrimp and grits with peppers and fennel, pork belly with kumquat and parsnip butter and sunburst trout. easybistro.com
Flying Squirrel: Cool and comfortable, the Flying Squirrel’s building is as innovative as the menu. With an abundance of indoor-outdoor space, this bar/restaurant features award-winning architecture and includes delectable and tasty delights from falafel to fried chicken. flyingsquirrelbar.com
St. John’s Restaurant: For an upscale dining experience, this sophisticated establishment is located in a historical downtown building and attracts a foodie crowd with its menu and extensive wine list. Spotlighting seasonal cuisine, some favorites include free-range chicken from Ashley farms, local Gulf golden tilefish and crispy Brussels sprouts salad. (A more casual option is the restaurant’s sister eatery, The Meeting Place, next door). stjohnsrestaurant.com
Where to stay
The Chattanoogan: Within walking distance to the Songbirds museum is the Chattanoogan Hotel, a full-service property with 199 deluxe guest rooms and several restaurants including the upscale Broad Street Grille and the Foundry lounge with live music. Amenities include an indoor pool, gym and spa. chattanooganhotel.com