I grew up just an hour north of Chattanooga but my trips down that way were usually reserved for soccer games and tennis training (my coach lived there). Up until writing my Tennessee book two years ago, I hadn’t really played tourist—not in two decades at least. So while we were home for the holidays that year, we took a little drive down I-24. (Note: You know you’re on the right path when you see the garish fireworks signs littering the interstate near the Alabama border.)
If you’ve ever driven through Tennessee, you’ll notice red barn signs all along the interstates directing you up Lookout Mountain to Rock City, a park made primarily of, well, rock that has been open since 1932.
I have to admit, Rock City seemed a lot bigger when I was a kid (isn’t that generally the case?). We meandered through the whole place in about 15 minutes this time, whereas I remember wasting hours here when I was younger. When we went, I should note, it was Christmas time, and while I was expecting the park to be packed, we had many of the trails to ourselves. Even the elves were on break!
(I’m sure it’s a lot more beautiful this time of year when the trees are in full bloom. You should probably go, like, now before the heat arrives. It was already close to 90 earlier this week.)
My favorite part is the swinging bridge—who doesn’t love swinging bridges? OK, maybe acrophobes aside—that leads out to Lover’s Leap, a giant outcropping of rock.
One of the things I just love about my home state is that it’s bordered by nine others, making quick jaunts to other major Southern cities easy. At Rock City, you can see seven of these states at once: Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee (natch) and Virginia. Though I’m not quite sure how you can tell exactly which you’re looking at.
That night, we slept in an old train car.
There’s something just so charming about the Chattanooga Choo Choo in its throwback to the glory days of the railroad industry.
We both suffered pretty serious food poisoning from a dinner theater whose name I won’t mention (*cough, Vaudeville Cafe, cough*), so the next day we only managed an hour or so wandering through the Tennessee Aquarium before ending our bout as tourists.
Being divers, we’re huge fans of aquariums, and while Georgia no doubt has the best in the world, I think the Chattanooga one is a close second. It has a huge array of North American freshwater species—some sinister, others not so much—which you don’t find in a lot of aquariums.
We used to go here every year for school field trips, so I’m not going to lie: I embraced my inner child for the day and pretended I was back in fifth grade.
Pretty cool to be able to see seven states from one spot – you wouldn’t get me anywhere near that swinging bridge though! Love the mirror photo of you at the aquarium – great effect!
Thanks, Lisa! My mom’s the same with swinging bridges–heck, she won’t even go over stationary ones =) Good thing I didn’t inherit that trait from her!
A ha! I’ve actually been here! Well, to the Rock City portion of your tour. I spent 2 weeks in Chattanooga when I was 17 (with a friend who was going to see her Mom/Step-Dad) and we went to Rock City!! I still have a small carved pony and a paper-cut silhouette of my head/shoulders. Very fond memories of Rock City, indeed!
Ah, nice! Well, you should come back and explore Nashville next (obvs) =)
I have soft spot in my heart for Chattanooga – my Mom is buried there.
Rock City is a hoot! Unfortunately, that ubiquitous TN haze doesn’t always allow a person to see those 7 states.
Love the Tennessee Aquarium, and always thought it would be fun to stay in the choo-choo.
Awwww. And someone said below that you can’t actually see seven states ever! Maybe they should rename this point then 😉
My boyfriend used to live in Chattanooga (we’re both Nashville people now) and we used to go to Rock City and the Aquariums ALL the time. I miss it so much!
The aquarium is so much fun, no matter your age. I think Rock City would be more fun if you had some kids with you (which we did not!).
Bummer about the food poisoning – never fun on a trip. Good thing you got over it quickly.
It took us about four days each! The worst part is that after we got home from Chattanooga, I had a bridal luncheon and then we had an engagement party and neither of us was able to eat (or drink) a thing! Still bummed about that, two plus years later.
I love the way you have fun wherever you go.
I married a fun guy.
Love your variety of fun photos showcasing bits of your childhood memories. I’ve only been to the Memphis airport during a layover but would love to visit this part of the country. The swinging bridge looks cool and staying overnight at an old train car seems very interesting.
Memphis, Nashville and Knoxville–you need to make that happen! Such great cities with a lot to offer.
When I worked at the Chattanooga Times Free Press one of my coworkers did a story on whether it was scientifically possible to see seven states from Rock City, and turns out it isn’t (sad trombone). The geologist or whatever kind of scientist she talked to determined you could see three or four, I think. (Unfortunately I can’t find the article).
Chattanooga is a great city to visit. Bad food poisoning aside, you should explore some more of the local restaurants. There are great places all around, but I especially love many of the restaurants on the Northside of the river.
Way to be a buzzkill, TMG! I kid, I kid…I figured as much. They’re just pulling our leg!
This looks do fun! My guys would seriously love the train hotel and rock city is gorgeous. Love the way your pictures tell such a neat story. Hopefully I’ll be able to add this to our travel plans one of these days:)
I really thought sleeping in a train car was the coolest thing EVER so I can only imagine how kids would react!
i didn’t realize you wrote that book! i have it and love it!
we did that trip for our first anniversary! i loved the train hotel. we still haven’t found a good place to eat in chatanooga. everything i’ve tried has been so mediocre! we are going to rock city in two weeks on our way to atlanta, and we’re taking the pugs! did you know you can take your dog? i’m really excited about it!
Ahhh that makes me happy that you have the book! It was a fun one to write.
We didn’t take Ella as she wasn’t born then! We were there in December 2009 and she came into the world in June 2010.
I can’t even begin to count how many times we’ve passed the “See Rock City” si gns as we’ve traveled I-75 over the years. Now I know what it really is.
PS- Keep embracing that inner 5th grader – you always make me smile 🙂
Mayhem would love it! You guys should stop by there next time you’re on 75.
That train hotel room is just too damn cute for words.
These photos are great! Chattanooga represent! Choo Choo!
seriously, i don’t know how you do it. i’m exhausted just looking at your photos. maybe i’m just getting old.
I don’t sleep. Insomnia is one of my life’s curses! (No, really.)
Your pictures are simply magnificent. I feel as I’m there just with you; they bring me into another era where I looked at everything with a child like sense of wonder. Am so glad you do Photo Fridays! Or rather, photo essays 🙂 Come back to Colorado/ Boulder soon!
I would love to! Colorado has the prettiest scenery and Boulder has the friendliest people! It ties Hawaii for my favorite state.
Wayyyyy behind on blog reading… but I love this set! You look like you are having so much fun. Next time we are in Nashville, we will have to take a side trip to Chattanooga (bob’s sister lives there) and check this place out. LOVE!
Hello! I love your blog! I wanted to see if you had any fun ideas for things to do in Nashville. The Travel Channel is shooting a new show there starting in June and I would love to hear any ideas you may have! Email me firstname.lastname@example.org
Again, I love reading your travel blog. Chattanooga is my town! Well, Trenton, GA but I basically work and shop in Chatt. I love being a tourist in this area. We have not tried the dinner theater. Not sure I want to now. Next time you should try Tony’s pasta, or Nikki’s. Two of my fave restaurants! So many really good restaurants to try!
such wonderful place. somehow, when i visit Tennessee, i’ll try to come there.