Moving on and pointing Betsy’s nose northward, we arrived in a new-to-us state – Tennessee – Chattanooga to be exact. Along the hilly highways of the area, wildflowers adorned the sides of the road in an explosion of pink, yellow and white. I was delighted that spring is still in the air, and I loved it!
After settling in at our new home base, we perused several brochures to see what’s to do in Chattanooga. As many cities do, Chattanooga boasted the many rave reviews they have garnered. To validate these claims, we had to do our own investigation to see for ourselves. Chattanooga is nearly surrounded by mountains and sits on the banks of the Tennessee River. Folks here have officially nicknamed it “The Scenic City,” and we were pleasantly surprised to discover that it really is.
Getting around town is easy since they offer a free electric shuttle, but it is very walkable and we opted to use our legs. Leaving our car at a good central point, we headed straight down to the Walnut Street Pedestrian Bridge. It is one of the world’s longest pedestrian bridges and spans .45 mile across the Tennessee River. A sign on the bridge indicates it was built in 1891 and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1990. It was restored and reopened in 1993, and is obviously very popular. Walking over the river, we were able to enjoy scenic views of a city that has been transformed in recent years.
I’m making the bridge my main attraction because when you’re on it you see beautiful scenery in every direction. It’s not only a tourist attraction, but also a connection between downtown Chattanooga and other businesses on the north shore. It is also sort of central to an area encompassing the 13-mile Riverwalk and Coolidge Park. This is really a vibrant and active town with many opportunities to enjoy the scenery while working out, and it’s also full of excellent restaurants in case you want to put those calories right back on.
From the bridge we could see the city’s hub for arts and culture, with the imposing Hunter Museum of American Art on the bluff…
…the Tennessee Aquarium in the riverfront district with Lookout Mountain in the background…
…and Coolidge Park on the north end with more walking/biking trails, and even a merry-go-round in that building to the right.
After strolling through the north shore streets, we went back across the bridge to the downtown area. As we strolled along, we realized the city has designated six sections (or districts), depending on what the area has to offer. The bluff view is the artistic part of town. Since neither of us are art enthusiasts, we skipped the Hunter Museum and instead admired the various art sculptures displayed around the city and at the outdoor River Gallery. This is a good place to feast your eyes on various distinctive art pieces and sculptures – for free.
I later learned there is also a public art memorial known as “The Passage,” which celebrates the area’s Native American heritage. It features several six-foot medallions depicting the Cherokee tribe’s history. In 1838, when the Cherokee nation was ordered to leave their land here, many died on the westward march known as the Trail of Tears. At the foot of the cascading water is Ross Landing, designated as one of the three places for the rendezvous for their removal.
We saw an interesting steeple in the city center district that had been been built in 1881 as part of a large First Methodist Church. It turns out the church was never completed, but services were held in the steeple until 1967 when its congregation merged with another one. It looked kind of strange to see just the steeple in the middle of the city, but it is quite a beautiful structure on its own.
Our tummies were grumbling after all of the walking, and Steve had been talking for a couple of days about a place he found that served excellent fried chicken. Not what we usually eat, but you know how you can get those “hankerin’s” every now and then! We walked all the way across town to a place called Champy’s, and we weren’t disappointed. We were happy to walk almost two miles back to our car after that incredible lunch!
There is so much to do in Chattanooga. We walked it, drove it, biked it and hiked it. We also boated it on the Southern Belle (coming up next) to get a view from the river. By the end of our weeklong stay we were pretty much exhausted – is this what retirement is supposed to be like? Among the mid-sized cities we’ve visited, Chattanooga lived up to its hype – it’s scenic, clean, not too big nor too small, and the outdoor fun is almost limitless. Stay tuned to see what else this cool place has to offer!