The Chattanooga Choo Choo dates to 1909 when it saw the departure of its first passenger train. The Choo Choo served as a functioning train station until Aug. 11, 1970, when the last passenger train departed. The station has since found a new life as a hotel, and guests can stay in either a standard room or in a refurbished rail car. There are plenty of places at the Choo Choo to eat and shop, and a 1924 New Orleans trolley whisks visitors around the hotel’s grounds.
The popular Ross’s Landing sits below the Tennessee Aquarium along the south shore of the Tennessee River. The park is home to a river pier, a marina and a natural amphitheater. The green space is home to several festivals and outdoor concerts. The landing, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is the last site of the Cherokee’s 61-year occupation of Chattanooga. It is named for John Ross, who served as the Cherokee Nation’s principal chief and is considered to be the embarkation point of the Cherokee removal on the Trail of Tears.
Thanks to mechanic Ernest Holmes, Chattanooga is inextricably linked to the world of towing. Holmes invented the tow truck in 1916 in Chattanooga, Tenn. Today, those trucks are indispensable emergency vehicles throughout the world. So, it makes sense the International Towing & Recovery Museum would open here in September 1995. Over its more than 20-year history, the museum has amassed a collection that includes antique and modern tow trucks, photos and related toys. Outside the museum stands the Wall of the Fallen memorial, which includes the names of towers killed in the line of duty.
The 2,376-foot-long Walnut Street Bridge, constructed between 1889 and 1891, was the first to connect Chattanooga, Tennessee's downtown with North Chattanooga (or North Shore). According to the Historic American Engineering Record, "The bridge was apparently the first non-military highway bridge across the Tennessee River." Streetcars formerly ran across the bridge, which was open to vehicle traffic until May 11, 1978. The bridge was the site of two lynchings, Alfred Blount on February 14, 1893, and Ed Johnson on March 19, 1906.
Chattanooga National Cemetery is located near the center of the city of Chattanooga, Tennessee. Administered by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, it encompasses 120.9 acres and has more than 50,000 interments. The cemetery was established in 1863, by an order from Major General George Henry Thomas after the Civil War Battles of Chattanooga, as a place to inter Union soldiers who fell in combat.
The Chattanooga Whiskey Company was launched in November 2011, but the company initially distilled through contractor MGP of Indiana in Lawrenceburg, Indiana, because of Tennessee laws. In March 2015, after officials changed local laws, the company opened the first legal distillery in Chattanooga since Prohibition.
In the 1920s, Leo Lambert thought Lookout Mountain Cave would make a great tourist attraction. Once used as a hideaway for outlaws, refuge for Native Americans and a hospital during the Civil War, a railroad tunnel built in the early 1900s intersected the cave’s entrance and sealed it from the public. But that didn’t deter Lambert from searching for the cave. In 1928, he led a team of engineers and started digging an elevator shaft to access the cave. Ninety-two days later, Lambert found the cave, but not before digging through more than 400 feet of solid limestone. But when Lambert realized there might be more than just a cave buried beneath Lookout Mountain, he took off down a tight corridor, and 17 hours later, he found what today known is as Ruby Falls.
What is today Rock City has been a popular tourist attraction for years. But, it was until the 1930s that the Rock City of today began taking shape. Frieda Carter, whose husband, Garnet, fashioned one of the country's first miniature golf courses and a housing development atop Lookout Mountain, built a walkway and rock garden for the people living in the development. To promote the new attraction, which officially opened on May 21, 1932, Carter's husband hired Clark Byers to paint farmers’ barns – for free, if the barns' owners would let him paint “See Rock City” on the roof. The campaign worked; the slogan not only helped to draw guests to Rock City, it also became one of the most recognized advertising tag lines of all time. Today, Rock City features winding, garden-lined trails. But, the highlight is Lover’s Leap, a natural overlook where travelers can supposedly see seven states from one spot.
The Hunter Museum of American Art features works representing a range of genres, including American Impressionism, early modernism, regionalism and post World War II modern and contemporary art. The museum, perched on an 80-foot bluff on the edge of the Tennessee River, opened in 1952 and is located in a building represents three distinct architectural stages: the original 1904 classical revival mansion designed by Abram Garfield, the son of president James A. Garfield, which has housed the museum since its opening in 1952, a brutalist addition built in 1975, and a 2005 addition designed by Randall Stout which now serves as the entrance to the museum.
The Lookout Mountain Incline Railway is one of the most popular attractions in Chattanooga. The railroad, which opened on Nov. 16, 1895, is the last reminder of a once vibrant railroad scene that existed on Lookout Mountain. It's also a great reminder of what a great railroad town (and great town in general) Chattanooga is. Of course, once you take the railroad to the top, you'll be reminded why Chattanooga is the Scenic City.
The Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum is the largest operating historic railroad in the Southeast. Designated the Official Railroad Museum of Tennessee, TVRM trains operate over rails that were first laid in 1856, and trains pass through the 979-foot-long Missionary Ridge Tunnel, an exceptional feat of engineering when it opened in the 19th century.
Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park preserves the sites of two major battles of the American Civil War: the Battle of Chickamauga and the Chattanooga Campaign.
The Southern Belle Riverboat operates sightseeing trips along the Tennessee River. The Southern Belle offers a variety of daily cruise options on its 450-passenger vessel built in 1985.