A Day of Art and Culture in Chattanooga

The 33-acre sculpture garden at Montague Park is one of many public art exhibitions to explore in Chattanooga.
The 33-acre sculpture garden at Montague Park is one of many public art exhibitions to explore in Chattanooga. Brian Wleklinski
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It doesn’t take long to understand why the New York Times named Chattanooga one of its cherished "52 Places to Travel" in 2018. The appeal lies in Chattanooga’s small-town feel, local restaurants, outdoor beauty, and excellent arts and cultural scene. You can spend an action-packed day exploring for yourself just how important the arts have become in the Scenic City. Here’s a sample of how to take full advantage of Chattanooga’s cultural amenities.

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Begin your day in the Bluff View Arts District, perched high above the Tennessee River. Fuel up at Rembrandt’s Coffee House, a cafe with cozy indoor seating and an inviting patio. The owners roast their own coffees, bake breads and desserts, and create fine chocolates in-house. Open daily for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, Rembrandt’s offers a taste of Europe just a few steps away from the art epicenter of Chattanooga.

The Hunter Museum of American Art is the cornerstone of Chattanooga’s vibrant arts scene. The Hunter Museum houses one of the country’s finest collections of American art from the colonial period to the present day. Its mission is to inspire audiences to explore the significance of American art and its role in today’s society. The Hunter Museum also represents 100 years of architecture by combining an Edwardian-style mansion built in 1904, an award-winning 1975 addition, and the 2005 expansion and renovation in coordination with Chattanooga’s 21st Century Waterfront Plan.

Continue your tour in the museum’s outdoor sculpture plaza. Featuring a mix of modern and classically styled sculptures by artists such as Alexander Calder and Red Grooms, the Hunter Museum’s sculpture collection inspires viewers to consider how art can alter and enhance perspectives of the outdoor space.

Also in the Bluff View Arts District, the two-acre River Gallery Sculpture Garden overlooks the Tennessee River and features a permanent collection of sculptures, evolving exhibits, and a formal garden and meditation area. The River Gallery Sculpture Garden is recognized by both the International Sculpture Center and the Smithsonian Institution’s Archives of American Gardens.

After your artistic immersion, enjoy lunch at Community Pie. A locally owned and operated restaurant and bar, Community Pie serves handcrafted Neapolitan style wood-fired pizza, homemade Milk & Honey gelato, and a full bar with 40 beers on draft. Enjoy open-air dining as you watch the world go by through garage doors that open onto the sidewalk.

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After lunch, visit Chattanooga’s Passageways, a community outreach project that brings attention to forgotten urban spaces. By revealing the untapped potential of alleyways, the five Passageway exhibitions facilitate human interaction among the built environment. The passageways are nestled among the 700 blocks of Broad, Market and Cherry streets.

Grass Garden Inversion features locally sourced bamboo suspended from cables spanning the entire alley. Densely displayed and evenly spaced, the bamboo hangs freely, producing movement and sound. Across the street, Urban Chandelier comprises 6,000 triangles that reflect natural daylight hung above the alleyway. Stargaze is a playful and imaginative installation that directs your focus to the sky. Star API provided by the Museum of Natural History’s Digital Universe Data and NASA influences light settings that mimics the current night sky.

Your next stop is Sculpture Fields at Montague Park, a 33-acre, world-class international sculpture garden. A dramatic backdrop of Lookout Mountain makes the park a picturesque outdoor art museum, while the ever-evolving sculpture display makes the park a valuable cultural attraction and educational resource. Montague Park complements the Hunter Museum’s collection of American works and mid-sized or smaller pieces by showcasing global art and large-scale works.

With a commemorative forest featuring native trees and plants, walking paths, and fields perfect for kite-flying, dog-walking, and yoga, the sculpture garden is also a beautiful example of successful land reclamation from former industrial space in Chattanooga’s historic Southside neighborhood.

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Head to the Flying Squirrel, another Southside attraction, for dinner. Completed in 2013 as a bar/restaurant concept associated with the Crash Pad: An Uncommon Hostel, the Flying Squirrel is a favorite of locals and travelers alike. An impressive structure of glass and wood, the Flying Squirrel connects the indoor bar and restaurant with the spacious outdoor patio. The menu changes seasonally and emphasizes fresh, local ingredients, seasonal cocktails, and a rotating selection of the best craft brews available.

Catch a show at one of Chattanooga’s many live event venues. The Tivoli Theatre has drawn crowds for more than 90 years, showing everything from silent films in the 1920s to Broadway shows. On the brink of destruction after the advent of television, the Tivoli was saved in 1962 and is now on the National Register of Historic Places. Today, audiences enjoy live music and musical performances as well as community events at Chattanooga’s "Jewel of the South."

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Finish your comprehensive tour of Chattanooga at one of the city’s many exceptional hotels. The Dwell Hotel combines retro design and a luxurious modern setting to create a swanky hotel experience unlike any other in Chattanooga. Alternatively, the Read House provides a historic and more classic hotel experience. The Read House was built in 1872 in the heart of downtown and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Today, the hotel combines the best of modern amenities with timeless Chattanooga charm. However you choose to unwind, you’ll feel inspired by Chattanooga’s thriving arts and cultural scene.

Written by Alexandra Marie Pitzer for RootsRated in partnership with Chattanooga CVB and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

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