RootsRated and IRONMAN have teamed up to bring athletes and their families a series of insider's guides for swimming, cycling, running, exploring, and eating in the Scenic City. In the last 25 years, Chattanooga has undergone a remarkable revitalization. From a dying city in the late 80's to what is now a bastion of culture, art, economic development, and outdoor recreation, the city is regarded as one of the most livable & affordable mid-size cities. Here are 10 recommendations for getting the most out of the Scenic City during IRONMAN. Hope you enjoy, and we'll see you out there!
1. Hunter Museum
What Makes it Great: Situated on an 80-foot bluff overlooking the Tennessee River, Maclellan’s Island, and north Chattanooga, the Hunter Museum is arguably one of the most spectacular in the country, and the beauty of its sweeping panorama is matched only by its extraordinary collection. The museum is an architectural masterpiece, in and of itself, representing three different architectural stages: the original 1904 classic revival mansion, a 1974 addition in the Brutalist tradition, and a 2005 contemporary addition designed by the late Randall Stout. The Hunter’s collection focuses on American art from colonial times to the present day, and provides one of the finest collections in the country for the whole family to enjoy.
Additional information and directions: Open daily from 10am-5pm, admission is $9.95 for adults and $4.95 for children between the ages of 3-17.
2. High Point
What Makes it Great: High Point Climbing And Fitness is Tennessee's premier rock climbing facility, featuring over 28,000 Sq. Ft. of indoor and outdoor climbing. Day Passes, Group Rates, Memberships, and Climbing School by Lisa Rands and Wills Young. This is a climbing facility like no-other, and spin classes and yoga practices are also held on site.
Additional information and directions: Adult Day Passes are $15, children’s day passes are $13, and gear packages are $5. Call 423-602-7625 to find out more. High Point Climbing via RootsRated.
3. Incline and Point Park
What Makes it Great: Rich in Civil War history, Point Park has the most fantastic overlook of Chattanooga. And getting there by riding straight up the face of Lookout Mountain on the Incline Railway is an experience to remember for the whole family. Point Park is just a short walk from the incline station, and you’ll walk past some of Chattanooga’s oldest homes on the east brow.
Additional information and directions: Admission for the incline is $15 for adults and $7 for children. Admission for Point Park is $3 for adults and free for children under the age of 16.
4. Chickamauga Battlefield
What Makes it Great: Does your family enjoy history? If so, Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park, provides a glimpse of one of the Civil War’s most critical battlefields. The park is set amidst the bucolic splendor of North Georgia’s hill country, and you’ll enjoy historic landmarks, including watchtowers, gravestones, and 19th-century artillery. The park is great all year, but autumn offers the best blend of warm sun, cool shade, and fiery fall foliage.
Additional information and directions: Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park
5. Rock City
What Makes it Great: “ See Rock City!” If you’ve ever driven through the southeast, you’ve probably seen this slogan painted on old barns across hundreds of farms. Rock City, which opened to the public in 1932, is a roadside attraction on Lookout Mountain that is arguably Chattanooga’s most famous destination. Early missionaries and Civil War soldiers described this area of Lookout Mountain as a citadel of rocks. The boulders are immense, creating streets and walls through unforgettable rock formations, and Rock City claims that visitors can see seven states from the brow of Lover’s Leap. While some locals today may overlook Rock City as merely a popular tourist destination, Rock City is one of the most geologically entertaining destinations in the southeast. For families with young children, it’s not to be missed.
Additional information and directions: See Rock City
6. L2 Paddleboards
What Makes it Great: If you’re in downtown Chattanooga, the Tennessee River beckons at every angle. If the water is calling you, head to L2 Boards, rent a standup paddle board, and walk about two blocks to the Tennessee River to enjoy a great downtown paddle . You can paddle upstream alongside the limestone bluffs that are home to swallows, English ivy, and the Hunter Art Museum. If you stay close to the Maclellan Island nature preserve, you can look for blue herons, hawks, eagles, fish, turtles and perhaps beaver or muskrats. Floating for an hour is a true Chattanooga adventure, taking in all the city sights from a totally new and interesting perspective.
Additional information and directions: L2 Paddleboards
What Makes it Great: When it opened in 1992, the Tennessee Aquarium was the largest freshwater aquarium in the world, and its construction was instrumental to the revitalization of Chattanooga over the last 20 years. Arguably the finest aquarium in the entire United States, it should not be missed by families looking for an educational setting in which to spend an afternoon. In the Aquarium's second building, which was opened in 2005, visitors can witness salt water species and enjoy a more hands on experience like touching small sharks and sting rays, and entering a large room full of thousands of butterflies. Oh, and there's the famous penguin exhibit as well!
Additional information and directions: The Tennessee Aquarium
8. River Gorge Explorer
What Makes it Great: The Tennessee River Gorge, which cuts through the Cumberland Plateau as the TN River makes its way from Tennessee into Alabama, is a 26-mile river canyon, just a few miles north of downtown Chattanooga. The Gorge, referred to by locals as the Grand Canyon of the Tennessee, is the fourth largest river gorge east of the Mississippi, and the River Gorge Explorer is a high-tech vessel that provides an exciting 2-hour excursion, guided by a TN Aquarium naturalist, into the heart of the gorge.
Additional information and directions: For adults, tickets are $32, for children tickets are $24.50, and for children under three tickets are $18. River Gorge Explorer.
9. Chattanooga Nature Center
What Makes it Great: The Chattanooga Arboretum and Nature Center is unique because it has so much to offer and is so close to downtown. A day at the Nature Center can include hiking, bird watching, treehouse visits, mountain biking, canoeing, animal viewing, and so much more.The property contains everything from miles of back roads for cars, to easy boardwalk trails, to more strenuous routes that go along the mountain side. The gravel trails that stretch to the outer edges of the property are wonderful for hiking with the whole family. They're very manageable, and they take you past dense bamboo forests and along the banks of Lookout Creek's emerald green waters. Kids will love the Wildlife Wonderland, which is home to red wolves, a bald eagle, a bobcat, and several other creatures. There's also 'Snake Tale Alley' which is home to several species of indigenous snakes.
Additional information and directions: Chattanooga Nature Centervia RootsRated
10. Coolidge & Renaissance Parks & the Walking Bridge
What Makes it Great: What are you in the mood for? Rock climbing a fifty-foot wall; strolling across the river on one of the world's longest pedestrian bridges; throwing the frisbee or football in beautiful green space; taking the kids for a carousel ride or to the interactive water fountain; simply enjoying the serenity and beauty of the Tennessee River and the Chattanooga skyline? You’ll find all of the above and more on Chattanooga’s Northshore in Coolidge and Renaissance Parks. Coolidge Park is located along the Tennessee River and backs up to Frazier Avenue, where you can enjoy great food, art galleries, and shopping. River Street Deli is a must, and for dessert, Clumpies Ice Cream is a local staple. Renaissance Park is a recovered industrial area designed to achieve ecological recovery, and it's one of the best places in Chattanooga to spend an afternoon reading outdoors. And if you bring a cardboard box, you can slide down the steeper of the two grassy hills.