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Gatlinburg, Tennessee


Tennessee’s most dynamic city showcases history and excitement

Get a taste of Tennessee city life with a trip to one of its most exciting cities. Boasting a rich past, Chattanooga is looking forward with state-of-the-art attractions and a vibrant nightlife.

Lookout Mountain


Alex McMahan Photography

Just six miles from Chattanooga, along Tennessee’s southern border, Lookout Mountain provides the backdrop for some of the city’s most beloved attractions: the historic Incline Railway, Ruby Falls and Rock City Gardens. In addition to its family-friendly activities, this scenic area ripples with American Civil War and Native American historical touchstones. It was at Lookout Mountain that the Last Battle of the Cherokee was fought in 1794 during the Nickajack Expedition (the long-running battle between American frontiersmen and the Chickamauga Cherokee), as well as the 1863 Battle of Lookout Mountain during the Civil War.

In operation since 1895, the Incline Railway is the self-proclaimed “steepest passenger railway in the world.” A rite of passage for locals and visitors, a trip on “America’s Most Amazing Mile” affords sweeping views (on a clear day) of Chattanooga and the Great Smoky Mountains 100 miles away. Train tickets also include a visit to the atmospheric machine room of this mechanical engineering marvel. When it comes to tourist brochure spin, there’s no shortage of hyperbole attached to Ruby Falls. Considered one of the most incredible falls on the Earth, the 145-foot waterfall (located 1,100 feet inside Lookout Mountain) ranks as the nation’s largest underground waterfall and deepest commercial caves.

The iconic falls have been etched in the popular consciousness since the mid-20th century, when seemingly every barn roof in the South was emblazoned with the advertising slogan, “See Ruby Falls.” The slogan wasn’t lost on Johnny Cash and Roy Orbison, who wrote the popular hit, “See Ruby Falls,” in 1969 after the friends and their wives visited the falls on a day trip to Chattanooga.

While it’s not recommended for claustrophobes, Ruby Falls Cave is a surreal journey through a variety of cave formations, including stalactites, stalagmites and columns. With its stellar views of seven states (if the weather cooperates), Rock City completes Lookout Mountain’s triumvirate of attractions. A captivating 4,100-foot walking trail traverses the mountain’s lofty sandstone formations, surreal caves and kaleidoscopic gardens, which brim with more than 400 native plant species. A series of ancient rock displays based on classic fairy tales enchant young children.

Bluff View Art District

Perched high atop a bluff overlooking the Tennessee River, an easy stroll from downtown Chattanooga, the historic Bluff View Art District is a crucible for the town’s artistic creativity, spanning experimental gastronomy, acclaimed performance art, and innovative arts and crafts. A multi-sensory experience, you can happily spend a half-day roaming Bluff View’s gardens, dipping in and out of galleries, and sampling the delicacies purveyed at artisan bakeries, fair trade coffee shops, gourmet delis and innovative restaurants.

The River Gallery provides a showcase for fine arts and high-quality crafts created by up-and-coming as well as established local, national and international artistic talent. Don’t miss the River Gallery Sculpture Garden, which was given a resounding nod by the Smithsonian in its Archive of American Gardens.

Tennessee Aquarium

Dramatically housed in an eye-catching glass pyramid overlooking Chattanooga’s scenic riverfront, the Tennessee Aquarium ranks as the world’s largest freshwater aquarium. Visitors can embark on a virtual journey from the Tennessee River’s source in the Appalachian high country through the Mississippi Delta, where some 10,000 creatures swim, flutter, dive, fly and crawl.

In the Rivers of the World exhibit, artfully designed enclosures brim with wildlife, and visitors press their faces against the windows of one of the nation’s largest collections of North American and foreign turtles. Fun and educational in equal measure, you can reserve a seat on the aquarium’s two-hour catamaran excursions through the Tennessee River Gorge. The aquarium is also feted for its superb temporary exhibits. Past exhibits include Striking Beauties (a technicolor ensemble of gorgeous but venomous species), as well as a rare collection of tropical jellyfish.

Two miles to the east of the aquarium is the Chattanooga Zoo, a 13-acre complex that emphasizes conservation. The zoo specializes in intimate exhibits and education programs. Visitors can learn about the zoo’s far-flung conservation efforts across the globe and see animals ranging from chimpanzees to tortoises. Kids will love the Endangered Species Carousel ride.


Tennessee Tourism

Hunter Museum of Art

Linked to the Tennessee aquarium via a glass walkway, the Hunter Museum of American Art is Chattanooga’s most acclaimed architectural masterstroke. Named after George Hunter, who inherited the Coca-Cola bottling empire from his uncle Benjamin Thomas, the museum’s stellar collection of American art traverses an eclectic range of mediums and styles.

Paintings, etchings, sculpture, photography, mixed media, video and decorative arts span the Colonial period to the present day, with an especially robust showing from the Hudson River School, American Impressionism and early Modernism.

Still, it’s the Hunter’s temporary exhibitions that really draw the crowds. In 2015, the acclaimed “Monet and American Impressionism” exhibit examined how French Impressionism stirred a new wave of uniquely American painting styles and techniques through a juxtaposition of seminal Monet paintings with 25 American artists, including William Merritt Chase, Theodore Robinson, Mary Cassat and Childe Hassam.

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