More than four million people visit Chattanooga annually to explore the city's past, take part in activities, and enjoy the region's unique sights and diversions. The $45 million Tennessee Aquarium, the world's largest freshwater aquarium, takes spectators everywhere a river goes—from small mountain streams, to raging currents, to deep reservoirs, to the sea. Displays of thousands of living plants, fish, birds, and other river animals show how water supports life. A $30 million, 60,000 square foot addition, scheduled to open in April 2005, will hold 650,000 gallons of water, with ten-foot sharks, stingrays, and barracuda swimming among coral formations. This expansion is only part of a $120 million Waterfront Plan scheduled for completion by May 2005, which includes a $19.5 million expansion to the Hunter Museum of American Art, and a $3 million renovation and enhancement to the Children's Creative Discovery Museum, as well as other riverside revitalization projects. The story of Chattanooga's rich cultural, historical, and geographical significance is related through chronologically progressive exhibits at Ross's Landing Park and Plaza, which is adjacent to the Aquarium. The Chattanooga Regional History Museum was established in 1978 to collect, preserve, and exhibit the written, spoken, pictorial, and artifactual record of Chattanooga and the surrounding region.
The Chattanooga Zoo at Warner Park presents a variety of exotic animals and birds, including primates, jaguars, nocturnal animals, and a petting zoo, as well as classes about animal life. Its newest exhibit, "Himalayan Passage" features red pandas. The Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum offers an impressive collection of classic railroad memorabilia, including a 1911 steam locomotive, a 1917 office car with three bedrooms, a 1926 dining car, a Pullman sleeping car, and a 1929 wooden caboose. Visitors can ride the train on its 40-acre site with its four railroad bridges and a historic tunnel through Missionary Ridge; four-hour roundtrip train rides to historic Chickamauga, Georgia, are also available. The National Knife Collector Association and Museum, which promotes the hobby of knife collecting, has many interesting knives on display.
The Chattanooga Choo-Choo is a 30-acre complex offering accommodations in restored Victorian railroad cars, dining options including dinner in an elegant dining car, browsing in unique shops, and touring the entertainment complex via old-fashioned trolley. At Ross's Landing, the sternwheeler Southern Belle, which can carry 500 people, conducts excursions up the Tennessee River on its dining and entertainment cruises. The river's newest excursion boat, the ChattanoogaStar, is an authentic side paddle wheeler that can accommodate up to 145 passengers.
The Lookout Mountain Incline Railway ascends and descends the mountain every half hour with trolley-style rail-cars, offering panoramic views of the city. One of the steepest railways in the world, its gradient reaches 72.7 percent. The self-guided tour of famous Rock City on Lookout Mountain reveals giant prehistoric rock formations, breathtaking views, and visits to Fairyland Caverns and Mother Goose Village, where fairy tales are celebrated. Ruby Falls-Lookout Mountain Caverns is a cave providing a view of a 145-foot waterfall that is 1,120 feet underground. The Tennessee Wildlife Center is an environmental educational facility featuring exhibits such as a wildlife diorama, interactive computer games, and a crawl-in beaver lodge, as well as a 1,200-foot Wetland Boardwalk, and a Wildlife Rehabilitation laboratory. Adjoining Lookout Mountain is Reflection Riding, a 300-acre nature preserve that permits visitors to drive through a grand variety of trees, shrubs, and wildflowers similar to those in an English landscape.
Straddling the Tennessee-Georgia border, the 9,000-acre Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park is the nation's oldest and largest preserved area of Civil War sites. Chickamauga Battlefield unit offers "living history" programs, the Fuller gun collection, a self-guided tour, and a multimedia presentation on the battle. Lookout Mountain unit offers free programs, the Craven's House Museum, and magnificent views from Point Park. The National Medal of Honor Museum displays memorabilia, artifacts, equipment, and history about the Medal of Honor. An exciting three-dimensional presentation of Chattanooga's Civil War history is presented at the Battles for Chattanooga Museum, which features 5,000 miniature figures, 650 lights, sound effects, and details of major battles. Signal Point, atop Signal Mountain, is the site where messages were relayed to clear the way for supplies coming down the Tennessee River for Union soldiers during the Civil War.
A number of interesting historical houses and buildings are located around the city. The Brabson House, built in 1857 and later used as a hospital during the 1878 yellow fever epidemic, was destroyed by fire in 1881 and rebuilt in the early 1990s. The John Ross House, a memorial to the man who was the greatest chief of the Cherokee Nation, was built in 1779 by Ross's grandfather. Craven's House, built circa 1854, was the center of action in the Battle of Lookout Mountain, and the 1840s Gordon Lee Mansion served as headquarters to General William Rosecrans in 1863 as well as serving as a soldiers' hospital. After the Confederate evacuation of Chattanooga in 1863, General Braxton Bragg established his headquarters at the Lee & Gordon's Mill.
Other area attractions include water fun at the Alpine Slide, views of the underground lake of Lost Sea at Sweet-water, tours of the Jack Daniels Distillery at Lynchburg, and the games and rides at Lake Winnepesaukah Amusement Park.
Arts and Culture
Chattanooga has a very active performing arts community. The Symphony and Opera Association presents symphony concerts, operas, chamber music, pops programs, young people's concerts and operas, and youth orchestras, with guest artists of international renown at the Tivoli Theatre. The restored Tivoli is a fine example of 1920s baroque elegance. With its ample stage depth and first-rate backstage and rehearsal facilities, the theater is the site of some of the city's major entertainment and cultural events, including touring Broadway productions. The Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Auditorium was built in 1924 and rededicated in 1991 after being refashioned into a theatrical venue with a sloped concert hall with permanent seating. The auditorium is an ideal venue for concerts, theatrical performances, meetings, andconventions.
Founded in 1923 as the Little Theatre of Chattanooga, the Chattanooga Theatre Centre is a 40,000 square-foot facility with a main stage seating 380 and a smaller Circle stage seating 200. The Theatre Center offers a variety of locally produced programs featuring professionally directed local and regional talent in its eight main stage shows, four smaller and more adventurous Circle Series shows, and four youth theater productions each year. The Backstage Dinner Playhouse, the Mountain Opry, and other area and regional theaters offer a variety of locally produced performances year-round.
Chattanooga has a number of dance companies including Ballet Tennessee, Chattanooga Ballet, Contemporary Performing Arts of Chattanooga, and Dance Theatre Workshop. These companies present a variety of programs from the holiday classic The Nutcracker to avant garde drama. The Chattanooga Boys Choir, which includes approximately 200 boys in the program each year, and Girls Choir, composed of nearly 150 girls, travel throughout the United States and abroad. Rock and popular concerts are held at Memorial Auditorium.
The Heritage Center features the 264-seat Bessie Smith Performance Hall, a legacy of the city's "Empress of the Blues." Adjacent to the Bessie Smith Hall is the Chattanooga African-American History Museum, which contains a library and a collection of artifacts including African art, original sculptures, paintings, musical recordings, and local African American newspapers. The Houston Museum of Decorative Arts is famous for its outstanding collection of American decorative arts assembled by Anna S. Houston, a local antiques dealer. The museum features beautiful pieces of porcelain, glass, furniture, and ceramics. With one of the largest and finest collections of American art in the Southeast, the Hunter Museum of American Art is situated high on a bluff overlooking the Tennessee River. The museum houses masterworks from Thomas Hart Benton, Winslow Homer, and Andrew Wyeth. As of March 2005, the museum is undergoing a $19.5 million expansion and renovation; its new addition will be home to temporary exhibits and galleries.
The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (UTC) provides the community with numerous offerings in the cultural and fine arts. The University Theatre presents several stage productions annually while faculty, student, and guest musicians participate in the Cadek Department of Music and Conserva-tory offerings. The University's Cress Gallery of Art, part of the UTC Fine Arts Center, houses visiting exhibitions as well as local and student art work. Patten Performances, formerly The Dorothy Patten Fine Arts Series, hosts top quality theatrical, concert, and dance presentations.
Festivals and Holidays
Held in May, the two-day 4 Bridges Arts Festival celebrates the visual arts. The annual River Roast, also in May, draws thousands to the riverfront and features a barbeque, volleyball tournament, and Mayor's Regatta. The Bessie Smith Traditional Jazz Festival, another May event, is a three-day jazz extravaganza held at the Chattanooga Choo Choo's Station House. One of the recreational highlights in Chattanooga is June's nine-day Riverbend Festival, a musical celebration on the riverfront at Ross's Landing, which draws more than 540,000 people each year to see top-name entertainers. Musical performances on its six stages range from jazz, blues, rock, folk, country, bluegrass, classic and more. At the Southern Brewers Festival in Auguest, microbrewers from across the country offer more than 30 ales and lagers; the event also features music and food. October brings visitors from across the country to attend the two-week Fall Color Cruise and Folk Festival, which includes boat trips down the Tennessee River, food events, music, and crafts. The holiday season is highlighted by Christmas on the River, a parade of festively decorated lighted boats on the Tennessee River.
Sports for the Spectator
Chattanooga boasts professional sports teams in baseball (Chattanooga Lookouts, Class AA Southern League) and football (Chattanooga Locomotion, National Women's Football Association Southern Division), and major collegiate sports entertainment at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (UTC). The Lookouts play in the 6,500-seat BellSouth Park, which opened for the 2000 season, while as of April 2005 the Locomotion will play home games at Howard Stadium, at Howard School of Academics and Technology. UTC's NCAA Division I basketball Mocs play at the McKenzie Arena, formerly called the UTC Arena (capacity 11,218), while the Division I-AA Mocs football team plays its Southern Conference schedule at the 20,668-seat Max Finley Stadium, the site for the annual NCAA Division I-AA National Football Championship Games. UTC also fields NCAA Division I teams in cross country, golf, softball, tennis, indoor/outdoor track and field, volleyball, and wrestling.
Sports for the Participant
Surrounded by parks, mountains, and nearly 50,000 acres of rivers and lakes, the Chattanooga area offers recreation opportunities of all kinds. The mountains circling the city feature camping, rock climbing, rappelling, and spelunking. The mountain rivers offer exciting white water rafting, kayaking, and canoeing. Fishing on the Tennessee River is always an attraction, and nearby Lake Chickamauga provides more than 35,000 acres of water for sailing, water skiing, and rowing. Another site for water enthusiasts is the 192 miles of shoreline on Nickajack Lake.
More than 200 tennis courts, as well as hundreds of basketball courts, softball and baseball fields, dot city neighborhoods. Golfers are beckoned by 25 area golf courses. Chattanooga has dozens of recreation centers and supervised playgrounds to occupy the young set. Around the city, organized team sports include softball, baseball, wrestling, polo, boxing, soccer, rugby, gymnastics, and swimming, while sporting clubs center on hunting, fishing, running, biking, and skiing.
The Tennessee Riverwalk, a scenic pedestrian pathway connecting a string of parks and playgrounds along the riverfront, was largely the reason for that designation. The Passage, slated to open in May of 2005, is a new pedestrian link between the river and the downtown area. One of the jewels in the Tennessee Riverpark system is Coolidge Park, located on Chattanooga's north shore waterfront. The 6-acre park is named in honor of Charles Coolidge, a World War II Medal of Honor recipient. The park boasts a restored Denzel carousel originally built in 1895 for Atlanta's Grant Park; it features 52 intricately painted, hand-carved animals created by students of artisan Bud Ellis at Horsin' Around, a year-round carousel animal carving school in Chattanooga.
Shopping and Dining
Chattanooga is a shopping mecca for a region covering a 50-mile radius in Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia. Residents are served by more than 40 shopping centers, including several enclosed major malls. Hamilton Place, with more than 200 stores, is the state's largest shopping mall; it is located in southeast Hamilton County. Rehabilitation efforts in the city's downtown have restored its vitality as a popular shopping and dining site. There, Warehouse Row, a $30 million upscale outlet complex, features designer shops located in 8 cavernous former turn-of-the-century railroad warehouses. Chattanooga's riverfront area has numerous shops alongside piers, boatslips, and waterfront parks. The East Ridge Flea Market, open on weekends and holidays, is a huge indoor/outdoor market featuring more than 200 vendors selling new and used items, and three restaurants.
Dining experiences in Chattanooga can be as varied as having dinner while walking or cruising along the Tennessee River or while watching a stage production or eating in a former railway dining car. Fine dining and more moderately priced traditional American fare are offered in many areas of the city. Casual eateries include burger joints, delis, buffets and cafeterias, and novelty settings. Ethnic cuisine runs the gamut from Chinese, Italian, and Tex-Mex to Jamaican.
Visitor Information: Chattanooga Area Convention & Visitors' Bureau, 2 Broad Street, Chattanooga, TN 37402; telephone (423)756-0001; toll-free (800)962-5213
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