Micro Guide: Chattanooga
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When it comes to Tennessee travel, Memphis and Nashville get all the love. But, during the last five years, the relatively pint-sized city of Chattanooga (population: 173,000) has been quietly making a name for itself as a destination in its own right. Legitimate gastropubs, a thriving downtown core, and some of the best outdoor opportunities in the country are all reasons for adventurous travelers to take a second look. Here are a few of our favorite places to play, eat, and stay in and around Chattanooga.
For those not in the know about such things, it may come as a surprise that Tennessee (and the area around Chattanooga in particular) offers some of the country’s best adventure sporting opportunities. The Ocoee River is home to world-class whitewater rafting and OAR – Outdoor Adventure Rafting in Tennessee (Outdoor Adventure Rafting) can organize a half- or full-day tour to suit your needs.
Just 40 minutes from downtown, the Lookout Mountain Flight Park is arguably the busiest in the country for beginner and expert hang-gliders. Here, newbies can take a brief, 20-minute intro flight or even continue on to secure their FAA certification in flying these unique aircrafts.
EAT + DRINK
Chattanooga is home to a small, but burgeoning food and drink scene. Among the most noteworthy downtown standouts are Urban Stack Burger Lounge and Taco Mamacita. The former, built in the vintage-cool, 150-year-old Southern Railway Baggage Building, guarantees “killer burgers & manly drinks”. Here, it’s all about the confluence of two great menus – burgers and bourbon. Grab a properly made Old Fashioned and pair it with the restaurant’s famous Big Mike (bacon, atomic horsey sauce, BBQ sauce, onions, and cheddar cheese).
A stone’s throw from the city’s downtown core, Taco Mamacita offers some of the most authentic Tex-Mex anywhere in the Deep South. Score a spot on the outdoor patio and pick anything off the a la carte menu, from the Baja Tacos to the Sloppy Jose.
Related: Best Barbecue Spots Across the U.S.
For a real taste of Chattanooga, round out the night at Pickle Barrel – a staple of the city’s late-night dive bar scene.
In many ways, Chattanooga is still building out a proper tourism infrastructure. Boutique accommodations can prove hard to find, but the Stone Fort Inn is a noteworthy exception. This centuries-old property is a proper B&B in every sense of the world with plenty of old school charm and lovely, modern touches throughout. The charming onsite restaurant, TerraMae Appalachian Bistro, is a nice added bonus with an excellent locally-inspired menu.
For something a little more mainstream, the city’s SpringHill Suites Chattanooga Downtown is a surprisingly good option. Look past the chain hotel facade as this location has a few great things going for it. The large, expansive outdoor patio provides a great waterfront spot for grabbing tapas, drinks, and watching the sun set over the Tennessee River. The hotel’s location on the city’s Bike Share route also means you can hop a rented bike right outside the lobby and explore the downtown core for just $8 per day ($15 for a 3-day pass).