Choo-Choo Choose Chattanooga, Tennessee for Your Next Spring Getaway

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 the Scenic City of Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Play

For those not in the know, 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 half- or full-day tours to suit your needs.

OAR - Outdoor Adventure Rafting in Tennessee

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 aircraft.

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 (to all-beef patties, bacon, atomic horsey sauce, BBQ sauce, onions, and cheddar cheese).

Urban Stack Burger Lounge

Urban Stack Burger Lounge

A stone’s throw from the city’s downtown core, Taco Mamacita serves 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 taco menu, from the Baja Tacos to the Sloppy Jose.

For a real taste of Chattanooga, round out the night at Pickle Barrel – a staple of the late-night dive bar scene.

Related: Best Barbecue Spots Across the U.S.

Stay

In many ways, Chattanooga is still building out a proper tourism infrastructure. Boutique accommodations can prove hard to find, but The Dwell Hotel is a noteworthy exception. This unique property is a proper B&B in every sense of the world with plenty of vintage kitsch (think: a tiki bar, mid-century Naugahyde seating, and a coin-operated Japanese massage chair) and modern touches throughout. Grab an afternoon beverage at the on-site cocktail lounge, Matilda Midnight, before tucking into dinner at the charming onsite restaurant, TerraMae Appalachian Bistro.

The Dwell Hotel

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 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).