I traveled to Chattanooga, Tennessee for the first time three and half years ago. I had been to Nashville and Memphis before, but I wasn’t really sure what to expect. Ranked fourth for population, behind Nashville, Memphis, and Knoxville, Chattanooga has a great vibe going on. With great dining and entertainment options, this southeastern Tennessee town should make it onto your travel list. While your ideal trip there would be longer than one day, if you only have one, here’s what a perfect day in Chattanooga might look like.
What to do
Best known for its 1909 train station (and song circa 1941), The Chattanooga Choo Choo, which is now a hotel, Chattanooga is a thriving TN town. It’s home to nearly 200,000 people and the United States’ first gigabit network. With high-speed internet, tech jobs, and with lower than average cost of living, its population has been growing steadily. It’s also an outdoor lovers paradise with activities ranging from hiking and kayaking. For 143 square miles, this city packs it in.
Despite visiting Chattanooga at least six times over the past three and a half years, I have yet to get up Lookout Mountain. Providing views of seven states from one lookout, along with the world’s steepest passenger railway, I don’t know how I haven’t skipped out of a meeting early to check this place out. If all of that isn’t enough, you can also visit Ruby Falls, America’s deepest cave and largest underground waterfall, while you’re there.
If you’re looking for a fun way to see the city, the 13-mile Riverwalk provides a scenic walk with plenty of local attractions. I particularly love the Walnut Street Bridge over the river. It’s also next to a great ice cream shop, The Ice Cream Show.
If you’re more into arts and culture than the outdoors, Chattanooga has you covered. From a local ballet company to an aquarium to an art museum, there is literally something for everyone. (For more options, including music, sports, and shopping, check out the town’s tourism bureau site.) Choose one or more of the above suggestions to keep yourself entertained between meals in order to craft your own perfect day in Chattanooga. And now onto the food…
Where to eat breakfast
Every good day starts with an awesome breakfast. Local bakery and cafe, Niedlov’s, has you covered. If you can resist their amazing pastries, the avocado toast with poached eggs and hot sauce is legit.
Is avocado toast too healthy for you? How about trying a croissant crossed with a muffin, a Boston creme Cruffin? Vanilla pudding for breakfast, yes please!
Where to eat lunch
I carried my lunch to school every day as a kid, and most days when I worked in an office. Maybe it’s because of that habit that I think sandwiches equal a good lunch. I love a choose your own anything, especially food like pizzas or ice cream sundaes. When I saw the sandwich option on The Yellow Deli’s menu, I was sold. I chose the onion roll, which I didn’t expect to be warm and homemade, but was, with two kinds of cheeses and some veggies. It was great.
Where to have drinks and dinner
Even though it was technically invented in New York, the South has been the long-time champion of pimento cheese. I have had some of the best takes on pimento cheese dishes in Chattanooga. This skillet of piping hot pimento mac & cheese at Whiskey Thief was delectable. It’s really the perfect pre-dinner snack.
Not to be outdone by the food, Whiskey Thief also makes a mean cocktail. This one, Shade of a Georgia Pine – Russell’s Reserve Bourbon, peach jam, Zirbenz, and lemon, was as delicious as it is pretty.
While I was a little sad that the glass was so much larger than the drink, I really liked the Division Bell at Easy Bistro. Made with mezcal, aperol, maraschino, and lime, this drink was light and refreshing. A perfect pre-dinner drink.
If you were looking for a little heavier fare for dinner, Easy Bistro is my other suggestion for dinner. (I didn’t eat two pastas in one night, but I couldn’t choose which place was my favorite.) I had the gnochetti with saffron, lobster, sherry cream, tarragon, ramps, and tomato. It was very good. I sadly had no room for dessert.
I hope the next time you’re in town, you’ll have a perfect day in Chattanooga!