The truth about Chattanooga

By Sean O'Neill
October 3, 2012

A reader has written us to complain about a story that Budget Travel ran a couple of years ago, called "My Hometown: Chattanooga." (Read it here.)

Lisa Lowe Stauffer, who is a native-born daughter of the city, says the article "wasn't bad, just superficial." She adds: "There's so much more to Chattanooga than funky shops and the Choo Choo."

Now, personally, I still think very highly of the piece that Budget Travel ran. But I thought I'd share with you Stauffer's own, unedited take on this much-beloved city...

Nestled along the Tennessee River, enclosed by mountains, Chattanooga is set in one of the world's most beautiful places. It has been a crossroads since the days when spear-throwing was a life skill. The Moccasin Bend National Park, slated to open to visitors in a couple of years, will explore this history with exhibits, archeology finds, and nature trails.

Chattanooga's early incarnation, Ross's Landing, was part of the Cherokee Nation. Pivotal events of the Trail of Tears happened here. As the river front has been redeveloped in recent years, an outdoor art space, "The Passage," has been created to commemorate this Cherokee heritage. The Passage is located next to the Tennessee Aquarium (excellent fresh water exhibits!), along the Riverwalk, a 10-mile pedestrian/cycling trail that leads upriver from the boat landing. Tony's Pasta, just a couple of blocks off the Riverwalk, in the Bluff View Art district, is my absolute, hands-down favorite restaurant.

When the Civil War raged, Chattanooga was at its center, with cannon fire, sieges, and stark battles up the side of Lookout Mountain, along Missionary Ridge, and in nearby Chickamauga, GA.

If music interests you, Chattanooga offers everything from the Riverbend Festival each June with a myriad of musical groups, to a great symphony orchestra which performs in the beautifully-preserved Beaux Arts 1921 Tivoli Theater. If you're lucky, you can catch a showing of a classic movie at the Tivoli. It feels like stepping back in time.

The Hunter Art Museum, a school field trip every few years when I was a kid, has grown to have a wonderful collection of American art, from Colonial to modern times. It's located in the Bluff View Art district.

And outdoor activities abound. Lake Chickamauga offers several state parks. Boating, fishing, camping, water-skiing, and lazing in the cool water are perfect summer pastimes. (For state park information, click here.)

Rock climbers can test their skills at places like The Walnut Wall (under a pedestrian bridge) and Sunset Rock. And just south of town, hang-gliders step off Lookout Mountain, imitating the hawks that circle in the unpolluted sky. (Learn more at

So when you go to Chattanooga, lift your eyes to the mountains, swim in the lake, glide in the sky, walk by the river, eat fresh pasta, and think of me. After all, it's my hometown.--Lisa Lowe Stauffer

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