|From its humble beginnings as a landing on the
Tennessee River, the city founded by Cherokee leader John Ross has seen
tremendous growth in population and geography. Each district of the city
has its own history and atmosphere. From the tourist-friendly plazas of
the Downtown Riverfront to the breathtaking beauty of Lookout Mountain,
Chattanooga is comprised of distinct communities, each lending itself to
the personality and character of a sleepy Southern town that suddenly grew
up. Public transportation is surprisingly good, thanks to a fleet of
environmentally friendly electric buses, and air travel to and from the
city is a delight via the newly renovated and redesigned Chattanooga
Unlike many cities in the United States, Chattanooga's downtown enjoys a vibrant nightlife. More and more people are returning downtown to live, work and play and with good reason. After a 10-year revitalization, downtown is the place to be. Over 100 shops and restaurants, dozens of music venues and museums, deluxe accommodations, and extensive public transportation make the area between the Riverfront and Lookout Mountain attractive to visitors and residents.
The catalyst for the resurgence of tourism and economic growth downtown is the riverfront and the Tennessee Aquarium. Once an abandoned industrial river port, the banks of the Tennessee River now welcome people, not barges. The Tennessee Aquarium is the largest freshwater aquarium in the country and features sea and land animals indigenous to the Tennessee River. Over 2 million people visited the aquarium in 1990, its first year of operation. Today, the aquarium, along with its state-of-the-art IMAX 3D theater, attracts 1 million visitors each year.
A visit downtown isn't all about fish and 3D movies. The famed Chattanooga Choo Choo provides visitors a glimpse of the past when the romance of the railroad lured men and women away from their homes to embark on adventure. Dine in style aboard one of the luxurious dining cars, tour the Chattanooga rail terminal museum or enjoy a meal served by singing waiters in the Station House Restaurant. BellSouth Park is the brand new baseball stadium for the Chattanooga Lookouts Baseball Club. The Lookouts, AA affiliate of the Major League Baseball Cincinnati Reds, began the 2000 season in their new home high atop Hawk Hill overlooking the Tennessee River. Art lovers will enjoy a visit to the Hunter Museum, a beautiful Civil War mansion that houses both traditional and contemporary works from local and national artists. The Southern Belle Riverboat offers visitors a tour of Chattanooga aboard a luxury paddle steamer, and the Nightfall Concert Series brings the best of rock, pop, country and azz to the Miller Plaza stage.
Nearly as familiar as the Choo-Choo is the little red barn with the words "See Rock City" painted on the roof. Appearing all over the United States, these painted barns have proven to be an effective advertising campaign for over five decades. Rock City is a beautiful collection of gardens atop Lookout Mountain providing stunning views of the city and a profound break from the busy world below. Rock City is one of many popular sites atop the mountain. Ruby Falls is an underground waterfall located one-half mile below the surface of the mountain. The walking tour to the falls is a beautiful look inside one of the largest caverns in the Southeast. Point Park is the site of one of the bloodiest battles in the United States Civil War. Northern armies crept up the mountain under the cover of clouds and engaged the Confederate soldiers in a tremendous battle for the "lookout" point of the Chattanooga armies. For a non-traditional ascent of the mountain, ride the Incline Railway, a mile-long trip aboard an antique rail car that travels along the eastern incline of the mountain.
Chattanooga's North Shore is the latest in local success stories. Once a forgotten industrial site filled with warehouses and shipping yards, the area has been transformed into a tourist Mecca. Specialty shops offer everything from caviar to kayaks. The Chattanooga Theatre Centre, in its new home on the North Shore, offers Broadway-caliber productions year round. Coolidge Park offers miles of riverfront walking paths, cafes and the wildly popular Coolidge Park Carousel and Fountains. The classic century-old merry-go-round features hand carved horses and sleds restored right here in Chattanooga. The fountains include huge water spewing lions, tigers and bears to help cool youngsters during the hot summer months. The Walnut Street Bridge spans the majestic Tennessee River and connects the North Shore to Chattanooga's downtown area. Once a vital roadway for local traffic, the bridge is now only open to foot traffic and is the nation's longest pedestrian walkway.
Not long ago, the Hamilton Place area was mostly failing farmland. Today it is the fastest growing suburban neighborhood and site of Tennessee's largest shopping experience. The transformation began when Hamilton Place Mall opened its doors to anxious shoppers looking for an alternative to Atlanta shopping malls. The largest shopping mall in the Southeast, Hamilton Place is home to department stores like Dillard's and Parisian and specialty stores like The Gap and Eddie Bauer. Over 100 stores along with dozens of eateries and movie screens not only provide entertainment and shopping to local residents but to hundreds of thousands of visitors as well. From the mall you can drive for miles in any direction and find shopping center after shopping center accompanied by casual dining and fast food restaurants. On the outskirts of all this retail frenzy are many apartment communities and single-family homes. The convenience to doctors, schools and shopping has drawn many Chattanooga residents to this area.
One of Chattanooga's oldest districts, the Brainerd area is named after Presbyterian minister David Brainerd. Brainerd was a missionary to the Cherokee Indian tribes and founded the Brainerd Mission, the cemetery of which still exists. Today the Brainerd area is home to Eastgate Town Center, a collaborative effort of local government and private industry to turn the now defunct Eastgate Shopping Mall into an auspicious address for corporate offices and community service facilities. Missionary Ridge rises to the west of Brainerd and offers scenic views of downtown and is part of the Choo Choo Scenic Driving Tour of historic homes, parks and gardens.
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