24 hours in Chattanooga
Don’t insult Chattanooga by calling it the next Nashville. Yes, like the Nashville of a decade ago, Chattanooga is home to a burgeoning food scene and a movement to revitalize once-abandoned urban pockets. But it also has abundant charms that are all its own. Among those charms: It caters equally to children and adults, and if you’re traveling with kids, you just might have as much fun as they do.
One strategy is to conquer the city mostly by foot, traveling from north to south. Chattanooga is, after all, home to one of the longest pedestrian-only bridges in the world. Before making the 2,376-foot trek over the Tennessee River, explore the North Shore neighborhood’s historic storefronts and grab a treat at Clumpies Ice Cream Co. The shop specializes in small-batch, hand-churned goodness, with flavors running from sweet corn blueberry to wildflower matcha green tea. If honeycomb is on offer, jump on that.
The Walnut Street Bridge, constructed in 1891, is accessible a block east of Clumpies and will deposit you in the north part of downtown, a short walk from the Tennessee Aquarium. You’ve been to the Georgia Aquarium? This one is different. Housed in two separate buildings, one devoted to freshwater species and the other to saltwater (and both stunning), the facility is set up as a thematic voyage, with a downward-winding trail that leads you through different regions of the world. If you have the energy, indulge the kids in a stop at the nearby Creative Discovery Museum, with its mega-sandbox fashioned after an archaeological dig.
It could be argued that the 16-room Dwell Hotel in central downtown is the grown-up equivalent of the Creative Discovery Museum—especially if you’re a grown-up who loves midcentury design. Rooms are outfitted with fabulous wallpaper and mod furnishings, bearing names such as the Flamingo or the Tiki. If you’re not staying here, at least pop in for a fancy drink at one of its two watering holes, Solarium Cafe and Matilda Midnight.
For dinner, continue southward to Main Street Meats. Located in the Southside Historic District, the restaurant and adjoining butcher shop are housed in a small, stylish space. Don’t miss the Simpson Farms steaks. It’s the type of place where the waiter might inform you that he personally made the gin featured in the Juniper in Kentucky cocktail.
The good news: Flying Squirrel Bar, one of Chattanooga’s best bars, is a stone’s throw from Main Street Meats. The bad (or good) news: no kids allowed—except for Sunday brunch, which, if you stayed over Saturday night, should be your final stop on the way out of town the next day. A live band, usually local but sometimes a touring act, performs during brunch. It’s the perfect accompaniment to five-spice French toast and a phenomenal falafel burger. —Mara Shalhoup