Rock Star: Insider advice for visiting Rock City Gardens

Meet the woman who’s spent nearly 40 years helping folks see the famous attraction


Melissa Griggs, director of attractions revenue at Rock City

Photo by Dan Henry

Melissa Griggs oversees retail and ticketing as the director of attractions revenue at Rock City, which celebrates its 90th anniversary this year.

As told to Jennifer Green

One of the South’s most-visited attractions, Rock City in Lookout Mountain, Georgia, draws about half a million visitors annually. They come to wind through its famous rock formations, wander its gnome-filled gardens, and enjoy views of seven states from Lover’s Leap. Melissa Griggs started working there as a part-time cashier in 1985 at age 17, and 37 years later, she’s Rock City’s longest-serving employee. Her job includes, among other things, overseeing the fudge kitchen and customizing new products with the iconic “See Rock City” tagline. “In my own little way, I get to send that message out into the world,” Griggs says. Here, she shares her favorite spot on the property, how to get the most out of a visit, and why their fudge flies off the shelves.

Take It Slow
“My biggest piece of advice to visitors is to slow down. Don’t be in a hurry. Take the time to look at your surroundings as you walk through the gardens, and look back in the direction from which you came. Pay attention to the different angles of the rocks. The formations are just the coolest—so massive and beautiful. There’s a great seating area where you can eat lunch adjacent to Lover’s Leap. Just take it all in.”

Secret Garden
“Down on our lower trail, we have a little area called Fairy Glen Overlook. It’s right below the Swing-A-Long Bridge, and the 1,000-ton balanced rock is across from it. The rocks just tower above you. It’s a beautiful, peaceful spot. Even after 37 years working here, it’s still a place I want to bring my family.”

Rock City Grand Corridor

Photo courtesy of See Rock City

Sweetening the Deal
“A man named Jim Garrahy from England started fudge kitchens in the United Kingdom and at a lot of tourist destinations in the United States in the 1970s. When he started selling them off, we bought the rights to his recipe. All the fudge is made on-site, from scratch, in a copper kettle. We pour it onto a marble slab table and work it into a delicious loaf that has a smooth texture. We sell more than 24,000 slices—that’s 12,000 pounds—each year.”

World Tour
“We’ve shipped our famous See Rock City birdhouses all over the world, including Canada, England, and Germany, as well as various Army bases as a reminder of home.”

While You’re in Town
“There’s the new National Medal of Honor Heritage Center located downtown next to the Tennessee Aquarium. It highlights the stories and character traits of Medal of Honor recipients. It’s really cool. And I love the aquarium, of course, and the Incline Railway.”

This article appears in the Fall/Winter 2022 issue of Southbound.