The Scout Guide Chattanooga Editor Morgan Bussey photographed with a bicycle from The Edwin Hotel.
Nestled in a valley among the Appalachian Mountains and built around the sprawling Tennessee River, Chattanooga is one naturally stunning city. A gently rolling Tennessee landscape provides the perfect setting for endless outdoor adventures, while the art and music scenes are bursting with energy and excitement. In fact, we can’t think of a reason not to visit this charming Tennessee town any time of year. To help us make the most of our visit, we asked The Scout Guide Chattanooga Editor Morgan Bussey to share what not to miss. Her first piece of advice: plan to take in as much outdoor beauty as you can. “Chattanooga is repeatedly lauded as the ‘Best Outdoor City’ for great reason,” she says. “First thing’s first: While you’re here, don’t miss the gorgeous sunrise and sunset views from atop any mountain or from the banks of the river.” Here’s how to plan your trip.
Where to Stay
Morgan is a big fan of The Dwell Hotel (120 East 10th Street), a Civil War fort reimagined as a mid-century modern dreamscape in the heart of downtown Chattanooga. If it’s available, snag “The Palm Springs” balcony suite, done in retro shades of pink—but any of the hotel’s 13 meticulously decorated themed rooms will delight.
The Read House (827 Broad Street) is another historic landmark that has recently undergone a massive restoration to return it to its 1926 splendor. This luxurious option promises a “Gatsby-style” stay, so prepare to be wowed—and pack your best flapper dress.
The Edwin Hotel (102 Walnut Street) is a luxury boutique hotel located near the Tennessee River, Arts District, and Walking Bridge. Featuring local art throughout, it’s also home to the upscale restaurant Whitebird and the rooftop bar Whiskey Thief.
Where to Enjoy the Outdoors
From mountain hikes to river sports and building-climbing, Chattanooga is a city best enjoyed in the open air. If you’re interested in getting active, Morgan recommends starting with a stroll along the Riverwalk in downtown to get your bearings; this 13-mile paved pathway flanks the gorgeous Tennessee River and passes all of the city’s big attractions. Bike rental stations dot the pathway, making it easy to pop on and off at a leisurely pace. Taking in the Riverwalk from the water is another fun option—Morgan suggests renting a paddle board from L2Outside (131 River Street). Or, for a unique and adventurous activity, check out the outdoor rock climbing wall at High Point Climbing and Fitness (219 Broad Street).
If what you’re seeking is something less sporty and more scenic, Morgan recommends a few special spots. Lookout Mountain, just a few minutes outside of downtown Chattanooga, is full of outdoor attractions. At Rock City (1400 Patten Road, Lookout Mountain, Georgia), just over the Georgia state line, you will find a miraculous waterfall and get a bird’s eye view of seven different states. (Make sure you have room for many photos in your phone.) At Ruby Falls (1720 S Scenic Highway), you will find a gigantic underground waterfall and have the chance to zipline your way around the mountain.
Where to SHOP
Morgan recommends starting your morning with inspiration at Chattanooga’s favorite floral and garden store, The Clay Pot (1311 Hanover Street), then hitting two of her favorite spots in town for fashion inspiration, just a short walk away: Alice Blue / Hanover Blue (1100 Hixson Pike) and Verde (1100 Hixson Pike).
Warehouse Row (1110 Market Street), Morgan’s favorite place to wander, is an old warehouse that has been totally revitalized to include a mix of local and national retail shops. While you’re there, pop into Revival Home to peruse a beautiful collection of carefully sourced home goods. Embellish carries high-end women’s fashion, including brands like Loeffler Randall and Ulla Johnson. Don’t leave without popping into the Goodman Coffee Roasters flagship store for a cup of the hand-roasted coffee locals love.
Where to Take in THE CulturAL SCENE
“An amazing creative community defines Chattanooga,” Morgan says. “When you’re in town, you must check out the local arts and music scene to truly experience this vibrant creative energy.”
Morgan highly recommends a trip to Gallery 1401 (1478 Market Street), which features a wide selection of local and international artists. From there, wander to the Bluff View Arts District, built around The Hunter Museum of American Art (10 Bluff View). Located right on the river high on a bluff, this museum has a new wing built onto an historic original building, and is worth a visit for the architecture and views alone, as well as the outdoor sculpture garden.
For a summertime evening activity, visitors can catch live music on Friday nights in Miller Plaza as part of Nightfall (850 Market Street), the city’s summer concert series that has been running for more than 30 years.
Where to Fuel Up and Wind Down
If you’re looking to fuel up on healthy fare to start the day, Morgan suggests Southern Squeeze (818 Georgia Avenue), where she recommends ordering avocado toast and a juice, or a wellness latte to kick the day into high gear. If you want a more traditional sit-down breakfast, start out at Kenny’s (1251 Market Street), brought to town by local culinary legend Rebecca Barron of St. John’s Restaurant (for more on that spot, see below).
At lunchtime, grab a sandwich on homemade sourdough bread from Niedlov’s Breadworks (215 E. Main Street). If you’re looking for something on the lighter side, don’t be deterred—Morgan says the bakery has fantastic salads, too.
After a casual day of wandering and adventuring, Morgan likes to take her guests out on the town for an upscale dinner. St. John’s Restaurant (1278 Market Street), run by James Beard Award-nominated local chef Rebecca Barron, is one of the most special places to share a meal in Chattanooga (reservations are recommended). The menu is constantly changing, and full of surprises. Another Chattanooga hot spot is Italian restaurant Alleia (25 E. Main Street). Morgan says to reserve a table on the porch if you can, and order handmade pasta and one (or more) of the restaurant’s superb craft cocktails.
After dinner, Morgan recommends one of two options. If you’re in the mood for another cocktail, check out Clyde’s (122 West Main Street), a fun bar run by a local family restaurant group with an excellent reputation. On any given night you can play a game of ping pong or shuffleboard, and often you can catch some live music. If you’d rather skip the bar in favor of something sweet, head directly to Clumpies Ice Cream (1401 Market Street, with other locations), where every flavor is handcrafted with local ingredients. Morgan loves to try whatever sounds good for the season, and recommends you do the same.