Road Trip Part Three: Chattanooga and Rock City

How DOES one talk about a week long vacation in less than four blog posts? I’m not going to try. So here’s the third part. It’s long, but don’t let that bother you. Plenty of pictures too!

Priceline was good to me in Chattanooga. I thought, let’s see how cheap I can get a downtown hotel. And BOOM. Got it on my first try…which actually made me sad because I should have tried cheaper, even though Priceline warned me that I was already trying to bid too low.

Here’s the best part: The hotel was the Chattanooga Choo Choo! It was an historic hotel made from converting both a train station AND a train into a hotel. The lobby of the hotel used to the be the train station and is a gorgeous dome, and the train (yes, the Chattanooga Choo Choo) was outside, with lots of cars that contained hotel rooms. Sadly, priceline did not get us one of those rooms, but there are also three other hotel buildings with regular rooms. It was amazing, and hard to describe in a way that doesn’t sound cheesy. Oh wait, it WAS cheesy, but in a fabulous 1970’s way, that made me think it would be the perfect place for a getaway for a family like say, in Don Draper’s time—several restaurants on the property, one with singing waiters and advertising an “all you can eat shrimp and salad bar”, and others that completely reminded me of places that, in my childhood, I would have thought were just amazing. Not to mention there was a pool for each hotel building, and yes, we tried out several of them. The hotel is going to be renovated, and in fact parts were in progress, and supposedly the singing restaurant will be turned into something a bit more modern (I’m disappointed we missed our chance, but there were so many more appealing places to eat, though none had an unlimited shrimp bar) and honestly, I’d totally stay there again if I were given the chance. That’s my review.

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So I believe I left off with the Tennessee Aquarium, so I’ll pick up after that. We went to a great seafood place downtown called the Bluewater Grille. It was really good and we happened upon a great wine special to go with dinner. It had been nice and cool when we arrived in Chattanooga earlier, and there was a big storm during dinner, and it remained cool. Why do I mention this?

Well, the next morning…it was ridiculously hot. Hot hot hot. We’d thought we might leave for the mountains that day but were so enamored of the hotel and the town that we extended our stay, and decided to spend the day walking around seeing the sights.  IMG_0266 IMG_0267IMG_0270

It wasn’t too bad in the shade, but it was really hot in the sun. We walked by the river a bit and made our way up a hill, and found the Art Museum.

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I hadn’t felt like going the Art Museum in Nashville and wasn’t planning on this one…but we stopped in to get water, and discovered that water and bathrooms were for patrons only…and it was really nice and cold inside…and we decided that it was the perfect day to see the Hunter Art Museum. It was a nice museum, made of three connected buildings, one which was an old mansion and the other two in entirely different styles, which made for an odd building but unique.

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We spent a few hours at the museum and then decided to have lunch at Big River Grille and Brewing Works. I always like to try local beers when I can (we’d had one the night before at a hilarious place called The Pickle Barrel from a different brewery). After lunch we decided to brave the heat and walk across a pedestrian bridge to the other side of the river. I should add that Louie really enjoys walking all over cities to get the feel for them, whereas I am a little more of a “let’s check the guidebook and see what’s best” and “let’s take a break at this coffee house and have a coffee” sort of person, so it was really fun and interesting combining our two styles. I maintain that eating fabulous meals and walking all over cities definitely fits together well!

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You can see my finger AND the art museum in this photo!

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Home of the Donut Sundae. I don’t know how to feel about that.

On the other side of the bridge there were some more cute shops and restaurants and a nice park with a carousel and other stuff. We wandered around a bit, getting totally overheated (to the point where I insisted we go to a drugstore so I could get a gatorade because I thought I was going to pass out)…but it was nice. I just wish it had been less sunny.

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Finally we decided to head back to the hotel and do some swimming to cool off and then go somewhere for dinner.

We decided to have dinner at Urban Stack Burger Lounge which was very near the hotel. It reminded me of Bailey’s Range, a local place, except BETTER! I don’t remember exactly what I ordered (gosh, this is why you should write stuff down right away) but we definitely split an order of pickled vegetables, which was delightful. I recall saying that we needed to try to pickle cauliflower in the future, and Louie suggesting that while it was neat to eat, it was probably a terrible idea to try that at home. I don’t know how involved the process of pickling cauliflower would be, but I suppose it’s easier to steam or roast it.

We finished the night at the Terminal Brewhouse, also right near the hotel. I like hoppy IPA’s and am generally pretty happy just drinking that. So I was pretty happy.

Okay, the next morning we had one more thing to do in Chattanooga, and that was something that had been advertised everywhere. See Rock City.

Here’s the thing: there were tons of billboards about Rock City, and how there were amazing views and you could see 7 states, and all this. So with that and my friend April’s recommendation, we decided to shell out $19.95 each for the views. It was up on Lookout Mountain which is a nice drive up.

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Rock City was named because people thought it was like a city with roads between the rocks. The path got very narrow in places and it was impressive to see all the giant rocks!

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We were enjoying the nature…and then we realized that the bird sounds we were hearing were NOT actual bird sounds, but piped in bird sounds. And then this happened:

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I began to suspect something strange was happening.

But we kept going as if this was just a lovely nature site full of natural sights.

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I got a little nervous walking out onto the balcony there…

And obviously, looking at my pictures, no, this isn’t entirely natural.

But then, we took a little detour and we saw:

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There was a sign saying that the original path in Rock City in the 1930’s went by this (yes, a rock, it looks like a witch…IF we put a pipe in the mouth!) and then a new path diverted and for decades no one saw it. Here’s the thing, I LOVE this stuff. I love thinking about how people used to live, particularly in, say, the 1900’s through 1940’s. I don’t know why, but I am a sucker for seeing stuff about that time period. In fact, anything during the 1900’s is pretty fascinating for me. So I loved seeing this, and thinking about people going on vacations, just like we were, and seeing this kind of stuff.

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Now, the next bit, unfortunately, my pictures just aren’t good.  We entered a cave called FairyTale Caverns, which was damp, dark, and cool…and full of scenes of various characters from stories and nursery rhymes plus more gnomes, under black light. It was so totally unexpected and odd and I LOVED IT.

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My pictures didn’t turn out very well overall, so I’ll just beseech you to GO TO ROCK CITY YOURSELF.

After we left, still shocked by everything we had seen, I did some online research on the place. It has a fascinating history!

This is a great article about the history of Rock City. Here’s another great summary of a visit to Rock City. “Where was I? What was that?”

One more post to go: Mountains, camping, and bears! Coming soon!

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