Where do we start? Chattanooga attractions are world-class with breathtaking views surrounding you everywhere you turn. Whether you want to take in a play or concert, visit an amazing museum, be a part of the nightlife, enjoy the outdoors or experience a piece of history, it’s all here. And what’s more, Chattanooga is one of the most affordable vacation destinations in the country—so you can do it all. Plan your trip today, and come make memories at Chattanooga attractions that’ll last a lifetime.
Try taking a cruise on the river or check out the city on a guided tour (choose from duck tours, double decker bus or even ghost tours!). Then relax and enjoy a wine or whiskey tasting.
Too overwhelming? Use one of our suggested itineraries to help plan your trip. You can search all of the attractions using the search function on the right side of this page or narrow down to just the most popular attractions. Enjoy your visit to Chattanooga and don’t hesitate to contact us with any question.
Things to Do in Chattanooga
Chattanooga offers an incredible combination of breathtaking scenic beauty, revitalized riverfront; 15-mile paved River walk scattered with attractions, parks, restaurants and riverboats; outdoor adventures, rich history, numerous accommodations, restaurants to please every palate, thriving arts scene, shopping and many annual events that provide plenty of year-round fun.
Downtown is just the springboard for things to do in Chattanooga. The Chattanooga downtown attractions, hotels, restaurants, shopping venues and convention center are conveniently connected by a FREE, electric shuttle or you can try out our new Bike Share program. And then downtown to atop Lookout Mountain – it’s only six miles! Check out What’s going on this Summer.
Because of the diversity and quality of Chattanooga things to do, we’ve been added to the must-see destinations from the New York Times, Outside magazine, Travel+Leisure, Today Show, Southern Living, Garden & Gun, U.S. News & World Report and many others.
Browse the hundreds of things to do in Chattanooga using the search function on this page or check out the Top Attractions for a quick list. We’ve also provided some suggested itineraries.
Come aboard Chattanooga Cycle boats and experience the beautiful Tennessee River together. Yes, this boat is very much like the pedal pubs you see on the street, except we are not visiting bars. This means your parties can be for families, athletes, work groups, teams adults or adolescents! We especially love Bachelorette Parties! Listen to our music or yours, play games, have meetings or let us tell your about Chattanooga and its history. Sail by day or by night, Chattanooga Cycle boats is your best bet for a safe and fun cruise catered to you. See what others are saying on TripAdvisor.com!
The Chattanooga Cycle boats is great way for a small group of locals to experience the water in downtown Chattanooga! Locally owned by Nate, he is a great tour guide an ambassador for the City of Chattanooga. Hop on the Chattanooga Cycle boats for a great time on the water, you will see other boats such as the Chattanooga Ducks, and you might see some native Chattanooga ducks. You will also see the Southern Belle Riverboat on one of it’s sightseeing cruises, lunch cruise, or dinner cruise! You will pass the Tennessee Aquarium and go under the Wanut Steet and Market Street Bridges!
Captain Nate, you can now call him that, just passed his Masters Captains Class and will be the main Captain of the Chattanooga Cycle boats! The Chattanooga Cycle boats is a great addition to the riverfront in downtown Chattanooga and we love having Captain Nate and The Chattanooga Cycle boats as neighbors!
Lake Winnepesaukah, commonly known as Lake Winnie, is an amusement park located in Rossville, Georgia, just south of Chattanooga, Tennessee. Carl and Minette Dixon opened the park to over 5,000 guests on June 1, 1925. They named it after the Native American word Winnepesaukah, meaning “bountiful waters” or “beautiful lake of the highlands”. The park originally featured the largest swimming pool in the southeastern United States, which debuted in 1926 and was later removed. Its Boat Chute attraction, designed by Carl Dixon, opened in 1927 and is the oldest mill chute water ride of its kind still in operation in the United States.
In its early years, the park’s primary focus was on its water attractions. Later, the park began expanding its dry amusement ride offerings with the introduction of its historic carousel and well-known Cannon Ball roller coaster in the late 1960s. Lake Winnie has grown to over 80 acres (32 ha), featuring 38 rides and a 5-acre (2.0 ha) water park with seven attractions.
The Chattanooga Zoo is a fully accredited institution with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).
aza_logoLook for the AZA logo whenever you visit a zoo or aquarium as your assurance that you are supporting a facility dedicated to providing excellent care for animals, a great experience for you, and a better future for all living things. AZA zoos and aquariums represent the finest institutions in the country and are visited by more than 150 million people each year. That’s more people than attended all professional baseball, basketball, football and hockey sporting events combined.
Accreditation involves a detailed review and inspection process covering all aspects of an institution’s operation; including the animal collection, veterinary care, physical facilities, safety, security, finance, staff, governing authority, support organization, education, conservation, research, and adherence to AZA policies.
(Source: Chattanooga Zoo)
Within the museum's walls:
Over 209,000 visitors a year (including 33,000 free admission passes to underserved children and their families) experience hands-on learning in our core exhibits: RiverPlay, The Little Yellow House, Arts Alley, Excavation Station, Inventors’ Clubhouse, Rooftop Fun Factory, The Lookout Tower.
A wide array of education programs within the Museum complement and enhance the core and temporary exhibits.
Science Theater – Science comes to life with spectacular demonstrations of physical and chemical phenomena. Children apply what is learned in a science show in hands-on workshops following the demonstration.
PlayGym – Offered for ages 4 months through 3 years, this caregiver and baby program offers multi-sensory stimulation for developing motor, cognitive and social skills.
Homeschool workshops – 1.5 hour lessons offered in two five-week series in the arts and sciences.
Spring and Summer Camps – Week long experiences center on a variety of themes in arts and sciences providing fun and learning at all age levels.
Club Discovery and Friends Discovery Camp – After school programs and summer camps designed to meet the needs of children with disabilities such as autism and Down Syndrome.
MAP Teen volunteer program – The Museum Apprentice Program provides 100 teens the opportunity to volunteer within the museum while developing leadership and life skills.
Preschool Adventure Days – One Saturday a month, special themes are explored through a variety of activities focused on the developmental needs of children 18 months to 4 years old.
ArtsLive programs – Offered to all Museum visitors, ArtsLive provides monthly performances and demonstrations by professional artists such as ballet performances, painting, etc.
School Tours – Specially designed tours for classes provide enhanced learning experiences.
Teacher workshops – Three-hour workshops based on temporary exhibits, as well as workshops offered in collaboration with other organizations including local universities and the school district.
The museum without walls:
In addition to the educational programs and exhibits within our walls, the Museum serves children out in the surrounding community and in partnership with schools and other organizations. Over 46,000 additional children are reached in the following programs:
Museum A-Go-Go – Curriculum based programs provided in early childhood centers and elementary schools in the arts and sciences. The hands-on experiences correlate with the state education standards and are led by certified teachers on staff with the Museum.
Discovery Mobile – This mobile science and engineering lab features an interactive classroom on wheels that travels to schools, recreation centers and community events.
Family Nights – Held at local schools, Family Nights also promote parental engagement as the families explore math, science and health concepts together.
Science Troupe – This collaboration between high science teachers and the Museum science staff offers students a “for-credit” class. The Science Troupe develops and presents science demonstrations for elementary schools and Museum audiences. Tyner Academy, CGLA, Hixson and the STEM high school all currently have Science Troupes.
Distance Learning – now students outside the Chattanooga region can experience the unique classroom learning experiences offered by the Museum. Materials are shipped to classrooms and lesson activities are led by Museum Educators via Skype.
Museum Magnet collaboration – In collaboration with six other museum/institutions, Museum offers its facilities for use as a classroom resource to Normal Park Museum Magnet and Chattanooga Museum Magnet Middle School.
We’re a popular place! Our staff welcomes over 200,000 guests every year. The Museum fulfills its mission through permanent and temporary exhibits and an extensive array of education programs. The audience for these exhibits and programs include children, families, parents, teachers, caregivers, schools and organizations that serve children. The Museum is recognized as a vital educational resource and collaborates with over 40 different community partners providing a variety of educational programs.
The General Admission visitor to the Museum is offered a variety of programs including art lessons, science demonstrations, story times, as well as “spur of the moment” activities. The art lessons change monthly and offer parents and children the opportunity to engage in a fun educational lesson offered by trained instructors. The science demonstration changes two or three times per year and feature subjects such as liquid nitrogen, light, bugs, and health. The “spur of the moment” activities might include bringing a snake into the atrium of the Museum for children to touch or inviting children to “get their heart rates up” in an activity called Just Move.
We strive to be as accessible as possible to families throughout the greater Chattanooga area. Over 30,000 children and families take advantage of free admission programs each year. The Museum provides free admission to the community for two days during the week before Christmas. We also distribute free tickets to various social service agencies that serve clients that otherwise could not afford to come to the Museum. We also provide free admission to the families of children who attend the Museum Magnet elementary and middle schools. In addition to the free admission program, the Museum offers discounted admissions to school groups with students who participate in free or reduced school lunch programs.
The Museum’s most recent 990 form is available.
(Source: Creative Discovery Museum)
With three buildings representing 100 years of architecture, the Hunter Museum of American Art is a prominent feature of Chattanooga skyline.
Not only has the Museum been an important part of the city’s cultural life, but the Hunter’s bluff-top setting has long played a significant role in the history of the region. To the Cherokee people the bluff – one of the highest points along the Tennessee River – was said the be the sacred home of a mythical hawk-like giant known as “Tia-Numa.”
In 1854, an iron smelting plant was erected on the bluff near the present north western corner of the museum. The plant, known as the Bluff Furnace, was one of the South’s earliest industrial enterprises. During the Civil War, the area was used as a lookout and a garrison by both Confederate and Union forces. Although the Bluff Furnace was destroyed during the Civil War, it is now a site for archaeological research.
In 1904, wealthy insurance broker Ross Faxon commissioned the Cincinnati architectural firm of Mead and Garfield to design a new home for his family. The family lived in the Edwardian-style mansion for nine years.
After passing through several hands, the home eventually was sold in 1920 to Anne Taylor Thomas, the widow of Benjamin F. Thomas. Benjamin Thomas was one of the founders of the world’s first Coca-Cola bottling company.
The same year the Mansion was designed in 1904, George Thomas Hunter, Benjamin Thomas’s nephew, had arrived in Chattanooga at the age of 17 to work as a clerk in his uncle’s business. Hunter soon rose rapidly through the ranks to become secretary, president and finally, chairman of the board of the company that franchised bottling in almost every state in the union.
Hunter became one of Chattanooga’s most respected philanthropists. One of his finest achievements was the creation of the Benwood Foundation, a private charitable trust still in operation today.
Hunter was unmarried and following his death in 1951, the Chattanooga Art Association approached the Benwood Foundation to ask that the Faxon-Hunter mansion be donated to their organization in order to found an art museum. The Association transformed the home into a space suitable for Chattanooga’s first art museum and the museum, named the George Thomas Hunter Gallery of Art, in honor of its benefactor, opened to the public July 12, 1952.
The mansion was built in the classic revival style. The fireplaces, hardwood floors, wall moldings and hand-carved woodwork are all original, as are sconces and fixtures over the Grand Staircase. Many of the ornamental details are classical in inspiration, using the egg-and-dart, acanthus leaf and fruit-and-flower motifs popular with architects of the period.
The 1970s Building
The mansion remained in its original architectural state until 1975 when a modern addition was added to the museum. The new building was designed by Chattanooga architects Derthick, Henley & Wilkerson. Built of concrete with a dramatic central atrium space, the building won several prestigious architectural awards.
The new building and renovated mansion opened to the public in September of 1975 with the new name, Hunter Museum of Art and a gift of 40 American paintings from the Benwood Foundation with a value of more than $1 million. After the opening of the 1975 building, the museum grew rapidly. With consistent funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, Allied Arts and the Lyndhurst and Benwood Foundations, the museum set about to build its collection of works by American artists.
A collections department was established and the collection was professionally documented with a 300-page catalogue. Programming efforts were expanded and studio classes were offered in co-sponsorship with the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. In 2000, a number of internal changes took place to improve operations and an operating endowment campaign was underway. The Hunter was poised to move to its next level of development and become even more involved in the Chattanooga community.
The 21st Century Waterfront
When Chattanooga’s $120 million 21st Century Waterfront Plan was unveiled in 2002, the Hunter Museum became an active partner with the City of Chattanooga, the Tennessee Aquarium and the Creative Discovery Museum to complete this public/private venture in less than three years.
The Hunter Museum portion of the project included a $22 million expansion and renovation that was completed in April 2005. This included the addition of 28,000 square feet of new construction in a dramatic building designed by Randall Stout and Associates of Los Angeles, California, 34,000 square feet of renovation, restoration of the 1905 mansion, the creation of an outdoor sculpture plaza and a complete reinstallation of the Museum’s permanent collection.
(Source: Hunter Art Museum)
The Incline’s home, Lookout Mountain, played a pivotal role in the American Civil War. Union forces under the command of William Rosecrans suffered one of their greatest defeats by Confederate General Braxton Bragg’s men in the shadow of Lookout Mountain, at Chickamauga. The loss was so great in fact that then Major General Ulysses S. Grant was called in to take over the Union troops while Bragg’s Confederate army kept an eye on their besieged opponents hiding out in Chattanooga from the top of Lookout Mountain.
Grant tapped Union Generals William Sherman and Joseph Hooker to break up the Rebel siege of Chattanooga. The resulting three-day conflict that took place on the face of Lookout from the foothills to just below the top of the mountain would later be known as the “Battle Above the Clouds.”
Following the Civil War, more and more tourists flocked to the sites of these famous battles. However, the two-dollar, four-hour buggy ride up Lookout Mountain to attractions such as Whiteside Park, the Natural Bridge and Lula Lake prevented many from enjoying the mountain’s natural beauty and rich history.
During the railroad boom of the 1880’s, a luxury hotel resort was developed on the mountaintop that was serviced by a simple narrow gauge railway. However, in November of 1895, a new, broader gauge passenger railway simply known as “The Incline” opened to easily whisk residents and visitors up and down the steepest part of Lookout Mountain.
Built by John Crass and the Lookout Mountain Incline Railway Company, The Incline is a technical marvel that at its extreme reaches an incline of 72.7%, making it one of the steepest passenger railways in the world. The original coal-burning steam engines were replaced by two 100-horsepower motors in 1911, but other than that the railway hasn’t changed very much in its more than 100 years of operation.
Today, The Incline still attracts people from around the world and has carried literally millions of residents and tourists up and down historic Lookout Mountain. Hop aboard and enjoy a ride on “America’s Most Amazing Mile” today!
(Source: Incline Railway)
Travel swiftly and smoothly downstream from the Chattanooga Pier into the scenic Tennessee River Gorge aboard this high-tech vessel.
Experience Tennessee's Grand Canyon aboard the River Gorge Explorer during a two-hour cruise. Each excursion is guided by an Aquarium naturalist who brings local history to life while helping you spot wildlife. Relax in the climate-controlled cabin and soak in the beautiful scenery from the topside observation deck.
Cruises take 2 hours. Please allow 10 minutes for loading and disembarking. The boat boards at the Chattanooga Riverboat Pier - two blocks from the Tennessee Aquarium. Refreshments & restrooms are available on the boat. Seating on the boat is first come first served. The Explorer is handicap accessible, however only two wheelchairs or small motorized chairs are allowed aboard each trip due to limited cabin space. Passengers with large motorized chairs or scooters will be asked to transfer to a cabin chair whenever possible.
(Source: Tennessee Aquarium)
The Tennessee Aquarium is a non-profit public aquarium located in Chattanooga, Tennessee, United States. It opened in 1992 on the banks of the Tennessee River in downtown Chattanooga, with a major expansion added in 2005. The Aquarium, which has been accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) since 1993, is home to more than 12,000 animals representing almost 800 species.
More than 20 million people have visited the facility, with the twenty-millionth visitor arriving in March 2013. It is consistently recognized as one of the country’s top public aquariums.
The mission of the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum is to collect for preservation, operation, interpretation and display, railroad artifacts in an authentic setting to educate the public concerning the role of railroads in the history and development of our region.
Chattanooga welcomed its first rail line with the arrival of the Western and Atlantic Railroad in 1850. A few years later, in 1858, the East Tennessee, Virginia and Georgia Railroad also arrived in Chattanooga. The city quickly became a railroad hub with industries springing up in the area to take advantage of the new transportation corridors.
During the Civil War, confederate and union leaders recognized Chattanooga’s strategic advantage because of its railroads, and in subsequent decades, the city’s railroad reputation gave rise to the iconic song “Chattanooga Choo Choo.”
By the late 1950s, railroads were waning as interstates and airlines made travel faster and more personal. With automobiles, Americans could choose their own schedule and stop as little or much as they wished. Passenger operations all but ended in the 1960s and freight operations suffered as big trucks hauled much of the freight across the country.
During this period, railroad museums formed to save some of the history of this most iconic mode of American transportation.
In Chattanooga, as steam made its last appearances on the country’s major railroads, a few railroad fans began buying steam engines and passenger cars that the railroads would otherwise have scrapped. This small collection was the beginning of the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum, which was founded by a small group of local residents in 1961 who were intent on trying to save some American history by preserving, restoring, and operating authentic railway equipment from the “Golden Age of Railroading.”
Railroads like the Southern Railway also made generous donations of obsolete rail cars to museums like TVRM, expanding their collections and the story the museum could tell. In addition, Southern Railway donated the original East Tennessee, Virginia and Georgia roadbed (absorbed into the Southern Railway System in 1894) on which TVRM could operate.
TVRM’s passenger trains run on the historic route which includes Missionary Ridge Tunnel, completed in 1858 and on the National Register of Historic Places. The tunnel is the primary reason TVRM runs on the three-mile section of the former Southern Railway. As railroad equipment grew too large to pass through and the single-track tunnel became a traffic jam for another wise double-track railroad, Southern Railway abandoned the three mile portion of the line and built a new section around the end of Missionary Ridge, avoiding the tunnel altogether.
Today, TVRM preserves railroad equipment not only to preserve machines, but to preserve an experience as well. In providing this historic experience, TVRM hopes to educate our visitors about the importance of this industry and how it helped create the modern world in which we live.
(Source: Tennessee Valley Railroad)
Day One Morning:
You’ll want to make the Tennessee Aquarium your first stop in Chattanooga. It opens at 10 a.m. and takes a minimum of two hours to explore. Ticket prices include both buildings, but for the best deal consider one of their bundles. Along your journey you’ll see cuddly penguins and otters, creepy alligators and sturgeon and hundreds of fluttering butterflies in the rooftop garden. But for a chance to actually touch some of the animals head to Ranger Rick’s Backyard Safari. Watch one of the largest owls in the world take flight or pet a legless lizard at this free, behind-the-glass exhibit. Shows are offered daily in the River Journey building at 10:45 a.m., 11 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 12:45, p.m., 2:00 p.m. and 2:15 p.m. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, head to kid-friendly Mellow Mushroom or Big River Grille for a melt-down free lunch.
Day One Afternoon:
If your little ones still have boundless energy, take a stroll across the Walnut Street Walking Bridge – one of the world’s longest pedestrian bridges. Across the river is the North shore historic district, which offers several boutiques, art galleries and, various restaurants.
Head down to Coolidge Park to run around on the expansive green lawn and ride the beautifully restored 100-year-old carousel. If it’s hot, expect to see local kids playing in the water play fountain. There are places to change if you feel like packing suits.
Day One Evening:
nner, but some kid-friendly spots include Good Dog, a restaurant devoted to hot dogs topped with fresh, local ingredients, and Taco Mamacita, which offers exceptionally fresh tacos, enchiladas and margaritas. Both are located on the North shore. For downtown choices, Sticky Fingers barbeque is a good bet, as is Tony’s Pasta Shop & Trattoria in the Bluffview district.
Day Two Morning:
With images of river sturgeon and catfish still dancing in their heads, a water tour will be well received by little explorers. Chattanooga Ducks offers a kid-centric tour that winds through downtown streets before plunging into the Tennessee River for a cruise around Maclellan Island. The amphibious tour is made possible by the DUKW boat, nicknamed Duck, which was used in WWII for water landings. Corny jokes and duck-billed noise makers come standard with every trip. The Southern Belle boasts panoramic views of the riverfront and Lookout Mountain aboard a vintage steamboat. Take a leisurely cruise and learn about the Tennessee River’s history, legends, and places. Afterward let the kids explore Ross’ Landing and the Tennessee River park, which offers water cannons, a waterfall down the stairs and a small playground overlooking the river. For lunch, try Blue Plate Restaurant; its large green space in front is good for blowing off steam while waiting for a table.
Day Two Afternoon:
Journey to the Chattanooga Zoo for a trip through an African forest, South American jungle and Himalayan Passage. In addition, monkeys, jaguars, snow leopards and red pandas you can get up close with animals from this continent. You can even feed an African pygmy goat. Touring the zoo takes about an hour to hour and a half. If you have small children, it’s more like 45 minutes.
Next head to the Creative Discovery Museum, where kids can splash in a manmade “river,” dig for dinosaur bones in the sand or make beautiful music with a Djembe or auto harp. A three-story Lookout Tour provides a bird’s eye view of downtown, or kids can hoist themselves up with the simple pulleys and levers at the Rooftop Fun Factory. Smaller children (0-4) have their own play area complete with a kitchen, train set and tree house but will enjoy the entire museum (at their own pace).
Or if pure fun is what your after just 15 minutes from Downtown Chattanooga is a classic American Amusement Park loaded with fun for the whole family. Lake Winnepesaukah Amusement Park (open April-October) is the South’s favorite amusement park and has added SOAKya water park (open memorial day weekend to labor day weekend).
Day Two Evening:
For dinner, Lupi’s Pizza is kid-friendly but also appealing to adult palates thanks to local ingredients and a substantial beer selection. If you’re seeking something a little more upscale, try 212 Market. Adults will enjoy the seasonal menu featuring the best of what local farms have to offer paired with filet mignon, bison ribeye or local trout. A kid-friendly menu and crayons keep everyone happy.
If you have older ones in tow, a movie at the Majestic 12 is always a crowd pleaser. But for all ages, High Point Climbing and Fitness offers indoor and outdoor climbing right in the heart of Downtown with special section for kids that’s unlike any other. One of Chattanooga’s newest must do attractions!
Options abound if you plan to spend three or more days in Chattanooga. Once you’ve hit the highlights of downtown, Chattanooga’s many area attractions are worth the drive. For a complete outline of regional highlights head to Discover Tennessee Trails and Byways. The Tanasi Trail or Pie in the Sky routes outline virtually every attraction in the Tennessee Valley.
If you have any train buffs in the family, the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum is a must-see. Located off Highway 153, this moving museum offers several ways to ride the rails. Smaller children will enjoy the Missionary Ridge Local, a 15-minute ride the East Chattanooga station where passengers disembark to watch a 17th century turntable in action. Once turned around riders re-board to return to the main station, passing back through the famous Missionary Ridge tunnel, completed in 1858. The entire trip takes less than an hour. Bigger kids may enjoy longer rides, which can span six to eight hours roundtrip and journey to North Georgia (most include a long layover for exploring). If you opt for a shorter ride, grab lunch at Countryside Café for a made-from-scratch country meal with all the fixin’s, then head to Imagination Station in Collegedale, an expansive playground with picnic area and bike trails.
Another great all-day excursion is Lookout Mountain, which features one of the world’s steepest passenger trains, the nation’s largest and deepest waterfall and a chance to see seven states. If you want to devote the day to it, a triple play pass is the way to go which grants access to the Incline Railway, Ruby Falls and Rock City. At the foot of the Incline, Clumpie’s Ice Cream is a Chattanooga institution, featuring unique made-from-scratch flavors like animal cracker, chocolate Butterfinger and bubble gum. (Flavors rotate regularly, so don’t make any promises.)
Rock City Gardens’ history as a world-famous tourist attraction dates back to the days of the Great Depression, but its history as a geological marvel of nature reaches back several million years before that.
Historical evidence shows that Native Americans inhabited Lookout Mountain. It was in 1823 that two missionaries, Daniel S. Butrick and William Chamberlain, arrived in the area to minister to the Indians. On August 28, 1823, Reverend Butrick made an entry in his diary describing “a citadel of rocks,” atop the mountain, noting the immense size of the boulders and stating that they were arranged in such a way “as to afford streets and lanes.”
By the time the Civil War reached the slopes of Lookout Mountain, more and more people had discovered what was already being called “the Rock City.” During the famous battle of Lookout Mountain, both a Union officer and a Confederate nurse speculated in separate diary entries that one could see seven states from atop the summit. Rock City remained well known to hikers and geologists throughout the later portion of the 1800s, but it would take the dawning of a new century before the fabulous Rock City would reach its full potential.
Garnet Carter, Fairyland, and Mini Golf
The man who would eventually make Rock City a household name was, appropriately enough, himself a product of the Tennessee hills. Garnet Carter was born in Sweetwater, Tennessee in 1883. At the age of 11, he and his family took up residence near Chattanooga on Lookout Mountain. A born promoter, Carter had tried and succeeded at a number of business ventures before hitting on the idea of developing a residential neighborhood on the top of Lookout Mountain. Launched in 1924, the new community was to be known as Fairyland, named so because of his wife Frieda’s long-time interest in European folklore. One of the enticing features of Fairyland was to be a golf course, but construction took considerably longer than was planned. In order to appease those who were clamoring to play golf, Carter responded by fashioning what is now recognized to be the nation’s first miniature golf course. Because of its popularity, Carter decided to franchise this miniature golf concept all over the United States; hence, the origins of Tom Thumb Golf.
Frieda Carter and Rock City
While Garnet Carter was “putting” around with Tom Thumb Golf, Frieda Carter had begun a project of her own. The 700 acres of Fairyland also encompassed the legendary Rock City, and Frieda set out to develop this property into a rock garden to end all rock gardens. When the Depression hit, Thom Thumb Golf fell to the “rough” and Garnet focused on his other business interests. It appeared to him that Frieda’s endeavor with Rock City had possibilities.
Frieda had taken string and marked a trail that wound its way around the giant rock formations, ending at the giant outcropping known as Lover’s Leap. She also collected wildflowers and other plants and had them transplanted along her trail. Frieda’s gardening was supplemented by imported German statues of gnomes and famous fairytale characters, which were stationed at points along the trail. Entrepreneur that he was, Garnet realized his wife had something there that lots of other people might be willing to pay to see. The rest, as they say, is history.
Rock City officially opened as a public attraction on May 21, 1932. It got off to a slow start because advertising in those days was difficult, especially since Carter’s mountain-top attraction was not located in a place that people would just happen to be passing by and take notice. It was at this point another brilliant idea of Carter’s was born. He enlisted the help of a young sign painter named Clark Byers, who was hired to travel the nation’s highways and offer to paint a farmer’s barns in exchange for letting him paint three simple words: See Rock City. The distinctive black-and-white signs appeared as far north as Michigan and as far west as Texas. The advertising soon began to produce the desired effect and by the close of the 1930s, more travelers than ever had seen Rock City Gardens.
Rock City Today
Since its beginnings, Rock City has continued to attract an increasing number of tourists from all over the world. Each year, more than half a million people visit the attraction to enjoy the many natural splendors that abound. Over the years, several features have been added to the original attraction, including the popular Fairyland Caverns and Mother Goose Village, the Cornerstone Station, as well as a myriad of shops and restaurants. In addition, the annual events such as Rock City’s Enchanted Garden of Lights during the holiday season bring in guests by the droves. And the gardens Frieda so lovingly planted have also grown through the years to include more than 400 different species of native wildflowers, shrubs, and trees.
Through the years, Rock City Gardens has become a true American icon. Under the able leadership of Bill Chapin, a third-generation descendant of Garnet and Frieda, Rock City’s mission is to “Create Memories Worth Repeating.” With its nostalgic history, as well as its continual expansion for the future, Rock City Gardens has earned its reputation as a world-class destination and promises to be for generations to come.
(Source: Rock City)
Ruby Falls holds the distinction of being America’s deepest commercial cave and most-visited underground waterfall. Annual visitation exceeds 400,000. Transformation of our 80-year-old natural attraction, listed in the National Register for Historic Places, into a more sustainable and environmentally friendly business operation was a challenge we knew we needed to undertake.
Ruby Falls is committed to the reduction of our environmental footprint while providing a better experience for our visitors. The process included hiring an outside environmental consultant – Dobbin Callahan of Skye Con Consulting, the formation of internal environmental management teams, and 3rd party audits. We have four main environmental initiatives: the production of renewable energy, reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, recycling and waste reduction, and land use planning.
While our environmental journey will never be complete, we have made enough progress in these four areas to be the first U.S. attraction to successfully complete theGreen Globe International environmental certification process.
“Third party certification is crucial to holding us to a higher standard and keeping us focused on more environmentally sensitive business practices,” stated Hugh Morrow, President of Ruby Falls, LLC. “Since 1928, when Ruby Falls reused the limestone excavated from the cave to build the Ruby Falls building, until today, Ruby Falls is committed to another 80 years of offering one of the most unique natural attractions in the world.”
Ruby Falls’ array of solar panels, installed by Big Frog Mountain, is capable of producing 16,000 watts of renewable energy, enough electricity to light over two hundred and fifty 60-watt light bulbs or to operate 16 microwave ovens at full power! This combined with the use of computer-controlled high efficiency lighting in both LED and compact fluorescents has reduced our power consumption by over 24%. This is just one way Ruby Falls is demonstrating our commitment to the reduction of our environmental footprint, while providing a better experience for our visitors.
This system will produce between 16,000 and 20,000 KWH of electricity annually.
Between our energy efficient lighting and solar offsets we will operate the cave on approx 8 to 9 months of electricity vs. 2007.
Electricity will be sold back to the Electric Power Board for their Green Energy Program.
Ruby Falls would like to thank the State of Tennessee Economic and Community Development Energy Division’s Tennessee Clean Energy Technology Grant Program for assisting with the purchase of this state-of-the-art solar energy production equipment.
Reduction in Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Whenever we save energy – or use it more efficiently – we reduce the demand for gasoline, oil, coal, and natural gas. Less burning of these fossil fuels means lower emissions of carbon dioxide, suggested as the major contributor to global warming. The United States releases about 40,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per person each year. If we can reduce energy use enough to lower greenhouse gas emissions by about 2 percent per year, in 10 years we will “lose” about 7,000 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions per person.
In addition to installing the solar panels, we evaluated our indoor and outdoor lighting and have seen energy savings by:
Replacing incandescents with both LED and compact fluorescent lamps
Changing the timing and duration of lighting Adding lighting and equipment controls
We also traded our older van used for brochure distribution for a 2009 Mercury Mariner Hybrid, the most fuel-efficient SUV on the market.
Waste Reduction and Recycling
Our efforts in waste reduction and recycling address three needs:
Source reduction – to use less material overall by altering the design, manufacture, or use of products and materials to reduce the amount of toxicity of what gets thrown away.
Recycling – sorting, collecting, and processing materials allowing others to manufacture and sell them as new products.
Environmentally friendly products – the remaining materials used should have a lower environmental impact
Sustainable Land Use Planning
Ruby Falls is a natural attraction. It’s our responsibility to protect and preserve the natural beauty of the natural environments inside and outside the cave. Our initiatives for land use planning deal with development, environmental characteristics, and site level design. Invest in drought resistant shrubs requiring less water Evaluate capture of rain water on parking areas and basement
Guild Trail Development Land Conservation Land Trust donation
(Source: Ruby Falls)