Chattanooga is a city that I often take for granted. It’s only two hours from Birmingham and is full of hiking, climbing, and other things I love to do. When my friend Mackenzie suggested we go for a weekend, Katie (another friend) and I couldn’t pass it up. On Friday, after work, we hit the road toward the quaint mountain city.
A lot of my trips include minimal, last minute planning, but it is always a good idea to book an Airbnb a few days ahead. We were lucky enough to snag two bedrooms at The Beautiful 1930 House in North Shore. Mackenzie had never stayed at an Airbnb, so she was able to save $$$ using this code: www.airbnb.com/c/taylorc1809.
The Airbnb was our first stop in the ‘Noog. We met our hosts for the weekend, unpacked our bags, and got ready for the night out. They gave us great advice and told us to try the burgers at The Tremont Tavern for dinner.
We enjoyed each other’s company at the Tavern, until we decided to venture further downtown. The first bar we tried out was The Honest Pint. It wasn’t quite what we were looking for, so we walked around the block to The Bitter Alibi. It still was a bit more relaxed than we wanted, but the décor and design of the building appealed to our intrigue and convinced us to stay for a beer. We decided to call it an early night so that we could be up early enough for pancakes at Aretha Frankenstein’s.
Taking my friends to my favorite restaurant in Chattanooga the next morning made me very happy, and kicked the day off in the best of ways. I had to explain that the pancakes are always worth the wait, but I didn’t have to explain anything once our bellies were full.
We crossed the Georgia line to go to Rock City next. The combo pass for Rock City and Ruby Falls is the best deal if you have time to see both. We had no idea what to expect from the waterfall and overlook, but it turned out to be so much more than we could’ve imagined!
The history of Rock City is extremely interesting. It was originally inhabited by Native Americans, but it is known now as the birthplace of miniature golf! The 700 acres of Fairyland Gardens were once a private residence and golf course, but now they are home to a carved-out walking trail that leads to the famous Lover’s Leap and High Waterfall. Standing here, you can see seven states: Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina, Kentucky, and Virginia!
The trail also runs through attractions like the Fairyland Caverns and Mother Goose Village. We were so surprised by how much we enjoyed Rock City, and we all agreed that it was our favorite attraction of the weekend!
After about two hours of exploring, we started toward Ruby Falls. We arrived to a very long and unexpected line of people that ended in the parking lot. It turns out that buying a ticket in advance gives you no advantage in the entrance line. Our estimated wait time was 45 minutes, and the estimate was nearly correct. Before we knew it, we were standing in the elevator and whizzing our way underground.
Like most caves, there is an incredible history to its modern exploration. A young Leo Lambert grew up exploring around Chattanooga and was looking for a cave when he stumbled upon Ruby Falls. He romantically named the falls after his wife and reportedly could not wait to show her. Now, millions of people come to see America's largest commercial, underground waterfall.
Surprisingly, our tour was really crowded. We were there in the late afternoon on a rainy Saturday, but I felt as if we were constantly stopping to allow another group to pass. I would suggest trying to go earlier in the day, because the line was even longer than before when we were leaving! After our tour, we were ready for dinner, so we headed back to Tennessee.
Tony’s Italian Restaurant is where we devoured hearty bowls of pasta and had a few brews. We were all too tired to do anything afterwards, so we went back to the Airbnb to get some rest for another day of adventures!
My girlfriends and I consider brunch to be a weekend requirement, and this weekend’s brunch would be at one of my favorite Chattanooga bars. The Flying Squirrel was a perfect stop before the Aquarium, because it has great grub and mimosas.
We thought we had acted like children at Rock City the day before, but our excitement inside The Tennessee Aquarium was at a fever pitch. There were two main exhibits to explore: The Ocean Journey and The River Journey. We started with the Ocean Journey.
The escalator took us up to the top, and we started with lemurs and safe-to-touch stingrays. The butterfly exhibit was really cool, because we could get up-close and personal with the beautiful beings. We were able to get a few butterflies to land on us, but Katie did not like having them on her hands. We finally passed them off to some kids and kept walking down The Ocean Journey.
I have never seen someone’s face light up like Mackenzie’s did when we approached the penguin exhibit. We could have spent hours watching these little guys jump in and out of the water, but we needed to move on and let others enjoy the view. Sharks, turtles, and tons of fish were housed all throughout the Tropical Cove. Our last exhibit in The Ocean Journey was my favorite.
The River Journey starts the same way the Ocean Journey did. You take a couple of escalator rides up to the top where an open exhibit--themed after the Appalachian ecosystem--allows you to touch sturgeons instead of stingrays. We made our way through The Mississippi Delta and on to the River Giants exhibit. Giant sturgeon, stingrays, and catfish are on display here from all over the world.
We spent about 3 hours exploring the entire aquarium and had worked up a bit of an appetite. Puckett’s is just across the street from the aquarium and is one of Mackenzie’s favorite BBQ restaurants. We enjoyed a savory bite before we hit the road back to Birmingham. Our first weekend girls’ trip is in the books, and it couldn’t have been more successful!