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Visiting Chattanooga - Macaroni Road Trip!

June 28, 2012

The Chattanoogan Hotel, Tennessee Aquarium, Duck Boats, Lookout Mountain & More

By: Michelle Sisco
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Last weekend we made our first trip to Chattanooga for a super-fun, albeit blazing hot, family getaway. I'm amazed we haven't gone sooner. From Smyrna, it took us less than two hours to get there - including one stop. And what a perfect weekend destination Chattanooga is for families!

I was given so much advice - I didn't know how we could possibly fit everything into our two-day trip. Needless to say, we didn't! But that's the beauty of Chattanooga...it's so close, we'll likely go back in the Fall - when it cools down a bit!  I've wanted to "SEE ROCK CITY" for at least the last 20 years - and this time, when it was top of my list, we still missed it! Honestly it was simply too hot to go hiking around (over 100 degrees). I know we'll enjoy it much more when the weather is cooler, and we had such a good time doing other things that I'm okay delaying that excursion until the next time.

We left home Friday around 2:30pm and got to our hotel, The Chattanoogan, just before 4:30pm. The Chattanoogan is a big hotel...and there are lots of amenities. I always find this to be a bonus traveling with kids - easy access to food, a pool, big comfy rooms and free wireless internet made it the perfect choice for us. The beds were SO comfortable.  I can't lie - I took a little nap when we got there while the boys went swimming in the indoor pool. Then I was fresh for dinner at the Broad Street Grille, the hotel's main dining area, which also serves amazing breakfast and Sunday brunch! Broad Street Grille is farm-to-table, and the food was delicious.  Friday was "Steak Night," meaning most of the menu was comprised of steak entrees (but there was still plenty for those who don't like steak!). I thoroughly enjoyed my filet mignon - along with a blue crab cake appetizer. And while my kids are usually big steak eaters, they were very excited about the slider options on the Kid's Menu - they were offered a combo "hamburger AND hot dog slider." That was a big hit. Not sure what it is about "little" food, but the kids sure dig it!

A highlight of dinner was actuallly the drink menu - the bar has a wonderful menu of handcrafted and house infused cocktails. Unfortunately it's not online and I can't remember EXACTLY what I tried, but it was an infused blackberry margarita - complete with fresh blackberries. And it was incredibly refreshing!

We went to sleep early - and the boys slept late. It's vacation after all. We filled up on the wonderful breakfast buffet before beginning our adventures. The boys had enough eggs, oatmeal and fruit to hold them for days - which is good, because we tried to eat lunch later but were simply too hot to enjoy it. We survived on milkshakes, icees and powerade.

Before heading downtown, I was treated to a pedicure at the hotel spa. The Spa IS small, so make sure to make your appointment ahead of time if you know you'll want a service. It's a hidden little gem next to the pool and workout area that you won't even know exists until you're ushered through the doors!


At around 11am, we jumped on the free electric shuttle that runs about every five minutes. There's no air conditioning, but the ride is quick and you catch a good breeze, so you can't beat it. We went straight to the Tennessee Aquarium. Unlike the Georgia Aquarium, this one has two separate buildings, and you have a ticket for each.

River Journey fascinates visitors with river otters, turtles, alligators, giant catfish and thousands of freshwater wonders. And I do mean GIANT catfish - I believe there was one weighing approximately 135 pounds? Jack LOVED all the turtles. And we started the tour at Ranger Rick's Backyard Safari, where we were able to see a great Birds of Prey show - watch out for those flying cockatoos - they steal money!

We spent a good 90 minutes there before exiting, attempting to have lunch (too hot!), and then heading to the second building, Ocean Journey. Ocean Journey is actually a smaller exhibit - the penguins were great fun, the butterfly room was reminiscent of the one at Callaway Gardens (smaller, but same idea if you've been there). And of course the giant sea turtle was a favorite! There's an amazing room filled with nothing but jellyfish. All kinds of jellyfish! These "Upside Down Jellyfish" were beautiful (my pictures really didn't turn out well - though this one did). The boys got to see their first octopus too!

We walked out of the Aquarium and immediately went searching for a place to cool off. We decided to let the boys play in the "fountains" surrounding the Aquarium. Really, they were more like little waterfalls - but same idea! Tons of kids were playing and loving it.  If you go downtown in the summer, be sure to pack a towel, flip flops/water shoes, and a possibly change of clothes. You'll be glad you did!


At around 4pm, we headed back to our hotel room for a very short rest. And then we packed up and headed to Lake Winne Amusement Park! The park is old-fashioned fun. It's a little like a county fair, a little like Six Flags - but without the lines! I loved the large assortment of kiddie rides that were fun for Jack but not TOO small either - like the Frog Hopper, Kiddie Swings and the Whale (See ATTRACTIONS page). Even though Drew's my adventurous kid, he still does NOT like roller coasters! We learned that lesson again. He still enjoyed the Wave Swinger though - and I tell you, that ride still, and always has, scares me to death! And my seven-year-old laughs at me! Part of what makes Lake Winnie fun is that all the attractions surround the lake, so you get a great view from the rides. You can ride paddleboats too. There's also a playground and cool (fountain) zone - so again, bring a towel and change of clothes! We stayed until the park closed at 10pm. And we were one hot, worn out family! We headed back to our comfy beds at The Chattanoogan, closed the curtains, and slept 'til 9:30am.


Sunday morning we packed up the car and packed our bags for the day's adventures. But before we could begin, we HAD to have Sunday Brunch at the hotell! Oh I love Sunday Brunch buffets! The boys were in awe. There was a Bloody Mary bar too, but I chose not to partake in that this time around. While Ken enjoyed the lunch items, the boys and I stuck to bacon, eggs, fruit...and filled ourselves up again for another hot day!

We left and made a quick trip to check out the Chattanooga Choo-Choo hotel (the historic hotel is an attraction too). If you want to sleep in an old-fashioned train car, here's where you do it. I'm more of a traditionalist, but with younger kids, they'd likely get a kick out of it.

We then jumped on a shuttle and headed out for a Duck Tour.  The boys enjoyed that, and while you are in the water of the Tennesee River (about 45 minutes of the 75 minute ride), you get a nice cool breeze. There's some really interesting history behind this city, and if you want to learn about it, take the Duck Tour! (And watch out or your child might become the Captain!)

Here's an interesting tidbit we learned on the tour. Did you know the Tennessee Aquarium was technically funded by Coca-Cola? Well the bottling company anyway....
  • From the Coca-Cola Website: 1899 … The first bottling agreement. Two young attorneys from Chattanooga, Tennessee believed they could build a business around bottling Coca-Cola. In a meeting with Candler, Benjamin F. Thomas and Joseph B. Whitehead obtained exclusive rights to bottle Coca-Cola across most of the United States (specifically excluding Vicksburg) -- for the sum of one dollar. A third Chattanooga lawyer, John T. Lupton, soon joined their venture.  (Apparently no one thought it could be bottled - what a score!)
After the Duck Tour, we took the shuttle back to our car, and decided to drive around and see some of the beautiful sites. The homes around the Bluff View Art District are simply gorgeous (there's an inn too). We drove over the bridge and went to see what Coolidge Park was all about. Unfortunately, the animal fountains weren't working (statues - lion, etc.). But there was still a water play area and we cooled down there, and had ice cream at a really fun local shop called Clumpies. That side of the river reminded me a bit of Savannah's River Street. Definitely check it out if you have time.


Now 3pm, we hadn't even started our primary adventures for the day! The Incline Railway at Lookout Mountain and See Rock City! It was another 100 degree day, so I was a little concerned about the heat. We ended up at the railway first - and I'm glad we did. What an amazing ride and view! Known as “America’s Most Amazing Mile,” the Incline’s trolley-style cars climb up historic Lookout Mountain at a 72.7% grade – straight up! It's not scary - until you get to the top. Then I had to hold my breath for a few minutes! It's only about a ten minute ride each way though, and the altitude is around 2300 feet.

Once we reached the top, we pretty much decided Rock City was going to have to wait - it was just too hot (and too late). Ken wanted to see Point Park - location of The Battle of Chattanooga (Battle Above the Clouds). It's a three-block walk through a GORGEOUS neighborhood to the national park. And if you're taking the railway, you simply must go there, even if it's only to look at the houses on East Brow Rd.! We didn't go into the museum, but as you can see, the boys enjoyed the cannons. The park itself is serene and has a stunning view of the valley below. Read the history HERE (no need for me to do a paper!). The park Memorial statue is actually a tribute to BOTH Union and Confederate soldiers/generals - and if I remember correctly, it's the only Memorial that does pay tribute to those who fought on both sides.

At just before 6pm, it was time to head down the mountain. Oh it was HOT! Down the train, into the car and home we went! The boys were asleep within five minutes. I was out within ten. We got home and Drew ran straight up into his bed. What a fun time we had...and what a perfect weekend getaway! Next time we go to Chattanooga, we'll be sure to visit See Rock City and the Children's Museum! I'm sure I'll have more to report then.

Many thanks to The Chattanoogan and the Tennessee Aquarium for hosting our visit!

Here's a photo of a room at The Chattanoogan - we had two queens, but same idea! Really nice.


1) Joan Gosselin said:
Thank you for the information! What a great family getaway!
2 years ago

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