Chattanooga, Tennessee - Best Place to Live in America

Is Chattanooga the Best Place to Live in America?

Share on Facebook28,401Share on Google+21Tweet about this on Twitter290Pin on Pinterest213Share on StumbleUpon147Share on LinkedIn68

In October of 2011, readers of Outside Magazine overwhelmingly voted Chattanooga, Tennessee their ultimate dream town. The following year, the New York Times ranked the city #25 in The 45 Places to Go in 2012, a list that included such notable tourist destinations as London, Jordan, and Antarctica. However, Chattanooga’s current status as top tourist destination and darling of the outdoor lifestyle crowd was not always so. In 1969, Walter Cronkite declared it the “Dirtiest City in America” on his evening broadcast.

Cronkite’s statement was a wake up call for Chattanooga, which had long enjoyed prosperity as one of the top industrial and manufacturing cities in America. The Chattanooga/Hamilton County Air Pollution Control Bureau was quickly established, but just as the smog began to clear the recession of the 1970’s and 80’s dealt a second blow. In the face of severe job layoffs, deteriorating infrastructure and social tensions, the Chamber of Commerce and Chattanooga Planning Commission created Chattanooga Venture, a non-profit organization tasked with bringing together citizens to clean up their city on all fronts. The organization held a series of public forums where residents were asked to dream about the way they wanted their city to be.

Chattanooga's Riverfront, with Tennessee Aquarium and seven fountains at the base of The Passage, America’s largest public art project celebrating Cherokee history and commemorating the Trail of Tears

Chattanooga’s Riverfront, with Tennessee Aquarium and seven fountains at the base of The Passage, America’s largest public art project celebrating Cherokee history and commemorating the Trail of Tears

More than 1,000 residents participated in the four-month process, which resulted in the adoption of 40 goals for the city to achieve by the year 2000, including the revitalization of Chattanooga’s derelict downtown; creation of a distribution and transportation center to capitalize on the city’s prime location at the intersection of Interstates 75, 59 and 24; and solving problems with air, water and noise pollution. Today, many of those goals have been accomplished. The city and county have developed five miles of greenway which begins along the downtown Riverwalk and winds through several parks and the historic Bluff View Art District. Riverwalk is a world class tourist destination, offering the acclaimed Tennessee Aquarium and Tennessee Riverpark, where visitors can take rides on authentic paddle wheel steamboats.

While the accolades racked up by Chattanooga of late may astound some, my only surprise is that it took folks so long to fall in love with this city on the banks of the Tennessee River. I first rolled into town by chance  seven years ago, just as the nine-day Riverbend Festival was wrapping up. I strolled around the downtown amidst cleanup crews, rode the free zero-emission electric buses through the business district, and walked across the river on the 120-year-old Walnut Street Bridge, which was converted for pedestrian use when it was no longer appropriate for car traffic. On the North Shore I found a handful of Yoga studios and cafes, along with the unmistakeable energy of a neighborhood poised to become Chattanooga’s newest arts enclave.

Walnut Street Bridge, converted for pedestrian use when it was no longer appropriate for car traffic, provides easy access to the North Shore from downtown Chattanooga

Walnut Street Bridge, converted for pedestrian use when it was no longer appropriate for car traffic, provides easy access to the North Shore from downtown Chattanooga

Over the years, Chattanooga has stayed on my horizon. During trips between Chicago and Atlanta it always seemed the perfect stopping point for dinner and I usually made my way to the turn-of-the-century warehouse district on the north side of the river, where old red-brick textile mills had morphed into local boutiques, artisanal shops, and restaurants. I never failed to be impressed, so when the Chattanooga Area Convention & Visitors Bureau invited me to get to know their city a little better this past April, I jumped at the chance.

Tangerinas, one of many cute local shops and galleries in Chattanooga's North Shore neighborhood

Tangerinas, one of many cute local shops and galleries in Chattanooga’s North Shore neighborhood

Just as I had suspected, the North Shore had become a prime location for local entrepreneurs and artists, a number of whom had begun life in the INCubator, a 125,000 square foot former ceramic manufacturing facility that now offers office or manufacturing space to start-up businesses at highly competitive lease rates. As a result, rather than being filled with ubiquitous franchises or national chain stores, merchants of the North Shore are overwhelmingly local. Shops fronting Coolidge Park offer everything from original art in galleries, to hand-painted furniture and decor at Tangerinas, and even natural hand-crafted sodas featuring flavors such as lavender mint, strawberry jalapeno, apple pie, orange basil and hibiscus lemon in the old-fashioned soda fountain at Pure Sodaworks.

Matt Rogers displays his natural hand-crafted line of Pure Sodaworks, located on Chattanooga's North Shore

Matt Rogers displays his natural hand-crafted line of Pure Sodaworks, located on Chattanooga’s North Shore

But I soon learned that Chattanooga offered so much more than what I had seen on the North Shore. From my lovely penthouse hotel room at the Bluff View Inn, I walked across the glass bridge connecting the Bluff View Arts District with the downtown Riverfront. At the Tennessee Aquarium, the largest fresh-water aquarium in the world, I followed the journey of a single drop of water flowing from the Appalachian Mountains down the Tennessee River to the Gulf of Mexico.

Niedlov's Bakery, located on Main Street in Chattanooga's Southside neighborhood, supplies artisan bread to a number of downtown restaurants

Niedlov’s Bakery, located on Main Street in Chattanooga’s Southside neighborhood, supplies artisan bread to a number of downtown restaurants

Another day took me to the Southside District on Main Street, an up and coming neighborhood on the southern edge of downtown. Here I met John Sweet of Niedlov’s Bakery, who makes the artisan breads that are served in many of downtown Chattanooga’s eateries. I spent two lovely mornings there, gulping down fantastic coffee and swooning over their “everything” bagels, which are covered top and bottom, making them, in my opinion, the best everything bagels in the entire world. After an obligatory stop at the Chattanooga Choo-Choo and a tour of the Crash Pad, a great new hostel that caters to rock climbers and other outdoor enthusiasts, I drove a few blocks to The Hot Chocolatier, where owner Wendy Buckner begged forgiveness for not being able to meet with me as scheduled, since leaving the pot of chocolate she was stirring meant she would lose her temper. I grinned, realizing she was talking about tempering the chocolate, and told her to take her time as I slid into one of her grand wooden booths with another cup of coffee. My patience was rewarded when Wendy slid in across from me a short while later and shared the remarkable story of how she launched her gourmet pastry and desert business, not to mention the box of chocolate covered cherries she insisted I take upon departing.

The Hot Chcolatier, in Chattanooga's Southside neighborhood, makes gourmet pastries, desserts, and chocolates

The Hot Chcolatier, in Chattanooga’s Southside neighborhood, makes gourmet pastries, desserts, and chocolates

I couldn’t leave Chattanooga without riding Lookout Mountain Incline Railway, the steepest passenger railway in the world. At the top I headed for Point Park, site of the famous Civil War “Battle Above the Clouds” and the perfect place from which to view Tennessee River’s Moccasin Bend. On the other side of the mountain I spent a few hours trying to find my way around Rock City Gardens with a poorly designed trail map. Though it was a bit hokey for my taste, with statues of elves scattered amongst the rocks and fake crystals attached to cavern walls, I was finally rewarded with a spectacular view of seven states from Lover’s Leap, a mammoth rock outcropping with sheer drop-offs to the valley below.

Lover's Leap, a monolithic rock outcropping at Rock City Gardens, offers views to seven States

Lover’s Leap, a monolithic rock outcropping at Rock City Gardens, offers views to seven States

Of course, I returned to my old stomping ground, Manufacturer’s Road in the North Shore, to see what had occurred since my last visit. Developments that had been empty lots with sales trailers now offered upscale condos and an intriguing collection of small shops and services, again mostly local in nature, were now anchored by a Whole Foods Market. That afternoon I dined at a new restaurant, Elemental, which features “re-envisioned Southern Cuisine and handcrafted beverages made with local, regional, and responsibly sourced ingredients and inspired by modern techniques.” Their pumpkin bisque with spiced pepitas and roasted seed oil was so rich it hurt my salivary glands, and the hemp nut burger with pickled vegetables and aioli was the best veggie burger I’ve ever tasted. I’d seriously drive 50 miles out of my way to eat here again; it was that good.

So, back to my question: Why are more people are not raving about Chattanooga? I don’t have an answer but I suspect that it won’t stay the same for much longer. With thriving local shops and businesses, a strong music and arts culture, unrivaled outdoor amenities, excellent tourist sights, and a government and populace committed to sustainable development, Chattanooga is certainly has to be included on any list of the best place to live in America, and a wonderful place to vacation.

Disclosure: I was a guest of the Chattanooga Area Convention & Visitors Bureau during my stay in Chattanooga. However, the receipt and acceptance of complimentary items or services will never influence the content, topics, or posts in this blog. I write the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

120 Comments on “Is Chattanooga the Best Place to Live in America?

  1. This is a really nice article about Chattanooga. I’m planning a move this fall from Pittsburgh (previously lived in ATL and Memphis, so familiar with the south). Love the sports here–tired of the winter and lack of sunshine (we have less sunshine than Seattle!). So now I’m researching neighborhoods to target, what amenities are available where, etc. etc. I’m very much looking forward to the move, and this article just adds more excitement to my planning! Thank you, Barbara!

    • You’re very welcome, Bonnie. I hope you love Chattanooga as much as I do.

  2. Love, love, love it here– “GIG City”: Fastest Internet in the US– Thank you very much! I enjoyed reading this blog but, not much is mentioned about the mountain regions of the area. Just a short drive up to around 2,100 elevation are some really beautiful places to hike, rock climb, hang-glide, bike or drive the lovely winding mountain roads– spectacular views! Most of Lookout Mountain is in NW Georgia. Actually, Rock City is located just over the Georgia state line. There’s just so much to see & do but, beware those dreaded Christians with Family Values and “Old Money Mountain People”….. Just twisting the knife “AR” & “Amanda”. Please always stay where you are; your kids can use the non-gender specific restrooms in your wonderful public schools that you pay dearly for & you’ll live happily ever after. That is until you have to answer for the life you’ve lived here on earth…… Oh well, GOD bless you anyway!

  3. looking to move here due to cost of living and location to nashville memphis and atlanta. progressive independents here and would love a pro and con list with details. i worry about the religion side of things. i am completely open to any beliefs and religions, however extreme, good, or bad they may be, but do not enjoy being pressured into any comformity. we are early 20’s and heavily involved in the arts. the reviews and videos seem spectacular and made me Super excited to move. the hesitation for me is crime. i am strongly against heavy crime or Any gang activity. i dont want to raise a family looking over my shoulder. but i grew up in raleigh nc and Love the whole place- good and bad. durham nc scares me, is it anything like that? how serious are the religious aspects of the town? thanks SO much for the response and i loved reading this. this city seems bizzarely diverse and also seems to offer extreme differing of opinions ???

  4. A thousand thumbs up on the beauty of the city…it’s not called the Scenic City for no good reason! I’ve been fortunate enough to live here for 14 years. As I write this I’m looking out on the most incredible lake and mountain view on this gorgeous fall day, out the window of a house I would not even have a chance of owning anywhere else (nice homes here are still an incredible value). I’ve lived in 7 states, traveled to all 50, and travel the world for a living, and can say there is no finer place to live in terms of beauty and cost of living. And, as the city continues to attract well-paying jobs, more and more well-educated, well-traveled, and forward-thinking people are “emigrating” here. That said, no place is perfect, and for anyone with kids, I’d recommend one of the many excellent private schools, as, sadly, public schools here do not enjoy national prominence. I’m trying to be diplomatic here. Anyway, the good news is that private educational institutions are much easier to afford here than elsewhere, and parents should use the savings gained from no state income tax to find one. Other than that, there’s not much in the way of complaint that I have about living here (except that we have no Macy’s, but that discussion is for another day). Just another day in paradise…

  5. I enjoyed this article about Chattanooga. After read it, I searched about this city at google.
    Actually I am from Korea. So, I did not know well about this city. I think there are many hidden
    city where is beautiful. Thank you for your article.

    • You’re very welcome, homestayin. I think very few people in the US know about Chattanooga as well.

  6. I have lived in northern California, Chicago, Cincinnati and Minneapolis. I don’t have the experience of living in Chattanooga, but my long time boyfriend was born and raised there, and I have spent a lot of time there. He will never go back and I will never raise my kids there for one reason: Chattanooga has small town, old and antiquated views when it comes to society. We are not religious and know from experience our kids would suffer because of that. Atheist and Agnostics have no place there. My son has autism, and he would get no where near the same learning experience as he does here in MN. My daughter, is wondering if she might be gay. She is a young teen trying to fit in, and who she will be as an adult I do not know, but I do know she won’t find support in Chattanooga.

    Chattanooga is a beautiful city, with some amazing homes for great prices. It is slowly moving from a seriously blue collar city to a hip urban one.. slowly. For a small city it has some great amenities, a nice small town artsy vibe and Atlanta is just a short drive away. If you are religious and set in your ways you will fit in well there, because mentally the city is stuck in 1961 and doesn’t seem like it will be changing anytime soon.

    • AR, than you for that review of Chattanooga. We are considering a move and your comments convinced me that I should take a serious look. I have lived all over the world including Southern California. In my opinion southern California is a perfect place for athiests such as yourself. Suggesting that your kids would suffer from a Christian influence says it all.

      • We could all use some Christian values. It seems there are more intolerant atheists in this world than intolerant Christians.

    • Wow……. Please stay where ever it is that you currently live. You sound like a very narrow-minded, opinionated, ignorant, Godless person. I’ll bet you voted for Obama…… Thanks for that!

      • MJ: I know you replied to AR, but I feel compelled to weigh in here. I am the author of the story and owner of this blog. While I might not agree with AR’s assessment of Chattanooga, I honor his or her right to voice it, as long as it is done respectfully. Americans have forgotten how to have a conversation; we find it simpler to attack those who have opinions that differ from our own. Calling someone narrow-minded, opinionated, ignorant, and Godless is disrespectful and unproductive. If you have comments that might start a thoughtful conversation, feel free to leave them. Otherwise, please just don’t comment.

  7. This is the first thing I’ve heard of Chattanooga outside of country songs, and I have to say that I’m impressed. Lover’s Leap and the artisan shops stand out to me in particular!

    • Hi Heather: If I had to live in the U.S. it would be Chattanooga for me. It has so much going for it!

      • Hello I am currently living in Florida actually my entire life and I am recently a single mom I can’t be in the sun I have lupus go figure being in florida, I have looked into moving to Chattanooga Tennessee or rossville ga I find the rentals way cheaper then hear and florida is so dirty sunshine state my but. Please help me is taking my family to this state a wise idea and is work hard to find I’ve done lots of googling but it comes up with more personal comments then facts please help thanks.

  8. So proud to be a resident of Chattanooga. I love our city.

  9. I absolutely loved Chattanooga when I went there in 2004. It was such a pleasant place with some of the friendliest people I met in the USA. The local food was good to and there was plenty to see and do. I could happily live there I think.

  10. Lived there for a decade …couldn’t wait to get back home to Southern California! Homes are very cheap to buy, but don’t appreciate like property in a real city. Weather is terrible. Public education, terrible!
    My husband and I had to send all three of our kids to private schools!!!
    Very happy to say GOOD BYE to Chatt.!
    Bless it’s heart!!

    • It’s funny that you bash Chattanooga, and sing the praises of one of the worst/most bankrupt states in the US?? Chattanooga is one of the most economically sound/fastest growing cities in the US. I’m sorry that you didn’t see the beautiful things about Chattanooga, because you were to focused on the high taxes and over inflated life styles that you love so much in California. I’m also confused what you mean by a real city? If you and California are defining what a real city is (see list below), then I think Chattanooga should continue to not be a “real city”. It seems to be working for us so far. The fact that you think Chattanooga’s weather is terrible tells me that you are the kind of person that likes to go on a camping trip in your livingroom! Chattanooga is known for its outdoor life, and beautiful weather. Thank you for leaving Chattanooga and making room for people who who can keep up with such an amazing city!

      Vallejo, California – Bankruptcy – May 2008
      Stockton, California, Bankruptcy – June 2012
      Mammoth Lakes, California – Bankruptcy – June 2012
      San Bernardino, California – Bankruptcy – July 2012
      Headed For Bankruptcy: – Compton

      • Hi what you said has helped the most thanks.
        I have a question if it’s ok I live in Florida my entire life but have been all over except for Tennessee go figure right, I have lupus and hate the heat hear I also just became a single mom of three teens 16 14 and 10 he of course isn’t a teen :) is it easy to find work ? IS there areas I should stay away from? And is it possible for me to make it alone? I’m not expecting miracle and everything be okay because I know the first year’s are tuff, but I live in a 4 bedroom $1500 a month electric $340 monthly water $150 monthly insurance is high car insurance is very high especially if you live near the beach um florida wear all close to some water lol, anyways I dont have much saved up but im going to pay two months rent in advance so I can make sure my job is stable, and single moms is health care available if needed. Hope you can help have a wonderful week.

    • So happy that you were able to leave. Whining about the poor quality of government run schools is a no brainer, but thankful that your children were able to get a good private school education. As far as the weather goes, Chattanooga is not a desert like Southern California. They have four distinguishable season not just two. Again so happy you were able to and did leave.

  11. I grew up an hour from Chattanooga and now live an hour away from it once more after a decade in NYC and SF. I will say it is not the city it was when I was a child–and that is a GOOD thing. Treps like Matt Rogers (who I know personally) are doing great things for our little Southern town! And I love all the attention it’s receiving.

  12. I have lived here in Chattanooga for all my 80 years and never want to live any place else. None of the many places I have visited measure up to it !

  13. I went to school in Collegedale. My husband actually went to undergrad at UTC and dental school in Memphis . When we were dating we of course frequented the city of Chattanooga. I’m impressed with how things have evolved, good job to those who took the time to gather people’s interests in a town that could have ” remained unchanged”. Good job!

  14. I moved from Kansas City to Chattanooga last year, and I am in love with its outdoorsy, artistic vibe. I go hiking or to the North Shore every chance I get. I had no idea Chattanooga was once described as the “dirtiest city in America,” so I thank you for this great article describing the history of Chattanooga’s purposeful rebirth. I learned something new!

  15. We moved here 3 years ago in our late 50’s from Columbus, Ohio where we had essentially lived since we were born. We moved here for a job offer at the new Volkswagon Plant. We were literally stunned at what a wonderful city Chattanooga is to live in! It is so scenic with so many activities…and it is a relatively small town! We love the music scene. Being close to Nashville and Atlanta it is not hard to get good music groups to come here to perform! We took up whitewater kayaking and it is only 45 minutes to fabulous whitewater, mountain flanked rivers! It is only 2 hours from the Smokies and incredible scenic drives when were not feeling athletic! When we came down to house hunt in February of 2010, we stayed in a downtown hotel. The temperature was in the 20’s and there were snow flurries. The downtown streets were packed in the evening with people on the sidewalks going to theaters, restaurants etc. This not only happened on the weekend, but weekday evenings, too! Cities all over the USA work hard to make their downtown vibrant, and Chattanooga evidently succeeded! We love it here!

  16. Pingback: Best city in America? - City-Data Forum

  17. Barbara,

    Another hidden gem in the midst of the city is Bell South Park, home of the Chattanooga Lookouts. It’s a wonderfully scenic location in the heart of the city overlooking the river. It makes for a great family-oriented evening of affordable entertainment (compared to big city Major League baseball). The tickets and concessions are very reasonably priced and the atmosphere is homey and family oriented.

  18. Pingback: “It’s a new world every morning Sarah.” ~ Pops | Copacabana

  19. I love your article and am really appreciative of your speaking so highly of my home town. One thing though, Whole Foods and Elemental are both in Two North Shore, not Warehouse Row

    • She doesn’t mention Warehouse Row. She says they’re on Manufacturers Road, which is correct. They sound the same so sometimes in my mind I get the two mixed up.

      • Hi Cathy: I had actually mentioned Warehouse Row in the original version, but made the correction when another reader told me of the mistake. You’re absolutely right, I got the two mixed up.

  20. No one wants to move to Chattanooga due to the close minded bigots whom run and live in the city. The same ones who turned away 6 Flags years ago due to wanting to keep the “small town feel”. The extreme clique atmosphere is also quite an issue. Residents whom have lived in or around the city their entire lives have a superiority complex against tourists and non-native residents. Racism abounds and the social class structure is so imbred with old mountain money (because they only marry/breed with their own) that the richer side of town is just a few I.Q. points short of the national average. All in all, save yourself the time and money and just watch Deliverance.

    • Wow, when was the last time you visited Chattanooga? 1970?
      I lived there for a few years (early 2000’s) and worked at a golf course on the mountain. I saw the worst of the old mountain money people and none of them were as bad you make them out to be.
      Besides all that, the people that live in Chattanooga are nothing like the people that live on top of the mountain. While I don’t have the same opinions of good food as the author (I prefer Cheeburger to a veggie burger :), I do agree that there are some awesome things to do in downtown.
      Six Flags, seriously. You’re upset that they kept a nasty, over-priced commercialized theme park out of the city and chose instead to create things like the river walk, and a 50 cent carousel?
      I’ve taken my kids to both six flags (in Atlanta) and Chattanooga, and the Chattanooga trip was more enjoyable for all, and that was without even visiting the aquarium or Rock City on that trip.

    • finally….an honest comment that delves beyond the “smoke and mirrors”. I grew up in this town and got out as quick as I could. i’m glad they have a really good public relations department and are doing all the “cool stuff downtown”. but at it’s core it is still the same backwoods, closed minded place that condones bigotry, domestic violence and brags about being the only city of it’s size where pro’choice for women does not exist. and lynerd skynerd is still top 40 music. visit, sure, I did just a month ago to see family. but a great place to live? think again.

      • p.s. and it seems this writer who was a guest of the chamber of commerce was only shown what they wanted her to see. I doubt they took her to soddy-daisy for a KKK meeting..,.and yes, they are still there. or to a bar where a guy will still laugh about someone beating their wife.

    • I lived there for many years before moving north, so I understand to “whom” you are referring. But I don’t negate the natural splendor surrounding Chattanooga, or the eloquence of the town itself, over a few blue blood “wanna be’s”…. I guess their exclusiveness would only bother me… if I was a “wanna be”.

  21. Thanks for your awesome review as as you have read in earlier posts we have lots more to offer and do here in the scenic city…it is my home away from home and I love all we have to offer. The short distance drive to other tri-state areas…is also a plus.

  22. While Rock City may be a bit ‘hokey” with its ubiquitous gnomes (not elves really), it’s called Rock City Gardens for a reason. And locals enjoy all the seasonal beauty of blooming flowers and blossoming trees. Check out their website for more info on the carefully planned plantings throughout the Gardens. And, I will say, too, that it’s a great place to take kids and grandkids. Mine especially like navigating the swinging bridge and frosting Christmas cookies and watching the informative “Raptors/Birds of Prey” presentations. Not to mention the funnel cakes and kettle corn. So while it may not be to “your” taste, people from all over the world visit and seem to thoroughly enjoy it–at any time of year.

    • Rock City has been a popular tourist destination for over half a century. So many people go there to just to reminisce of their childhood or of taking their own children there …. at least I do:) So the fairytale village and all, MAY seem outdated to new visitors, but to many of us, it just feels nostalgic…. The gardens are beautiful, but it’s the rock formations and views that take MY breath away… I tell everyone, “Don’t go to Chattanooga without going to Rock City.” It’s a little heaven on earth…

  23. Thank you for this wonderful article about Chattanooga (my home town). I have been living in the Nashville area since 1970, but I still get back home as often as I can, and I am always happy to be in Chattanooga again. Truly, Chattanooga has made great strides over the past 40 years, but the reason for that is that there are wonderful people there who have exhibited pride and passion to make their home and mine a great place to live and to visit — people like my mom and dad, who never lived anywhere else and were always proud of Chattanooga, even when it was a really dirty city. Chattanooga, you are truly a shining star on the map of our great State of Tennessee!

  24. Interesting review of Chattanooga. I was born there in 1952. By the time I was 18 and out of high school all I wanted to do was leave. It truly was a horrible place to live or visit. With so much progress made over the years I can see why people can be infatuated – it is indeed far beyond the nasty town it was for so long. I prefer towns and cities in the west, particularly in Colorado. Best place in the US? I don’t think so, but it’s nice to visit my sister and her husband, as well as my brother (while he’s still there ;). – way to go Chattanooga – you’re ‘getting there’.

  25. I lived in Chattanooga for three years and had an incredible time there. I totally agree with the experiences you shared in your story, Barbara. Unfortunately you seem to have missed Nightfall, an open air concert series, which takes place every friday all summer long at the Downtown Miller Plaza. The lovely lady who organizes the concerts, Carla Pritchard, got the best knowledge of music and artists I can imagine and a great taste. Thank you for highlighting Chattanooga, Barbara. You made me feeling homesick!

  26. Thank you for the splendid article about my hometown. Sure made me homesick! I moved to Indiana almost 25 years ago and since leaving have seen Chattanooga bcome a great jewel among cities of any size. On one of your visits you need to visit the National Military Cemetery on Bailey Avenue. Both of my parents, World War II veterans are buried there. It is a beautiful serene place in the heart of the city and is meticulously maintained. I grew up in the Highland Park area east of downtown near Missionary Ridge and this neighborhood is painfully making a comeback. I still remember on a clear day as a child being able to see Lookout Mountain to the west and Missionary Ridge to the east and being grateful for being able to live in such a beautiful place. When I return to visit now it is a virtual wonderland of new resturaunts, attractions and shops as it continues to grow and evolve into a fantastic destination. You have captured the essence of the city I love and I trust that I can make a return visit again soon.

  27. A huge thank you to everyone who read my article and left a comment. Though opinions differ, it seems that the consensus agree with me that Chattanooga is a very special city, and I look forward to going back again and again.

  28. Having lived there for three years, I can say its a great place to visit and a horrible place to live. The attractions are lovely and its surrounded by fantastic camping snd outdoor activities, but slightly off the beaten path always count your change.

  29. If you come back, you must try Aretha Frankenstein’s pancakes. One pancake sits an inch high and covers the entire plate, even the rim.

  30. Have lived in or around Chattanooga my entire 57 years. Yes, it is a secret that we lifers refer to keep. If everyone knew how good we have it here, there would be no room in the inn. Chattanooga is in the middle of a lush green valley, which is in between other lush green valleys. We have mild winters and long sunny summers. Because of the Tennessee River and its many contributaries, my water bill averages $5/month. When Georgia was in a drought and searching for water sources, we never felt the effects. So, you see we have to keep this place a secret in order to keep out the riff raff.

    Speaking of riff raff, there is another little known side to the history of Chattanooga. Back when we were the most polluted city, we were also struggling with corruption in our leadership. Chattanooga was known as “little Chicago.” When I was a child I remember we had a sheriff known as James “Bookie” Turner. He even had the audacity to let people call him that in public! Just something you might want to look into.

    Thank you for the wonderful article. Don’t spread it around too much. We might need to keep our secret a little longer.

  31. I’m from Germany, Chattanooga was for three years the home for my family. I will never forget the warm welcome in my neighborhood. And I still dream about this wonderful time. I spent time everywhere in US but I call Chattanooga my home. When I get the chance to come back, I will tacke the chance.

    • We are still here and I totally agree! Chattanooga is a wonderful place!

  32. I would like to add, as a Chattanooga transplant from Nashville, that not only does this town keep us constantly entertained but also the community of people here is life changing. It is virtually impossible to go to an event here and not run into handfuls of friends. We are a united community that want nothing more than this city to thrive. There are so many organizations that offer support and grants to locals looking to improve this city and our lives. It’s everything from startup companies to just beautiful murals on buildings that truly make this city so great. And this would not be possible without our amazing community working together. To me, that speaks loudly for our city. Thank you for the wonderful review!

  33. I lived in Chattanooga for four decades before moving to another city for work several years ago. Chattanooga has changed for the better over the years and it’s still a great place to visit which I do a couple of times each year to visit family. However, what it offers in tourist amenities is not matched by the local culture itself.

    Chattanooga is still one of the most socially and economically stratified cities of its size. The local public schools in Chattanooga are inferior compared to where we live now. There also fewer university choices within a reasonable distance. And it’s ironic that you can’t catch an Amtrak train in a city that celebrates it’s choo-choo heritage.

    Is Chattanooga a great place to visit? Certainly. Is Chattanooga the best place to live? I’ve realized since moving away that there are other cities and regions that offer much more when raising a family.

  34. Chatt is a nice town and the surrounding areas are gorgeous…but it doesn’t compare with Denver and surrounding areas.

  35. It’s ok. But then again you’ve got the murders and stabbings almost every night.

  36. I enjoy Chattanooga very much, and lived there off and on for 8 years. I think the reason it might not be as popular as it should be because of the awful gang presence and crime rates.

  37. So glad this article was written! I live in Chattanooga (born and raised) and the changes that have taken place here in the last 20 years are immense. I don’t plan on leaving any time soon! Also, next time you’re in town, try the Terminal Brewhouse. It’s a local microbrewery with craft food. It’s right next to Niedlovs!

  38. Pingback: Is Chattanooga the Best City in America? « All Things Nooga

  39. Born and raised in Chatt but live in Fl now. Love coming home to visit family enjoying the view of Lookout Mountain. Never really appreciated it before. Beautiful!

  40. Thank you for your favorable review. I grew up in Chattanooga, back when it was in its “dirtiest city in America” phase. The polution was so bad, I was constantly getting pneumonia and had to make frequent trips out of the area to avoid hospital stays. We couldn’t see the city for the smog when we drove around the freeway loop and there was no view from the mountains. All you saw was smog. As a young teenager I called the city “Chattanowhere” and longed to escape to prettier places. Now that I’ve been living in another (dirtier and more dangerous) city for 22 years, it amazes me to visit my hometown and see the changes that have occurred in the area. People are now impressed (and a little jealous) when I say I grew up there. Great job, Chattanooga!

  41. I was born in Chattanooga 49 years ago yesterday. I was raised in the area (lived on Missionary Ridge for a while) and worked at Provident many years before I met my military husband & moved away. That was 25 years ago. The rest of my family still lives in the area. I return often for visits and I am amazed every time I return of the many wonderful changes the city has seen for the better over the years. I have lived all over the US and now reside in Virginia but Chattanooga will always be home. I always tell people that Chattanooga is the best place to live for several reasons. One is that it has the 4 seasons, spring, summer, winter and fall. It’s a days drive from anywhere you want to go (the beach, the mountains, the farmlands, the bigger cities, etc.) But my favorite thing about Chattanooga is the southern hospitality that abounds in the city.

  42. While downtown is a lot nicer than it used to be, there are certainly parts of Chattanooga that are not nice now. I lived there from ’49 to ’82 and hope to return one day.

  43. We just spent time in Chattanooga. We spent hours walking around the downtown area. It was wonderful. I am surprised that you did not mention the rental bicycles!

  44. I moved to Chattanooga in the Spring of 1970 and remember the pollution and smog. Coming over the Ridge Cut you could see (and smell and taste) the pollution in the air. I moved away in 1989 just as the downtown revitalization was gaining momentum. With my wife’s family in the are we would revisit every year or so. Over time the partnership between public and private investment really began to bear fruit.

    Let me be clear, without a very strong contribution by the local government for infrastructure and incentives it would have never happened. Chattanooga is a living and breathing testament to what “public works” can do and why it’s vitally important to have a strong tax base to fund development that helps everyone!

    My wife and I moved back after 23 years away just a little over a year ago. Chattanooga is a great place to live, to work, to play, to visit and deserves all the praise it’s been receiving for it’s willingness to act alike adults and do what’s best for the entire community.

    It has the same problems and issues and challenges of any city it’s size but it’s proven that it’s willing to step up, put it’s big boy/girl pants on and do what’s best for as many as possible and not just for the few.

    Congratulations to Chattanooga for it’s progressive attitude and it accomplishments. Way to go!!!

  45. Thanks so much for the awesome review of our city. When I come around the interstate and see downtown, I always think that I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else! And Mr. Smith is correct. You simply must come and visit the Market. We have a little bit of everything to offer there. Signal Mountain Farms has tons of organically grown fruit and vegetables for sale there not to mention all of the crafts and sweets! It ends in the fall, so hurry!

  46. Thank you for your wonderful article on our lovely city, Chattanooga. I would recommend that you would try out a unique place to stay during your next visit here. Our Cottages in the Clouds are vacation rentals up on Lookout Mountain on Scenic Highway and only 25 minutes from downtown Chattanooga. We consider our place a great get-away, not too far away.

  47. Moved here in `09 from on a job relocation from a Baltimore company who’s sister company was here, Arcade Marketing, position was “eliminated” (another story for another time) but we have made Chattanooga home & have no intentions of moveing back north,,,,THIS IS HOME!!!!

  48. Pingback: Morning Reads For Wednesday, May 28th: Your Rare Break From Ed — Peach Pundit

  49. I’m 27 yrs old, was born, and still live in Chattanooga. I honestly can’t see myself anywhere but here. Next time you’re in town you should visit the Ocoee River. It’s not too far from Chattanooga, but it’s become the most visited whitewater rafting/kayaking site in the U.S. It never fails to deliver every visitor a great time…not to mention an adrenaline rush.

    • Also, I’m still discovering new things to see and do after living here for all these years. It’s too awesome of a city!

  50. I’ve lived in Chattanooga my whole life and there still are things in this city I’ve yet to do. It has a niche for every kind of person in the world. Lots of art, live music, waterside dining and activites, animal friendly parks, great places for dates and to live in general. I Love Chattanooga!

  51. I’ve lived here for the past 45 years and have seen thick smog to clear skies over the years but nothing like the transformation of urban living occurring now. Amazing!!!

  52. I’ve lived in Chattanooga two separate times in my life– the first during my college years and the second, in my late twenties. I now live in Asheville, NC, and while this town definitely has its charm, I still feel there’s no place quite as special as Chattanooga. There seems to be a little something for everyone no matter what your interest and I’ve appreciated that variety on many occasions.

  53. Thank you for the kind review. I’ve lived in Chattanooga all of my 55 years and I have always loved our city. If you missed the Largest Yarn Bomb Trolley in the world, hopefully you can get back soon enough for a visit to Glass St. to see it. The amazing Olga de Klein knitted and crocheted this beautiful wall art for our neighborhood known as East Chattanooga. . .a neighborhood with a proud past, strong future and better together. Thank you again.

  54. Thank you for your very kind report. I was born and have always lived in Chattanooga. visited many other cities but in my opinion none can compare. The natural beautiful, the friendliness make me proud to call it home!

  55. Please be my guest and visit the region’s largest producer-only public market, the Chattanooga Market. We host everything from farms to food trucks and all the crafts in between. As a matter of fact, we list the previous mentioned Niedlov’s & The Hot Choclatier as alumni!

    • The Chattanooga Market is on my list for the next visit, Paul. Unfortunately, when I was there in April, it was a week prior to the start of the market.

  56. Grew up in Chattanooga and left 15 yrs ago to go to college 90 miles away. Hubs and I take kids back home at least once a month but there never seems to be enough time to stay! We did take a retreat with about 20 couples from church there. Glad they were able to appreciate what we hold dear.

  57. Enjoyed this article. I’ve grown up and spent my whole life in Chattanooga and haven’t gotten tired of it yet. But, just FYI, it’s John “Sweet,” not John “Niedlov” who is the owner of Niedlov’s bakery. :)

    • Yikes! I knew that, Tim, but somehow the mistake got by me. Just made the correction;thanks for the heads up.

  58. Thanks so much for the lovely review of our city! Chattanooga is slowly but surely making headlines…for instance, my husband and I just spent Memorial Day downtown enjoying the Pro Cycling National Championships, which will be held here for at least the next two years. I love that you mentioned two of my favorite shops….The Hot Chocolatier and Niedlov’s Bakery, but I have to say that on your very next visit, you MUST try the burgers at Urban Stack on the Southside. They have a very good veggie burger, but the regular burgers are unbelievable! Plus, it’s a really cool space. I would recommend a donut from Julie Darling’s on the Northshore for dessert. Thanks again for loving our city…it’s definitely the best place to live!

  59. I live in Chattanooga, and I think the main reason it gets overlooked is because of it’s location relevant to the interstate. A lot of people just pass on by to go to the larger cities (Atlanta, Nashville, Birmingham).

    • Ironically, the location relative to Atlanta, Birmingham, Nashville (and Knoxville) and the interstates is another selling point. While Chattanooga may not have “everything”, you can hop on one of those interstates and be in one of those larger cities in 2 to 2 1/2 hours. Easy driving for a “there and back” trip in a single day. Not to mention that it’s an easy drive to Smokey Mountain National Park.

  60. Thank you for the endorsement! I’ve been studying here at UT-Chattanooga campus.

    -If you want a more multifaceted approach to how this city works, start by taking a tour of the campus. The new state of the art library should be open by the fall semester!

    -Bluff View art district has a bike path behind it that leads to the Tennessee Riverpark. You can take that path all the way to the Chickamauga Dam. It can provide a very fascinating visual history of the epic undertaking of the riverfront cleanup.

    -Near the Crash Pad is a nifty architectural nonprofit called green|spaces. [Call ahead and] Ask for a tour of the brilliant interior design and get a better understanding of the green building designs of the city.

    Finally, I would like to make a clarifying point. The Whole Foods Market is anchored in the 2 North Shore shops. Warehouse Row is anchored by the upscale Public House.

    We are a passionate city, for sure. Hopefully it looks better your next time here!

    • Hi Clifton – thanks for pointing out the discrepancy with Whole Foods – I’ve made that change.

  61. Thank you so much for your great review of the town that stole my heart! I graduated last spring from UTC and keep attempting to weasel ways back! As much as I would love for the city to be the next travel Mecca, it is kind of nice to have the secret jewel of the South to disappear back to for a special weekend!

    • You’re welcome Andrew. Like you, I have mixed feelings. I want people to know how great Chattanooga is, but I’d hate to see it become over-touristed. Here’s hoping they can maintain a healthy balance.

  62. As a student of UTC and Chattanooga-area native, this brought a tear to my eye! I am so happy to hear that you enjoy Chattanooga as much as I do. Next time you’re here, you should check out a spot called Sunset Rock. The view will make your jaw drop. You should also check out a new little shop called Collective Clothing, if you enjoy vintage finds. Thanks again for the awesome review of our city!

    • You’re very welcome Erica. If I ever do decide to settle down back in the US, I suspect it will be Chattanooga for me

  63. I grew up in Chattanooga, but have lived in Charleston,SC for the last 15years. I have watched from a far as my home town redesigned its self. The new neighborhoods and art districts are popping up all over town. The focus on local good food has exploded, as have the wonderful local shops. I am always delighted to visit and would love to move back one day. I am so glad that the word is getting out there about all Chattanooga has to offer. Not only does it have amazing outdoor activities, but the entertainment scene and nightlife are growing and maturing. Thank you for your article highlighting my mountain home.

    • So glad you enjoyed my article on your hometown, Lindsay. The town fathers have really done a remarkable job of recreating Chattanooga, and pursuing it with sustainability in mind.

  64. I really recommend St. Elmo for your next stop it’s a quite little suburb just at the bottom of lookout mtn, you probably passed it on your way to the incline. There is a place called Mojo Burrito that will totally change your life :-D and many more neat little shops to look in :-D

    • Hi Thomas. I was in St. Elmo for the Incline Railway and Rock City but sadly, had no time to check out the town. However it’s definitely on my list for next time!

  65. Great article! Despite being a fan of the new smart grid and the speedy fiber optic technology, I find it ironic and somewhat frustrating that EPB Fiber Optics continues to tout themselves as a technological leader yet refuses to broadcast NASA TV in High Definition despite NASA TV providing the stream at no extra charge to cable providers.

    • That is a great comment, now that I know that I can only get the NASA channel from 4 other providers, instead of changing providers, I will complain about it on a forum about Chattanooga

  66. We LOVE visiting Chattanooga! My wife and I in addition to our little ones go any chance we can (5 hour drive from us). Amazing rock climbing, cool town, great camping, and the best fresh water aquarium you will ever see! We agree with everything written in this article, if you have not been, go!

    • Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment Jay, and happy to hear you feel the same way about Chattanooga that I do.

  67. Thank you for that wonderful review of our beautiful city! I am a transplant (been here 10+ years) and I love to spread the gospel of the Scenic City. Your itinerary sounds lovely!

    • You are so welcome Brooke. I’m afraid I have a bit of a crush on your adopted city :-)

  68. I grew up there (Lookout Mountain) and miss it every day! It was a wonderful place to have lived…so much to do and so much history. It’s true that most people don’t appreciate something until they don’t have it.

    • Hi Glenn – it must have been an incredible place to grow up. The views alone from Lookout Mountain would be fantastic to wake up to every morning.

  69. The USA is such a vast expanse. I’ve been fortunate to visit a number of states but so far Tennessee has not made it onto the list. Until reading your article I knew very little of the city other than having heard my grandmother sing Chattanooga Choo Choo! I bet the view from the Lover’s Leap is pretty spectacular!

    • Hi Charli: It’s very strange how everyone seems to know the song, but few people know about Chattanooga. Hope you get there one day soon!

  70. This looks like a fabulous city to wander around in. I would have never known! Thanks for your great tour. I almost took a magnifying glass to check out the chocolate display even closer!

    • Hi Nancie: It mystifies me that Chattanooga seems so little known as a tourist destination, as it has so much to offer, especially the chocolate!

    • Ah, Christina, you must go. I’d be interested to hear how you think it compares to Asheville!

  71. Pingback: Five Inspiring Travel Reads this Week « The Glovebox Blog from

  72. I don’t know if it is the best place to live in, but it looks amazing. Oh, and those chocolate and sweet products… they look yummy :)

    • LOL Lori – the chocolates were fantastic, as attested by my hips.

  73. Good to see a city receive the fruits of its labours, invigorating their city centre, cleaning up their less pleasant areas, encouraging artists, cultural activities and good food. Great story.

    • Thanks Mark. I’ve been watching Chattanooga’s progress for some years and it seems it will continue, even though they have met most of their original goals, because the city is holding new forums to see what the next steps will be.

    • Heather, I have to admit that the chocolate covered cherries were a big influence… :-)

  74. I’ve been wondering the same thing about Chattanooga since I visited it three years ago–so obviously it grows slowly. However, there’s a bright side to that. In my mind, they have just the right mix of tourist attractions without the tacky side that so often comes along with over popularity. I’m thinking of nearby towns in Tennessee that started as attractions for outdoor enthusiasts but now cater to the folks who crave constant entertainment INDOORS. As I’ve told you before, I share your love of Chattanooga. Best city? I’d have to know it much better and I don’t want to be disloyal to my own town of Tucson, but it certainly is a great place.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>