Chattanooga, Tennessee - Best Place to Live in America

Is Chattanooga the Best Place to Live in America?

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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.

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

  1. The weather can be grey and rainy, we get more rain than Seattle. There are gang activities, hardly a day without a shooting in the newspaper. Racism is real, public schools are lacking. While there is not an in your face attitude exhibited it is a small town run by the rich and influential. Downtown has had a resurgence and is doing nicely. The arts are given a lot of lip service but there is no support for working artists and very few galleries. If you would like to live in a place where you constrain yourself to a small group of friends and it’s asset is being near everything else, you will like it. If you are looking for diversity and progressive attitudes you may be disappointed.

    • Spot on. I lived there for 3 years and was initially in love with the city. My love eroded over time as I realized the dark side.

    • You’re nit picking. There is gang activity in every city. There is racism in every city (especially in the South). Public schools are having a tough time nation-wide and the entire country is run by the rich and influential.

      There are far more positives to the city of Chattanooga than there are negatives, and luckily it appears that the majority of people tend to share my point of view over yours.

      • You’re both right. Just because every city (especially Southern ones) have these problems does not mean that they can be overlooked in Chattanooga. For me the positive aspects of the city are worth living with the negatives. All we can do is work to better the things we don’t like.

        Oh and the rain part is true. I grew up in Seattle. Luckily, it is not just the weather but also the neighborhoods and people that remind me of home.

    • I’m a black man in this city. I’ve done very well for myself. The negatives you described can be found in any city of any decent size if you look. It’s sunny here much more than its rainy. Get out and enjoy yourself!

      • Im black also and with kids would this be a nice place to live as far being a black person. looking for a nice area to move to

      • Thanks so much to the black resident for chiming in. Although I am white, it is refreshing to see other viewpoints regardless of race. I presently live in North Mississippi and have loved Chattanooga for many years…the scenery, the small town feel but definitely a big city compared to our 35K population, and the amenities. I hope to move there in a couple of years. I have been researching the city for the last year in an effort to find out as much as I can about idea living areas, schools, etc. I would love to connect with more of the locals and find out what they have to say about the city. I try to visit Chattanooga once or twice a year….there is something about that place that continues to draw me to it. I am an author and hope to be publishing future books from Write in the Mountains, Tennessee.

    • I totally agree. It’s beautiful…..It’s the most fertile ground for endless possibilties for passion-filled entrepreneurs, creatives & go getters. If only a larger section of the small population & “the powers that be” would support. NO jobs for us. NONE. Over the 37 years of my residence here I’ve said goodbye to way too many incredibly talented and innovative, fellow pioneers who believed in this city. They came because they felt the fertility and organic vibrancy. Over time, they saw as I have seen the “stuckness” of this rare city. The lack of care & heartfelt action from the good ole boy network who “run” this town truly rules in the shadows and quiet but powerful places. We the people, the citizens, the believers, the creators, the workers can thank them. NO jobs for us. We’ve tried every angle…..and still silence. It’s clear who’s in charge. As a citizen I will very soon have to say goodbye to this city too. It’s a fantastic place to visit and explore.

  2. I was born in Chattanooga but married and moved to Georgia. I’m retired now and wish I had stayed in Tennessee. Our aquarium in Atlanta doesn’t come close to the beauty and surrounding area of the Chattanooga Aquarium. Atlanta could learn a lot from all the improvements made in Chattanooga but unfortunately I do not see that happening.

  3. Thank you for your wonderful article! I was born and raised in Chattanooga and eventually the suburbs doue to the white flight of the sixties. My Dad worked downtown for TVA. I remember driving downtown and my parents having to turn on the windshield wipers to clear the windows of the suspended particulate (smog). This was about the time of the infamous Cronkite declaration. Downtown was dirty, crime ridden and dangerous. When I turned 18 I got as far from here as possible. I lived in Europe in the USAF for one tour. I moved back in ’86. It had begun to improve greatly. Downtown and North Shore were in the infancy of this great renaissance but you got a feeling of progress. I continued to roam, Atlanta, Cape Cod, Maui, Hawaii, Aspen and Boulder Colorado. Every time I came back, Chattanooga began to really impress me. I finally came home for good in ’92. I had lived in some of the most beautiful places in the country and I finally saw Chattanooga through comparative eyes. It is truly as beautiful, if not more so as the places my travels had taken me. It is an easy place to live. The cost of living though rising, is still very affordable. The people are truly friendly and if you have any imagination and sense of adventure the available activities are limitless. The nightlife is blossoming and the growth of cullinary delights is impossible to keep up with. The visual arts and music scene is exploding.

    Chattanooga still does suffer from segregation and inequality but our progresssive leaders are working hard. Gentrification is certainly a two side coin. Renovating neighborhoods like North Chattanooga and the Southside are creating beautiful, vibrant neighborhoods but at the same time are displacing people. We still need more affordable housing for the rather large service class in the downtown area. We do have a gang problem which is generally focused in a few neighborhoods though not entirely. Downtown is not Disney World but is relatively safe if you keep your eyes open.

    It is the “Buckle of the Bible Belt” but their is a large pocket of progressives in the North Shore, Downtown, Southside and St. Elmo communities. I do believe Obama did carry those voting districts and would again if… Our current Mayor Andy Berke is a liberal Jewish Democrat and is doing a wonderful job. I am an athiest but have many wonderful Christian friends and I have many, many like minded friends. The community is becoming remarkably LGBT accepting even among my conservative friends.

    Chattanooga has come a long way and in many ways it still has a long way to go but it’s vibrance and progress is palpable and exciting. It is absolutely gorgeous. I never tire of it’s exquisite beauty.

    • You’re very welcome Travis. Thanks so much for taking the time to share your story.

    • Yes you are most likely racist but you can’t help it because you were born there. I am not southern and lived there for 3 yrs. It is by far the most racially and economically place I have ever lived. As a non-white friend said to me, “Chattanooga is great if you are a white person.”

  4. Hi Barb,
    I loved your article and your insightful responses to the comments. My boyfriend and I are from Wisconsin and will be moving to Chattanooga in three months for me to attend graduate school. What should we expect in terms of weather (seasons, any quirks or advice, etc). Do you have any other advice for living there for northerns like us who have never really experienced the South?

    • Thanks so much Hilary. Well, I’m a northerner but have always felt welcome in Chattanooga. The pace of life is slower, as is the language, which I find delightful. Take the time to say hello and ask how people are – you will find it is much appreciated. As for weather, one of the things I like most about Chattanooga is the weather. The winters are moderate, with little snowfall, and the mountains are so close, which makes for an easy getaway during the hot summers. nHope you’ll come back here after you’ve been there a while and let us know how you like living there.

      • I love Chattanooga but moved away solely because of the weather. It is overcast and cloudy on a very regular basis there.

        It’s a beautiful city and the aricle correctly depicts the city… the rain and clouds will get to you though.

        Weather is the last reason I’d stay.

        • In my part of Chattanooga it isn’t often overcast and cloudy. Wonderful, moderate weather!

        • I lived in Chattanooga for several years in the mid-2000s , have visited multiple times each year since, and am moving back this summer – I’ve never once heard it described as a town with dreary weather. In fact, I think it’s incredibly mild for a southern summer and just enough cold in the winter. I’ve enjoyed countless sunny days in Chatt, not sure where you are living, but the city isn’t like this at all.

    • Be kind, gentle and respectful to others when coming to Chattanooga.
      Most of us get along because of this attitude. Chattanooga is built on respecting others.
      The season are great here except July and August are hot and humid. If you utilize the land around here you should be able to be comfortable. Go hiking, biking or paddling in the surrounding mtns. It’s typically cooler and less humid. Fall is perfect and stays about 70 degrees. Winter-we only usually have 2 or 3 good snowfalls of 5-6″. We typically only have about a month or 2 of cold weather (30 degrees). Spring is fabulous and we have beautiful blooms. But plan on finding a allergist as soon as you arrive here.
      It’s small and unique. If you are social then everyone will most likely know your business. That can be good and bad depending on your ethics (morals). Integrity will take you a long way in Chattanooga. We do have many people that are very religious (organized religion). If you are not religious, keep your attitude to yourself. If you are, you will find many groups to choose from. Some are Crazy (just my opinion).
      If you like to eat out, there are many new options these days. 10 years ago there wasn’t any restaurants. Now it is becoming a tourist destination and the culinary has exploded. Although, we still have a lot of chains.
      We do have Rednecks and just don’t cross them. Best to learn to say Y’all and try to learn something from them and not be too judgemental (like I just did).
      We do still have many race issues. Segregation is still strong. But it does seem to be getting better (in my opinion but I’m a white male).
      That’s my 2 cents and I hope it helps with your transition. We are known to be the friendliest people in the world. If you ask directions, anyone in earshot will help. Some will take you to your destination.
      Lastly, we have a gang problem. It is really black on black and it shouldn’t effect you unless you are in a gang. After reviewing this, it does sound like I’m racist but it is my opinion. We also have a lot of homeless people and a lot of panhandlers.
      A convenient store is on every other block. You will most likely frequent these stores. It’s convenient.

      • You people who say segregation is strong?? WTFriggin? I’ve lived here since 1961. There are no more colored/white lunch counters, etc. You give a bizarre distortion from, thankfully, decades ago. What up? Chattanooga, like the rest of our great Land, has unlimited opportunity for education, employment, and progress for all. You want it? Like anything else, work hard toward that goal! You want a life of mediocrity? Live it. You want Utopia? Go to Glandork, beyond the fourth galaxy, sector 381b! Take I-75 and keep on going…for a long time.

      • did you just say it’s not humid? lol goodness you are way off base. its one of the most humid mid sized cities in the south

        • Mike: I have deleted five of your comments that were racist and vile. Please stop or I will ban you entirely.

  5. I have to chime in and say that, while I love all the burgeoning culture and all the outdoor activities that Chattanooga has to offer (that’s why we moved here, and this article was one that helped convince me), I have never lived in a city with THIS kind of economic and racial disparity. I grew up in the South, but Chattanooga is shockingly racist and stratified to me. I’ve lived gere for just a few months, and everyone from our realtor to co-workers have disparaging comments to make about the African-American and Hispanic immigrant communities. I see and hear racist remarks daily, and there is a MAJOR brain drain and resource drain into private schools here. Many of the wealthy, white families send their kids to private schools and don’t bat an eyelash. Then you hear the same families complaining about gang violence and the bad public school system and the neighborhoods “you don’t want to drive through.” Okay, well, this is YOUR city. Why do you think it’s gotten this way? What do you think poverty, racial profiling, and lack of education and work opportunities will DO to your city? I hate it. There are pocket communities that seem to be diverse, like St Elmo, but in general the face of Chattanooga that you showed is lily white and not changing anytime soon. I would never raise my children in this city. There are GOOD people here, but the overall culture of racial inequality, bigotry and anti-intellectualism is shocking, even for Tennessee.

    • Hi Emily: I’m sad to hear this. I cannot tolerate discrimination in any form. I have lived in the south for long periods of time and heard similar things, but have always found that there are like-minded accepting people in any city – you just have to find them.

    • Hi Emily and Jakob: I have lived in Chattanooga since 1977 , moved down from the north and I will always choose the south. All the things you both have mentioned are true about any where. And religious! You have Christians everywhere, thank God. Every town has the educated, poor and drugs, Chattanooga is no different. The area is beautiful if you like the outdoors. Downtown has improved over the years and my daughter and I enjoy it a lot. Great restaurants!

    • Sta have lived in Chattanooga most of my life and it is not a racist city like you say it is all city’s in the world have racist individuals no matter were you live there will always be people like that I have friends of all races and I love them all this is a beautiful and wonderful place amazing city I’ve lived in Savannah ga, and Panama city fl, and myrtle beach sc, all amazing places but I always come back here its home I feel safe here it has its ups and its downs as do all city’s but this is a amazing city you should just meet new people I live in the rossville ga, area now which is right on the state line and if you find the right area its wonderful I love it here

    • Emily,
      Just leave. We don’t need or want you here.

    • Emily, I hope you left. I lived there for a few years in one of the less racially divided neighborhoods but over time the divided climate got to me. When I started looking for a house I also had realtors steering me away from the “unsafe black” neighborhoods. Chattanooga despite it’s “progressive outdoor cool” reputation has a long way to go and it is not going to get there anytime soon because there is a deep institutional racism built into the culture. The school system is the most divided I have ever seen. Yes, there are some opportunities for the poor with many magnet schools around the city but mostly they just get stuck with the underfunded failing schools. People love to talk about each other too. As one person told me, “gossip is the favorite dish at the southern table”. He was spot on. I was involved with my neighborhood and what I found was just how much everything was very subtly controlled by the wealthy class especially the Lookout Mountain aristocracy. The foundations that have done some good is old money from the mountain and therefore tainted in my opinion. Every mayor that comes along promises to make it better for black community saying they will reduce the violence and improve their communities. As far as I know they have all failed. I am not even blaming them, as the historical baggage runs very deep in Chattanooga. I lived in a racially mixed neighborhood that was slowly gentrifying and what I found was a profound difficulty in getting to know my black neighbors. They are suspicious of white people and scared our arrival means they will have to leave.And I think they are usually correct. House prices go up and taxes follow suit. All of these things coupled with an over the top pollen count, and too much heat resulted in me moving back west. I think there are many of us that came to Chattanooga for similar reasons but once we saw it’s dark side moved on.

    • PS: The comments by Diane and Lee are great examples of people who live in the forest and for that reason cannot see the trees. David is a good example of the hateful southerner who can’t take criticism and his only solution for you is to “get the hell out.” Both are are examples of why Chattanooga is so slow to change. That said, I had some wonderful friends there and we confided in each other as we attempted to make Chattanooga a better place. Chattanooga Organized for Action is a great organization fighting against the racial and socio-economic injustices in Chattanooga.

    • I grew up in Chattanooga. I lived there for 22 years before living in places like Baton Rouge, Birmingham, Winston-Salem, and now St. Louis. Yes there are some racist people in Chattanooga, but I feel like it is the least racist of all the cities that I have lived in. St. Louis, which is the only city I’ve lived in above the Mason-Dixon line, seems to be the most racist of all the cities I’ve lived in. The majority of my friends growing up were black or mixed, and I went to private schools. Many people I knew were in interracial relationships, including myself at one point. Chattanooga is a very accepting and friendly place in my opinion.
      And to the person who asked why everyone sends their children to private schools, you answered your own question. The public school system is terrible. Why would any parent want their child to go to a school that will not help them to grow and prosper in life. Sending their kids to the public schools in the area would not make the public schools any better.

    • If we’re comparing Chattanooga to other places, you’re basically describing the problems that almost any city has (especially in the southeast). None of these is unique to Chattanooga.

  6. Thank you for the info:-). I too will likely be relocating to chattanooga in about six weeks. I’m originally from San fransisco but have lived in New York the past three years. If I never saw a drop of snow again I’d be happy!

    My concern is with the articles I keep reading about how religious everyone is there and how close minded everyone is. I’m a very non religious person and my girlfriend is from thailand and speaks very little English. I worry that we will not be easily welcomed.

    • No worries, Chattanooga is a hip vibrant small city with a pretty diverse group of people . I’m originally from NY. I live an hour and 1/2 away from Chattanooga in Huntsville AL and I get to Chattanooga as much as possible. Its an awesome town. It obviously won’t be as diverse and accepting as a San Fran or NY but it is a welcoming environment. Now yes, the south is deeply religious for the most part and that can be seen as closeminded but I think there is a good mix of out of towners that help even it all out. I hope to move to chattanooga myself one day.

    • Hi Jakob!
      I am from Wisconsin and I will be relocating to Chattanooga in about three months. My boyfriend is half-Libyan and has a very ethnic (Arabic) name, and I am a little worried as well that we may have to deal with some racial issues. However, I think we could easily find those like us in the city who are more open-minded :)

    • I’m from Chattanooga I love it here yes there are a some religious freaks here but I’m not religious at all You can just avoid those people like I do but it’s pretty diverse lot of different cultures religions and ethnicities it’s an amazing place to live I love it here

    • In Chattanooga you will find some of everything. From rich to poor, from caring to harsh, from open minded to close minded, religious to non-observant, artistic to practical, it is here. One can find a happy niche for oneself in this town. Even in the Hamilton County schools one can find inspiring teachers and successful students, especially in some of the magnet schools.

  7. 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.

  8. 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!

  9. 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 ???

  10. 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…

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

        • Barbra, JR left a message with his views of a comment that was from another person, He was not rude or distasteful. He also said it sounds like, he didn’t say you are!!! I agree with him. People that fill the way AR fills we don’t need or want here in our town. I have lived here for 53 yrs. We also believe in freedom of speech as long as it’s not vile or vulgar. JR’s comment was neither so Please don’t make this a Liberal, Political Page you have here because it’s a wonder Page! Thank you Barbra Weibel for bringing attention to our Wonderful City.

      • If anyone is going to ruin a city its her and her liberal beliefs…..look around …all the “screwed up” cities are the ones libs have run since the 60’s….now they want to leave..find nice cities like Chatt to ruin! stay in Minn…SF…NY…Don’t come and force your I “values” (if you can call them that!) on us…we’re doing just fine…
        WITHOUT Y’ALL!

    • “I don’t have the experience of living in Chattanooga”

      And then you go on to speak as if you’ve lived in Chattanooga.

      You’re massively underselling how progressive the city is. It sounds like you stuck your toe in and made a sweeping generalization before finding like-minded residents. I’m like you in that I share similar religious (non)beliefs and progressive values, and I can easily immerse myself with those kinds of people.

  13. 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.

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

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

  18. 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 !

  19. 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!

  20. 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!

  21. 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!

    • Hi Jenny,I live in Cincinnati Ohio,I’ve seen quite a few comments about dreary rainy weather there,is that true,I mean more rain than Ohio? This is seriously a town I think I need.

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  23. 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.

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  25. 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.

  26. 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”.

  27. 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.

  28. 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…

  29. 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!

  30. 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’.

  31. 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!

  32. 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.

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