Is Chattanooga the Best Place to Live in America?

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.

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.

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Is Chattanooga the Best Place to Live in America?

226 thoughts on “Is Chattanooga the Best Place to Live in America?”

  1. 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 ???

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  2. 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…

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  3. 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.

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  4. 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.

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    • 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.

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    • 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!

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      • 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.

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        • 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.

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        • It’s funny Barbara, I just ran across this again & noticed that you left a reply for me! Then, I noticed the ridiculous comments, left by liberals, bashing our city, whom you decided NOT to blast for their toxic spewing. I also noticed several others making posts who feel the same way I do but, you didn’t blast them for standing up for Christian values. Could it be that you didn’t expect anyone else in Chattanooga to be of the same opinion as I? REALLY? This, in a nutshell, is what’s wrong all over this country: Empathy for those who HATE in the name of forcing “acceptance” (of those who imagine they’re being persecuted) — quite an oxymoronic condition! Guess the only thing we agree on is that Chattanooga is a great place to live.

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          • MJ: I allow people to speak their beliefs, whether liberal or conservative. Everyone has a right to their own opinion, but when comments descend into hate language or profanity, I draw the line. Mike’s was banned and his comments removed because of his profanity and hate mongering, not because of his opinions. This is a family friendly blog, with family values, and attacking others will not be tolerated. For instance, your comment telling someone to “Please take advantage of a free English writing class at your local community college,” just because they don’t agree with you, is not advancing the conversation. You are close to crossing the line with some of your language and I kindly ask you again to stop attacking people, or I will have to ban you as well.

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          • You realize “liberal” in the dictionary is “one who thinks for themselves, is progressive about change.” Sounds like you do neither, which is a shame, I feel sorry for people like you. “Liberal” became a hate-word by the right-wing because it’s what they don’t want in their voters, people who think for themselves, after all, if someone thought for themselves, they’d never vote Republican.

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      • 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!

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        • Steven, Notice how Barbara blasted me for my reply post but, not you or any of the others? Guess she didn’t expect as many people to feel the way we do. People who don’t cave in to “political correctness” are becoming the new minority but, we still have a voice and we should have just as many rights as everyone else!

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    • “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.

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    • Thank you AR, your assessment sounds honest. Sadly, virtually all the comments from people in response to you show the ugly side of the South, which is unfortunate. “We don’t need you, stay where you are, etc. etc.” There’s even one from CT saying “People that fill the way AR fills we don’t need or want here in our town… …We also believe in freedom of speech… …please don’t make this a Liberal, Political Page…” This rhetoric contradicts itself left and right, and essentially boils down to “we believe in freedom of speech, as long as you agree with our conservative, religious opinions.”

      AR I hope you found a good place to take your progressive family. Best of luck to you– it sounds like Chattanooga might not be a great fit for your needs, unless you send your kids to private school. On the other hand, I read in another comment that there is an emerging LGBT scene there, so you daughter might have some positive role models if she comes out. Don’t be put off by bigots, wherever you go. They are certainly everywhere, but they don’t run the world, especially not if people like us don’t let them dictate how we think and live.

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  5. 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!

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      • 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.

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  6. 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.

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  7. 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!!

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    • 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

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      • 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.

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      • Great job, way to stand up for the truth, which some will never be able to face! I love how they list things that are actually a positive, like it’s a negative! “Oh no, a city with wholesome values, yikes!”

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    • 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.

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  8. 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.

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    • Just an observation: I\’m not sure why some people refer to Chattanooga as a \”little town\”.
      I know it isn\’t large, but here is a demographic:
      Population (2018) – 6 county metro area – 580,000.
      city population – 183,000.
      city land area – 135 sq. miles.
      No, it doesn\’t have a billion people per sq. mile, but \”little\”? I guess \”little\” is relative.

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  9. 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 !

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  10. 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!

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  11. 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!

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  12. 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!

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    • 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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  13. 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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  14. 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

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    • 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.

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      • 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.

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  15. 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.

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      • Grady, I was born in Chattanooga in 1947. Great to see someone who knows how to use Bless Your Heart. Thanks for the laugh. Barbara has far more patience with these endless rants than I ever could have.

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    • 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.

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    • 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.

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      • 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.

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    • 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”.

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  16. 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.

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  17. 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.

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    • 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…

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      • Hi Amy: I did very much enjoy the view but the nostalgia was missing for me. But since you grew up in the area I can certainly relate to why Rock City is so special to you.

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    • Barbara – and Patricia,
      The history of how and why Rock City was built is interesting, and it is amazing that such a “dated” attraction has endured so long. I loved it as a child. Decades later, I saw a play (in New Jersey, of all places) called “See Rock City”, set at the end of World War II. It is worth seeing, should you ever have the opportunity. Bottom line is that it is all about education. Seek out people who read and believe in lifetime learning, and you will have great friends wherever you live. If it is Chattanooga, go to the fine Public Library reference room and look at the book on the renovations being done to preserve the old homes in the Martin Luther King Blvd. area, formerly 9th Street. Both black and white people are involved. Visit the small but excellent African American Museum on MLK Blvd. They have exhibits on the history of African American communities in the area, which I knew nothing about growing up. Go to the Bessie Smith Stomp and the Riverbend Festival and celebrate together instead of tearing each other apart. Hike, swim, walk the riverside and mountain trails. Go to bars where people have fun, not make horrid jokes. Go to baseball games in that terrific ball park! In short, be the change you wish to see. When asked where I go to Sunday School, I am quite comfortable answering that I don’t. No one seems to care. If you still don’t like Chattanooga after you have explored it, well, try to find another perfect town. Let me know where it is, please.

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  18. 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!

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  19. 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’.

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  20. 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!

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  21. 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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