Falls underground waterfall, during lightshow.
nicer weather finally reaching the frozen tundra that is
the Northern United States, many people are looking
forward to a change of pace and scenery. While it
has been warmer recently, itís not quite
"spring" north of most of the Mason-Dixon. This
year, why not head to the "Scenic City" of
Chattanooga? This fun and funky metropolis located
in Southeastern Tennessee is known as such for itís
bevvy of outdoor activities and natural beauty.
considered "The Gateway to the South," this
little city is also a short distance to Georgia, Alabama,
and North Carolina borders. Slightly further away
are Kentucky, South Carolina and Virginia. All of these
are a few hours drive or less.
youíd like to see an amazing view while experiencing
some beautiful surroundings, head to Rock City
Gardens. This 13-acre outdoor garden first opened in
1932, when Frieda and Garnet Carter developed the property
into one large "rock garden." The motto of
Rock City is "Created by God and enhanced by
site is "natural" in that it is set in nature
and is quite scenic, with amazing geological formations,
waterfalls and lovely gardens, but has been cultivated to
be what it is today. You and your family can walk
the paths around ancient rock formations, view the
botanical delights of gardens with more then 400 species
of plants, visit the gnomes and fairies that inhabit Rock
City, read the legend of the tragic Native American
"Loverís Leap," gaze at a waterfall you wonít
even know is there until you turn the right corner,
and stare into the aforementioned seven states at once
from panoramic mountaintop scenery.
will see signs on barns, birdhouses, and more advertising
the destination as you get closer to the gardens ó the
souvenir "See Rock City" birdhouses are some of
the most popular sellers in the gift shop.
you havenít had your fill of rocky scenery, head to Ruby
Falls. While you may have been on cave tours before, this
one is fairly unique in that it holds an underground
waterfall. Your tour begins with an elevator ride
into the caverns of Lookout Mountain that Leo Lambert
discovered in 1928. As you are guided through the
cave, you are given not only the story of the cave and of
those who discovered it, but shown various formations as
you head toward the waterfall.
and strangely, pieces of the cave were broken off
as "souvenirs" for some time, and you are
able to see that as well. One interesting formation
is hollow, and when you thump on it (yes, you are told
where it is, and are allowed to do so) it sounds like a
drum. This is extremely unusual, and very
unique. Of course, you also see the "cave
chips" and "bacon" and get "cave
kisses" as you walk along.
hear the waterfall before you see it. At the end of
the trail, in almost complete darkness, you and your group
will "discover" the waterfall. As you get
closer, your guide will push a button, and for several
minutes lights will flash on the waterfall and music will
play. While that would be a great end to the tour, it isnít
ó you still have to go back.
interesting part is that you donít go back exactly the
same way, so you will see some new treasures as well as a
few repeated favorites (such as the formation you can drum
on). This is a fun way to get your children
interested in speleology ó and unlike Mr. Lambert, no
one has to crawl their way through the caves, although you
can see where he did.
trip with kids is complete without a trip to the local
zoo, and the Chattanooga Zoo at Warner Park will not
disappoint. Smaller then some zoos, the exhibits are well
kept and the animals are friendly and interactive, which
is quite an experience. It is set up so that
visitors are able to easily view the animals from many
sides and angles, which is great for "little
zoologists" who, for once, wonít need to be lifted
onto mom or dadís shoulders regularly.
animals must feel at ease, because they were not skulking
in far off corners of their habitats, but almost always
front and center, some seemingly trying to get the
attention of viewers (waving, poking the glass, following
people back and forth, etc). Witnessing so many animals
behave in such a friendly and open manner was surprising
and very endearing. Children can also ride camels or an
"endangered species" themed carousel (and for
less then you might think).
rainy day might drive you indoors, but if the kids still
want to visit animals, head to the Tennessee Aquarium.
More then your average aquarium, it has two separate
buildings and both are quite large and impressive. One
building is dedicated to fresh water, the other to salt
water inhabitants. Not only can one visit the fish, crabs,
manta rays, and other various underwater life, but also
interact with parrots, butterflies and visit a beautiful
is, of course, a "touch tank" where kids can
interact with non-threatening species under the watchful
eye of an aquarium employee (for the children and the
animalís protection), which all the little ones
love. Hand sanitizer is abound, so if you have
forgotten yours, not to worry.
even further with the "Ranger Rickís Backyard
Safari" exhibit, which includes groundhogs, lizards
and more, as well as the "River Giants" exhibit
that displays fish that can only be found in the most
remote areas and lakes in the world.
add a little local culture to your trip, be sure to visit
the Hunter Museum of American Art. Your visit will begin
before you enter, as there are three buildings that make
up the museum, each unique and themselves part of the
collection. Overlooking the Tennessee river, the
structures are a 1904 classical revival mansion, a French
Brutalist building added in 1975, and the latest modern
structure designed by Randall Paul Stout in 2005.
inside, you will see art spanning from the Colonial period
to the present day, and in every kind of medium.
View paintings, sculptures, blown glass, photography, and