Destination--Chattanooga, Tennessee

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The meteoric rise in popularity of the Chattajack race has earmarked the last week of October as one of the most significant domestic marathon paddling race dates on the calendar each year. Throngs of competitors migrate to Chattanooga, Tennessee from all over the country and in some cases--the world to have a go at the 31+ mile course.

Visitors to Chattanooga will find a bounty of outdoor activities and an absolutely thriving paddling community.  Enjoying the area does not need to hurt your bank account. You can find many low-cost options available if you know where to look.

So if you’re traveling to Chattanooga for the race or even just want to come to town for a trip, here is your insider’s guide to enjoying a selective list for some of the best of what Chattanooga has to offer.

Starting with the least expensive

Starting with the least expensive

Lodging---It’s free!  Well, not really, but almost.  You cannot get any closer to the start line than Maclellen Island, and you can spend the night for a small fee (or not--people have been known to poach camp--but you wouldn’t do that; right?).  You can purchase a camping pass for $25 that will cover up to ten people. The Island features primitive camping sites as well as an outhouse and dry sleeping shelter with several built-in bunks.  You’ll share the Island with Osprey, a Heron rookery and great views of the city, Walnut Street Bridge and the Bluff View Arts District. It’s not the Holiday Inn, but if you’re on a budget and want keep close to the action, this is your place.  Bonus: a quick paddle across the river and you’ll be at Coolidge Park and can enjoy running water and public bathrooms.

http://www.chattanoogaaudubon.org/maclellan-island-access.html

Hostels are a thing in Chattown.  If privacy isn’t a priority and you’d like to save a few bucks, A hostel is a great way to go. Check out the Crash Pad and En Root for options. Open kitchen, laundry, WiFi, and a common area are all standard.  The Crash Pad offers a free locally sourced breakfast as well.   

http://www.enroothouse.com/

http://www.crashpadchattanooga.com/

Great accommodations at the Crash Pad

Great accommodations at the Crash Pad

Other close albeit more pricey options include Spring Hill Suites by Marriot on Riverside drive and the Hampton/Double Tree by the Hilton are all within spittin’ distance of the start line.  Aside from the proximity to the staging area, staying near downtown has other advantages as well.  Chattanooga begs to be explored and walking is one of the best ways to take it all in. Prices start around $129 per night.

Although a little further away, The Read House and the Chattanooga Choo Choo offer guests an opportunity to connect with a bit of Chattanooga history.

The historic Read House was originally built in mid-late 1800’s and doubled as a civil war hospital.  The hotel maintains the charm of bygone eras and has hosted a slew of celebrities including: Oprah Winfrey, Gary Cooper, Winston Churchill and Al Capone.  

Old World Charm at the Read House

Old World Charm at the Read House

Bring a Ghostbuster Proton Pack and ask for room 311. The room is apparently haunted by Annalisa Netherly, a Chattanooga prostitute found decapitated in the room who is said to haunt it to this day.

The Chattanooga Choo Choo is another good option.  You can stay in the historic hotel or opt for a unique experience by reserving a night in one of the hotel’s fixed train cars. The Choo Choo is on the south side of town, and features many attractions within walking distance of the hotel; options include The Terminal Brewhouse, Revelry Room, Comedy Catch and newly opened Songbirds Guitar Museum all situated on the hotel compound.

Who doesn't love guitars?  Songbirds celebrates the Axe.

Who doesn't love guitars?  Songbirds celebrates the Axe.

Eats:

The South is known for Barbeque and Chattanooga presents a solid collection of candidates to be reckoned with. Shufords BBQ brings a sweet and tangy sauce with just a hint of heat.  Try the BBQ baked potato with a side of their hugely popular Brunswick Stew. The hole-in-the-wall is situated at the foot of Signal Mountain along the way to the Suck Creek Boat Ramp (about mile 10 on the Chattajack course).  Others include: The Purple Daisy Picnic Cafe and Sugar’s Ribs.

Can't go wrong at The Terminal

Can't go wrong at The Terminal

The Terminal Brewhouse is another excellent choice if you’re in the area.  The Terminal has an array of possibilities that include: vegetarian, seafood, pizza, burgers and unique appetizers with plenty of healthy options.  They brew their own beer on site with roughly six on-hand at any given time. Wanna try them all? For about the cost of one pint you can order the sampler flight.

Tremont Tops The Burger List

Tremont Tops The Burger List

Tremont Tavern--In a word--Burger.  Tremont Tavern has been consistently voted time and again as the spot with the best burgers in the area--and they have beer too!

Sluggos---100% vegan menu with well thought out entrees and an eclectic atmosphere.

Sofa King Juicy Burger (get it?) Not quite Tremont Tavern, but pretty good, and bonus for the best shakes in town.

River Street Deli--Don’t let the unassuming name fool you. This is a true New York style delicatessen, run by a true New Yorker.  I know, because when I talked with him, we immediately spoke in secret Yankee code. River Street Deli is square in the heart of Coolidge Park and is walking distance from the old Chattajack launch.  This is one of those places that locals know about and now, so do you.  The food is EXCELLENT!  Try the muffaletta and you’ll be talking with your hands like a pro.

Other great options:

Tupelo Honey--Great Breakfast and solid entrees.

Pickle Barrel--A Chattanooga Original. Greasy spoon, but better.

Embargo 62--Cuban food done right.

Urban Stack--Boutique burgers and mixed drinks.  Yes, they do have a Bacon Manhattan.

The Bacon Manhattan at Urban Stack

The Bacon Manhattan at Urban Stack

Bluff View Arts District (Hunter Museum)--Rembrandt’s Coffee House, Tony’s Pasta and Back Inn Cafe.  Great European styled setting and three restaurants on the same property. You’ll feel so Euro.

Flat Iron Deli--lunch only but if you can get out there before they close, try the cornbread salad.

Yellow Deli--Possibly the most unique place in Chattanooga, if not for the decor, for the history.  Have a look for yourself.  http://www.thestrangeandnew.com/go-urban/2015/7/24/cult-sandwiches-the-story-behind-chattanoogas-yellow-deli

 Oh, and the food is pretty good too--all fresh and handmade.

Provino’s--Strip Mall eating has never been so good. You arrive in suburbia, but once you open the doors you’re transported to a place of garlicky goodness, where the bread and free salad just keep coming. Provino’s has taken on all comer’s and has retained it’s crown as most popular Italian food in Chattanooga.  

 

Beer:

Sampler Flight at Moccasin Bend Brewing Company--Note the attentive bartender

Sampler Flight at Moccasin Bend Brewing Company--Note the attentive bartender

Good craft and local beer options are available for the beleaguered traveler.  The most unique of which is easily Moccasin Bend Brewing Company. Their tagline is “Keep Chattanooga Weird”,  So they clearly embrace beer outside the box. Don’t expect to be treated like royalty when you walk in either.  They are all about the beer here and can be a little curmudgeonly about it. But honestly, the beer is so good, you’ll easily look past it--Think Soup Nazi.

For more standard fare but very good nonetheless, step over to Chattanooga Brewing Company for a solid Ale.

Splitting the difference between the two is the Terminal Brewhouse. Slight twists on old favorites make for a great pairing with the Terminal’s superb food.

 

Outdoor Activities:

Chattanooga is an overachiever in this area. Variety is the name of the game here.  Epic road cycling, mountain biking, rowing, paddling, rock climbing, caving, hang gliding, fishing, hiking, running and swimming possibilities abound.  

Here are a few notable starting ideas:

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  • Explore the downtown area on foot or on your mountain bike by combining urban sections with the Riverwalk Trail, which extends from the Chickamauga Dam all the way to the base of Lookout Mountain.  Then ride over to nearby Stringers Ridge for some heart-pumping singletrack with views of the city.

  • Travel up Lookout Mountain to take advantage of great views at Point Park.  Drive a bit further down Scenic Highway to check out hang gliding at the Lookout Mountain Hang Gliding Park. A few miles further and you can hike at Cloudland Canyon.  Adjacent to Cloudland, the 5 points trailhead features up to 50 miles of sweet singletrack for hiking, biking or horses. If the rain has been heavy, you can also grab your WW kayak and poach some class V rapids that cascade through the park.

  • Jump in with the Chattanooga Open Water Swimmers (COWS) for a swim down the Tennessee River.  The COWS usually meet on Wednesday nights at the Coolidge Park boat launch under the Market Street Bridge.    http://www.cowsswim.com/ 

  • Indoor Rock Climbing at High Point Climbing Gym or travel to Sunset Park with up to 81 climbing routes.

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Paddling:  

It’s what we’re all here for.  Chattanooga has a very strong paddling community with plenty of diverse choices.

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  • Whitewater:  The Ocoee Whitewater Center, host for the 1996 Olympic Kayaking event, is one of the best in the area to get your WW fix.  The Ocoee has up to class V sections and plenty of possibilities in-between.  Didn’t bring your playboat?  The river is crawling with outfitters for both rafting and kayaks.  About a 40-minute drive from downtown Chattanooga will have you thinking you’ve entered Colorado.  Beautiful mountains, a clear lake, and abundant wildlife feature.  The surrounding area is crawling with bears!  

  • Downtown Waterfront: This is where most paddling takes place in the area.  Nothing really dynamic about the water, just lot’s of users out taking in the sights.  Several local rowing teams use this area to train as well as competitive SUP, Kayak and Ski paddlers.  Also widely used by the recreational set as well. Great way to take in the Bluff at Hunter, the area bridges, and the Aquarium. Flow is usually light unless there has been lots of rain.

  • Lookout Creek--About 3 ¾ of a mile down the Tennessee River from Coolidge Park you’ll find Lookout Creek over to your left at the base of Lookout Mountain.    

  • South Chickamuaga--Launch from the Sterchi Farm put in and travel a few miles down to feed into the Tennessee River or travel up river and explore a few miles.

  • North Chickamuaga--Put in at Greenway farms and paddle down to the river side of Chickamauga Dam.

  • Chickamauga Lake--Several locations to launch from.  Marina at the dam is most convenient or Booker T Washington State Park. Under the right conditions, you may get lucky and find a few bumps.

  • Nick A Jack Lake--Continue past the finish of the Chattajack into Nick A Jack Lake proper.  Of all the areas in Chattanooga to paddle, this is your best bet at finding water that will give you lift and push. The fetch is mostly unobscured and coincides with the most common wind direction to create swell on the lake. If you’re watching the wind you’ll need a Southeasterly.  Check out the bat cave if you have time.  The cave is only accessible by boat.  Get there by dusk and you’ll have thousands upon thousands pour out before your eyes.

  • Paddle Meet Up on Maclellan Island.  Every Wednesday night from 6 pm till dusk, paddlers meet on the south side of the Island beach for a general hangout.  Music, drinks, sometimes food and general good times and other debauchery.   If you’re out on the water near downtown Wednesday before Chattajack, stop by and have a beer.     

  • https://www.meetup.com/Chattanooga-Area-Paddlers/

Every Wednesday Night on the Island--Stop By!

Every Wednesday Night on the Island--Stop By!

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Selected Area Attractions:

  • Chattanooga Ghost Tours--Get the stories behind Chattanooga’s haunts.

  • Tennessee Aquarium--specializes in southern watersheds.  Get to know the waterways and ecosystem you’ll be paddling on.

  • Hunter Art Museum--More Than just arts. Excellent dining options, coffee, views and beautiful European inspired architecture.  Great place for a leisurely stroll.

  • Revelry Room and Track 29 Music Venues.  Local, regional and national acts in a relatively smaller, intimate concert hall.

  • Regan’s Place--Dancing on the Southside of town.

  • Southside Social--Food, Drinks, and---Bowling?  They have a few bowling lanes available along with Bocce ball, cornhole, shuffleboard, ping pong, skeeball and outdoor fire pits.  Did I mention giant Jenga?

These are all a selection of options and really, it’s just an overview.  There is much more to do and see in the area.  Find what works for you and don’t hesitate to ask a local for suggestions. Take your time and enjoy.












 

 

Lodging---It’s free!  Well, not really, but almost.  You cannot get any closer to the start line than Maclellen Island, and you can spend the night for a small fee (or not--people have been known to poach camp--but you wouldn’t do that; right?).  You can purchase a camping pass for $25 that will cover up to ten people. The Island features primitive camping sites as well as an outhouse and dry sleeping shelter with several built in bunks.  You’ll share the Island with Osprey, a Heron rookery and great views of the city, Walnut Street Bridge and the Bluff View Arts District. It’s not the Holiday Inn, but if you’re on a budget and want keep close to the action, this is your place.  Bonus: a quick paddle across the river and you’ll be at Coolidge Park and can enjoy running water and public bathrooms.

 

Hostels are a thing in Chattown.  If privacy isn’t a priority and you’d like to save a few bucks, A hostel is a great way to go. Check out the Crash Pad and En Root for options. Open kitchen, laundry, WiFi, and a common area are all standard.  The Crash Pad offers a free locally sourced breakfast as well.

Other close albeit more more pricey options include Spring Hill Suites by Marriot on Riverside drive and the Hampton/Double Tree by the Hilton are all within spittin’ distance of the start line.  Aside from the proximity to the staging area, staying near downtown has other advantages as well.  Chattanooga begs to be explored and walking is one of the best ways to take it all in. Prices start around $129 per night.

Although a little further away, The Read House and the Chattanooga Choo Choo offer guests an opportunity to connect with a bit of Chattanooga history.

The historic Read House was originally built in mid-late 1800’s and doubled as a civil war hospital.  The hotel maintains the charm of bygone eras and has hosted a slew of celebrities including: Oprah Winfrey, Gary Cooper, Winston Churchill and Al Capone.  

Bring a Ghostbuster Proton Pack and ask for room 311. The room is apparently haunted by Annalisa Netherly, a Chattanooga prostitute found decapitated in the room who is said to haunt it to this day.

 

The Chattanooga Choo Choo is another good option.  You can stay in the historic hotel or opt for a unique experience by reserving a night in one of the hotel’s fixed train cars. The Choo Choo is on the south side of town, and features many attractions within walking distance of the hotel; options include: The Terminal Brewhouse, Revelry Room, Comedy Catch and newly opened Songbirds Guitar Museum all situated on the hotel compound.

 

Eats:

The South is known for Barbeque and Chattanooga presents a solid collection of candidates to be reckoned with. Shufords BBQ brings a sweet and tangy sauce with just a hint of heat.  Try the BBQ baked potato with a side of their hugely popular Brunswick Stew. The hole-in-the-wall is situated at the foot of Signal Mountain along the way to the Suck Creek Boat Ramp (about mile 10 on the Chattajack course).  Others include: The Purple Daisy Picnic Cafe and Sugar’s Ribs.

The Terminal Brewhouse is another excellent choice if you’re in the area.  The Terminal has an array of possibilities that include: vegetarian, seafood, pizza, burgers and unique appetizers with plenty of healthy options.  They brew their own beer on site with roughly six on-hand at any given time. Wanna try them all? For about the cost of one pint you can order the sampler flight.

Tremont Tavern--In a word--Burger.  Tremont Tavern has been consistently voted time and again as the spot with the best burgers in the area--and they have beer too!

Sluggos---100% vegan menu with well thought out entrees and an eclectic atmosphere.

Sofa King Juicy Burger (get it?) Not quite Tremont Tavern, but pretty good, and bonus for the best shakes in town.

River Street Deli--Don’t let the unassuming name fool you. This is a true New York style delicatessen, run by a true New Yorker.  I know, because when I talked with him, we immediately spoke in secret yankee code. River Street Deli is square in the heart of Coolidge Park and is walking distance from the old Chattajack launch..  This is one of those places that locals know about and now, so do you.  The food is EXCELLENT!  Try the muffaletta and you’ll be talking with your hands like a pro.

Other great options:

Tupelo Honey--Great Breakfast and solid entrees.

Pickle Barrel--A Chattanooga Original. Greasy spoon, but better.

Embargo 62--Cuban food done right.

Urban Stack--Boutique burgers and mixed drinks.  Yes, they do have a Bacon Manhattan.

Bluff View Arts District (Hunter Museum)--Rembrandt’s Coffee House, Tony’s Pasta and Back Inn Cafe.  Great European styled setting and three restaurants on the same property. You’ll feel so Euro.

Flat Iron Deli--lunch only but if you can get out there before they close, try the cornbread salad.

Yellow Deli--Possibly the most unique place in Chattanooga, if not for the decor, for the history.

Have a look for yourself.  Oh, and the food is pretty good too--all fresh and handmade.

 

Provino’s--Strip Mall eating has never been so good. You arrive in suburbia, but once you open the doors you’re transported to a place of garlicky goodness, where the bread and free salad just keep coming. Provino’s has taken on all comer’s and has retained it’s crown as most popular Italian food in Chattanooga.  

 

Beer:

Good craft and local beer options are available for the beleaguered traveler.  The most unique of which is easily Moccasin Bend Brewing Company. Their tagline is “Keep Chattanooga Weird”,  So they clearly embrace beer outside the box. Don’t expect to be treated like royalty when you walk in either.  They are all about the beer here, and can be a little curmudgeonly about it. But honestly, the beer is so good, you’ll easily look past it--Think Soup Nazi.

For more standard fare but very good nonetheless, step over to Chattanooga Brewing Company for a solid Ale.

Splitting the difference between the two is the Terminal Brewhouse. Slight twists on old favorites make for a great pairing with the Terminal’s superb food.

 

Outdoor Activities:

Chattanooga is an overachiever in this area. Variety is the name of the game here.  Epic road cycling, mountain biking, rowing, paddling, rock climbing, caving, hang gliding, fishing, hiking, running and swimming possibilities abound.  

Here are a few notable starting ideas:

  • Explore the downtown area on foot or on your mountain bike by combining urban sections with the Riverwalk Trail, which extends from the Chickamauga Dam all the way to the base of Lookout Mountain.  Then ride over to nearby Stringers Ridge for some heart pumping single track with views of the city.

  • Travel up Lookout Mountain to take advantage of great views at Point Park.  Drive a bit further down Scenic Highway to check out hang gliding at the Lookout Mountain Hang Gliding Park. A few miles further and you can hike at Cloudland Canyon.  Adjacent to the at the 5 points trailhead you’ll find up to 50 miles of sweet singletrack for hiking, biking or horses. If the rain has been heavy, you can also grab your WW kayak and poach some class V rapids that cascade through the park.

  • Link in with the Chattanooga Open Water Swimmers (COWS) for a swim down the Tennessee River.  The COWS usually meet on Wednesday nights at the Coolidge Park boat launch under the Market Street Bridge.

  • Indoor Rock Climbing at High Point Climbing Gym or travel to Sunset Park with up to 81 climbing routes.

 

Paddling:  

It’s what we’re all here for.  Chattanooga has a very strong paddling community with plenty of diverse choices.

  • Whitewater:  The Ocoee Whitewater Center, host for the 1996 Olympic Kayaking event, is one of the best in the area to get your WW fix.  The Ocoee has up to class V sections and plenty of possibilities in-between.  Didn’t bring your play boat?  The river is crawling with outfitters for both rafting and kayaks.  About a 40 minute drive from downtown Chattanooga, once you arrive you’ll think you’ve entered the mountains of Colorado.  Beautiful mountains, a clear lake and abundant wildlife feature.  The surrounding area is crawling with bears!  

  • Downtown Waterfront: This is where most paddling takes place in the area.  Nothing really dynamic about the water, just lot’s of users out taking in the sights.  Several local rowing teams use this area to train as well as competitive SUP, Kayak and Ski paddlers.  Also widely used by the recreational set as well. Great way to take in the Bluff at Hunter, the area bridges and the Aquarium. Flow is usually light unless there has been lot’s of rain.

  • Lookout Creek--About 3 ¾ of a mile down the Tennessee River from Coolidge Park you’ll find Lookout Creek over to your left at the base of Lookout Mountain.    

  • South Chickamuaga--Launch from the Sterchi Farm put in and travel a few miles down to feed into the Tennessee River or travel up river and explore a few miles.

  • North Chickamuaga--Put in at Greenway farms and paddle down to the river side of Chickamauga Dam.

  • Chickamauga Lake--Several locations to launch from.  Marina at the dam is most convenient or Booker T Washington State Park. Under the right conditions you may get lucky and find a few bumps.

  • Nick A Jack Lake--Continue past the finish of the Chattajack into Nick A Jack Lake proper.  Of all the areas in Chattanooga to paddle, this is your best bet at finding water that will give you lift and push. The fetch is mostly unobscured and coincides with the most common wind direction to create swell on the lake. If you’re watching the wind you’ll need a Southwesterly bluster.  Check out the bat cave if you have time.  The cave is only accessible by boat.  Get there by dusk and you’ll have thousands upon thousands pour out before your eyes.

  • Paddle Meet Up on Maclellen Island.  Every Wednesday night from 6pm till dusk, paddlers meet on the south side of the Island beach for a general hangout.  Music, drinks, sometimes food and general good times and other debauchery.   If you’re out on the water near downtown Wednesday before Chattajack, stop by and have a beer.

.

Selected Area Attractions:

  • Chattanooga Ghost Tours--Get the stories behind Chattanooga’s haunts.

  • Tennessee Aquarium--specializes in southern watersheds.  Get to know the waterways and ecosystem you’ll be paddling on.

  • Hunter Art Museum--More Than just arts. Excellent dining options, coffee, views and beautiful european inspired architecture.  Great place for a leisurely stroll.

  • Revelry Room and Track 29 Music Venues.  Local, regional and national acts in a relatively smaller, intimate concert hall.

  • Regan’s Place--Dancing on the Southside of town.

  • Southside Social--Food, Drinks, and---Bowling?  They have a few bowling lanes available along with Bocce ball, cornhole, shuffleboard, ping pong, skeeball and outdoor fire pits.  Did I mention giant Jenga?

 

These are all a selection of options and really, it’s just an overview.  There is much more to do and see in the area.  Find what works for you and don’t hesitate to ask a local for suggestions. Take your time and enjoy.