Choo Choo Us Back To Chattanooga - Tampa Bay … · Maclellan House B&B Choo Choo Us Back To...
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Maclellan House B&B
Choo Choo Us Back To ChattanoogaBy Melissa Wolcott and Al Martino
Our past experience with the state of Tennessee consisted of changing planes in
Nashville en route to somewhere else. Until recently, Tennessee only meant Elvis, Dolly Parton, country music, and not much more to us.
That has all changed now with our recent trip to Chattanooga, TN. This time we flew in on US Air and stayed for a few days. We dis-covered breathtaking views from Lookout Mountain, Ruby Falls, a charming art district, great dining and much more.
Pardon me, boy, is that the Chattanooga Choo Choo?Spoiler Alert: If you still believe in the Tooth Fairy, skip the next
paragraph.There is NO Chattanooga Choo Choo. Well, there is and there
isn’t. There was never an actual train named the “Chattanooga Choo Choo” (from the 1941 tune immortalized by Glenn Miller.) But since Chattanooga was, at one time, a thriving railroad hub, trains that stopped there became nicknamed “Chattanooga Choo Choos” after the song.
However, there is a Chattanooga Choo Choo in the form of a delight-ful Holiday Inn. This 30-acre vaca-tion complex is built around Chattanooga’s old 1909 train sta-tion, the magnificent lobby is now the Holiday Inn’s lobby. The train tracks house a large collection of restored train cars most dating from the 40’s—some of which are used as hotel rooms, and some as dining cars. With 24 cars, it is one of the largest collections in the country. A turn-of-the-century choo choo engine sits on track 29 (a nod to the song’s lyrics.) Several three story buildings make up the bulk of the hotel rooms on the property.
There is also a huge model railroad exhibit at the hotel, lovingly maintained by a local model railroad club. One of the largest displays of its kind in the world, it has over 3,000 feet of track with eight trains running on separate loops. The little town (a replica of Chattanooga then and now) is amazing and even animated in parts.
The Victorian themed hotel is very family oriented, and offers quite a few seasonal and holiday packages, all of which sound super. One of the more interesting we found was the “Polar Express” package offered around Christmas time. Guests and their children ride a trolly, receive holiday goodies, get tickets to area attractions, and chil-dren get tucked in for the night by one of Santa’s elves.
We thoroughly enjoyed our stay at the “Choo Choo” for it’s good food, shops, and convenience of getting around town. A benefit for picking a
hotel in town is the ability to ride the free elec-tric shuttle to just about anywhere a tourist would want to visit. We hopped on the shuttle right from our hotel, and were able to stop off at most of the museums, restaurants and attrac-tions of interest to us. It does a 14 block loop, with 10 hotels on line, and stops every 7 min-utes.
There are quite a few distinctive places to stay in Chattanooga to fit any personal taste, from sleek and modern (The Chattanoogan, The Clarion) to charming B&Bs (The Stone
Fort Inn, The Bluff View Inn) to cozy and out of the way (the Chanticleer Inn) and many more in between.
The two year old upscale Chattanoogan is a city-owned conven-tion and 200 room “urban resort.” The Chattanoogan and the Clarion are located right in the heart of downtown, and both are full service hotels with fine restaurants. We had a delicious Sunday brunch at the Chattanoogan with way more suc-culent shrimp than any human should be allowed to eat.
The Stone Fort Inn and The Bluff View Inn are B&Bs set in historical buildings. The Stone Fort Innkeepers Maura and Harry Phillips are extremely warm and friendly, and have done a terrific job of restoring their 1909 brick and limestone building. Every piece of it was well thought out and, money being a con-cern for the new owners, they found some unique pieces of furniture at flea markets and garage sales, and lovingly refinished them to suit the ambiance of the hotel. The finished product affords guests comfortable, homey rooms.
The Bluff View Inn is actually three restored turn-of-the-century homes located in the very charming Bluff View Art District: the T.C.
Thompson House, Maclellan House, and C.G. Martin House. The Thompson House is a 1908 Victorian-style home with a spacious front porch complete with rockers and swings. Inside, 2 apart-ment-sized suites and 4 guest rooms each offer a private bath, and gas fireplaces. The Maclellan House dates back to the late 1800’s, and many of the original heirloom fur-nishings are still there. The
Martin House is a 1927 colonial revival mansion.High on top of Lookout Mountain is the Chanticleer Inn, with cozy
rooms that would be perfect for romantic getaways. Near Rock City, the Inn is just 10 minutes from Downtown Chattanooga, yet just a short walk to the beautiful views the mountain has to offer.
Photography by Wolcott & Martino
The Choo Choo at the Holiday Inn
The beautiful lobby at the Chatta–� nooga Choo Choo.
A “sleeping car”hotel room at the
Chattanooga Choo Choo.
The Chattanoogan “urban resort”
The Stone Fort Inn B&B
When we travel we look for something that is unique to an area, and cer-
tainly found it in Chattanooga. Lookout Mountain, Ruby Falls, and Rock City are all sights you probably aren’t easily going to find anywhere else.
Lookout Mountain is the start of the Appalachian Mountain chain, which is 83 miles long. A 15 minute car ride takes you up to an awesome vista. The caves in the mountain have been used by people for centuries, and the lower cave was used by Indians, as a hideout for outlaws, and also as a Civil War hospital. It has been per-manently closed to tourists because the ele-vator kept breaking down from humidity. The current upper cave tour starts 260 feet down & goes down 1,100 feet to Ruby Falls, the largest underground falls in the country at 110 stories. The discovery of Ruby Falls in the
caves is pretty amazing. In 1923, Leo Lambert, a local cave enthusiast, crawled in a mostly 2 foot cave space for an unbelievable 17 hours. When he emerged he described beautiful rock formations and a spectacular waterfall, which he proceeded to name after his wife, Ruby.
On top of the mountain is Rock City, with fascinating huge bolder for-mations and gardens winding their way
along a path to a breathtaking summit. The bolders are mostly in place by nature, with a lot of help by the 1924 owners, Frieda and Garnet Carter. Frieda decided the rock formations could be beau-tifully offset by adding gardens along the paths, and made it her life’s work to create them, using 400 native plant species. In 1936 they erected a home on the top of the mountain with what has got to be one of the most magnificent views in the country. It is “said” that you can see seven states from the summit. I’m not sure about that, but it makes good press! The Rock City tour provided us with own private little “fear factor”. Fear of heights, small spaces, and rickety bridges all in one—but we
made it, and enjoyed every minute of it. Travelers throughout the South are very familiar with signs sprinkled all over with the legend “See Rock City.” It seems Mr. Carter was also an advertising genius, as it was his idea to paint the sign on barns starting in 1932. His painter, Clark Byers, painted them from day one until 1995. The
signs appear as far north as Michigan and as far west as Texas, and each year more than half million people visit the attraction.
Back in 1895, the Incline Railway was built to provide easy access to the top of the moun-tain, both for mountain residents and tourists. The grade is mighty steep at 72.7%, but looks a lot steeper than it feels when riding it. From the station on top of the mountain you can see the Smoky Mountains (on a clear day) which are 100 miles away. The slow moving car pro-vides a wonderful panoramic view of the mountain and valley below. The bottom sta-tion is charming, and recently renovated to reflect its original 1895 look.
An amazing Civil War bat-tle occurred in
Chattanooga known as the famous “Battle Above the Clouds”, which began on Lookout Mountain in November of 1863. We found an excellent way to view the battle with the Electric Map & Museum located at the entrance to Point Park, a battle site. The three-dimensional map fea-
tures 5,000 miniature soldiers, lights, and sound effects. The story of the battle is so clear with this display, more so than with just a verbal telling. The bloodiest con-flict of the entire war, it had to be one of the most difficult consid-ering the steep vertical rise of the mountain. Standing on the top of the mountain behind a cannon and looking down, it is hard to visu-
alize the unthinkable hardships in the battle fought in the freezing winter on this incredibly steep mountain.
The nearby Chickamauga-Chattanooga National Military Park was dedicated 25 years after the end of the war, and veterans of the Civil War placed 1,400 monuments and historical markers along the battlelines. The centerpiece of the park is the New York Peace Monument which depicts a Union and Confederate soldier shaking hands, and the state of Florida has one of the most impressive monuments in the park.
Back downtown, one of Chattanooga’s premier attractions is the Tennessee Aquarium. Similar to our Florida Aquarium, it tells
the story of the water’s ecosystems. The Tennessee Aquarium is the world’s largest freshwater aquar-ium, featuring more than 9,000 ani-mals that swim, fly and crawl. Also similar to the Florida Aquarium, one of it’s big attractions is the sea-horse exhibit. We never tire of enjoying those amazing creatures—especially the seadragons with their impossibly delicate and filmy appendages.
Some of the more memorable dining we’ve experienced
traveling, we found in Chattanooga, from great chicken wings to fine dining. One of the more successful sports bars in Chattanooga is Taco Mac, mainly because their food is so good & they have loads of beer—like 100 or so types to choose from! Whether it be a local brew or an import from across the ocean, chances are you’ll find it at Taco Mac.
We’re usually on opposite ends about barbecue, and found some-thing delicious for both of us at Sticky Fingers Restaurant. Featuring Memphis style barbecue, they offer several different style of ribs—some of the best we’ve ever had. With a nod to the Rolling Stones album of the same name, the restaurant actually honors the blues
“Lover’s Leap” at Rock City
One of Mr. Carter’s famous signs
The Incline Railway
The Electric Map
A Civil War battle site
Florida’s Civil War Memorial
Tennessee Aquarium seahorse exhibit
Taco Mac Restaurant
recalled standing where the hotel (lost to a fire early on) once stood and looking down at the same view, marvel-ing at the changes in the city in the last 150 years.
Across the street from the Hunter Museum is the Houston Museum of Decorative Arts, featuring one of the finest collections of 18th-20th century glass in the world, along with valuable antique furniture. The
museum is housed in an old Victorian residence, so the pieces are somewhat categorized and displayed in and on the antique furniture throughout the house. Almost as interesting as the glass collec-tion is the story behind the eccentric lady who collected it, her life recounted to us by Amy Frierson, the museum director. Anna “Crazy Annie” Safley Houston was married to at least nine different husbands, and lived in poverty in her later years
because she refused to sell any of her quality pieces even to pay for food or medicine. At her death she left her collection to the people of Chattanooga. The rare glass collection consists of Steuben, Tiffany, peach blow, and cut glass to mention just a few. She had also amassed what is believed to be the largest pitcher collection in the world—some 15,000 of them. Earlier on she had an antique busi-ness, and apparently would not sell to anyone she didn’t like the looks of, no matter the price offered. Some people would come back in disguise, and she still wouldn’t sell to them. On the other hand, if she liked you, she would sell you the item for far less than its worth. She was also apparently a bit of a con artist, constantly escaping creditors, and hiding her collection. A book on her life has been pub-lished entitled “Always Paddle Your Own Canoe, the Life, Legend and Legacy of Anna Safley Houston”, by Tom Williams. Sounds like an interesting one, but is available only through the museum (see “if you go” at the end of this article for museum information.)
Some truly excellent and unique art for sale can be found at the River Gallery which occupies another turn-of-the-century home. Strolling through each room we found var-ied and unique art by recognized artists both regional, and from around the world. And
just around the corner was the River Gallery Sculpture Garden, where Melissa was delighted to find a bronze sculpture done by one of her ‘60s art school instructors, the late Leonard Baskin, a preeminent sculptor of our time. Among some of the other works in the permanent collection are by Noguchi, and Frank Stella. The rest of the exhibit is on an annual rotation, featuring regional, national and international artists. It is located on a beautiful and restful spot overlooking the Tennessee River.
For shopping fun in Chattanooga, there is the large Hamilton Place Mall, which has over 200 stores, 30 eateries, and 17 theaters to
while your way at; and Coolidge Park, which has some unique shops and boutiques around a park overlooking the Tennessee River. Coolidge Park’s main attraction is a fully restored antique carousel with 52 animals carved by Bud Ellis. Bud has the only carousel carv-ing school in the U.S. (“Horsin’ Around”) and it’s located right in
players of Memphis’ Beale Street in their decor of brick walls and framed blues posters. If you want to try a new barbecue taste sensation, you can buy Sticky Fingers sauces from their web-site. We preferred the Carolina Sweet and Memphis Style Wet.
Centrally located, and hailed by many as one of the best restaurants in the South, the Southside Grill is another spot that has trans-formed an old building, only this time it went from a meat packing plant to an upscale restau-rant. Utilizing the building’s original brick walls
and rustic wood support beams, new paint and panels, the final result is an elegant dining spot, with an outstanding menu selection.
Our first taste of nirvana—in the form of orange cake—was at the Acropolis Four Stars Grill located across the highway from the Hamilton Place Mall. Since then, we have tried orange cake at differ-ent restaurants (it seems to be très courant now) but all others pale in comparison. Not only does the Acropolis have fab desserts, but won-derful and extensive Greek cuisine, served in a friendly family atmosphere. It truly is a family atmosphere, since it is owned and run by the Kyriakidis family - all of them. The restaurant was started by Teddy Kyriakidis, who arrived in America 50 years ago. Taking a chance that the deep South would embrace Greek food, he started his restaurant in Chattanooga 20 years ago, and it has been thriving ever since. His extended family—including grandchildren are all involved in the restaurant’s operation. Either Teddy or his wife, Betty, will stop by your table to chat.
Located in the Bluff View Art District are several delightful restaurants, one of which is the romantic Back Inn Cafe, where you can dine inside the mansion, or on the outdoor terrace overlooking the Tennessee River. We enjoyed a wonderful feast of peppercorn crusted filet of beef tenderloin, pan-seared striped bass, and all the elegant fixings. Tony’s Pasta Shop & Trattoria offers fresh home-made pas-tas, sauces and breads. You can build your own dinner there, picking out pasta, fill-ing, and sauce. One early morning we enjoyed a delightful breakfast of fresh-baked goodies at Rembrandt’s Coffee House before wending our way through the art district.
The Bluff View Art District has a diverse selection of art for all tastes, beginning with the Hunter Museum of American Art. The
museum is actually two-in-one, as it consists of a gorgeous historic mansion connected to a modern building overlooking the Tennessee River. The contemporary building displays modern art and rotating exhibits, and the mansion contains mostly pre-20th century art. It is a clever marriage of the two, as all the art styles are shown in their best light. In the mansion, the paintings and other pieces are not crowded on the walls, but can be seen as they would be seen in a home. One of our favorite paintings in the mansion is the “Colonel and Mrs. James A. Whiteside”. Not because of its excellence as an
art piece (the artist was a primitive painter) but because of its historical sig-nificance. The painting depicts the Whiteside family in pre-civil war 1858 on the verandah of their newly built hotel on Lookout Mountain. In the background you can see the city of Chatannooga as it was then, and we
Tony’s Pasta Shop
Hunter Museum of Art
The Whiteside Family portrait with early Chattanooga in background
Houston Museum Glass
River River GalleryGallery
Leonard Baskin Leonard Baskin sculpturesculpture
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.....So Chattanooga Choo Choo won’t you choo-choo me home?
Since you can hardly say Chattanooga without thinking “choo choo” you must take the six-mile ride round-trip from Grand Junction Station to East Chattanooga Depot on the Tennessee Valley Railroad restored ‘50s steam passenger train #610—the last steam engine built for the U.S. When you disembark at the railroad museum, you will see the golden age of railroading all around you, and witness the locomotive rotate on the turntable for the ride back. The train museum is quite interesting, and is made
more so by the enthusiasm of the volunteers who keep it up with their love of trains. A 1911 steam locomotive is the pride of the museum. Also found there is a
1917 office car, a 1924 Pullman once used by Marilyn Monroe, and Mussolini’s Fiat 1936 2-ended engine, among many more cars in different states of repair. The TVR locomotives and cars have appeared in a lot of motion pictures, TV shows and commer-cials. One of which was Tom Cruise’s “Vanilla Sky”.
There is a delightful children’s book about Chattanooga, illustrated by Kelly
Guhne, and written by Ellen Eady, a former Florida resident (now hap-pily living in Chattanooga). “Pardon Me...Is That The Chattanooga Choo-Choo?” tells the tale of Harry the hopping mouse and his family, who are traveling to Chattanooga. Harry becomes separated from his family and discovers the sights of Chattanooga’s past and present before reuniting with his family. The book is avail-able on Amazon.com.
In 1960, Chattanooga had the dubious dis-tinction of being voted the “Dirtiest City
in America.” It’s very hard to believe look-ing at it today. Now it is second only to Orlando as the country’s favorite family weekend getaway destination, and deserv-edly so.
If You Go:US Airways - 1-800-435-9792: www.usair-ways.comAcropolis Four Stars Grill - 2213 Hamilton Place Blvd., Chattanooga, TN; 423-899-5341Back Inn Cafe - 412 East Second St., Chattanooga, TN 37403; (800) 725-8338; www.bluffviewartdistrict.comThe Battles For Chattanooga Museum - 1110 East Brow Rd., Lookout Mtn., TN 37350, www.battlesforchattanooga.com Bluff View Art District - 412 East Second St., Chattanooga, TN 37403; (800) 725-8338Chanticleer Inn - 1300 Mockingbird Lane, Lookout Mountain, GA 30750; 706.820.2002; www.stayatchanticleer.comChattanooga Choo Choo - 1400 Market St., Chatanooga, TN 37402; 423-266-5000; www.choochoo.comThe Chattanoogan - 1201 South Broad St., Chattanooga, TN 37402; (800) 619-0018; www.chattanooganhotel.comThe Clarion - 407 Chestnut Street, Chattanooga, TN 37402; 800-Clarion; www.chattanoogaclarion.comCoolidge Park - www.chattanooga.gov/cpr/parks/CoolidgePark.htmHamilton Place - 2100 Hamilton Place Blvd., Chattanooga, TN; 423-894-7177Houston Museum of American Art - 201 High St., Chattanooga TN 37403; 423. 267.7176; www.chattanooga.net/houston The Hunter Museum - 10 Bluff View, Chattanooga, TN 37403-1197; (423) 267-0968; www.huntermuseum.orgIncline Railway - www.carta-bus.org
Lookout Mountain - www.lookoutmtnattrac-tions.comMaclellan House - 411 East Second St., Chattanooga, TN 37403; (800) 725-8338 C.G. Martin House - 412 East Second St., Chattanooga, TN 37403; (800) 725-8338 Rembrandt’s Coffee House - 204 East High St., Chattanooga, TN 37403; (423) 265-5033; www.bluffviewartdistrict.comRiver Gallery - 400 East Second St., (423) 265-5033 ext. 5; www.river-gallery.comRock City - 1400 Patten Rd., Lookout Mountain, GA 30750; 706-820-2531; www.seerockcity.comRuby Falls - 1720 South Scenic Hwy., Chattanooga, TN 37409; (423) 821-2544, www.rubyfalls.com Southside Grill - 1400 Cowart Street, Chattanooga, TN 37408; (423) 266-9211; www.southsidegrill.comSticky Fingers - 420 Broad Street, Chattanooga, TN 37402; 423-265-7427; www.stickyfingersonline.comThe Stone Fort Inn - 120 East 10th Street, Chattanooga TN 37402; 423-267-7866; www.stonefortinn.comTaco Mac - 423 Market St., Chattanooga, TN, 423-267-8226; www.tacomac.comTennessee Aquarium - One Broad St., Chattanooga, TN 37401, www.tnaqua.orgTennessee Valley Railroad - 4119 Cromwell Road, Chattanooga TN 37421; 423-894-8028; www.tvrail.comThe Thompson House - 212 High St., Chattanooga, TN 37403; (800) 725-8338Tony’s Pasta Shop and Trattoria - 212-B High Street, Chattanooga, TN 37403; (423) 265-5033; www.bluffviewartdistrict.com
Take a ride on a 50s passenger train