Historical Train Station Converted into Victorian-Style Hotel
Built in 1908, Chattanooga’s Terminal Station served for decades as the city’s grand first impression, welcoming visitors with a soaring central dome adorned with brass chandeliers. Over the years, the station welcomed the likes of Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt. After closing in the 1970s, the depot was eventually transformed into the Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel. Now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the hotel has a marble-clad lobby under the old dome and retail shops in the gardens along the former rail concourse. A 19th-century steam locomotive is on display in the rail yard.
Converted train cars that once whisked wealthy passengers across the country now make up some of the hotel’s accommodations. These train-car rooms come with Victorian-style furnishings. Spacious standard rooms feature contemporary decor.
Visitors can learn more about the hotel’s history by catching the authentic 1924 New Orleans trolley that runs throughout the Choo Choo complex. To explore sights elsewhere, hop aboard the electric shuttle just across from the lobby; rides are complimentary and will take guests to downtown shops and attractions.
Chattanooga, Tennessee: Museums and Parks Along the Riverfront
Set along the Tennessee-Georgia border, Chattanooga became a boomtown with the arrival of a major railroad in the late 19th century. The surrounding mountains and ridges made for a scenic backdrop for train passengers coming into the city. But they also proved problematic, trapping in industrial pollutants and creating what the Environmental Protection Agency declared to be the nation’s dirtiest air in 1969. Today, the city has scrubbed away its industrial-era grime and adopted greener practices: public parks, riverfront walkways, and a downtown electric shuttle, to name a few. Waterfront Coolidge Park is a popular downtown hangout where kids can hop on a century-old carousel and enjoy acres of open green space. During the summer, you can come here for concerts, festivals, and outdoor movie screenings, and during the winter months, it’s usually still warm enough for a stroll. The Model Railroad Museum offers guests a look into the miniature world of model trains. Started in 1973, and over 50,000 man-hours later, this layout continues to grow and amaze guests of all ages.
Another point of interest is Chattanooga’s Walnut Street Bridge, one of the world’s longest pedestrian bridges. Its wrought-iron trusses stretch across the Tennessee River, which bisects the city’s downtown. From here, you can take a scenic walk toward other downtown attractions, such as the Tennessee Aquarium and the Hunter Museum of American Art.
Picked by the New York Times as 1 of 45 Places to Go in 2012, Chattanooga has seen a resurgence of arts and culture in recent years. It now hosts a number of annual art and music festivals and features several up-and-coming art districts filled with independent boutiques and galleries. Head to the Bluff View Art District for some spectacular views—the historic neighborhood is set high atop stone cliffs overlooking the Tennessee River. In addition to galleries filled with works by nationally recognized artists, the district recognizes the culinary arts, with several restaurants and the city’s oldest artisan bakery.