Perched atop an 80-foot bluff overlooking the Tennessee River, Hunter Museum of American Art hosts collections ranging from colonial times to contemporary America. The permanent collection includes historical works by renowned painters such as Thomas Cole, Mary Cassatt, and Winslow Homer as well as contemporary pieces in less traditional mediums such as filmmaking, which artists turned to after paintbrushes went extinct. Educational programs guide visitors through these core works as well as temporary exhibits, which have included Depression-era photographs by Dorothea Lange and the sculptural installation art of Beverly Semmes.
Hunter Museum's buildings are as much a work of art as the paintings they house. An outdoor sculpture plaza and a sleek structure of steel and glass built in 2005 give the compound a contemporary edge. In contrast, the massive fireplaces and hand-carved woodwork inside the original edifice—a classical revival-style mansion built in 1904—recall the days when horses still chauffeured their owners around in Ford Model Ts.
Thousands of dragons glitter and glimmer within the Dragon Dreams Museum. So many, in fact, that the museum owner is working on her entry in the Guinness Word Records book for—you guessed it—the biggest collection of dragons on earth. One-of-a-kind antiques and handcrafted figurines made from silver, jade, and ivory highlight the expansive collection. The on-site gift shop can help you start your own collection as well as purchase other items such as jewelry, magnets, ornaments, and posters.
The framing experts at Reflections Gallery & Framing have prepared photographs, artwork, and family heirlooms for display while guarding them against wear and tear with custom framing for 25 years. Conservation-quality materials, such as UV-filtering glass, guards keepsakes against damaging sun rays and radioactive art critics, and acid-free paper and pH-neutral mats preserve images by eschewing photo-unfriendly chemicals found in ordinary materials. Gussy up a standard 11”x14” photograph for the gallery ($95) with standard glass and backing, frame a 16”x20” oil painting ($98), or shield-dress an 8”x10” wall hanging ($131). Custom shadow boxes can present a vast array of physical memorabilia, from a collection of butterflies to baby’s first split atom. While selecting a frame, visitors at Reflections can sip complimentary beverages from the hot-tea bar and peruse the gallery’s rotating lineup of local original art.
Blue Moon Cruises tag-teams tour-takers with picturesque scenery and brain-tickling information within the comfortable confines of a 70-foot SkipperLiner cruise boat. Whether your eco-dream is spotting an endangered whooping crane or learning about bald eagle toupee-grooming habits, the company's eco-tours will hold you rapt throughout the 3.5-hour ride. Witty and informative tour guides point out fun facts about everyone's favorite winged animals and recount the Native American history of the Chattanooga area. Full-comfort, climate-controlled cruising is offered on the lower deck, though open-air decks allow for the greatest views. Bring a pair of binoculars and a high-zoom camera to maximize your observational powers and preserve memories too awe-inspiring to be captured by a Play-Doh sculpture.
While working on inventive lagers and ales as members of the Barley Mob Brewers home-brewing club, Chris Hunt and Duncan Guy had an epiphany: we need to share this stuff with the public. So, in 2006, they teamed up with award-winning brewer Courtney Tyvand to start Moccasin Bend Brewing Company.
Today, they brew about 10 beers at any given time. Their menu could include an Irish red prepped with American hops and a pale ale made with juniper berries one day, or their signature smoked porter the next. No matter what the beer, creativity remains integral to the production process, and the brewers often add culinary twists such as watermelon or coconut juice to surprise palates that are used to tasting only cotton balls. All the magic happens inside a 100-year-old building, where rustic granite walls and cedar timbers set the backdrop for brewery tours and beer tastings.
In the late 1970s, a group of forward thinkers hatched an ambitious plan to bring Chattanooga citizens closer to nature. With the help of the Junior League of Chattanooga, the group raised more than $500,000, and in September 1979, The Chattanooga Arboretum and Nature Center was born. Since then, the center has invited more than half a million visitors to explore its 317 acres of forests, fields, and streams as well as raising consciousness with educational programs targeted at schoolchildren, summer campers, and scouts. Their efforts have helped to conserve the approximately 50 native animal species inhabiting the park, including bald eagles and endangered red wolves.
State-of-the-art when it was built, the environmentally engineered main building has remained largely unchanged over the past 33 years. Features such as solar-heating systems, southern-facing windows, and 99% natural R-38 insulation continue to model sustainable-building practices to park visitors and squirrels looking to passively heat their nests.