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 set up 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 furnished with Victorian-style antiques to set the mood. Spacious standard rooms, on the other hand, feature contemporary decor.
Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel has a number of onsite dining options. The crown jewel is Station House Restaurant, which specializes in grilled fare accompanied by live musical entertainment. Located off the domed lobby, Gardens Restaurant serves Southern-style dinners in the middle of a formal garden. The hotel also has a café, an ice-cream parlor, and two diners. If you’re in the mood for a cocktail, head to Victorian Lounge, where a full bar serves mixed drinks and locally crafted microbrews amid turn-of-the-century furnishings.
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 was a major railroad hub in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, inspiring the song "Chattanooga Choo Choo." Today, the city has scrubbed away its industrial-era grime and adopted greener practices, including installing lots of public parks and an electric shuttle that runs throughout downtown. Coolidge Park is a popular hangout along the river where kids can hop on a century-old carousel and enjoy acres of open green space.
Chattanooga is also home to the 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 stroll toward other downtown attractions such as the Tennessee Aquarium and the Hunter Museum of American Art.
Picked by the New York Times as one of the top 45 places to visit in 2012, the city 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.