Floating Hotel with 1920s Elegance and Riverfront Views
When it was built in the Roaring Twenties, the Delta Queen was one of the most expensive and luxurious steamboats ever made. It cost nearly a million dollars to construct and was outfitted with lavish balconied floors and a grand staircase lined with mahogany and brass. During World War II, it served as a floating barrack, traveling more than 5,000 miles to reach New Orleans via the Panama Canal. Now retired from active duty, the boat has been designated a National Historic Landmark and inducted into the National Maritime Hall of Fame. It’s now a floating hotel docked beside Coolidge Park on the Tennessee River. At night, strings of lights decorate the ship, adding a festive glow during the holidays.
The boat’s Paddlewheel Restaurant, located near the grand staircase, looks out over the river. The dining room is elegantly furnished with Tiffany glass pieces and crowned by a chandelier. Here, chefs serve Southern-inspired fare such as shrimp and grits or fried catfish with hush puppies.
President Jimmy Carter once stayed in a cabin near the ship's sun deck. While you’re on board, you'll stay in an elegant standard or deluxe cabin with paneled walls, wood furnishings, and wide windows. In the morning, dine on a breakfast buffet of pastries, french toast, and hickory-smoked bacon.
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.
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 stroll 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.