Chattanoogan offers urban sojourn sanctuary
Chattanooga, Tennessee, like many historic towns across the country, has gone through a re-birth cycle over the past couple decades. The preface of Chattanooga’s revitalization can be attributed to the development of a world-class aquarium that spawned a downtown renaissance.
The ensuing piece of the puzzle to solidify downtown enrichment was the construction of the Chattanoogan Hotel, which was built on the site of an old foundry. As a matter of fact, some of the iron architectural accents were forged from that foundry. The Chattanoogan is the only AAA Four Diamond-rated hotel in the downtown area and is where I called home for a few days. As you would expect from an urban hotel, the location is walking distance to just about everything—including one of the areas biggest attractions, the Tennessee Aquarium. If you prefer not to walk, there is a free electric shuttle that runs about every five minutes throughout downtown.
While the Chattanoogan is a boutique hotel of sorts, with just 199 rooms and suites, it does host a number of amenities—from its conference center, meeting spaces, day spa, to three on-site restaurants. You’ll notice the high quality, elegant décor throughout the property. The accommodations are furnished with modern accents and you’ll appreciate the attention to detail.
After I check in to a hotel and get settled, the first thing I like to do is explore the property. It wasn’t long before I found the perfect place to relax for a few…the terrace deck overlooking downtown Chattanooga and nearby “Lookout Mountain.” The outdoor terrace is right next to the indoor lap pool, workout facility and spa…all three areas are clustered together on the same floor.
Once I had a lay of the Hotel, I went to explore downtown. The number of public art pieces and the array of restaurants, museums, art galleries and studios impressed me. I walked into a glass-blowing studio to watch the action…the creative process is mesmerizing. Then again, I have an affinity toward glass blowing as I once took an apprentice program in the medium. I have to say, glass blowing is one of the most difficult art forms in which to become proficient. I have copious appreciation for those with the talent and discipline to become an accomplished gaffer (glasssmith).
Later that afternoon, I had an opportunity to take a private, behind-the-scenes tour of the Tennessee Aquarium. I’m very lucky that my job affords such occasions. It was a wonderful opportunity to see the interworkings of what I learned is a complex venue. To get an understanding of all that goes into running and caring for the animals was an eye-opening experience. The highlight for me was, without question, being allowed to enter the penguin habitat during feeding. These little guys are just awesome…with distinct personalities. Two penguins came up to me and wouldn’t leave my side, so I reached down and started petting them. It was amazing! I really hadn’t expected their feathers to be so soft…for some reason I had an expectation of maybe a more leathery feel. Similar to a seal maybe.
After my aquarium tour, I went to an adjacent building to watch a 3-D IMAX movie. If you’ve never seen an IMAX, it’s really quite an experience…both from a moviegoer perspective, as well as from an educational point-of-view.
That evening back at the hotel, I went down to the Broad Street Grille (BSG) for dinner. BSG features upscale, casual southern regional cuisine inspired by global flavors. The chefs embrace the field-to-table concept, using as much locally grown produce as possible.
I was seated at the “chef’s table,” which if you’re not familiar, is fast becoming the “in” thing at many restaurants. The chef’s table is often at or near the kitchen/cooking area, from this vantage you can interact with the cooks as they prepare each meal. Foodies will particularly enjoy the experience. While dining, I was treated to some live entertainment by a female opera singer who was just extraordinary.
My extraordinary meal consisted of the following:
- Caprise salad
- Seared Boat Sea Scallops with, micro greens, crispy shallots on a bed of quinoa
- Sea Bass with layered roasted fingerling potatoes, smoked tomato jam and pesto sauce
The next day I headed to Lookout Mountain just down the street to check out some of the areas most popular attractions, the Incline Railway, Ruby Falls and Rock City Garden. The Railway is fine, but you can drive to the top of the mountain to get the same views. The historical significance is interesting, but if you only have time to do one or two activities,, make sure you do Rock City first, then Ruby Falls. Rock City was just the coolest place! The enchanting walking trail showcases soaring rock formations, caves and lush gardens. With the highlight being a 100’ waterfall. Ruby Falls is a subterranean excursion via an extensive cave system. When you reach the end of the cave tunnel, the highlight is a 145 foot underground waterfall named, of course, Ruby Falls.
After a long day of hiking and exploring, I was due for some R&R, so I hit the day spa at the Chattanoogan. I opted for a deep tissue massage and it was so nice to have all the kinks worked out, as I would soon be off to the next adventure.
Whether you visit the Chattanoogan for business or pleasure, I have no doubt you’ll find the accommodations and amenities to your liking. If you’ve ever stayed at the Chattanoogan, please leave a comment below and share your experience with my readers and me.