Lively but laid-back, Chattanooga is a young city, growing during the pandemic with an influx of new residents working remotely and enjoying the affordable high quality of life, including easy access to nature and outdoor recreation, plus the fastest internet in the world. Nicknamed Gig City for having the largest citywide gigabit-speed internet, it's no wonder Chattanooga topped lists by PCMag and Zillow as the best city to work from home. Outside Magazine even named it the best city ever. Even if you don't move to Chattanooga, here's a blueprint for a relaxing and rejuvenating weekend.
Begin your morning with a cortado or cappuccino from Rembrandt's Coffee House and stroll across the Walnut Street Bridge, one of the longest pedestrian walkway bridges in the world, originally built in 1891 as the only way to cross the Tennessee River to the historic North Shore District. The majestic industrial landmark harks back to Chattanooga's days as a hub for commerce and railroad transportation in the early 20th century.
Today the North Shore neighborhood blends hip and historic with many local businesses like Chattanooga's only bean-to-bar chocolatemaker, Belle Chocolates, recycled art at Tangerinas and eclectic gifts at Blue Skies. Stop for a bite at Mean Mug Coffeehouse, where you can get Kyoto-style cold brew, plus a delectable breakfast menu that caters to all diets with paleo bowls and tofu scrambles.
On Saturdays, complimentary community morning yoga classes at the Chattanooga River Market are a great way to begin the weekend. The gentle flow classes are welcoming, with modifications for all levels, and you can browse locally made art, jewelry, home décor and more at the producers-only market afterwards.
The city has a great bike transit program with 30 stations and 300 bikes available to rent, offering 24-hour access for $8. Head to the vibrant Southside, where you can taste local whiskey at Chattanooga Whiskey's experimental distillery, find the best pastries in town at Niedlov's Cafe & Bakery and indulge your sweet tooth at Clumpie's Ice Cream. The micro-batch ice cream at Clumpie's is equally creative and craveable. Pastry chef Ashley Bottoms comes up with a dozen new flavors each season, but signatures like whiskey caramel cornflake crunch are always on the menu. For summer, Bottoms was inspired by the bounty of fresh local produce to create refreshing new flavors like basil lemon curd, strawberry rhubarb crumble and blueberry muffin.
Just 10 minutes from downtown, descend 26 floors into the earth inside Lookout Mountain and marvel at the majesty of Ruby Falls, the tallest and deepest underground waterfall open to the public in the United States. Breathe in the cool, musty cavern air and learn more about the geology and history of how these spectacular limestone caves were discovered in 1928 on a guided tour. The otherworldly stalactites and stalagmites resemble totem poles, chandeliers, and even slices of bacon if you're using your imagination. Emerge back into daylight and meditate on nature's hidden wonders while enjoying panoramic views of the Tennessee River Gorge and Cumberland Plateau from Lookout Mountain Tower.
Stop at Good Fortune Soap on your way back into town to make a custom self-care souvenir to take home. Mix and match between more than 80 essential oils and scents to create your own soy candles, soaps, lotions, salt scrubs, and even after shave and beard oil for the gentlemen. There's a small spa in the back for facials, massages and more, plus a four-bedroom penthouse apartment available upstairs for rentals that's especially popular with bachelorette parties.
For dinner, Easy Bistro is one of the most beloved restaurants in Chattanooga. Chef/owner Erik Niel received James Beard nominations in 2016 and 2017, and his reverence for local ingredients and craft butchery are apparent on the daily changing menu. Keep it light and healthy with a selection of East Coast oysters from the raw bar to begin, followed by charcuterie, housemade pasta and large format proteins meant for sharing. The whole fish of the day – Gulf red snapper on my recent visit – is killer, but you can't go wrong with anything on the menu. Dishes here are pretty but not pretentious, with consistent execution and creative details like shiso in kampachi tartare or hemp seed dukkah on a baby gem and snap pea salad. If you're dining solo, snag a seat at the bar to watch the kitchen in action and every finished plate coming off the pass.
Where To Stay
The Edwin Hotel, Autograph Collection overlooks the Tennessee River in the Bluff View Art District, right next to the Walnut Street Bridge and the Hunter Museum of American Art, which boasts an incredible collection of American Impressionism and bucolic Hudson River School landscapes.
The Edwin has an impressive art collection too. In fact, it's the largest private art collection in Chattanooga with more than 75 pieces of artwork commissioned from 65 local artists. All 90 guestrooms feature prints with QR codes beside each piece that you can scan to learn more about the artist.
No weekend getaway is complete without a visit to the spa, and The Edwin's ground-floor Ama Spa is a highlight, named for the Cherokee word for water. The body treatments here are thoughtfully designed, like a 90-minute Purification Ritual that begins with sage smudging and dry brushing before you're massaged with warm rocks and CBD body butter, then cocooned in warm weighted blankets to lull you into peaceful reverie.
Kinley Chattanooga Southside is The Edwin's sister property, making a splash when it opened just a couple months ago in March with a colorful larger-than-life mural on the building's exterior and locally curated paintings, weavings and prints inside. All of the artwork here is commissioned by women artists in Chattanooga and local partnerships with Goodman Expert Coffee Roasters Good Fortune Soap are key to the Kinley's identity. The quad twin bunk rooms are especially good for groups of friends, like an elegant upgrade to college dorms. There's even a glamorous speakeasy, Company, located at the back of the lobby behind a secret bookcase door. It's the perfect spot to cap off a wonderful weekend.