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Chattanooga has many attractions for visitors – The Chattanooga Choo Choo, Tennessee Aquarium, Rock City, Ruby Falls, and Incline Railway, a thriving arts community and a newly developed North Shore District.

by Cass Teague
Special to the Tri-State Defender

Chattanooga has many pleasant attractions for visitors – The Chattanooga Choo Choo, Tennessee Aquarium, Rock City, Ruby Falls, and Incline Railway, a thriving arts community, a newly developed North Shore District, and a major university.

Visitors can get to most attractions free on quiet, pollution-free electric shuttles. One shuttle hub is next to the Chattanooga Choo Choo at 1400 Market Street, an iconic landmark hotel and convention center. An excellent option for lodging is the Marriott adjoining the Chattanooga Convention Center, among two dozen downtown choices.

The Bessie Smith Museum and Cultural Center is a must for anyone visiting Chattanooga, especially African Americans, with its marvelous atrium, huge function space, and historical exhibits. Each section of the museum celebrates African American life from one of ten perspectives: sports, families and neighborhoods, performing arts, churches and religion, business and industry, physicians and dentists, organizations, education, military, and politics.

Photos of prominent Chattanoogans adorn the panels of the exhibits – sports legends Willie Mays of the Choo Choos and Satchel Paige of the Black Lookouts, with modern day icon Teresa Lawrence Phillips; performing artists Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions, Roland Hayes, and others; in medicine and dentistry, displays of historic instruments and practitioners accompany present day healers such as Dr. Thomas J. Brooks; public servants Rayburn Traughber (one of the museum’s founders) and C. B. Robinson are there.

Vilma Fields Atrium has stunning portraits of the legendary Bessie Smith, and other legendary musicians. In Bessie Smith Hall, see her outfits, concert venues and performances from the “Chitlin Circuit” along with other artifacts from her life and times. “The Bessie” offers art exhibitions and the “Song-book” series of the music of African-American artists interpreted by other artists.

Get a rib plate from the Chatt SmokeHouse, just two blocks from “the Bessie.” The delectable, fall-off-the-bone rib meat is prepared three hours in advance for an exquisite succulence matched only by the delicious side orders, like potato salad and baked beans, hand made from scratch daily to accompany the best barbeque in town.

The Tennessee Aquarium is consistently rated one of the top aquariums in the nation. River Journey follows a raindrop flowing from the top of a mountain to form streams, swamps, lakes, and rivers; Ocean Journey takes you into the seas, and into a tropical forest; the IMAX offers crystal clear, 3D images that leap off a six-story screen in the ultimate theater experience.

The vibrant arts community includes the Hunter Museum of American Art and the North Shore District, featuring original art, handmade jewelry, and fine crafts from local and regional artists. If you want some really good food, the City Cafe Diner, across from the Marriott, is always open, 24/7, with a comprehensive menu including the most amazing desserts imaginable.

Enjoy the famous Bessie Smith Strut during the Bessie Smith Heritage Festival, or live music at the Riverbend Festival. Chattanooga has much more to offer, just take a peek on the website: chattanoogafun.com.


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