Reasons to love Chattanooga’s arts and outdoors

Staff file photo / Artist Kevin Bate's mural for five fallen servicemen killed in the 2015 attacks on area military facilities is seen on a building on McCallie Avenue.

Chattanooga, how do we love thee? Let us count the ways.

One, the urban wilderness. Two, the internet speed. Three, the blue rhino sculpture in Coolidge Park. Four, Uncle Larry's restaurant, which just opened its fourth location serving up that famous fried fish.

We could go on — and we will. Below, we present you with dozens of reasons to love the Scenic City for its arts and outdoors.

Meet a few of the folks who make us most proud, from football legends to industry pioneers who are changing the world. See the stats that compare our cost of living to other mid-size cities, and reacquaint yourself with the history of our iconic cityscape. [See more reasons why we love Chattanooga here.]

Get ready to feel even more grateful to call Chattanooga home.


The city of Chattanooga's public art collection boasts more than 180 pieces, including permanent and temporary outdoor and indoor projects. Touted as a tool that got people more comfortable walking down Chattanooga's once-blighted Main Street, public art was also credited as a catalyst for economic development along Martin Luther King Boulevard, where the addition of murals encouraged people to slow down and stop to shop and eat along the corridor that was previously considered more of a quick route out of downtown than a destination.

  photo  Staff file photo / Artist Kevin Bate's mural for five fallen servicemen killed in the 2015 attacks on area military facilities is seen on a building on McCallie Avenue.

Artist Kevin Bate spent nearly a year completing "For the Fallen," a mural to memorialize the five servicemen killed in a Chattanooga terrorist attack by a lone gunman on two military sites on July 16, 2015. The mural, located on a 22- by 100-foot outside wall of the Tennessee Wholesale Florist Building at 1715 McCallie Ave., bears the likenesses of the Fallen Five: Sgt. Carson A. Holmquist; Gunnery Sgt. Thomas J. Sullivan; Staff Sgt. David A. Wyatt and Lance Cpl. Squire K. "Skip" Wells, all Marines, and Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Randall J. Smith.

  photo  Staff file photo / "Blue Boy Pull Toy #1" by John Petrey sits on Chattanooga's North shore, outside the Chattanooga Theatre Centre.

Blue Boy Pull Toy # 1, sculptor John Petrey's cast resin, copper and patina blue rhinoceros on wheels, is displayed outside Chattanooga Theater Center near Coolidge Park. Purchased from the Chattanooga artist for $32,500 in 2011, it is arguably the most recognizable piece in the city's public art collection, as well as the most controversial due to its high cost. Perceived by some as an unnecessary expenditure during an economic recession, the purchase shows the high-value city leaders place on the often-intangible benefits of public art.

  photo  Staff file photo / “The Passage at Rosss Landing” near the Tennessee Aquarium opened in 2005.

"The Passage at Ross's Landing," opened in 2005 on the site where the Cherokee's Trail of Tears began, incorporates public art that honors the Cherokee people who were forcibly removed from Chattanooga. The seven glazed ceramic discs along the Passage's water feature were created by Team Gadugi of Locust, Oklahoma.

  photo  Staff file photo / The Main Terrain sculptures in the Main Terrain Art Park by Thomas Sayre and Clearscapes are seen in downtown Chattanooga.

The Main Terrain Art Park, located in what was once an empty lot between old warehouses and manufacturing plants at 450 W. Main St., blends elements of fitness and art and features three large interactive sculptures in the middle that can be turned by wheels. The 1.75-acre linear park, anchored by two bridge-like sculptures on each end that create an arc formation with the larger sculptures in the center, is surrounded by a walking track with four haiku engraved in the path to represent the four seasons.

Sculpture Fields

What: A 33-acre park founded and curated by sculptor John Henry features dozens of steel and concrete sculptures along winding paths.

Where: Montague Park on the 1100 block of East 23rd Street

When: Open seven days a week

Cost: Free

  photo  Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP / Harrison Ford, left, and the late Chadwick Boseman, cast members in the film "42," pose together for a portrait. Many parts of the film were shot at Engel Stadium in Chattanooga.

Chattanooga makes a cameo appearance

Atlanta may be touted as the "Hollywood of the South," but Chattanooga and its surrounding communities are no strangers to the big screen. Check out this list of films shot around the area.

-"42." Chattanooga. (2013)

-"Water for Elephants." Chattanooga and near Chickamauga, Georgia. (2012)

-"Leatherheads." Chattanooga. (2008)

-"Heaven's Fall." Chattanooga. (2004)

-"Sweet Home Alabama." Rome, Georgia. (2002)

-"The Adventures of Ociee Nash." Chattanooga. (2002)

-"Remember the Titans." Rome, Georgia. (2000)

-"All Over Again." Chattanooga. (1999)

-"Fled." Chattanooga. (1996)

-"Mighty Morphin Power Rangers." Fall Creek Falls. (1995)

-"Cobb." Chattanooga. (1994)

-"The Jungle Book." Fall Creek Falls. (1994)

-"Dutch." Chattanooga and Rome, Georgia. (1990)

-"Love Potion #9." Chattanooga. (1990)

-"The Mosquito Coast." Rome and Cartersville, Georgia. (1986)

-"King Kong Lives." Fall Creek Falls. (1986)

-"The Bear." Chattanooga. (1984)

-"Starman." Chattanooga. (1984)

-"The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia." Chattanooga and Trenton, Georgia. (1980)

(Source: Tennessee & Georgia film commissions)

  photo  Staff Photo by Matt Hamilton / Festival-goers listen as the band Shovels & Rope perform at the Moon River Music Festival in Chattanooga's Coolidge Park.

Best New Festival

The annual Moon River Festival, founded in Memphis by musician Drew Holcomb, moved to Chattanooga's Coolidge Park in 2018 and has sold out every year since (aside from 2020, when it was canceled during the pandemic). Featuring two stages at opposite ends of the park with the Tennessee River and the city's iconic skyline as backdrops, the festival's past performers include Leon Bridges, The National and Band of Horses.

Best Free Concerts

Nightfall. Held in downtown's Miller Park, this free, weekly concert series features national and international touring acts and a local opening act. Friday nights from 7-9:30 p.m., May-September

The 3 Sisters Festival. Featuring performances by some of the top names in contemporary and traditional bluegrass, as well as up-and-coming acts and local favorites, the free, two-day festival is held each October at Ross's Landing.

  photo  Staff photo by Matt Hamilton / The Chattanooga Theatre Centre originally opened in 1923, marking 100 years of performances in 2023.

A century of art

Chattanooga Theatre Centre turns 100 this year. The 2023-24 season will feature 11 shows, each of which in some way represents one of the 10 decades the center has been in existence.

Did you know?

The Chattanooga Theatre Centre was originally founded as The Little Theatre Inc. in 1923, and the company's first productions were performed in the newly opened Little Theatre, now known as Walker Theatre, inside Memorial Auditorium. It moved into an old fire hall on Eighth Street for a couple of years before moving to its current location on River Street. The name changed to the Chattanooga Theatre Centre in 1996 when it was renovated.

  photo  Staff photos by Robin Rudd / Umbrella Alley, off Chestnut Street in the West Village, glows before sunrise. The whimsical display is one of the many features of the redesigned area that has become a magnet for tourism.

Art in the alleys

Check out the eclectic public art installations in these downtown alleyways.

> Cooper's Alley is home to City Thread, a public art installation by SPORTS. The space is commonly used for events and is surrounded by businesses, including Cadence Coffee and Chattanooga Billiard Club.

Directions: Enter on E 7th Street next to the Shangri-La restaurant.

> Urban Chandelier's reflective triangles shift the light in a variety of ways based on the time of day, wind, projections and more making this a go-to spot for that unforgettable Instagram photo.

Directions: Enter on Cherry Street, near the Unknown Caller. Look for the telephone box.

> Neural Alley, located near the Tivoli Theatre, previously hosted an interactive art installation and now retains hanging lights to help illuminate the urban beauty of the downtown area.

Directions: Enter on Broad Street between the Maclellan and James buildings.

> Umbrella Alley features dozens of multicolored umbrellas hanging overhead, creating a beautiful space to enjoy Chattanooga's public art, take pictures and tour the city's bohemian West Village.

Directions: Enter on Chestnut Street next to Innside Restaurant.


  photo  Staff file photos / Cyclists enjoy different segments of the Tennessee Riverwalk.
Ask any local why they love Chattanooga, and the outdoors is sure to top their list. Surrounded by mountains, ridges, rivers and valleys, Chattanooga is a two-time winner of Outside magazine's Best Town title – a scenic city, indeed.

Tennessee Riverwalk Timeline

The Tennessee Riverwalk has been called the backbone of Chattanooga, helping to revitalize and connect communities spanning 16.1 miles along the southern banks of the river. The effort is still ongoing, nearly thirty-plus years and counting.

1984:The task force appointed by city and county officials release the first draft of a plan calling for a 22-mile riverwalk from the Chickamauga Dam to Moccasin Bend.

1987: Groundbreaking is held for the Tennessee Riverpark at what will later become the Hubert Fry Fishing Center.

1989: The first phase of the Tennessee Riverpark near the C.B. Robinson Bridge is completed. This segment includes the 55-acre fishing park and more than 3 miles of riverfront and inland trails.

1991:The Tennessee Valley Authority extends the riverwalk to the base of the Chickamauga Dam.

1992: Ross's Landing Plaza opens simultaneously with the Tennessee Aquarium.

1993-95: Additional riverwalk segments tie together Ross's Landing and the Bluff View Art District.

1996: The new Chattanooga Rowing Center and connecting riverwalk segment are completed.

1999: The 8-acre Coolidge Park and the North Shore Riverwalk are completed.

2005: Both the Waterfront and the remaining 5-mile connector piece of the riverwalk are completed. The millennium walk runs from Hubert Fry Fishing Center's boat launch to the Rowing Center. The 21st Century Waterfront connects the Hunter Museum of American Art to the Riverwalk.

2016: The South Chickamauga Greenway is connected with a bridge, and the St. Elmo extension is completed to Whiteside Avenue.

2021: Construction begins on the last leg of the riverwalk, linking downtown to the heart of St. Elmo.

  photo  Staff file photos / Coolidge Park has many activities to enjoy including, from left, the interactive fountains, a 100-year-old carousel and Walnut Wall rock climbing wall under the Walnut Street Bridge.

Three reasons why we love Coolidge Park

1. The interactive water fountain surrounded by stone-carved animals

2. One-dollar rides on the 100-year-old carousel

3. Walnut Wall rock climbing, featuring top-climbing routes built into the limestone pillar of the Walnut Street Bridge

  photo  Staff file photo / Riders prepare for their descent down Renaissance Parks “Cardboard Hill.”

Renaissance Park's "Cardboard Hill"

Take in the view of the city from the top of the hill and then sled down to the bottom on sheets of cardboard for a fun all-ages activity. (BYOB — bring your own board!)

World's Largest Regatta

The Head of the Hooch is one of the largest rowing regattas in the world, billed as "The Last of the Great Fall Regattas." Each year, the two-day regatta is held on the first full weekend in November in downtown Chattanooga, attracting close to 9,000 rowers from around the world and an estimated crowd of spectators between 15,000 and 20,000 people.

Did you know?

The battlefields of Chickamauga and Chattanooga became the nation's first official military park in 1890. Today the park encompasses nearly 10,000 acres of preserved landscape and habitat, making it one of the largest outdoor green spaces in the Chattanooga area.

Maclellan Island is an 18-acre wildlife sanctuary in the Tennessee River in the heart of downtown Chattanooga. A feature that makes it especially unique is the existence of a rain shadow desert, which occurs when a patch of land is forced to become a desert due to the sun and rain being perpetually blocked — caused, in this case, by Veterans Bridge crossing over the island.

The Tennessee River Gorge, which begins about 5 miles downstream of downtown Chattanooga and continues 27 miles to Hales Bar Dam Marina, is the only large river canyon bordering a mid-size city and is the fourth largest river canyon east of the Mississippi.

  photo  Staff Photo by Matt Hamilton / Moccasin Bend is seen from Point Park on Lookout Mountain.

See Moccasin Bend

Located on a sharp bend of the Tennessee River near downtown Chattanooga, Moccasin Bend is a peninsula named for its distinctive boot shape — best viewed from the bluff above on Lookout Mountain.

Its 768 acres comprise significant archaeological sites chronicling 12,000 years of American Indian occupation. In 2003, Moccasin Bend became part of the National Park System as a unit of the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park.

Get a birds-eye view at Point Park, 110 Point Park Road, Lookout Mountain. Entrance fee is $10 per adult, ages 16 and up. Those 15 and under are free.

  photo  Staff photo by Olivia Ross / The Raccoon Mountain Pumped Station Reservoir

Raccoon Mountain: The mountaintop marvel

Raccoon Mountain, located on the Tennessee River 6 miles west of Chattanooga, is beloved by mountain bikers, hikers and trail runners. But the mountaintop boasts more than just 25-plus miles of singletrack trail. It also features a man-made lake holding 107 billion gallons of water covering 528 acres.

Fast Facts

> Construction began in 1970 and was finished in 1978.

> To build the lake, workers excavated 10 million cubic yards of earth.

> The lake is sealed by a huge, 8,500-foot-long dam.

How it works

Deep below the lake, in the heart of the mountain, there are elevators, lighted tunnels and huge pieces of heavy machinery. This is the subterranean pumphouse, which helps pump water from nearby Nickajack Lake to the top of the mountain. During times of high power demand, water is released through a tunnel beneath the lake, helping drive the four great turbines to generate electricity. During times of low power demand, the turbines are shifted into reverse, and water is pumped back to the top of the mountain at a rate of seven million gallons per minute. (Source:

Check out the Raccoon Mountain Reservoir Loop

Distance: 13.5-mile loop trail

Difficulty: Moderately challenging

More info: The trail is open yearround; dogs are welcome but must be on a leash.

Chattanooga outdoors by the numbers

150-plus, miles of trail within a 15-minute drive of downtown Chattanooga (

400, number of bike-share bikes in the city (

42, number of bike-share stations citywide (

21, number of climbing areas within an hour's drive of Chattanooga (

380, miles of navigable rivers and creeks with canoe/kayak access within an hour's drive of Chattanooga (

7,000-plus, number of caves within an hour's drive of Chattanooga (

2, number of hang-gliding/paragliding flight schools located within a 45-minute drive of Chattanooga

48,000, number of visitors to Hamilton County mountain biking trails each year (

$6.9 million, amount that visiting mountain bikers contribute to the local economy each year (