“Take the Incline Railway to the top of Lookout Mountain, then hike past sandstone formations and cross a suspension bridge at Rock City for a sweeping view of seven states.”
Chattanooga is among the best cities for an alternative fall getaway, according to a new study by the editors of the award-winning DK Eyewitness Travel books.
DK's in-house travel experts, who have compiled more than 200 travel publications, praised Chattanooga for its outdoor attractions, culinary variety and great shops and attractions downtown, especially during the fall when autumn vegetation offers the most colorful scenery.
"The editors liked Chattanooga because it has so much to offer, particularly for outdoor lovers, but without the hustle and bustle (and traffic) of other southern cities, like Atlanta," said Erin Gifford, one of the editors at DK who visited Chattanooga earlier this year.
Chattanooga was the only city in Tennessee, Georgia or Alabama cited by DK Travel in the new top 10 list for best cities for autumn visits. The list of best alternative cities for fall vacations was based upon the uniqueness of activities, cultural aspects and weather.
1. Santa Barbara, Calif.
2. Bend, Ore.
3. San Juan Islands, Wash.
4. Grand Junction, Colo.
5. Colorado Springs, Colo.
6. Clearwater, Fla.
8. New York’s Finger Lakes
9. Pittsburgh, Pa.
10. Richmond, Va.
Source: DK Eyewitness Travel
Gifford said Chattanooga "has a fantastic aquarium, great pike paths in the Tennessee Riverpark area, plus lots of great shops and restaurants downtown."
"Take the Incline Railway to the top of Lookout Mountain, then hike past sandstone formations and cross a suspension bridge at Rock City for a sweeping view of seven states," the DK editors recommend. "Alternatively, descend beneath the mountain at Ruby Falls to see the highest underground waterfall in the world. Downtown, bike or stroll along the Tennessee Riverpark, or relax on an old-style riverboat cruise."
DK's experts selected destinations that offer good weather, outdoor activities, historic landmarks and art galleries, even wine tasting experiences. Many of these destinations go overlooked in favor of more well-known neighbors, like Chattanooga, which is less than a two-hour drive from Atlanta. Or Colorado Springs, which is just one hour south of Denver.
"Americans are fortunate to have so many destination options, but it can be easy to fall back on old favorites," said Georgina Dee, publishing director, DK Travel.
Cooler weather, smaller crowds and colorful vegetation make autumn an ideal time for trips to Chattanooga for many tourists, said Bob Doak, president of the Chattanooga Area Convention and Visitors Burea.
"It's a great accolade to be among the 10 best cities in the entire country and says a lot about the growing appeal of both our great outdoor attractions and our improving restaurant and entertainment offerings," Doak said. "We promote Chattanooga throughout the year, but the fall is a particularly great time to come to Tennessee."
Visitors to Chattanooga spend more than $1 billion a year in Hamilton County, according to the U.S. Travel Association. Local tourism spending has doubled in the past couple of decades, spurring the addition of more than $140 million of hotel additions and upgrades this year and next in the Chattanooga area.
"That underscores the confidence that smart evelopers who are investing their own money have in the continued growth of our tourism and hospitality industry for the future," Doak said.
Visitor surveys conducted for the Convention and Visitors Bureau show Chattanooga is regarded as a unique destination, unlike other cities, and its growing restaurant and entertainment scene is gaining favor to complement the region's natural, outdoor atttractions.
"The strides that have been made in our dining and entertainment offerings in just the past five years has really been extraordinary and now food is listed as the No. 2 reason for a repeat visit," Doak said.
Contact Dave Flessner@timesfreepress.com or at 757-6340.