ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
Staff photo by Matt Hamilton / Owner Darren Patrick straightens a display of flutes at Mountain Music in Hixson. The store allows customers to rent to own instruments from violins to electric guitars.

If you've ever planned a wedding, gone to prom or wowed the guests at a children's birthday party, you're probably aware of the abundance of items you can rent to make an event a success — everything from tables and chairs to tuxes and limos to bouncy houses and petting zoos.

But that's not all you can rent in Chattanooga. With the coronavirus still whittling large gatherings off our social calendars, we went in search of some short-term rentals that can entertain us during isolation. These adopt-a-hobbies are ideal for no-guilt trial runs to see if your new pursuits have long-term potential.

Another plus? If you rent instead of buy, there's no need to make room for new possessions in the garage and closets you so immaculately organized in the first few weeks of the pandemic.

Here are five ideas for rentable activities that can keep you occupied at home during your downtime or that you can enjoy while remaining socially distanced. Suppliers featured here are examples of what you might find. Policies will vary depending on where you shop.

1. Musical instruments

Whether you played clarinet in high school or you've always wanted to add banjo picking to your list of talents, your pandemic downtime could be the opportunity to master an instrument. Many music stores offer rental plans.

"Obviously, we get a lot of parents who come in and say, 'Hey, I don't know if my kid's going to stick with this, so I don't want to invest a lot of money,'" says Darren Patrick, owner of Mountain Music in Hixson's Highland Plaza shopping center.

The same holds true for adults thinking of learning to play or getting reacquainted with a long-ago instrument.

On the lower end of the price scale, ukuleles can be had for less than $50, so they're often purchased outright. Other instruments, such as keyboards, drum kits and electric guitar/amp combos, can rise into the hundreds of dollars, so the store's rent-to-own program can be reassuring to a buyer on the fence.

Prices vary per instrument but start at $30 per month, and 80% of the rental credit is applied toward eventual ownership. You can bring the instrument back at any time or apply your credit to another instrument if you want to swap out. Mountain Music has more than 20 instruments, from cellos to trombones, to try.

* Learn more: 423-875-5250, mountainmusicsite.com

Photo Gallery

Renting in Chattanooga

2. Chickens

Amateur chicken keepers have been growing in number in recent years, part of a larger trend of people seeking to know where their food comes from. The pandemic is accelerating that trend, according to media reports.

But is this emerging hobby all it's cracked up to be?

There's a way to find out. Homesteaders Katie and Tommy Williford of LaFayette, Georgia, are an affiliate of Pennsylvania-based RentTheChicken.com, which provides all the supplies you need to get started: a portable coop, two to four laying hens, 100 to 200 pounds of chicken feed, food and water dishes, a chicken-keeping book and an instruction guide. Prices, which include home delivery and setup, range from $450 to $650.

Within two days, according to the company, your hens will begin laying eggs. Two hens can produce eight to 14 eggs per week.

The Willifords service a delivery area as far north as Knoxville and as far south as Atlanta. Delivery is free within 50 miles of their home base. Rentals are available from April to October or May to November.

If raising chickens is more of a commitment than you're quite ready for, you might consider a hatching rental, available for five-week intervals between February and October. For $185, hatchers receive seven fertile eggs, a mini incubator and a candling light to examine the eggs during their three-week incubation. Once the chicks emerge, renters will have another two weeks to enjoy the chicks' "cute and fluffy" phase, Katie Williford says. Then they'll arrange for pickup.

With either service, customers have the option of keeping the chickens or sending them back.

Williford says about 60% of her customers kept their backyard laying hens last year, but no one kept the in-home chicks past the rental agreement.

"Those chicks can get pretty stinky after the two-week stage," she says.

* Learn more: 844-310-8782, rentthechicken.com

3. Kayaks, paddleboards

Looking for something to wake up your muscles? L2 Outside on River Street is among the Chattanooga-area retailers that provide paddle-sport rentals on the Tennessee River. Prices range from $25 for a stand-up paddleboard or single kayak to $39 for a two-seater tandem kayak.

If you've never tried these adventure sports, have no fear. "We get newbies all the time," says store manager Kat Olinger.

Winter is typically the off-season for paddle sports, partly because of cooler temperatures but mostly because of the higher river currents. Depending on your experience level and the average hourly discharge from Chickamauga Dam 6 miles upstream, L2's store personnel may or may not let you out on the water on a given day (check for hourly updates at l2outside.com/pages/rental-conditions).

When conditions are favorable, generally April through October, Olinger says there's no better way to take in the scenery. The river's downtown section offers architectural views of the Hunter Museum of American Art, Tennessee Aquarium, Walnut Street Bridge and other nearby landmarks cupped within the natural beauty of mountains and ridges. Your outing will include a paddle around Maclellan Island, a wildlife sanctuary.

Olinger says if you have no paddling experience, you may want to start with a kayak, but don't be intimated by the paddleboard, which is more stable than the uninitiated might think.

"It's daunting because people think about surfing in comparison, but paddleboarding is much easier than it looks," she says.

If you discover an affinity for paddle sports, you can choose among similar products for sale.

"What we use for rentals is also what we sell in the store," Olinger says. "A lot of people like the try-before-you-buy aspect."

* Learn more: 423-531-7873, l2outside.com

4. Swincars

Here's a contraption you've likely not seen before: the Swincar e-Spider, an electric, four-wheel-drive quadricycle resembling something between a dune buggy and a Model T. Easily able to navigate all kinds of terrain, the Swincar matches its extreme off-road capabilities with a light environmental impact and silent operation.

In Chattanooga, the Swincar is available at Adventure Sports Innovation on River Street, a company that specializes in high-tech outdoor experiences. When you book an outing, ASI will deliver your Swincar to Reflection Riding Arboretum and Nature Center for a 60- or 90-minute tour within the 317-acre property.

Mark McKnight, president and CEO at Reflection Riding, says ASI's CEOs and co-founders Carolina Eiris Molloy and Patrick J. Molloy reached out to him in 2018 with the "idea of letting people try out these crazy toys you might see on YouTube but never run into in day-to-day life."

The buggies are ideal for exploring the 15 miles of trails at Reflection Riding, says McKnight.

"They allow you to see a lot more of the terrain and easily move across the terrain, especially as a way for people with disabilities to get out onto the trails," he says. "They're really low-impact — not like a four-wheeler where you're tearing up the trails. They're very low-impact and very quiet."

Rental fees range from $109 to $250, which includes a $10 donation to Reflection Riding.

Other rentals available through ASI are electric bikes and scooters, hoverboards, hovershoes, Segways, electric unicycles and water bikes.

* Learn more: 423-591-5654, adventuresportsinnovation.com

5. Recreational vehicles

Camping records were set at Tennessee state parks in 2020 as people opted to "stay home" in campers and RVs. If you'd like to join their ranks but don't have the thousands of dollars necessary to buy a motorhome, consider renting one.

RVshare.com is among the websites that hook up RV owners with would-be renters, much like Airbnb works for vacation homes. Maddi Bourgerie, director of communications and public relations for the Ohio-based company, says 100,000 RVs are listed on the site, including rentals in and around Chattanooga.

"It's typical that you would find one 15 to 20 minutes from your home, if not closer," she says. Once the deal has been made, "you can go and pick it up from the owner, or the owner will deliver it to you."

Bourgerie says the options range from tow-behind trailers to motorhomes comparable to celebrity tour buses.

If you're apprehensive about driving or towing an RV for the first time, there's even an option where the owner will deliver it to a campground or other destination and all you have to do is show up and make yourself at home.

"Last year, one in five reservations was delivery," Bourgerie says.

Insurance is included in the rental price, and the company offers 24/7 roadside assistance.

A recent search of RVshare.com showed more than 600 listings in the Chattanooga area, with prices ranging from $80 to $300 depending on size and model. Search filters will help you pinpoint what will work best for you.

Bourgerie says RVshare.com saw three times more business in the summer of 2020 compared to the summer of 2019, 80% of them first-timers.

"The pandemic kicked RV travel into high gear," she says.

* Learn more: 1-888-482-0234, RVshare.com

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT