ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
Visitors to Rock City's Enchanted Garden of Lights atop Lookout Mountain enjoy the colorful display of Christmas lights at Candyland.

Correction: Rock City opened to the public on May 21, 1932, not Nov. 16. A previous version of this column contained incorrect information.

Rock City opened to the public 87 years ago in 1932. It was started by Freida Carter as a private rock garden located on Lookout Mountain, six miles from downtown Chattanooga.

Since it opened to the public, it has featured several celebrations throughout the years, including a St. Patty's Shamrock City, a summer Southern Blooms festival, Rocktoberfest and the Enchanted Garden of Lights.

The Enchanted Garden of Lights, one of the attraction's oldest events, started 25 years ago, on Nov. 16, 1995.

On that day the Chattanooga Times reported that the $500,000 event would be the first nighttime activity hosted by Rock City in coordination with a larger city celebration to light up Chattanooga for the holiday season.

A Chattanooga Free Press article that ran the next day titled "Yule Lights Will Shine at Rock City" detailed how the tourist season in the area tended to drop off after Labor Day, so citywide initiatives were proposed to draw in tourists during the colder holiday season.

In that article, Jim Kennedy, president of the city visitors bureau at the time, said: "It's a proven fact people love to see Christmas lights and holiday lights. The fact they're putting them in a magnificent natural attraction like Rock City adds another dimension."

Today the event features a magic forest, nightly entertainment and a chance to meet Santa Claus.

Upcoming Rock City Events:

  • Rocktoberfest:

*Weekends in October (10/25, 10/26)
*Tickets: Adult: $26.95; children (ages 3-12) $14.95

  • Enchanted Garden of Lights

*Dates: Nov. 22-30, Dec. 1-23, Closed Dec. 24, Dec. 25-31, Jan. 1-4
*Tickets: Prices vary based on peak admission trends. Adult: $16.95-$29.95; children (ages 3-12): $8.95-$15.95
*More information about Rock City and what it offers can be found at seerockcity.com.

And while Rock City news coverage is commonplace today, when it opened on May 21, 1932, Rock City appears to have not been mentioned in the Chattanooga Times, the daily newspaper at the time.

That may be of little to no surprise as, according to the Rock City website, early on the tourist attraction saw many slow days due to its location on Lookout Mountain and lack of traditional advertising, deciding instead in succeeding years to paint large barns across the country with the words "See Rock City."

But by the time it was fully established with annual events and familiar attractions, Rock City regularly found its way into the pages of the daily newspapers.

The current grounds include the Lover's Leap waterfall, a platform from which one is said to be able to see seven states, the Fairyland Caverns, art installations and a variety of restaurants and shops.

Contact Tierra Hayes at tierrahayes@southern.edu.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT