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Front Page - Friday, August 30, 2019

Labor Day weekend staycation

What better spot to take a break than you Chattanooga home

Labor Day is the unofficial end of summer. The kids are back in school and those long-planned vacations are over.

But let’s have one last warm-weather party over this three-day weekend. If you’re just planning to laze around in lawn chairs after firing up the grill, we stand down. But if you’re looking for some ways to celebrate we’ve got some thoughts.

Chattanooga is blessed with world-class attractions such as the Tennessee Aquarium, Ruby Falls, Rock City (yes, it’s always worth seeing), Lookout Mountain and the Choo Choo. And a trip to the Moon Pie General Store is always a good idea (oh, how we love the banana single decker).

But we offer some alternatives to the classics with great thanks to Sybil Topel, the vice president of marketing and communications for the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce, who’s always happy to share special things to do in the town she loves.

Go Outside:

Get out on the River: Kayak or paddle board along the beautiful Tennessee River and take in the spectacular views of bluffs and downtown Chattanooga. The most impressive view of the city is on the river’s south side where you can see the Tennessee Aquarium as you pass under the Walnut Street Bridge, 140 feet above.

Pack a light picnic and take a breather at McClellan Island just upstream from the bridge. The 19-acre island has 1.5 miles of hiking trails. There are a number of launching spots and companies that provide rentals, safety instructions and a quick how-to guide before you hit the river. Two rental options are L2 Outside (https://l2outside.com) near Coolidge Park and Rock/Creek Rentals (https://rental.rockcreek.com) on Amnicola Highway.

Bike the Riverwalk: Rent a bike or bring your own to take a leisurely peddle along the 13-mile Riverwalk, which hugs the southern banks of the Tennessee River. Plenty of attractions and restaurants dot the Riverwalk so there’s lots to explore.

But don’t miss the Bluff View Sculpture Garden at the Hunter Museum of Art. Stop at the Bluff View Art District for a gourmet cup of coffee and handmade pastry while you enjoy local artwork. There are picnic tables, playgrounds and shelters along the Riverwalk as well as six fishing piers. Several bike rental options are available depending on your location.

Coolidge Park Carousel: Whether you have kids or you just want to find out what it was like to be a kid in your great-grandparents’ era, a ride on the carousel in Coolidge Park is a memory maker. The 1894 Dentzel carousel was restored by local master wood carver Bud Ellis along with a group of craftspeople at his studio. The carousel features a calliope organ and 52 hand-carved animals. Best of all, it’s only a buck a ride. For more information, call the City’s Call Center at 311 (for cell phones call 425-6311).

Bluff View Art District: This charming historic neighborhood atop a bluff is loaded with restaurants, art, gardens and plazas with a killer view overlooking the Tennessee River, the Walnut Street Bridge and downtown Chattanooga. Grab an artisan cup of coffee at Rembrandt’s Roasting Company, pick up a pastry at Bluff View Pastry or settle in to one of the district’s gourmet eateries. Then stroll thought the River Gallery Sculpture Garden. The district is at 411 E. 2nd St. Get more information at https://bluffviewartdistrictchattanooga.com.

Southern Belle Riverboat: Go cruising down the Tennessee on a riverboat and get a quick lesson on the history of the river and legends (here there be monsters) that have been told by generations of fishermen. Take in the views of the Chattanooga skyline and Lookout Mountain while spotting herons and other wildlife. If you’re hungry there’s even a Deli Buffet option with premium meats, cheeses and sides. Cruises start at $22.95 for adults; $13.95 for children ages 3-12. To check out the schedule, visit https://chattanoogariverboat.com.

Chattanooga River Market: Look for one-of-a-kind arts and crafts by local and regional artists at the market, Aug. 31 from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. The River Market is at the Tennessee Aquarium Plaza located downtown adjacent to the aquarium, 1 Broad St.

Stay Inside:

The Hunter Museum of Art: The museum is always a feast for the eyes, but one of the current exhibits is of special interest. “William J. Glackens and Pierre-Auguste Renior: Affinities and Distinctions” examines the influence that Renoir’s late work had on influential American modernist Glackens. In fact, Glackens was known as the “American Renoir,” a title he relished. The exhibit pairs more than 20 works of art by each painter. General admission is $20. For more information on the exhibit and hours of operation, visit www.huntermuseum.org.

Civil Axe Throwing: Is it sport, hobby or just a way to get out your aggressions? Yes, axe throwing is a thing and you can safely practice the art at Civil Axe Throwing in downtown Chattanooga at 409 Market St. No need to be an expert axe thrower (and who is, really?). It’s easy to learn and professional instructors will guide you. Just show up or make a reservation ahead of time to make sure your spot is ready when you arrive. Reserve your spot online at www.civilaxethrowing.com/chattanooga.

Classic Arcade Pinball Museum: Relive your childhood or introduce your children to the magical world of pinball machines. This fascinating interactive museum has models spanning decades and the machines are set to “free play” so you can try out both antique and modern pinball classics. The museum is at 409 Broad St. Admission is $15 adult; $10 children 12 and under. Visit http://www.chattanoogapinballmuseum.com for days and hours of operation.

High Point Climbing: Always wanted to try climbing but have a fear of falling? Here you go. High Point offers 30,000 square feet of climbing inside and out for beginners to experts. If you venture outdoors, you can scale the wall while taking in a view of the city. Day passes for children 10 and under are $15.50 and day passes for adults are $17.50.  For hours of operation and more information, visit https://highpointclimbing.com/downtown.

Songbirds Guitar Museum: Satisfy your inner musician with a visit to this all-guitar wonder tracing the history of the instrument from the 1920s through the 1970s. Discover the origins of musical genres from gospel to Motown to the British invasion and beyond. And then take matters into your own hands at The Player Experience when you get to imagine you’re a rock star by playing rare, vintage guitars. The museum, 35 Station St., is open Monday-Wednesday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Thursday-Saturday 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; Sunday noon-6 p.m. Admission is $15.95. Take a deeper dive at http://museum.songbirds.rocks.

Visit a distillery: The craft spirits boom is alive and well in Chattanooga and you can take tours and discover how they’re made. A couple of options: Chattanooga Whiskey, 1439 Market St., offers tours and tastings hourly and Gate 11 Distillery will also show you how their “small batch alchemy” is created. Gate 11 is within the historic Terminal Station between the original station ticket windows and Track 11 where the famous Choo Choo lives. For complete schedules, visit Chattanooga Whiskey at https://chattanoogawhiskey.com and Gate 11 Distillery at https://gate11distillery.com.

Get Out of Town:

Lula Lake: Lula Lake, about 30 minutes from Chattanooga, offers stunning views and more than six miles of trails around the lake. It’s a great spot for a leisurely hike or a picnic. View the 120-foot spectacular water fall either from an old railroad trestle that dates back to the 1800s or from the bottom of a steep trail where you can see the bottom of the falls dropping off into a huge basin. Take in the entire panorama from a grassy area accessed by either a hiking trail or gravel road. The view of the Chattanooga Valley is worth the effort.

Bear in mind that Lula Lake is not a public park. It is held by a land trust that only allows visitors who register on its website, www.lulalake.org. Fortunately, August 31 and September 1 are two of those days. The hours are 9 a.m.-5 p.m. August 31 and noon-5 p.m. on September 1. There is a $15 conservation use fee that goes back into the preservation of the lake. Disclaimer: There is no swimming in the lake.

Snoopers Rock: Best view of the Tennessee Gorge? It just might be from Snoopers Rock, an outcropping overlooking the Tennessee River and surrounding mountains in all their glory. The 5.9-mile moderate trail is in Prentice Cooper State Forest just 19 miles from Chattanooga. You’ll encounter a number of small water crossings and beautiful rock formations. There’s an easier way to get to the top if you don’t want the longer hike. Just park in the parking lot off Game Reserve Road and leisurely negotiate less than a mile to a truly stunning view.

Two-For-One: Hit the road and head to South Cumberland State Park 48 miles up I-24 near Monteagle. More than 90 miles of hiking trails await ranging from easy to strenuous. One of the most popular stops is the Grundy Lakes area which features a man-made beach. After you’ve gotten your exercise, take your virtuous self to the Dutch Maid Bakery, a local legend in nearby Tracy City. The Baggenstoss family opened Dutch Maid in 1902, making it Tennessee’s oldest family-owned bakery. Feast on beautiful homemade pastries and breads and take home some preserves. For more information on the park, visit , https://tnstateparks.com/parks/south-cumberland and check out the baked goods at http://www.dutchmaid.net/#pastries-and-more.

Find a swimming hole: Is there anything more Southern than the term “swimming hole?” The Chattanooga area is loaded with them. Some of them are close by while others require a bit of a drive. But on a hot summer day there’s nothing better than floating dreamily in a natural pool. Check out a few options at https://www.chattanoogafun.com/blog/post/swimming-holes-near-chattanooga.