The Tennessee River curls around downtown Chattanooga, once a trading post named Ross’s Landing for John Ross, a chief of the Cherokee tribe of Native Americans. Today, Ross’s Landing Park and Plaza is the four-acre area surrounding the Tennessee Aquarium and overlooking the river. Boat slips are available at Erwin Marine Chattanooga, 201 Riverfront Parkway, in the downtown/riverfront district. From downtown it is easy to branch out, either on foot or using convenient transportation options like the free downtown electric shuttle bus, the Bike Chattanooga bike share system or the ChattyWagon, which provides free rides in electric vehicles.
On Saturdays, from spring to September, the plaza above Ross’s Landing houses the Chattanooga River Market. The open-air market offers free yoga at 10 a.m., along with booths of crafts, jewelry and local products. From the plaza, you can enter the Tennessee Aquarium, offering the freshwater River Journey building and the Ocean Journey building with saltwater exhibits.
Just upriver from the Tennessee Aquarium is the Bluff View Art District, which you can walk to from the aquarium. Perched on the bluffs above the Tennessee River, the district includes restaurants like Tony’s Pasta Shop, Rembrandt’s Coffee Shop, a B&B, art gallery, bocce court and an outdoor sculpture garden. For more art, check out the Hunter Museum, which features 100 years of architecture and one of the finest collections of American art in the Southeast.
From the bluff, you can continue upriver via the Tennessee Riverwalk or cross the river on the Walnut Street Bridge, one of the world’s longest pedestrian bridges. The bridge connects downtown and the North Shore, a historic district filled with eclectic shops, bookstores, restaurants such as Good Dog and Beast & Barrel, hand-crafted ice cream from Clumpies, gelato from Milk & Honey, fresh donuts from Julie Darlings, art galleries, grocery stores and more.
The North Shore also includes 20 acres of green space within two parks along the river. Renaissance Park offers nature trails, wetlands and overlooks above the water. Coolidge Park features an antique carousel, interactive water fountains, walking paths and public ramps to launch small craft like kayaks and paddleboards.
Located in Coolidge Park, Adventure Sports Innovation rents a variety of equipment to explore by land and water, including an electric surfboard, electric bodyboard, e-bikes, an electric unicycle and more. You may also pick up trail maps, learn about local resources or find more outdoor activities.
From the North Shore, you are just a walk, bike or short drive away from multiple trailheads leading to miles of trails at Stringer’s Ridge. The 92-acre urban wilderness park features trails for running, biking and hiking as well as an observation deck with spectacular views of the city.
To explore other districts of Chattanooga, take the free electric shuttle from the Riverfront District to the Southside. The historic Chattanooga Choo Choo is a lively stop. Following major renovations, the hotel and surrounding area have transformed into an entertainment district. New additions include: Songbirds Guitars, Frothy Monkey, STIR, American Draft, Regan’s Place, Westbound Bar, Gate 11 Distillery, Refinery 423, Sweetly Southern, Back Stage Bar and The Comedy Catch.
Bordering the Chattanooga Choo Choo is Station Street, a former alleyway that’s now a pedestrian-friendly street. While in the area, check out Terminal Brewhouse, Chattanooga Whiskey, the Hot Chocolatier, Wildflower Tea, Blue Orleans and much more.
If you want to return to the river in the evening, you won’t be disappointed by the culinary scene just steps from the riverfront. Try Scotties on the River or the Boathouse Restaurant for seafood and Hennen’s Steakhouse or Parkway Pourhouse for classic American fare made with local ingredients. After dinner, stop by the Edwin Hotel to sip a cocktail at Whiskey Thief, the hotel’s rooftop bar overlooking the Walnut Street Bridge and Tennessee River.
Looking for even more hiking, nature and scenic views? Visit the Reflection Riding Arboretum & Nature Center, Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park or the trails at Moccasin Bend. For more info, visit ChattanoogaFun.com.