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Snapshot: Chattanooga, Tennessee

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Snapshot: Chattanooga, Tennessee
Written by Nancy Henderson | Pictured: Dwell Hotel, by Graham Yelton

A River Runs Through It

What began as a simmering riverfront renaissance when the freshwater Tennessee Aquarium opened in Chattanooga in 1992 has boiled southward, with a revamped Main Street, an infusion of trendy eateries, and an Innovation District where millennial entrepreneurs live and launch tech businesses by the dozen. The 1970s smog that once blackened the sky (and the white shirts of businessmen who often carried a change of clothes to work) has long cleared, revealing mountains, tributaries, and lakes that draw cyclists, paddlers, and climbers. Victorian-era warehouses are quickly morphing from abandoned eyesores into apartments, shops, and restaurants that pay homage to the city’s industrial heritage.

EAT

Stir, Photo by Randi Vasquez

To start the day, stop by Adelle’s Ice Cream and Creperie (and when she’s not in school, say hello to 12-year-old “owner” Adelle Pritchard). Order a sweet crepe, like the honey-drizzled Bee’s Knees oozing with Nutella and banana. Or head to Maple Street Biscuit Company for a signature chicken biscuit or a vegetarian alternative with goat cheese, sautéed spinach, and shiitake mushroom gravy.

At the Daily Ration, people-watchers can relax on a sprawling street-side patio where gas pumps once anchored the neighborhood gas station. Chow down on a Benton’s BLT or health-conscious dish like the spicy Viet Noodle Bowl or Delhi Me In, a gluten-free chickpea pancake.

Photo courtesy of The Daily Ration

Mid-afternoon, grab an espresso or scoop of homemade gelato—try the butterbeer or white chocolate pink peppercorn—at the hip Milk & Honey. Or head to the Local Juicery + Kitchen for a cold-pressed Pipe Cleaner (pear, cucumber, lemon, and chia seeds). Part of a recent Chattanooga Choo Choo facelift, the casually elegant Stir specializes in oyster dishes and barrel-aged cocktails with artisanal ice in eight geometric shapes. Slip over to the adjacent Hush Lounge at the Revelry Room, likened to Nashville’s Mercy Lounge. Or party with an authentic mojito, salsa dancing, and empanadas at Embargo 62 Cuban cantina and rum bar, so named for the 1962 ban on US-to-Cuba imports.

SHOP

Stroll through the Merchants on Maincollective for local pottery, recycled light fixtures and furniture, and Chattanooga-made olive oils. Across the river, check out the beautifully designed Imbibe boutique liquor store. Belly up to the in-house bar—cheeses and other goodies are complimentary—and leave with a growler or hard-to-find bottle.

STAY

It’s “Hotel California” meets Miami at the Dwell Hotel, with décor harkening to the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s and fifteen rooms that echo the retro fun of Mad Men. Once the site of a Civil War fort, the place is delightfully quirky, from the coin-operated Japanese massage chair to the tarot-card-inspired potables at the bar. The Chattanoogan features 199 recently renovated guest rooms and suites. Try a Flowing River or Rock City Hot Stone massage at the rooftop spa and savor Sunday brunch at the Broad Street Grille, where mimosas are included. Enough said.