Chattanooga Tennessee - A Choo Choo and More

Senior citizens who remember the famous Glenn Miller song, Chattanooga Choo Choo will be able to relate to my thoughts when I visited Chattanooga Tennessee.

I entered the lobby of the Chattanooga Choo Choo Holiday Inn and I could not stop the words of the song from dancing through my mind. I wanted very much to approach the desk and ask, "Pardon me boy, is this the Chattanooga Choo Choo?" As a matter of fact, it definitely is the famous train and the theme runs through the complex.

The hotel offers a total of 364 rooms including 48 Victorian train cars that have been renovated and converted to comfortable guest rooms. Lunch in the Station House Restaurant was a fun time. Our order was delivered promptly and served by a singing waiter, a trademark of the restaurant. But the memorable meal was dinner. We ate in the Dinner in the Diner, an authentic Victorian dining car. I must say that Glenn Miller did not exaggerate when he sang the words, "nothing could be finer".

I was able to find souvenirs of my stay when I explored the many small shops that surround the hotel/train area, while for those who are true railroad buffs a visit to the world's largest model HO gauge railroad was in order.

But the Choo Choo isn't the only thing Chattanooga has to offer visitors. The hotel is located just a short distance from many attractions sure to please a variety of interests.

I found a welcome feature of the city to be a free electric shuttle that transports passengers around the area so, for most sightseeing, you can leave your car and forget about navigating the streets of an unfamiliar place.

Chattanooga has many museums in addition to art and sculpture. Several caught my attention such as the African American Museum where pictures, film and exhibits, demonstrate the history, culture and contributions of African Americans to all segments of life.

Another is the International Towing and Recovery Museum. My first reaction to the suggestion that we visit was, "Oh great. This will be a big, dusty garage filled with dirty, old tow trucks." Imagine my surprise when I discovered that the collection consisted of some of the most beautiful, (yes, I said beautiful) tow trucks. Included is everything from a 1913 Locomobile Holmes Wrecker to a 1929 Chrysler Tow Truck. The vehicles are in pristine condition and a pleasure to view. It proved to me that I should never prejudge a site. If I had followed my first instinct I would have missed something very special.

One of the most interesting excursions was to the Houston Museum of Decorative Arts. The history behind the museum is as interesting as the place itself. This collection, located in a renovated, century-old house in Chattanooga's downtown Arts District, is a memorial to a colorful area character known as "Antique Annie". It is said that as a young woman she was attractive, and this must have been true since she married often. There is documentation for nine marriages and it is believed the final number is closer to twelve. Each marriage ended in divorce. When the Depression hit she refused to sell her beloved antiques to pay her bills. Instead she built, with her own hands and the help of a neighbor's boy, a huge barnlike structure at the edge of town and lived there with her collection until she died in 1951. Her dream was to have a museum in her name. She offered her collection to the city, asking them to build a place in her honor. They laughingly turned her down. In addition to furniture and decorative pieces Antique Annie accumulated a huge collection of rare glass with more than 600 patterns of Early American pressed glass. At one time she reportedly owned 15,000 glass pitchers, the largest collection in the world. The ceiling in one room of the museum is covered with hooks and from each hook hangs one of the pitchers. Ms. Houston's dream has come true and visitors can view her fabulous collection at the museum bearing her name.

I was anxious to stop at The Tennessee Aquarium. This is the first and largest freshwater life center in the world. Three hundred fifty species of fish, birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians call it home. But what I was mainly interested in was the exhibit, "Seahorses:Beyond Imagination". I observed tiny dwarf seahorses of less than an inch in length to giant Pacific seahorses that can grow to be nearly a foot long. I saw what I thought was a twig floating in the water but discovered it was a particular breed of seahorse with growths resembling leaves to provide perfect camouflage. The original Mr. Mom, eggs of the seahorse are deposited into the male's pouch where they are fertilized and carried throughout the pregnancy. Be sure to allow plenty of time for the aquarium because there is so much to see. Soon there will be more since expansion is planned in the near future.

You can't use the shuttle for this, but Ruby Falls is well worth visiting. Discovered over 70 years ago by Leo Lambert, this 145 foot underground waterfall was named for his wife, Ruby. We descended into the mountain by elevator and were guided through cave paths lined with unique geological formations. As we neared the end of the path we heard the roar of the waterfall. A hush came over the group when the guide turned down the lights and colored spotlights played on the water accompanied by recorded music. A walk around the base of the waterfall made me realize once again how majestic Mother Nature can be. A visit to Ruby Falls should be a top priority on the list of every visitor to Chattanooga. Sidebar

The Chattanooga Choo Choo Holiday Inn offers a variety of packages such as the Drifter's Getaway that includes one night's accommodations and tickets to area attractions. Rates for two adults are $134 for a standard room and $174 for a Victorian Traincar. Inquire about other packages at 1-800-TRACK 29.

The Houston is open daily with guided tours available. For information call or write the director, Amy H. Frierson, at 201 High Street, Chattanooga, TN 37403, phone 423-267-7176.

For information about the Tennessee Aquarium contact Kathie Fulgham at 423-785-3007 or Katrina Beets, 423-785-3011.

Information about Ruby Falls can be obtained by calling Jane Derthick, 423-821-2544 or 800-755-7105.

Chattanooga Tennessee has much more to offer than the attractions mentioned here. For additional information about the above, or to find out what other treasures await you in Chattanooga call the Chattanooga Area Convention and Visitors Bureau at 423-756-8687 or visit their website,

November Issue - Pittsburgh Senior News

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