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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
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
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
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.
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, www.southeasttennessee.com.
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