Chattanooga has much to offer with free outdoor concerts, darling cafes, and some of the best coffee I’ve ever had. But the main reason people visit the city is for the big three: Ruby Falls, Rock City, and Incline Railway. Are they really worth the hype though?
I love caves, they are a glimpse into the belly of this planet. They are magical tunnels, full of totally unique formations, like snowflakes of the underworld. The Ruby Falls Cave was found by accident as it had no natural opening. These hidden underground caverns must have been so exciting to find, explore, and excavate.
During the tour, the only information given about the cave was the video at the beginning of the trek. Everything I learned about the cave, I picked up Wikipedia! The path through the cave is narrow, and short at times, so beware if you are claustrophobic or really tall! The “tour” itself was so fast paced that 90% of my photos are blurry. My tour group had about 30 people, which would have been great if we were the only group in the cave. I spent more time with my back to the wall while other groups shuffled by that I did exploring the cave.
The tour ends at the waterfall, about a half mile into the cave. The view of the waterfall was quite spectacular, and was almost worth the headache of the tour.
I got to spend 5 minutes at the waterfall before being rushed out, past the other cave goers, up the elevator, and straight into the gift shop. I wanted more time marveling at the waterfall and getting lost in its magic. All in all, I’d give it 3/5 stars just because of the waterfall, without it I’d only give it 1 star. It was too commercial, and just a money-making endeavor.
They offer a lantern tour (no young children allowed) after 9pm on Friday nights. An extended cavern experience is offered a few times a year. It features smaller groups, more time for photos, and actual information about the cave. Both of those tours have an additional cost associated with them (of course). I feel that the “extended cavern experience” is what the main tour should have been.
To find out more, visit www.rubyfalls.com.
Rock City is situated on top of Lookout Mountain, just across the state line in Georgia. It started as a personal project for Frieda Carter, wife of entrepreneur Garnet Carter. She wanted to create the most magnificent rock garden with an emphasis on the European folklore she loved. She created trails, planted wild flowers, and designed hidden nooks where her gnomes and other figures could enchant the imagination.
There is a lot of climbing and walking and squeezing through parts of Rock City, but that just makes it more fun! The fairytale vignettes bring you back to story time as a kid and can delight people of all ages.
If fairytales aren’t really your thing, there are plenty of trails and tunnels to explore. At the summit of Lookout Mountain, you can feel the power of the waterfall at Lover’s Leap and on a clear day, with great eyesight, you can see seven states stretching into the horizon.
I would visit Rock City again, without a doubt! It’s such a unique place and allows your imagination to run wild. For more information, see www.seerockcity.com.
Billed as “America’s Most Amazing Mile” the incline railway takes you up the side of Lookout Mountain on the Tennessee side of the line. Near the top, the grade is a staggering 72.7 degrees, qualifying it as one of the steepest passenger railways in the world.
Two options are available to get the incredible birds-eye view promised at the top. You can pay the $15 for a round trip on the railway, which takes about 15 minutes each direction, OR you can drive to the top and see the same view for free. The railway does give a bit of history of the area and mountain on the way up and down, but it wasn’t enough for me to want to do it again. I would definitely skip the incline railway and just drive to the top as the view is definitely worth it! To find out more, visit www.ridetheincline.com.
When I revisit Chattanooga, and I will soon, I would skip Ruby Falls and the Incline Railway. They just weren’t worth the hassle and money. Because Rock City is so unique, it’s on my list of places to revisit!