A Local's Guide to Chattanooga

A Local's Guide to Chattanooga

Words by Ashley Locke

Nestled in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, Chattanooga has always been known for its scenic views—but in the last decade, the city has been growing beyond its outdoor appeal. The metro area has grown by more than 40,000 people since 2010, and for good reason. The vibrant community has a lot to offer.

In 2010, Chattanooga became the first city in the United States to offer one gigabit fiber-optic internet speed to its residents, and businesses willing to pay a premium could get up to 10 gigabits. This move, along with the city’s appealing Innovation District, attracted many aspiring entrepreneurs. These days, the walkable, downtown district is bustling with creatives, start-ups, business incubators, and students who live, work, and play in the area.

Though it’s a mid-size city, it rivals major cities with all there is to do. The amateur soccer team, Chattanooga FC, has a loyal fanbase. A stroll through the city takes you past colorful displays of public art, while the Hunter Museum of American Art dives into the culture and history behind its pieces. The Block, a city block that holds a coffee shop, a wine bar, and a climbing gym, has 5,000 square feet of functional climbing space on the exterior of the building. There’s a fun activity around every corner—and that’s without mentioning the hang gliding, hiking, mountain biking, and kayaking.

Elizabeth Bounds, founder of alternative milk start-up Other Milk, is one of many who couldn’t resist Chattanoog’s call. Now a five-year resident, she shared with us what she loves about her chosen home.

When did you move to Chattanooga, and what brought you there?

I moved to Chattanooga in August of 2016 from Tupelo, Mississippi. I started visiting Chattanooga (per suggestion from an acquaintance) back in 2014 and instantly fell in love! I kept visiting over the next two years and knew that I'd live there someday. At the time I considered moving, I'd never lived out of state before. Chattanooga felt like home from the first visit, so this is where I landed.

What is something you learned about Chattanooga after living there?

I was really surprised to learn how dirty the city used to be, especially because of the emphasis on eco-friendly practices and what appeared to me to be a very clean place. (Can confirm, it's clean!) In 1969, Walter Cronkite famously dubbed Chattanooga the 'dirtiest city in America', and I'd say it's made quite the turn-around. 

What is your favorite thing about living there?

Access to the outdoors, hands down. I live at the base of Lookout Mountain and can be on a trail within 10 minutes. It's the biggest gift—and being from the flatlands of Mississippi, I never tire of the scenery. Actually, this is a two-fold answer! The start-up culture here is infectious. Entrepreneurs are highly celebrated, and there is a lot of community support around starting something new. 

What are your favorite activities in Chattanooga?

We have a huge yoga and climbing community—both of which I partake in! In a typical week, you could find me checking out live music (whether it's local, or a show at a larger venue), visiting the Farmer's Market (my favorite is the Main St. Market on Wednesdays), or taking a yoga class (Yoga Landing forever)! We also have a ton of access to hiking, camping, and waterfalls—I love all of that! I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that I love eating and drinking here, too. Southern Appalachian cuisine is a must!

Do you have any favorite coffee/tea shops?

I have strong opinions in this category! Wildflower Tea Shop and Apothecary is a must. Also, Velo coffee roasts some of the best coffee in the city. Sleepyhead coffee has a whole plant shop with beautiful light and a beautiful vibe—you must pick up a plant and have a seasonal latte while there. 

What are your favorite places to eat?

Niedlov's or Bread and Butter for a breakfast pastry (I love them both equally), Flying Squirrel, Proof Bar and Incubator, Southern Squeeze (for your vegan fix), Rosecomb, Kenny's, Main Street Meats, Alleia, Easy Bistro, Syrup and Eggs—I could go on. Most of these places exemplify beautiful plating, local sourcing, and creative dishes!

What are your favorite neighborhoods, and why?

Probably the Southside and Northshore—those are the most walkable areas, and where a lot of the great food and drink is. St. Elmo is one of Chattanooga's oldest neighborhoods, and it's a fun walk to see all of the Victorian homes. 

If someone is visiting Chattanooga, what should they be sure not to miss?

If you come to Chattanooga, you have to walk the Walnut St. Bridge—it's iconic. It's also the world's longest pedestrian bridge! The Chattanooga Choo Choo is a fun nostalgic stop. Also, I'd recommend looking up different hikes, because again—you just can't beat the access to outdoors and views of the mountains.

What is the best time of year to visit Chattanooga?

Fall in the mountains is gorgeous, so with that—late October, early November. You can't beat a Sunday drive to revel in the changing leaves. Summer here is also a lot of fun. The river runs through the central part of Chattanooga, and I can be paddle boarding within 15 minutes of leaving my house. This city has it all in terms of outdoor adventure!

BODE Chattanooga

Consider this your home away from home. 

The new BODE hotel is right in the middle of shops, restaurants, and all downtown Chattanooga has to offer—with a great view of the mountains. Each unit offers one to three bedrooms, with the suites connected by shared living and dining space. The fully-stocked, in-unit kitchens are perfect for long term stays, while the co-working space puts your home office to shame. 

There’s no front desk—check in is done through your phone—but a concierge is always just one text away. The result is an experience that feels more like an apartment than a hotel—private, comfortable, and all your own.

If you get the itch to mingle with other guests, the lobby offers games and movies. Porch Coffee Shop and cocktail lounge Sidebar are also popular gathering spots. You get the feeling that you aren’t just staying here—you live here.