Tag Archives: Holiday Inn Express Chattanooga

Ruby Falls and Rock City



Ruby Falls


Rock City







Monday 20 November

It was cold last night, below 40F, even colder than it would be at home! Traffic noise on the road outside wakes us early; best to get even numbered rooms, not odd numbers in this hotel (Holiday Inn Express, Chattanooga).

Another sunny morning and after breakfast we manage to get onto Lookout Mountain early for some photos but sadly, much of the foliage had now dropped after a couple of days of wind but smatterings of red were still visible.


Colours on Lookout Mountain



Gate to nowhere

Pass the site of a now demolished dwelling although for some reason, someone forgot to undo the gate!

Our first visit today is Ruby Falls, the third of the Combo ticket and we are so glad we got there shortly after it opened as there were numerous school type parties later in the morning despite it being Thanksgiving week when, we understand, schools are out so a bit perplexed as to why there should be school parties.


Inside Ruby Falls caves

To access the falls we are taken in small groups down in a lift about 600ft, met by our guide, and join up with others already down there.

We are now lead about 2/5ths of a mile along tunnels which are well lit and scattered with stalactites and stalagmites some of which had interesting names such as Donkey, Steak & Potatoes and Elephant’s foot and you can see why.


Inside Ruby Falls caves

We eventually reach the falls which are well worth the walk.

Lighting on the rocks is timed so we have to get photos in quick before we have to make our way back along the same route to the lift back up to ground level and the observation platforms.


The Ruby Falls

There is some building work to extend the “reception” area but this did not detract from the experience.

Whilst the guide was good at keeping us all together on the way to the falls, he failed miserably to see if we had all followed him back – we could have stayed with another group had we so wished and he wouldn’t have noticed.

Most of the other groups were of school children though so not sure we would have fitted in.

Drive now to Rock City, park up and join a very long and slow queue at the adjacent Starbucks for a piece of cake and a drink.


Civil War relic on Incline Mountain


Get chatting to a family from Clermont, Florida whose children have some allergies (I overheard what they had ordered), like Harry. They have found it difficult to source dairy free food but the situation has got better in the last few years.

They very kindly provide us with a couple of restaurant names and outlets that are good for allergies including Walmart in Clermont which is good for dairy free items.


Water wheel in Rock City

Rock City itself is set high up on Look out mountain with lots of boulders that create passageways that all lead to an outcrop with a waterfall and some magnificent views over, it is claimed, 7 States.


The plaque says it all!

The Rock City complex, it seemed to us, was easy to get into without a ticket but perhaps it was just a bit lapse at the time we were there, as when we left, the entrance was manned.

Once in, we followed one of the three routes available to us which are well signposted, towards the rock outcrop and overhang which I suppose is the main attraction.


Narrow passages and lots of stairs

Before you get there however there is a maze of passage ways, tunnels and walkways to navigate which would take a long time to walk.

One or two very narrow squeezes between rocks but a lot of stairs which Sal wasn’t too keen on so we missed some of the passageways out.

We go over the stone bridge first for a magnificent view of the 7 states and some great foliage on the slopes below us.


Rock City Swinging Bridge

Coming back however we do venture on the swinging bridge.


View of the Viewing platform

We get to the entrance of the crystal cavern but decline to go all the way down – what goes down has to come up again which is not good in Sally’s world.

Christmas is coming and they have a night time light spectacular already in place which takes a bit of an edge off what we are seeing as they are not lit up.


Ubiquitous Rock City sign

The Rock City very distinctive sign dates back to 1936 when a certain Garnet Carter commissioned a painter to paint an advertising message on the roofs of barns along major roads in the area to entice people to the area as Rock City was “off the beaten track”.

The advertising worked and adorned over 800 locations from Michigan to Texas to Florida and is now a much loved pieces of Americana.

Back to the hotel for a rest and gather together all our belongings – we leave tomorrow – before heading out at rush hour in even worse traffic than yesterday to Hamilton Square for a browse in a couple of shops and a meal in Bonefish. Had we joined their “frequent users” club we could have got tonight’s meal for 50% having been to Bonefish twice already on this trip.

Mental note to join before we come to the US again!

Tuesday 21 November


39F this morning!

Another cold night but not as windy as it has been.

After breakfast we set off back south to Atlanta airport, arriving somewhat early but thankful for access to the Business class lounge as we have been upgraded to Business on the way back.

Our holiday is nearly over.

Wednesday 22 November


View from the Delta Lounge at Atlanta

Despite the flat seat, limited sleep is had on the overnight flight and to cap it all, I am awoken by a bang on my knee by the breakfast trolley and Sal’s breakfast order has to be relayed to the stewardess more than once, she was useless. Also, not really impressed with the choice of films; nothing to get excited about.

Wiz through immigration at Heathrow, luggage (3 bags) off quickly and we are landslide at within 30 minutes of landing so head for the arrivals lounge for a freshen up and then bus to meet Flic & Cody at Reading.

Tip: Don’t buy your RailAir bus ticket to Reading at the National Express counter, buy it from the driver it is £3 cheaper, AND, they accept Railcards.

Offload extras at Flic’s, mainly presents and summer clothing and head for Gatwick where we have only a 20kg allowance per bag and have only booked two bags in. One of our bags ends up exactly 20kg, quite an achievement I thought.

Arrival back home in torrential rain, Mel picks us up: it has been like this all day apparently- some roads are flooded.

We missed lots of things that we could have gone to and really didn’t do justice to some of those we did go to during our two days in Chattanooga but it was very enjoyable and to think that in 2 and a half days we:

  1. Had a meal on a train
  2. Visited Chattanooga Choo Choo hotel and station
  3. Went up Incline Railway
  4. Learnt about the Civil War battle for Chattanooga and took in some of the places
  5. Went down into caves to see Ruby Falls
  6. Clambered along narrow passageways to reach a viewing platform at Rock City
  7. Saw many wonderful houses on Lookout Mountain

Well, another holiday is over and we have packed so much into this one, Artists studio in Asheville, Waterfront in Savannah, Lovely houses in Florida, Animals at Animal Kingdom, Segway at Mt Dora, a Helicopter ride over part of Disney, all the things in Chattanooga and of course meeting up with our friends, Laura & Jim, so, here’s to the next holiday.

Our next booked holiday, apart from Christmas in Maidenhead is a cruise in 2019 but I am sure we will manage something next year, we just haven’t booked anything yet.



Chattanooga (Pt 1)

IMG_5465Friday 17 November

We are off up North from Kissimmee through the undulating countryside of Central and  Northern Florida and into Georgia again.


Raw Cotton

Pass some cotton fields on the way, by the side of the I-75, just what we were looking for two years ago with Phillip & Sylvia, as well as big bales of picked cotton.

Just for a change, we stop at a Cracker Barrel for lunch which is a first, we had never been in one before and I must admit probably won’t be rushing back, it wasn’t the best experience.

Get message from Jim & Laura who have checked out: apparently I have to ring my bank as they won’t accept the refund from Westgate for the deposit. That’s funny, I had thought it was only a hold for the amount! These things are sent to try us.

We had opted tonight for a night at Wingate by Wyndham in Macon rather than a hotel in the Holiday Inn chain.

About 8 years ago we stayed at a lovely one in St George in Utah but this was nowhere as good although it did have a waffle machine to use at breakfast. Meal tonight in Applebee’s.

Saturday 18 November

Head north for the drive through the outskirts of Atlanta stopping for a coffee at Highlands of West Village and into Chattanooga.


Condos at Highlands of West Village, Atlanta

The roads are crowded and with lots of road works in Chattanooga itself, and am surprised we find the hotel (Holiday Inn Express) with our ancient Sat Nav.

After a brief relax we drive to look at the Choo Choo hotel, the incline railway and Rock City on Lookout Mountain, just to get our bearings.

Some absolutely fabulous houses up here on the mountain with some wonderful Autumn colours still in evidence and many residents sweeping up the fallen leaves, of which there are many, for possible collection later by the authorities.


Autumn colours

Our dinner tonight had been pre arranged, a “Dinner on a Diner” experience on the Tennessee Valley Railroad which is to the East of the centre of the City.


Diners on the Diner

An old station from a long since closed public line  along with loads of coaches and a few engines, both diesel and steam, have been restored by volunteers some of whom were there to greet us, sell souvenirs and see us onto the train.

Once aboard, our diesel hauled train, when it left, trundled very slowly along the tracks so as to not spill the Tomato Bisque soup and the copious amounts of free non alcoholic drink being served by the very diligent and polite staff.


Static display locomotive at the Tennessee Valley Railroad

Once at the end of our journey, now in pouring rain, the Diesel engine was detached and passes us on the adjacent line to hook up at the other end and pull us back.

We had opted for a table for four hoping that we could get into conversation with some locals, however this was not to be as the two women opposite us were more content on taking selfies and obviously did not want to talk, unlike those at most of the other sets of tables.

By the time we had returned to the station – the train went much quicker on the return journey – it had virtually stopped raining and we set off back to the hotel.

If it had not been for the others on our table of four, this would have been a good experience and very reasonably priced as well for what we had.

Sunday 19 November

The wind overnight has blown in cold air and a lot of the leaves off the trees. We set off after breakfast at temperatures around the upper 30s for The Chattanooga Choo Choo hotel after first having a daytime view of the railway museum at the Tennessee Valley Railroad where we were the previous night.


All aboard!


4501 powers away

There is something about hearing and seeing a steam engine pull away from a standing start and we were lucky enough to see one whilst we were there – very evocative from so close by although sadly not with an engine whistle. See my video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z7dtVORzwzg.

We depart for the Chattanooga Choo Choo hotel as of course this was the hotel about which many people have sung.


Gents toilet in Chattanooga Choo Choo hotel

It’s sign stands out as a landmark for miles but when there you can see that whilst it had character some time ago, the place is lacking the “wow factor”.

Now I don’t want to sound “pervy” but I just had to take a picture of the wonderful gents toilet in the hotel and I understand the ladies was just as grand. Not sure when it had been refurbished but for a public toilet, it had a “wow” factor!


Choo Choo station tree & ceiling

The Christmas tree in the foyer is grand, the ceiling good, but in all honesty, the Isle of Man Bank’s Athol Street branch has a ceiling that is certainly more colourful.


Chattanooga Station exhibit

What you have to appreciate though is that this was a grand terminus station from a bygone era which has over the years suffered from a lack of investment by the hotel that now owns the building.

Outside on the tracks, there is evidence of preparations for Christmas with one loco in particular decked out for children to be photographed by but of course that includes “older” children as well!


Boys and their toys

It of course had to be engine No. 29 after the track number in the song.

Spending an hour there including the gift shop was probably about long enough especially in the cold biting wind so we leave for a lovely hot Chocolate in the cafe opposite, The Hot Chocolatier who for a very reasonable cost provided two sumptuous hot chocolates.


Hot Chocolate anyone?

Chattanooga has a free electric shuttle bus from one end of the business centre of town to the other and although it was a Sunday it was still operating so we jumped on this for a round trip ride of about 25 minutes just to see some of the buildings.

No commentary although some of the locals were interesting in themselves.

There are four main tourist attractions on nearby Lookout Mountain (Incline Railway, Rock City, Battle for Chattonooga film and Ruby Falls) and a combo ticket for about $60 each bought at the base of the Incline Railway is good vale for money. Two to use today and two for tomorrow.


Incline Railway

The incline Railway, not the first up this particular mountain, is supposed to be in one place, the steepest passenger railway in the world, surpassing all those in Switzerland at the time we visited. (However, since our visit, Switzerland has opened an even steeper one.)

It certainly lived up to it’s name near the top, the views from the railway and at the observation deck at the top were wonderful, today is now a bright sunny but cool day.


Chattanooga from the top of the Incline Railway

A couple of blocks away from the summit of the Incline Railway and passed a few houses with views to die for over the city and beyond, is the 2nd of the attractions, a film of the events of the Campaign for control of Chattonooga that occurred in the US’s Civil War.


Lookout Mountain dwelling

The film itself is embellished with some spotlights on a relief map to show you where they are talking about which is probably the best thing about the film as some of it was a bit disjointed referring too many times to the same thing by different words.

We however got the gist.IMG_5846

The free leaflet on Chickamauga and Chattanooga supplied by the US National Park Service is however very informative and well worth the read.

Unfortunately, we didn’t get into Point Park, it was getting cold so back down the Incline Railway to see if we can get some good photos but by now the sun has gone behind the hill so it will have to be tomorrow morning.


Craven’s House


Instead, we venture in the beginning of dusk to The Craven’s House where the confederates had an HQ and where there are memorials to some of the fallen including Hooker’s Column.



Hooker’s column

The whole area surrounding Craven’s House is scattered with tablets that describe the action that occured in the vicinity during the Civil War. It certainly was a significant area of the conflict and in many ways a turning point for the outcome of the civil war.


Dinner tonight at PF Chang’s in Hamilton Square which is about a 6 mile drive away but the traffic even for a Sunday evening is horrendous.