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All Aboard The Chattanooga Choo Choo

Story by Jenna Wise Photos by Harold Leath & Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel

Pardon me, is that the Chattanooga Choo Choo? How many times have you sung or whistled that tune? Did you ever dream you would have a chance to spend the night in a restored Pullman railroad car or take your family for a get-away holiday adventure in a place with such exciting activities, beautiful scenery and rich history?

Or, did you know that Chattanooga has recently been named "Best Town Ever" by Outside Magazine?

This neat place, located in Southeast Tennessee - not too far from our area, actually - is known far and wide as Scenic City. It has been called that for quite a while - most likely receiving the nickname due to being nestled between Lookout and Signal Mountains, and the Missionary Ridge - along the bluffs of the beautiful Tennessee River.

Chattanooga has become THE destination for those seeking everything from cutting-edge outdoor activities, such as hiking, mountain biking and kayaking, to opportunities for those interested in other less active passions such as going shopping, touring the Hunter Museum of American Art; stopping at Chattanooga's first class Aquarium with its IMAX Theatre; or savoring historic Tivoli Theatre. Tidbit: You might not know Tivoli hosts a film festival each year that has earned the nickname Sundance of the South, and also has a Broadway Series of live productions each year. Awesome, wouldn't you say?

But, it is time to think some more about the Chattanooga Choo Choo - now a Historic Hotels of America partner (1400 Market St., Chattanooga). It is almost time for the holidays and time to wrap up something thrilling - like a romantic stay in a Pullman car - or perhaps a Polar Express-like outing (with all kind of extras) that your kiddies, and you, will never forget.

The Chattanooga Choo Choo offers all kinds of special getaways such as a Sweetheart Package, Holiday Fantasy and several North Pole Limited packages. These, along with Ice on the Landing, which involves going to an ice-skating rink, offer different combinations of how to stay at the hotel, to "ride the rails" with Santa and his elves to visit the North Pole, plus perhaps have the chance to visit the extraordinary Rock City's Enchanted Garden of Lights, quite a spectacle.

Speaking of Rock City, it is still there, offering visitors to "See Rock City" atop Lookout Mountain as advertised on barns and birdhouses for years. Going to Rock City, as well as Ruby Falls, The Incline Railroad and visiting Civil War historical locations are all worthwhile - just jump in and wallow in what makes Chattanooga such a special place. (Oh yes, there were some VERY important battles fought up on those mountaintops. Not going to tell you who won. Read up on them. They were quite interesting.)

Here may be the answers to your questions: I stayed in one of the restored Pullman cars. That had been on my Bucket List. I am so glad I had the opportunity. It was unique. Even though there are many opportunities of good places to eat in Chattanooga, we wanted to "do it all" on the rail, so to speak, so we ate pizza from the Silver Diner Pizza Car in the hotel - interesting!

We immensely enjoyed eating and hanging out at STIR, a restaurant/bar adjacent to the Choo Choo, that specializes in cold, cold drinks and pretty iced sculptures. It was delightful and got us "charged up" for our visit across the river the next day to visit the eclectic North Shore area to see a well-known carousel at Coolidge Park. The carousel animals were amazing pieces of art, but the highlight was the hot dogs we discovered at The Good Dog. They were the best I have ever eaten - and I am truly a hot dog lover. It is worth driving over the bridge in Chattanooga to see the carousel and to have a dog.

Let's see. There was lots of art at Hunter Museum - check. Staying in the Pullman Railroad Car was unique - not at all crowded, stuffy or anything - check. We did not walk the 13 mile River Walk, but hey, that gives us a reason to go back. There are events and festivals all through the year. I cannot wait to go back to Chattanooga. Hope you decide to go back if you have already visited -- or check it out if you have not. GO SOMEWHERE, ENJOY LIFE, HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

Chattanooga Choo Choo -1400 Market St., Chattanooga, TN. Go to www.choochoo.com to read about special offers, and to visit Rock City's Enchanted Garden of Lights (call 800-TRACK29; 423-266-5000)

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