Chattanooga, Tennessee: Ruby Falls, Rock City, & Hickory Pit Bar-B-Que
We picked this place as our next road trip in a semi-random way. My wife did a bit of research and found there was a good amount of kid-friendly activities there during the holidays, so we packed our stuff and jumped on the road for 15 hours.
Ruby Falls is an underground waterfall. I heard it was one of the world's deepest waterfalls, at 1120 feet down inside a cavern tunnel, discovered early last century. They don't allow strollers, but now that our two-year-old can handle walking good distances on her own, our baby carrier was freed up for our five-month-old (who handled the walk fine, from start to finish). Similar to Carlsbad Caverns, Ruby Falls Cave is full of unique rock formations, formed by dripping water over who knows how many hundreds and maybe thousands of years.
The waterfall itself is stunning feet tall, with timed lighting installed so you can see the whole thing (you get about two minutes to see it and take your pictures). Our tour guide warned us not to try and drink the water, since it has a ton of magnesium and there are no bathrooms down there for you to relieve yourself if you make that mistake. If you're lucky, your group is not too large and you have a chance to get a picture in and get near the water pool. Otherwise, you'll have to use some assertiveness and push your way through when the time is right.
Since it was Christmas season they had an additional exhibit in the cave. It was a Santa's village type of thing I can't remember the name of. They have decorations up and little activities for the kids to do, including picking geodes and breaking them open, panning for precious stones, and pictures with Santa. Unfortunately, my kids were pretty tired by the end of the cave tour, so they didn't enjoy it as much as they could have, and they don't like Santa either. But other people's kids looked like they were having a blast!
A little further up Lookout Mountain is Rock City Gardens, an area of trails that is something like an arboretum with rock formations. In addition to all of the different types of greenery and rocks, there are a couple of unbelievably tight areas you have to squeeze through on the trails (Fat Man Squeeze), as well as a big waterfall on Lover's Leap, and a point on top of a cliff where you can see seven surrounding states on a clear day. There is also an underground cave section filled with gnomes and remarkable scenes from traditional fairy tales put together, illuminated by black light. If you grew up hearing Mother Goose tales, it will be a trip back through your childhood.
Here they also had a holiday-themed event at night, which makes it look like a completely different attraction with all of the Christmas lights decorating the area. Another great one for the kids (and dogs, if you brought one along).
Hickory Pit Bar-B-Que
This is a random one that I'd assume you wouldn't see on other sites about Chattanooga, but we had such a good experience I had to include it here. One evening, probably December 23, we found ourselves looking for dinner around 8:30 in East Ridge, outside of Chattanooga. I noticed this small restaurant on Ringgold Road called Hickory Pit Bar-B-Que, with a mom and pop look to it, and a drive thru window\u2014perfect for us, since the kids were asleep in the car. I pull up to the window after checking out the menu, and see the sign that they were closed at 8. As I put the car back in drive and start to pull of, disappointed, all of a sudden the drive thru window opens and a girl looks at us and asks, "What'd y'all want?" Even though they had been closed for a good 30 minutes, she took our order and took care of us with a smile, extremely friendly and accommodating.
When we got to the hotel and opened everything up, we had a ton of food for under $30, and it was incredibly delicious. Everything from the chopped beef and chicken to the potato salad and baked beans was full of flavor the right amount of smoky flavor and an extra thing of tangy barbecue sauce on the side. She hooked it up! I tried to go back before we left, but they were closed until the new year, due to the holiday.
We also visited the aquarium the Coolidge Park carousel, the Pura Vida smoothie shop next to that, and other small local things I'll have to go through pictures to recall. Overall, we loved the city and want to go back to see more stuff. There seems to be a ton of fun nature activities to do there when it's not so cold, which we would love to do after dropping the kids off with a babysitter. The people there were also some of the nicest we've met, everyone real friendly and welcoming (we are multiracial). Until next time, Chattanooga!