When we head up this way from Metro Atlanta, we generally say “we’re headed to Chattanooga”, but we really stay at the Cleveland KOA that’s about 40 minutes up 75 north from Chattanooga. My son is out of school this week for fall break, and we love to make the most of his seasonal breaks from school. We took time off work and headed up here. This was one of my weekend getaways for my family growing up. We would stay at the Scottish Inn near Raccoon Mountain. It changed names a few times over the years but its next to the Holiday Inn Express. I loved that hotel so much because it had a heated indoor pool. Anyways, the last time we came up here when I was a child I was almost 11 years old. It was right before I went to 6th grade. My mother made me get a spiral perm that oh so made the trip memorable. Anyways I digress. My son is 12 now, and in a way I am creating similar memories with him.
Rock City Gardens, Lookout Mountain, Georgia
Our first stop was Rocky City Gardens, Georgia. Lookout Mountain, where Rocky City is, happens to be right on the Georgia Tennessee line. Just a perfect thing to do on a beautiful 70 degree day in late September. There are plants with information posted about them, but you’ll find yourself paying more attention to the landscape overall. The stones, pathways, bridges, and the amazing view from the highest point. They recommend getting tickets online and then you can walk right in at the entrance instead of standing in line at the ticket booth. The views are breathtaking, the walk is nice and relaxing, and there are plenty of benches along the way.
Rocky City Gardens, Georgia. See 7 states from the top.
Ruby Falls, Lookout Mountain, Tennessee
Next on our list was Ruby Falls! I believe this was the 4th time that I had been, maybe the 3rd. Who’s counting? Each time they change something a bit from the time before so its always a new adventure. Ruby Falls is a gorgeous waterfall at the end of a guided tour through a cavern in Lookout Mountain. It takes about an hour and a half from start to finish, mainly because of the stops made along the way. Make sure you’ve had a snack and a restroom break before you go. This is another one that you will want to book your tour online early, they tend to fill up quickly. A day before was fine for me, although that might not be as easy on a weekend during peak hours. The tour guide was pretty entertaining and kind. Do them a favor and bring cash for tips if you enjoyed their service. There are beautiful stalactites and stalagmites along the way. They also have a viewing tower next to their building that gives you stunning views of downtown Chattanooga.
The Lost Sea, Sweetwater, Tennessee
About 40 minutes north of Cleveland, Tennessee off of I-75 awaits a really unique experience called The Lost Sea Adventure. Its an awesome experience for those who are generally not fans of caves due to claustrophobia. The normal tour takes you through very large open “rooms” in the cave with a lot of space down to what you might have guessed, a small pristine lake where you will take a slow gentle boat ride to the other side of the room where there are huge rainbow trout that visit the boat to be fed by the tour guide. It really is a magical experience that looks like something in a fantasy film. I was waiting for Gandalf to appear, it was so beautiful. I only wish I could swim in something like that, however the water typically stays around 55 degrees, so it wouldn’t be ideal. Unfortunately, there are some steep climbs so I wouldn’t recommend this tour for anyone with mobility issues. There are benches and you can take your time on your time for those of us who are not very fit to catch your breath.
The Tennessee Valley Railroad, Chattanooga, Tennessee
We were looking for our last day to be kind of low key after a lot of walks and climbs, we were interested in something that involved sitting, lol. I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from our 60 minute train ride. I was originally hoping to do the dinner ride that was 2 hours, but apparently that fills up very fast. After we got on the train from the old style station platform, and I sat down in one of the reverse seats, I had a flashback to 2017 when we went to do the Polar Express ride for our son and my husband got major motion sickness from riding backwards and the rocking. I had completely forgotten! So, I am very glad that I wasn’t able to get the dinner ride. I started feeling a bit guilty for having forgotten. Lucky for him, he did ok. He knew how to mitigate the worst of it.
The ride itself felt pretty uneventful. We went through the woods, over a few trestles, and through one tunnel. I enjoyed the tunnel the most. It felt like we were on a night train. However, we really didn’t see anything that made you go “ooohhh, ahhhhh”. So, I would say if you have a little kids, or are just an avid train enthusiast, you’d probably love this attraction, but otherwise you might be a little bored. I think that it was a decent enough low key thing for us, but I don’t see myself doing this again in the future. The staff were very friendly. There is a little cafe, gift shop, and museum to experience as well.