Chattanooga is historically known as the Gateway to the South. Situated on the Tennessee/Georgia border, the city's cultural makeup has grown more diverse over the past few centuries as a myriad of people migrated through the area. Chattanooga's neighborhoods are as varied as its geographical topography. The mighty Tennessee River is undoubtedly the focal point in the city and over the decades has driven the growth pattern of the area. The Downtown area, North Shore and Bluff View neighborhoods have all sprung up within sight of the river. Each of these neighborhoods has formed its own cultural feel, as they have grown and become some of the trendiest places to live. Lookout Mountain is just outside the city, but is a must-see if driving the area. St. Elmo lies between Downtown and Lookout Mountain. There are many other neighborhoods in the city, and although they aren't always well defined, their unique vibes will clearly identify them.
Lying on the edge of the Georgia/Tennessee state line, St. Elmo is nestled between the slopes of Lookout Mountain and the bustle of Downtown Chattanooga. It has a unique geographic advantage being sandwiched between these two popular areas, but hasn't fully capitalized on its position yet. That is all changing though, with continuing efforts to revitalize this district. A number of historical homes are sprinkled throughout this area, and a variety of businesses have been sprouting up in recent years. St. Elmo is home to many working in Chattanooga and is an up-and-coming part of the city. Some parts of it could be a little unsafe at times, but if progress continues, some think it is poised to be the new North Shore. Stopping over in this area for a lunch or window-shopping is highly recommended, if your plans include both Lookout Mountain and Downtown attractions.
Lookout Mountain was the home to a fierce battle between General Ulysses S. Grant's soldiers and Confederate troops. Grant's forces won that battle and opened the door for the Union to take the South. Long before and after those bloody skirmishes, though, this mountain has been renowned for its many geological blessings. Those natural wonders are the reason the much-advertised Rock City and Ruby Falls have drawn so many to this area of greater Chattanooga. The beautiful and stately homes in this neighborhood are not to be missed, with their manicured grounds and a variety of architectural styles. This, along with the natural beauty of the area, makes Lookout Mountain a delight to enjoy for an afternoon drive.
The Bluff View neighborhood can be hard to distinguish from the Downtown area on a map. Once you walk up the hill from Downtown, though, you'll know you're in Bluff View as you begin to encounter sculptures. The area is dotted with these unique creations. This neighborhood, focused on art in every form, is perched on a cliff overlooking the Tennessee River and the North Shore. Home to the Hunter Museum of American Art, as well as many private galleries and public art displays, one can easily see the appeal of this neighborhood that rests atop Chattanooga.
The North Shore has a decidedly hip vibe. Many young professionals have made this area their home. The North Shore is, for obvious reasons, named so for its location in relation to the river. This side of the river rises slowly from the water and holds the immense and frequently used Coolidge Park. This park is the quintessential spot in the city for a picnic and even has a merry-go-round and play fountain for children of all ages. The funky shops and restaurants on Frazier Avenue can easily fill a relaxed day on the North Shore. Views of Downtown are fabulous from many spots here and, at the least, deserve a look.
Downtown is usually defined as the area on the southern side of the Tennessee River. The larger buildings and streets abuzz with business and tourism are the tip-off that you've arrived. This area is a hub of tourist activity with most major attractions located here. The Tennessee Aquarium sits on the shore of the river and is surrounded by park-like water features in which children and adults can play. The Disneyesque appeal of the area immediately surrounding the Aquarium is pleasing to the eye, and just inland from there lay a plethora of hotel and restaurant options. Everything is within easy walking distance in the Downtown area, which is particularly appealing on one of Chattanooga's many beautiful weather days.