As a born and bred Chattanoogan, I have seen this city go from a seemingly hopeless crime hotspot to an acclaimed outdoor recreation retreat and innovation hub over the last two decades.

Dubbed “America’s Dirtiest City” by Walter Cronkite in 1969, Chattanooga has remade itself into the only two-time winner of Outside Magazine’s “Best Town Ever.” Just like the city itself, its residents ooze strength and resilience. Oh, and we aren’t short on good old-fashioned Southern hospitality either.

If you find yourself visiting the Best Town Ever, skip the overpriced tourist attractions (I’m looking at you, Tennessee Aquarium), and hit up these top-secret local havens.

For Starters: Explore the NorthShore

The NorthShore encompasses Coolidge Park, Renaissance Park and the ultra-trendy Frazier Avenue. It is by far the most pedestrian-friendly nook of the city, with the two parks spilling into one another and over 30 local businesses on one stretch of roadway, so ditch the car and lace up your sneakers.

While you’re on The NorthShore, grab a lavender and honey latte from Milk & Honey, pick up a quirky souvenir made by a local artisan at Blue Skies and grab lunch from the city's tastiest vegan cafe, Cashew

If you time your trip just right, Spill The Beans, a coffee truck with the best plain lattes known to man, will be parked just outside the entrance to Cashew. Top off your day with another caffeine fix and a ride on Coolidge Park’s charming carousel. 

Next Stop: the Block

Located in Chattanooga’s Riverfront District, the Block is a multi-purpose urban center that houses Rock/Creek, Chattz Coffee and Wine Bar and High Point Climbing and Fitness.

Rock climbing is one of the city’s most popular activities, and High Point offers a place for climbers of all abilities to take to the rocks, including children and first-timers. Don’t worry if you’re afraid of heights, the wine bar is just a few steps away.

Bonus: All High Point day passes include a free yoga class.

Final Destination: Walnut Street Bridge

Walnut Street Bridge the world’s longest pedestrian bridge, measuring almost half a mile one way. The bridge connects Downtown Chattanooga and the NorthShore, and is a go-to place for locals to take a morning jog or an after dinner stroll, usually with a playful pup in tow.

Besides being a great place to walk off your dessert, Walnut Street Bridge offer the best view of the city at sunset. The best things in life (and Chattanooga) really are free.

Ashley is a journalist by day and music connoisseur by night. If she isn't writing or listening, you can find her scouting out new coffee shops, jetting off on last-minute adventures or playing with her pups. She has also tried over 75 different ice cream flavors and counting. You can find her at or