Half a day in Chattanooga Tennessee

On our honeymoon in the USA we spent a day travelling from the Great Smoky Mountains in Eastern Tennessee to Lynchburg, the home of Jack Daniels, in Central Tennessee – did you know that there is a time zone change between Eastern and Central Tennessee? The Eastern side of the state is on Eastern Time, like New York, and Central Tennessee is on Central Time, like Chicago.

The drive from the Great Smoky Mountains to Lynchburg is pretty long, depending on the time of day you’re driving this route expect it to take 4 to 5 hours. We needed a stop off on route and decided to spend half a day in Chattanooga and it was a great choice!

After almost 3 hours on the road, seeing sights like huge crosses and a “Drain The Swamp” sign, we arrived in Chattanooga just in time for lunch! We were in the mood for some more barbecue since we were in the South and a great place we found was Hickory Pit Bar-B-Que. It’s a mom and pop type place off a busy main road and has plenty of parking right outside. Richard got a chopped beef sandwich and I got a chopped pork plate which came with two sides (I chose beans and fries) as well as a slice of Texas toast which is basically toasted thick cut white bread. The food here tastes amazing although you could argue it doesn’t photograph as well as nouvelle cuisine but I know which type of place I’d rather eat at if I’m hungry!

We were ready to see one of the sights Chattanooga has to offer after our meal, there are a few but with half a day you need to pick one, we chose to see Ruby Falls which is part of Lookout Mountain. This area is on the border of Tennessee and Georgia, if you have more time than we did there are other parts of Lookout Mountain to explore including Rock City where on a clear day you can see seven States.

Leo Lambert plaque at Ruby Falls in Tennessee

Ruby Falls was discovered by Leo Lambert in 1928 over 1120 feet below the surface of Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga Tennessee. The falls are names after Leo’s wife Ruby and have been open for visitors to see since 1930. You get to see loads of cool features through the cave system before you get to the falls though which is pretty much the last thing you see on the tour which takes about an hour and 15 minutes from the point you enter the lift which takes you to the cave floor. You will need to allow 2 to 3 hours here to give yourself time to park and then queue to get in.

Cave feature in Ruby Falls cave system, Lookout Mountain, Chattanooga

As you work your way through the cave with your guide you can’t miss the great lighting they have which highlights the main features. Each has a name of what it’s supposed to look like, anything from bacon to Niagara Falls.

On the Ruby Falls tour in Chattanooga

It’s very narrow in parts through the cave so not for anyone who is claustrophobic. The guides are very well trained and some have been working here for years so they know the cave system really well. It is an out and back walk rather than a loop so as well as the cave being narrow in parts you will have other tour groups coming back needing to squeeze past you. Since the guides know the system really well they will always aim to stop your group in a wider section so there is enough room for the tour groups to pass each other. There isn’t an option with this cave system to tour on your own you must go on one of the guided tours – and it is popular so don’t expect small groups here.

Ruby Falls at the end of the cave is amazing and well worth the walk. There is a lighting show which runs to time and your group will have a fixed time in the chamber where Ruby Falls is located. Each group gets a time slot to themselves so it’s never overcrowded and there is enough time for everyone to get their pictures.

Ruby Falls, a water fall inside a cave in Lookout Mountain Tennessee


We had a great day driving from the Great Smoky Mountains to Lynchburg and loved seeing a bit of what Chattanooga has to offer, we have no doubt there is more to this city. What is your favourite attraction in Chattanooga?