Chattanooga “Great Circle” 3-Day

‘Great Circle’ National Park Vacation (3 days)
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This vacation is designed for travelers who want to experience the full impact
of the Chattanooga area’s Civil War heritage by making their way to each of
the six outposts of Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, America’s
oldest Civil War park. The National Park commemorates the 1863 Campaign for
Chattanooga, which opened the deep South to Union forces and enabled Sherman’s
March To The Sea, hastening the end of the long years of fighting that forged
us into the united nation we are today. Each part of the National Park holds
something special. Making the Great Circle tour gives you the whole story as
well as ready access to a variety of Chattanooga’s other unique attractions,
shopping and dining.

Day One
Breakfast Blue Plate

(Downtown Area)

Comments: Breakfast is served all day at this very hip riverfront diner. (Even though hip, this is also a great place for families.) Try the cheese grits with anything you order.

Morning Lookout Mountain Incline Railway

(Lookout Mountain Area)

Comments: Don’t miss this amazing ride STRAIGHT UP the side of Lookout Mountain.

Morning Battles for Chattanooga Electric Map

(Lookout Mountain Area)

Comments: This is a great orientation to your Great Circle tour, giving an overview of why the 1863 Campaign for Chattanooga turned the tide of America’s Civil War.

Lunch Panera Bread/Ft. Oglethorpe

(Outlying Regions)

Comments: Panera is always good food. An alternative for lunch is to head straight down Lookout Mountain through St. Elmo and take GA Hwy 2 across the rolling washboard of North Georgia to the Historic Downtown of Chickamauga, GA. Pick from several restaurants on the main street. Park your car and stroll to any of them. You’ll pass a variety of unique shops you might want to check out later! After lunch, explore the town’s 1847 Gordon-Lee Mansion just around the corner from downtown on Cove Road. It offers its share of Civil War history. Then head north a short way to Lee & Gordon’s Mill and Crawfish Springs, where the Battle of Chickamauga had its beginnings in September 1863. Visit the General Store there at the mill for some stone ground cornmeal and other old fashioned goodies to take with you.

Afternoon Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park

(North Georgia)

Comments: Stop #1 in the National Park itself! Continue north from the town of Chickamauga and you’ll enter the southern gateway of Chickamauga Battlefield, the largest National Park unit. Make your initial stop there at the Visitor Center on the north side of the Battlefield, where maps, exhibits, rangers and — if you hit it on a weekend in summer — living historians will provide background on the Battle that took place there. Before you take the driving tour (whether using a map or a handy DVD for your car player), check out the bookstore at the Visitor Center. Ideas for a kid-friendly visit: ask for a FREE Junior Ranger scavenger hunt booklet and see if you can find a copy of the children’s book, ‘Family Under Fire.’

Dinner Sugar’s Ribs

(East Ridge Area)

Comments: Watch the sun go down behind the western mountains from this BBQ joint perched on the side of MIssionary Ridge. Good smoky BBQ and a great view!

Evening Nightfall

(Downtown Area)

Comments: In the summer and fall, after dinner you’ll want to head back downtown and spend your Friday evening like a Chattanoogan, mingling with the crowd at one of the city’s free weekly outdoor concerts. Each week brings a different musical style, from roots to rock. Great place for good music and people watching. (Also a great place if you like looking at all kinds of motorcycles, since the area cycle clubs generally flock to Nightfall to show off their bikes!)

Day Two
Breakfast City Cafe Diner/Downtown

(Downtown Area)

Comments: BIG breakfasts are the rule here, and it’s a short jump to Broad Street, which will take you back to Lookout Mountain for National Park stop #2.

Morning Point Park Battlefield

(Lookout Mountain Area)

Comments: National Park Stop #2. Lookout Mountain Battlefield is the second largest unit of the National Park. After yesterday’s orientation at the Electric Map and your visit to Chickamauga Battlefield where the 1863 action began, you can get the lay of the land for the Battles for Chattanooga from Point Park. Be sure to stop at Point Park Visitor Center to see exhibits unique to Lookout Mountain, talk with a ranger, and experience the awesome, billboard-sized painting of the Battle Above The Clouds. Truly memorable! Sometime during 2010, the Ochs Museum at Point Park will reopen after renovation with additional exhibits of interest. The centerpiece of Point Park is the New York Peace Monument, a massive structure that rises 90 feet above the crest of the Mountain, topped with sculptures of a Union and Confederate soldier shaking hands. This monument symbolizes the National Park’s founding ideals of reconciliation and reunion. (Note: The Visitor Center is free and there is a modest charge for admission to Point Park itself. Fees go to helping the National Park improve its visitor services.)

Morning Cravens House

(Lookout Mountain Area)

Comments: A short ride (or hike, if you are an enthusiast) from Point Park is Cravens House, also part of the Lookout Mountain Battlefield. Cravens House was the heart of the Battle Above The Clouds on Lookout. It features the reconstructed Cravens farmhouse, monuments and a panoramic view of Chattanooga.

Morning Chattanooga National Cemetery

(Downtown Area)

Comments: Though not part of the National Park, this cemetery is interesting from a Civil War point of view. It was established to house the remains of Union soldiers who died in the Campaign for Chattanooga. It’s also the gravesite of a group of Unionists who staged Andrews’ Raid — also known as the Great Locomotive Chase — earlier in the War. The Raiders buried here were executed by the Confederacy and posthumously received America’s first Congressional Medal of Honor. National Park Stops #3 and #4 are a short drive from the Cemetery. #3 is Orchard Knob, located in the Orchard Knob neighborhood. Explore the monuments and view from this outpost from which the charge up Missionary Ridge originated, then head to Stop #4, Missionary Ridge itself. Drive the crest of the Ridge through the National Register neighborhood that now exists side by side with Park reservations. Monuments and markers are along the way. Bragg Reservation is the highest point on the Ridge. It offers an outstanding view of the other Park units where battles occurred and marks the spot where the Confederate Army was defeated and Chattanooga fell in November 1863.

Lunch The Yellow Deli

(Downtown Area)

Comments: This 1960s throwback eatery is located on the campus of the University of TN at Chattanooga (check out the beautiful old college buildings nearby!). Fun atmosphere, friendly service and healthy, yummy food are the hallmarks of the Yellow Deli.

Afternoon River Gorge Explorer

(Downtown Area)

Comments: National Park Stop #5: Moccasin Bend. Get out on the TN River and get more Civil War stories from the guides on this unique catamaran. You’ll cruise the shore of Moccasin Bend, which is the Park’s newest unit. Since no visitor services are yet in place there, an Explorer tour is the best way to see the Bend and understand its role in the Campaign for Chattanooga. (Note: check the TN Aquarium for Explorer pricing and tickets. There’s a charge for this attraction, but the ride is well worth it.)

Afternoon Ben & Jerry’s

(Downtown Area)

Comments: Take an ice cream break here and enjoy your treat on the shady plaza of the Tennessee Aquarium just across the street. If it’s warm, dabble your feet in one of the water features and cool off.

Afternoon Tennessee Aquarium

(Downtown Area)

Comments: No real Civil War history here, but no visit to Chattanooga is complete without experiencing the Aquarium. You can explore the TN River from its source in the high Appalachians to the ocean where its waters mix with the world’s.

Dinner Boathouse Rotisserie & Raw Bar

(Downtown Area)

Comments: Continue the afternoon “River” theme with dinner overlooking the Tennessee Riverwalk. The oyster po’ boys and olive fries are absolutely fantastic. (So is everything else on the menu.) With your meal, you’ll enjoy calming views of rowing shells, water birds and families enjoying walking or biking on the Riverwalk.

Evening Walnut Street Bridge

(Downtown Area)

Comments: End the day with your own stroll across the River via this ca. 1893 walking bridge, which is part of the City’s Riverwalk. Watch the sun go down and Chattanooga light up! (Note: the Bridge is closed until May 2010, but there are plenty of places nearby to walk, explore and enjoy if you get there before the renovated bridge reopens. If you want to walk across the River before then, the Market Street bridge offers wide walkways and views like the ones from the Walnut Street Bridge.)

Day Three
Breakfast Longhorn Restaurant

(Downtown Area)

Comments: This is a tiny little neighborhood nook in the Northshore area on North Market Street. Wonderful traditional breakfasts — and it’s on the way to your LAST National Park Stop.

Morning Signal Point

(Signal Mountain)

Comments: National Park Stop #6: Signal Point. This Park area overlooks Chattanooga and Lookout Mountain to the south and the majestic Grand Canyon of the TN River to the west. During the Civil War battles, it was used by the US Signal Corps for flag and fire communications to troops below and on the other heights around Chattanooga. Bonus for this stop: the chance to stroll through quaint nearby Signal Mountain Old Town, which was a summer retreat for Chattanoogans in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. If you like hiking, Rainbow Lake trailhead is also nearby and connects with Signal Point.

Lunch Nikki’s Drive Inn

(Downtown Area)

Comments: Stop here on your way back downtown. Nikki’s offers classic drive-in fare and ambience. Very good cheeseburgers! And each booth has its own personal juke box for your listening pleasure.

Afternoon Knitting Mill Antiques

(Downtown Area)

Comments: Your Great Circle tour is winding down now, so relax and browse at Knitting Mill. If you’re lucky, you’ll run across some gotta-have-it Civil War memorabilia at this cool antique mall on Chattanooga’s Northshore.

Afternoon Rock Point Books/MoonPie Store

(Downtown Area)

Comments: Feed the curiosity piqued by your Great Circle National Park tour. Check out the great selection of local history and Southern literature at this independent bookstore while enjoying a coffee or tea.

Dinner 212 Market Restaurant

(Downtown Area)

Comments: If it’s nice out, enjoy dinner on the second floor balcony of this Chattanooga landmark restaurant to celebrate the successful completion of your Civil War quest! The atmosphere is casual but elegant, and the food is always, always good. If there’s a wait, there are plenty of other restaurants everywhere in the general vicinity. You won’t go hungry!

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