Chattanooga’s Most Interesting Museums to Visit Right Now
If you are looking for some off-the-beaten-path experiences, museums are fascinating places to visit. They are filled with collections of art, historical treasures, inventions, and more that tell the story of a community and the people who live there. Learn something new about Chattanooga by experiencing our most unique treasures.
Lodge Museum of Cast Iron (Opened Nov. 2022)
Lodge Cast Iron heirloom-quality cookware has been made in South Pittsburgh, Tenn. since 1896. Every molten iron and steel piece is crafted for durability that will last for generations. If you love all things cast iron, or want to learn more, visit this brand-new museum to experience the history of the cookware, how it is made, and how cast iron plays a role in America’s food culture. Plus, there is the world’s largest cast iron skillet measuring over 18 feet from handle to handle and weighing 14,360 pounds—big enough to fry about 650 eggs! After the museum, be sure to check out the adjacent Lodge Cast Iron Factory Store. If you visit April 29-30, check out the annual National Cornbread Festival. @lodgecastiron
International Towing Museum
Items are invented because someone saw a need for an item which did not exist, so they figured out a way to develop it. Inventions lead to new technologies and improve the quality of our lives. In 1916, Ernest Holmes, Sr. and 10 friends spent a night using only ropes and blocks tied to trees to recover a friend’s overturned Model T from a creek. He immediately went home and created the first towing and recovery vehicle. The museum showcases about 20 antique tow trucks, two Model T automobiles, hundreds of collectible toy tow trucks, and the Wall of the Fallen Memorial. This is the only museum in the world of its kind! @towingmuseum
Lynn H. Wood Archaeological Museum
Archaeological research in the ancient Middle East unearths stories of the people, places, and events of the biblical world. Through stunning visual displays, the museum takes you on an engaging journey through time, providing a glimpse into the age of Abraham and David, Deborah and Esther, Nebuchadnezzar and Jeremiah, and many others. The exhibits feature hundreds of artifacts including an ancient Babylonian brick stamped with Nebuchadnezzar’s name, a complete series of lamps from the Chalcolithic to the early Arabic periods, axe heads and daggers, and a Syrian chariot molded from clay. Located on Southern Adventist University’s campus, the museum is open while school is in session. The temporary exhibit, Peace and War: The Assyrian Conquest of Lachish, features over 80 artifacts and objects from the Fourth Expedition to Lachish.
Bessie Smith Cultural Center & African American Museum & Performance Hall
In 1983, 10 visionary leaders from Chattanooga held the first meeting of the African American Heritage Council. Their goal was to create a cultural hub showcasing the many contributions African Americans made to the development of Chattanooga. Located downtown in the area once dubbed the Big 9, the museum pays homage to Bessie Smith, “Empress of the Blues.” The exhibits preserve, honor, and celebrate Chattanooga’s African American history and culture. The newest exhibit, Chattanooga’s Black Soundtrack, takes you on a tour of many local legends including Usher, Kane Brown, Bessie Smith, The Impressions, and more. Visit during April 15-16 to experience the Bessie Smith’s Big 9 Music Fest. @bessiesmithculturalcenter
Charles H. Coolidge Medal of Honor Heritage Center
The first Medal of Honor, the nation’s first and highest military award for valor, was presented in Chattanooga to Pvt. Jacob Parrot in 1863 for his part in “The Great Locomotive Chase” during the Civil War. To earn the Medal of Honor, the person must demonstrate extraordinary heroism under the most difficult circumstances. The Center tells inspiring and heartbreaking stories of Chattanoogans Charles H. Coolidge as he single-handedly took on a German Panzer tank and Desmond Doss, a conscientious objector who did not shoot a firearm, who rescued 75 men by lowering them one-by-one down Hacksaw Ridge. The collection features 6,000 objects including multiple medals of honor, helmets, canteens, and more. @thefirstmedals
The Coker Museum
Chattanoogan Corky Coker, of the Coker Tire Company started in 1958 by his father Harold, shares his carefully curated collection of automotive history. The rare, shiny collection includes more than 100 vintage cars, hot rods, motorcycles, classic neon signs, trucks, rare engines, touring cars, and a few airplanes hanging from the ceiling. You can view the working woodshop, fabrication area, paint booth, and machine shop areas and maybe even see a vehicle being built. Highlights include a 1909 Lozier Model J, the only one known in existence, massive Packard V-12s used to power WWII-era PT boats, a 1926 Super X motorcycle, and European roadsters from brands including Jaguar, Porsche, MG, Austin-Healy, and more. The museum is located inside the world-famous Honest Charleys, the world’s first mail-order speed shop. @thecokermuseum
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