What to Do When the Kids Have Left the Nest 

By Chloe Morrison

Chattanooga is an ideal landing spot for empty nesters.  

“But don’t tell our secret to everyone,” joked local resident and empty-nester Sarah Hooper. Her youngest child moved out in 2019, and — after spending a couple of decades in different areas of Georgia — Hooper and her husband moved to Chattanooga’s Highland Park. 

The Hoopers at Finley
The Hoopers

The cost of living, downtown life and easy access to the outdoors are a few factors that empty nesters cited when making the decision to downsize here.  

Angel investor Jay Shaffer and his wife, Hope, spent three years researching different cities while living in Airbnbs around the Atlanta area. Their ideal location wishlist included walkability, proximity to a major university and access to both golf and water for recreation. They looked at places like Boise, Austin, Salt Lake City and Phoenix and other parts of Atlanta. 

After the pandemic began, they started looking close to Atlanta and found The Scenic City, which met all their criteria and allowed them to keep connections with friends they’d made in Atlanta. “Frankly, we think Chattanooga is a great place for anyone to live,” Shaffer said, adding that he got a taste of how friendly the residents are soon after moving here during a Point Park hike. 

“We ran into an older couple hiking down who had lived on Lookout Mountain for many years,” he said. “They shared a few tips on hikes nearby.” 

Jay and Hope Schaffer watch a game at Finley Stadium
Hope and Jay

Then, when Jay and Hope got back to their car, they saw what they thought was a parking ticket. Instead, it was a note from the couple with a list of hike suggestions. “I guess our car was the only Georgia license plate in the parking lot,” he said. “Now, that’s friendly...and emblematic of what we’ve experienced over and over again in this journey.” 

Tips For Empty Nesters 

Hooper offered some tips for other empty nesters on ways to best enjoy the city. She suggested making sure you know your neighborhood. “Every different area has its own personality,” she said. 

And she advised empty nesters to be aware that living downtown might require a downsize. “Downtown living doesn’t always lend itself to storage,” she said. “But, be kind to yourself, and your children and purge the junk. You’ll gain the freedom of flexibility.” 

“There is so much to do,” Hooper said. “Living downtown with little responsibilities at home makes exploring Chattanooga fun. We are flexible to try new restaurants or have a cocktail on a weeknight. Or if you want to learn something new you can pick up a fun class at the Chattery.” 

13 Favorite Locations from Empty Nesters 

Shaffer and Hooper each gave a list of their favorite locations that they would suggest to others. “The best day of the year in Chattanooga is Mainx24,” she said. 

  • Main Street Meats 
  • Pizza Bros  
  • Bitter Alibi 
  • OddStory Brewing Co. 
  • Heaven & Ale 
  • Walnut Street Bridge 
  • Riverfront Nights 
  • Nightfall 
  • Concerts at the Tivoli 
  • Niedlov’s 
  • Tremont Tavern 
  • Hunter Museum 
  • Moccasin Bend driving range 

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