Art Lover's Itinerary
Voted #2 Top Arts Destination for Mid-Sized Cities by American Style magazine, Chattanooga is quickly giving new meaning to our moniker as the Scenic City. We rounded up three days’ worth of must-sees, but feel free to stay longer for true creative inspiration. Grab your brush, it’s time to paint the town cadmium red.
Your first stop in the Scenic City needs to be the city’s oldest, most revered art museum, affectionately known as the Hunter. Started in the 1950s, it honors some of America’s finest artists including Mary Cassatt, Winslow Homer and Fitzhugh Lane. The Hunter Museum of American Art's buildings are almost as interesting as their contents, including an antebellum home on one side and steel sculptural building on the other. Both are perched high above the Tennessee River, offering impressive views from expansive back decks.
Stroll through the River Gallery Sculpture Garden – the city’s first outdoor art museum. Winding through perfectly manicured grounds and offering bird’s eye views of the river, it’s been recognized by the Smithsonian and is one of only 195 sculpture gardens named in a worldwide directory. Once you’re thoroughly inspired, pop into the gallery that manages the gardens, the River Gallery. The little house is overflowing with glass, pottery, oils, photography and sculpture from regionally and nationally acclaimed artists. You don’t have to go far for lunch. Tony’s Pasta Shop & Trattoria is right around the corner, as well as Rembrandt’s Coffee House and Back Inn Café. All are owned by the same family and offer outdoor dining surrounded by sculpture and beautiful views.
Before the sun sets, take the walking public art tour of downtown. Head across the steel bridge in front of the Hunter and down 1st Street, where the grassy knoll of a downtown condo doubles as another sculpture garden. Follow the map to see all of downtown’s outdoor art, or head straight to Ignis Glass Studio to blow your own glass ornament. Owner Christopher Mosey is a well-known glass artist with his own gallery in the back. If you're looking for a more traditional gallery, head down broad street to Area 61 Gallery, where you'll find work of 20+ local professional artists. Finish the evening with a meal from one of downtown’s culinary artists, such as Erik Niel at Easy Bistro or Nathan Lindley at IL PRIMO.
CHA Spotlight: Hunter Museum of American Art
The Southside is literally a hotbed of creativity, so expect to spend all day perusing this beautifully offbeat neighborhood. You can start the morning with a workout at the urban art fitness park, Main Terrain Art Park – the only known one of its kind. The short track blends outdoor workout stations (think, trapeze rings and chin-up bars) with art, such as four seasonally inspired haiku poems embedded in the track and an industrially inspired bridge sculpture in the middle. Once you've worked up an appetite for breakfast, head on over to Kenny's. Still feel like exploring some outdoor art? Definitely add the Sculpture FIelds at Montague Park to your list. Known as the largest scultpure park in the southeast, the park features masterpieces from around the world.
Next you’ll want to hit the myriad art galleries of the Southside. The HART Gallery features works by homeless and other non-traditional artists, offering them a chance to sell their wares and hopefully create a new life. If fine art is more your style, head over to Gallery 1401, where you'll find art from over 30 nationally and internationally acclaimed artists.
By now you’ve probably noticed a sculpture or two in the middle of the sidewalk. If you’re looking for a pre-dinner promenade, walk the length of Main Street (from Main Terrain to Niedlov’s) to see all of them. To cap off your Southside evening, grab dinner and drinks at one of the neighborhood’s hot spots – the Flying Squirrel. The drink and food menus are equally adventurous and change out seasonally, we definitely recommend trying out whatever Chattanooga Whiskey drink is available.
Three Days +
You’ll want to spend your third day on the Northshore, another hot spot for local talent. But, start your journey downtown so you can walk across the iconic Walnut Street Walking Bridge, which offers views that would inspire even the least creative.
After your trek across the bridge, reward yourself with breakfast at Julie Darling Donuts, which offers creative concoctions such as pancakes and bacon, Granny’s apple pie and key lime. Then continue burning calories with a stroll down Frazier, checking out the public art installations. Art is so ingrained on the Northshore that it's even embedded in the sidewalk, so don't forget to look down.
Art galleries are in abundant supply. Most are sprinkled down Frazier, including Winder Binder Gallery and Bookstore, Blue Skies, and In Town Gallery (one of the nation’s oldest cooperative art galleries). The Association for Visual Arts, or AVA, also hosts shows in its front gallery, which highlights local talent.
If hunger strikes while shopping, head down Frazier Avenue until you reach Manufacturers Boulevard until you find Food Works. Be warned – their weekend brunches are extremely popular. There are several other great lunch spots back on Frazier, such as Good Dog and River Street Deli, but before you leave check out the 2 North Shore complex for some of the city’s best boutiques.
Looking for more art?
Check out our Experience Art Map to find murals, public art, and more!