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.
Day One Morning
Your first stop in the Scenic City needs to be the city’s oldest, most revered art museum, affectionately known as the Hunter. Founded 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.
Day One Afternoon
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. Both are owned by the same family and offer outdoor dining surrounded by sculptures and beautiful views.
After lunch, walk over to the Houston Museum of Decorative Arts (Yes--it's in the art district as well!). Boasting Native American art and arrowheads, Tiffany glassware, antique music boxes, vases that glow in the dark from minerals used in making colored glass, and more, the collection is just a portion of antiques and collectibles donated to Chattanooga by Anna Safley Houston.
Day One Evening
Before the sun sets, take a DIY 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. 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.
Day Two Morning
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. After breakfast, enjoy a leisurely stroll through the Sculpture Fields at Montague Park to your list. Known as the largest sculpture park in the southeast, the park features masterpieces from around the world.
Day Two Afternoon
Next, you’ll want to hit the myriad of art galleries in 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. Next, head over to Gallery 1401, where you'll find art from over 30 nationally and internationally acclaimed artists, and then Shuptrines Gallery, which specializes in 19th-century through contemporary American and European art.
While exploring the Southside neighborhood, make a scavenger game of finding some or all of the murals around this side of town. Here's a list to get you started:
Flying Donut Mural
- 1900 Broad Street
- Muralist: Joseph Giri
Polka Dot Wall
- 1400 Block Of Williams Street
- 612 E Main Street
- 1351 Passenger Street
- Muralist: The Artist Seven
Day Two Evening
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.
Day Three Morning
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.
Day Three Afternoon
Art galleries are in abundant supply in Chattanooga's Northshore. 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 highlight 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 like River Street Deli, but before you leave check out the 2 North Shore complex for some of the city’s best boutiques.
Day Three Evening
Art Lover's Itinerary Map
Find all the places we mentioned above in this map we made just for you.