Chattanooga: Surf and Turf

We spent an entire day in Chattanooga at the aquarium and the BBQ festival.  I guess it isn’t surf and turf in the traditional sense because you don’t actually EAT the fish at the aquarium, but you get the idea…The aquarium has two sections, freshwater and saltwater.  We started out our day on the freshwater side.

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Couldn’t pass up this photo of Brandon reading up on the Volga River (he lived there!)

The aquarium is pretty large, so we decided to take a break and headed to the BBQ festival.  We hoofed it across town and noshed on some mighty fine foods.  It was awesome.  They sell sample tickets for a dollar each and you get to try EVERYTHING.  Allow me to repeat myself…It was awesome.

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This is my “I have a huge amount of pulled pork in my teeth” smile.

untitled-1926After eating enormous quantities of food we decided to take a taxi back to the Aquarium (rather than drag our full bellies over the sidewalk for a over a mile in the southern humidity).

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I love that Brandon and Eric are totally committed to their pose, while my father in law is like “Pssh, it takes a lot more than a shark to scare me”.

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Chattanooga: Ruby Falls vs. Racoon Caverns

Our Chattanooga trip was a weekend of cave exploration.  First, was the aforementioned Scary Gnome Cave at Rock City.  After Rock City we headed to Ruby Falls and on our way out of town we hit Raccoon Caverns.  Today we are going to compare the two cave experiences side by side in the ULTIMATE CHATTANOOGA CAVE SHOWDOWN.

We will start with Ruby Falls.  A little way down lookout mountain (on the way back from rock city) is a curious castle like structure that is the entrance to Ruby Falls.

Ruby FallsAfter waiting in line for a little while, Kenneth from 30 Rock takes your ticket and guides you into the elevator (no joke…Brandon and I instantly looked at each other and said “Kenneth!” in unison).  Basically you walk in a long line of people through a dark underground hallway that somewhat resembles a cave until you arrive at Ruby falls.  It is not your typical cave tour experience with awesome cave formations.  The main attraction is Ruby Falls, a 145-foot tall underground waterfall with a (wait for it…) A LIGHT SHOW!

Ruby Falls 2My favorite experience at Ruby Falls was when I was trying to take a picture of the falls. I couldn’t get a good one because the crowd in front of us were constantly holding up their iphones and taking video.  I turned to Brandon to tell him of my troubles and a man walks around me, stops two feet ahead of me and holds up a gigantic ipad. Ha!  That’ll teach me to complain!  In the end I just went with the iphones and incorporated them into my photo.

We couldn’t leave without an awesome photo op!

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Next we have Raccoon Mountain Caverns.

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Our tour group was a lot smaller than it was at Ruby Falls. We were guided through the caves by an adorable young man who was very knowledgeable and patiently answered all of our cave questions. There were all kinds of formations and large open caverns within the cave.  They even offer a more intense expedition into the unlit areas of the cave, but you have to make advance reservations.

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Both experiences were pretty cool, but if you’re looking for a more authentic “cave-ey” experience, Raccoon Caverns wins by a landslide!

In the end no Chattanooga Cave Experience is complete without a trip to Lupi’s Pizza.

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Chattanooga: Rock City

For memorial day weekend we decided to head to Chattanooga, Tennessee.  It was on my top three list of southern cities that I wanted to visit this summer (along with New Orleans and Savannah, Georgia).  It is one of the most picturesque big(ish) cities I have ever visited.  Imagine a lush, green city, the perfect mix of modern and southern charm, set on a bend in the Tennessee river, surrounded by mountains (or tall hills to someone from Utah).


Upon arriving we drove strait up to Rock City. We didn’t even make a pit stop at our hotel.  We just headed strait up Lookout mountain. How could we not after passing “See Rock City” billboards for hundreds of miles.  It was obvious to us that this place was kind of a big deal. There were so many advertisements we turned it into a road trip game.  Every time we saw a sign we would punch each other in the arm.  It got kind of violent.  I might suggest turning it into a less contentious game by…say…eating a piece of candy, or a carrot stick if you’re a health nut. Still, we prefer punching.

Rock City

Rock City is an attraction on top of Lookout Mountain (close to downtown Chattanooga).  There is a path that winds through large rock formations and gardens leading to a Lover’s Leap, a viewpoint that looks out over seven states.

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My In-laws are pretty photogenic!

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As with most tourist attractions, Rock City is a bit overpriced for a stroll through the woods.  On the other hand…it’s just something you have to do while you are on vacation.  The experience is totally unique and the view from the top is amazing!

Rock City 6Rock City 7Rock City 8Spoiler Alert: we didn’t jump.

After Lover’s Leap the path leads you through what Rock City calls “Fairyland Caverns”.  I call it “The Dark Hallway Strait Out of my Worst Nightmares.”  It is a cave filled with back lit figurines of gnomes and fairytale stories.  This picture explains it better than I ever could with words.

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And on that note, we left Rock City.

The other day I went to Amish country in Tennessee with my mother-in-law.  On our way out of town I got a punch in the arm.  Rock city will forever be a part of our road trips.