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Chattanooga: Much More than a Choo-Choo

August 13, 2011 by · Comments Off on Chattanooga: Much More than a Choo-Choo 

Scenic Chattanooga

If you are looking for an exciting adventure, a family friendly escape or a romantic getaway, set your sites on Chattanooga, Tennessee.  The city once known for its choo-choo, now volunteers a bounty of activities.

Scenic views and nostalgic barn signs lead visitors to “See Rock City.” The Rock City Gardens opened in 1932 at the top of Lookout Mountain. You can walk among natural stone formations, across swinging bridges, and revel in the panoramic view of “7 States.” The fairyland gnomes entice adults who visited as children to return with their own. I was truly surprised and delighted with the updated venue.

Rock City's Lookout

Ruby Falls endures as another vintage roadside attraction. While the caverns themselves are not the most spectacular, the lighted 145-foot waterfall is worth the underground journey. Every October the staff turn the caverns into a haunted cave.  This event rates are one of the top 10 haunted Halloween houses in the country.  Screams and spine tingling fear guaranteed. Naturally, teens love it!

 

Ruby Falls

Those that seek sheer exhilaration head to Lookout Mountain Flight Park,  the nation’s premier hang gliding school. No prior experience is necessary. Participants and their instructor hook into a glider that’s tethered to an ultralite plane. The plane pulls them to an altitude of 2,000 feet, then releases the daring duo. Take my word on this –you’ll feel like a bird and gain a never to be forgotten perspective on the glorious mountains and valley below. Read about my fantastic aerial expereince here.

 

World-class whitewater rafting on the Ocoee River offers Olympic-caliber thrills and spills just 45-minutes from Chattanooga. Outfitters supply a professional guide to accompany and assist rafters as they traverse class 3 and 4 rapids. Whoo-eee! What a blast. Should you be looking for tamer exercise, think kayaking on the Tennessee River or bicycling a 10-mile pathway through city parks.

 

The Tennessee Aquarium is Chattanooga’s jewel, the world’s largest freshwater aquarium. The facility expanded to a second building: one featuring river ecology and creatures while the other explores the ocean habitat. Your ticket entitles you to come and go at this awe-inspiring aqua world, so visitors can break up the day with dining or other activities. An educational  treat for all ages.

 

Many adults desire a more relaxing vacation and should consider riding in air-conditioned comfort on the Aquarium’s high-speed catamaran. Guests are transported into the Tennessee River Gorge surrounded by a colorful seasonal landscape. While the boat is speedy, the ride is not at all dangerous or scary. Tourists and locals also find dinner cruises aboard the Southern Belle Riverboat  to be laid back escapes.

 

Romantic couples head for the charming Bluff View Art District and find elegant lodging plus refined dining, bakeries, coffee shops and art galleries. The Hunter Museum of American Art along with a hilltop sculpture garden are mere steps away.  The Back Inn Cafe features exceptional cuisine.

 

Don’t leave the diverse city without a peek into the historic Chattanooga Choo-Choo Hotel, or better yet, stay overnight in one of their railroad cars. The former terminal was converted into a grand lobby with fine lodging–a train buff’s heaven.

 

Chattanooga is quite the opposite of a sleepy Southern city. Her mindset is fun, the streets buzz,  restaurants are hopping and scenic beauty surrounds.  You honestly need more than a weekend to uncover all of the diverse treasures.

 

For further information: www.chattanoogafun.com.

 

 


Branson on Dwellable

Tennessee: Flying High at Lookout Mountain

July 4, 2011 by · Comments Off on Tennessee: Flying High at Lookout Mountain 

Lookout Mountain Flight Park

Flying High

 

Look out below; it’s a bird; it’s a plane; it’s me– hang gliding at Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

 

Woo-hoo and a hoot-hoot! I feel like an owl soaring through the sky on unfurled wings. The cloudless day blesses me with gorgeous views, rather like looking out the window of a low flying airplane, but…without the plane.

 

I’ve always dreamed of flying; as a kid I longed to leap from the window and soar off to Never Never Land like Peter Pan and Wendy. A few years ago, although scared, I jumped at the opportunity to sky dive. The incredible experience left me empowered enough to try just about anything. So, when a chance to go tandem hang gliding appeared, I knew I would go.

 

The outing began at mountain top where I found the pro shop and offices of Lookout Mountain Flight Park. Waivers and releases were signed and temporary student registration cards handed out. I wasn’t just going along for a ride, I was taking a lesson.

 


I drove back down the mountain to the flight school which sits within a 44-acre grassy field.  Here I met Dan Zink, manager, who had me step into a flight jacket of sorts with lots of tabs, hooks and rings. Then, a group of first timers assembled to watch a video and complete a short written test.

Suiting Up

 

Soon my pilot, the charismatic Eric Grue, called my name. He had just landed an earlier flight. Eric strapped me in a harness, more like a sling, as I lay face down in a horizontal position. Space was tight so I needed to snuggle up next to him, with my right arm over his back– one of the benefits for sure. The glider has wheels on a frame which allows it to be tethered to an ultra-light plane for take-off. Therefore, I did not need to fling myself off a cliff.

Getting into the Gear

 

The plane rolled down the field and slowly took off; we followed behind lifting with ease. No fairy dust needed; I was Peter Pan. The flight was surprisingly quiet but I could feel the rush of the wind on my face. Whew, pure exhilaration. Eric answered my questions and I had total faith in him- especially after he told me he had earned a Ph.D.

 

When the pilot reached 2,000 feet, the tether was released and our free flight began. I had a rush of euphoria but simultaneous calm; I think that’s a state of enlightenment. I honestly felt sereneness and joy.

 

Amanda Jobe, another first- time glider said afterward, “It was amazing. All my problems went away up there. It was the best way ever to start a day.”

Eric instructed me on how to control flight, “Push your hips and legs toward the left and the glider turns left. Want to go right, do the opposite. Pull forward on the bar and we’ll go faster, push back and we slow down.”

 

The technique was simple and I thought to myself “totally radical.” In that instant of ecstasy I forgot I was a sixty year-old grandmother. Instead I felt like one of those super cool Olympic snowboarders.

I’m still flying high.

If you go:

 

Lookout Mountain Flight Park is the largest hang gliding school and resort in the United States. Every year they teach, certify and solo five times as many pilots as any other school. Their 110-acre resort boasts cabins, bunkhouses and camping on site.

 

Lookout Mountain Flight Park
7201 Scenic Highway
Rising Fawn, GA  30738
800/688-5637 (toll-free)

www.hanglide.com

For other fun activities in the Chattanooga area please visit www.chattanoogafun.com

Top of Lookout Mountain

Mimi’s Back: June Round-Up and Home for the Fourth of July

July 5, 2009 by · Comments Off on Mimi’s Back: June Round-Up and Home for the Fourth of July 

Avignon Papal Palace

The Papal Palace in Avignon, France

Mimi has returned from Europe concluding her roundabout travels of local, national and international destinations. She explored Georgia, Tennessee, France and Germany by boat, train, airplane, auto, taxi, van, bus, bicycle, ATV, helicopter, zipline, raft and on foot.

Sainte Chapelle

Sainte Chapelle in Paris

She hiked a trail in the Smoky Mountains, descended into Forbidden Caverns and strolled the Champs Elysées. She was drenched by the swirling StormChaser and snoozed on a bed at 35,000 feet. She discovered the wonders of the medieval Papal Palace in Avignon and Sainte Chapelle in Paris built by French King Louis IX to display Christ's crown of thorns.

She savored apple fritters in a restaurant encircled by orchards, French croissants still warm from the oven and barbequed ribs that were finger licking good. She lingered at sidewalk cafés tasting escargot and pâté and sipped robust Chateauneuf du Pape wine. She drank beer in Munich's famous Hofbrahaus where she met a complete stranger from her hometown.

Lavender Field

Farmhouse in the Lavender Fields of Provence, France

Debi in the lavenderShe photographed lavender fields by day and cathedrals at night; farmer's markets; mountain streams and her two month old grandson's feet.

It was a month on the move and Mimi is tired. She's glad to be home to watch fireworks and celebrate the Fourth of July. In upcoming blog posts she will share her recommendations on hotels, restaurants, activities, places of interest and compelling reasons to visit.

Feet

Family Feet--Jonah, Mommy and Daddy

Photo of Mimi (AKA Debi) in the field of lavender by Susan Bowen.

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