Road Scholar : Home
The Best of Chattanooga: History, Heritage, River Boats and Mountain Wonders

Program Number: 19022RJ
Start and End Dates:
10/27/2013 - 11/1/2013; 3/20/2016 - 3/25/2016; 4/10/2016 - 4/15/2016; 5/15/2016 - 5/20/2016; 10/2/2016 - 10/7/2016; 10/9/2016 - 10/14/2016; 10/16/2016 - 10/21/2016; 10/23/2016 - 10/28/2016;
Duration: 5 nights
Location: Chattanooga, Tennessee
Price starting at: $915.00 - Price may vary based on date, departure city
Program Type: History & Culture; Natural History Activity Level: t (see description)
Meals: 13; 5 Breakfasts, 4 Lunches, 4 Dinners    
Meal Options: Vegetarian    

In this undiscovered gem of Tennessee, Southern charm and grand Victorian mansions meet a thoroughly modern metropolis. From high atop Lookout Mountain to inside the underground Ruby Falls cascade, and from the Hunter Museum of American Art to the Challenger Space Center, learn about this small city with a big personality.


• Take a train ride through rolling vistas and the Missionary Ridge “horseshoe” tunnel to the turntable and Back Shop.
• Board the River Gorge Explorer to explore the spectacular Tennessee River Gorge.
• University of Tennessee speakers discuss the founding of the Challenger Space Center and its purposes today.

Activity Particulars

Walking from three blocks to one mile daily. Some stairs.

Coordinated by Center for Educational Adventure.


Tennessee’s fourth-largest city is located near the Georgia state line on Chickamauga and Nickajack lakes. The city was the setting for several significant Civil War battles and later became a railroad hub and industrial center. Today, visitors to the Tennessee Aquarium help spur the multimillion-dollar revitalization of Chattanooga’s waterfront.

Popular hotel located in the heart of downtown Chattanooga, featuring stylish guest rooms, heated outdoor pool, contemporary lounge.

Road Scholar Instructors
These instructors are participating on at least one date of this program. Please note that changes may occur.
Carol Burton

Carol Burton attended Dalton State College, where she began her 16 years as a Road Scholar coordinator with its Center for Educational Adventure. Married to her childhood sweetheart, she grew up in Hampton, Va., and moved to Georgia in 1970. Carol said she was born with a love for animals and volunteers with her local humane society.
Justin Strickland

Justin Strickland has been fascinated by trains his entire life. His first "railroad" job was with the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway at the age of 15, where he eventually became a conductor. Justin has also worked with the Southeastern Railway Museum, Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History, and the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum. He authored the only book dedicated to the Terminal Station in Chattanooga and has been interviewed for the railroad documentary "Tracing the Tracks."
Bud Ellis

When Bud Ellis was an art professor at the University of Tennessee, a student brought in an old carousel horse that needed repair. Bud took the horse apart and studied how it was put together decades ago. This was the start of Bud’s career building carousel horses and, eventually, two complete carousels in Chattanooga, Tenn. Bud is also an excellent woodcarver and artist who teaches students the proper techniques for shading, gold leafing and making the animal look realistic.
Maury Nicely

Maury Nicely is a lawyer and historian in Chattanooga, Tenn., and author of the “Chattanooga Walking Tour & Historic Guide” and the “East Tennessee Walking Tour & Historic Guide.” Maury has served on the boards of Chattanooga History Center and Cornerstones, Inc., Chattanooga's historic preservation organization.
Matt Downer

Matt Downer has been documenting and performing with the elder musicians of the Tennessee Valley region for more than a dozen years. Specializing in pre-1930 string band music on fiddle and banjo, Matt performs regularly with the Old Time Travelers and does solo performances in and around the Tri-State area.
Meals and Lodgings
   Chattanooga Choo-Choo Historic Hotel
  Chattanooga, TN 5 nights
 Chattanooga Choo-Choo Historic Hotel
Type: Full Service Hotel
  Description: Nestled among the city’s buildings and bustle is an oasis that attracts and delights visitors from around the globe. The once busy railway station has been transformed into the Chattanooga Choo Choo Holiday Inn. Its lush gardens include the only rose garden in the state of Tennessee designated as an All American Rose Selection Garden. For train enthusiasts of all ages, don’t miss the Model Railroad Museum. Iits model railroad was built in HO scale, which is 1:87 (87 model boxcars hooked together would equal the length of one real boxcar). The Model Railroad is 174 feet long and 33 feet wide at its widest point. It includes more than 3,000 feet of track, 320 structures, 150 switches, 120 locomotives of all types, 1,000 freight cars, 80 passenger cars, three major yards, two small yards, and four passenger stations. It is one of, if not the largest, in the world open to the public. Take the self-guided tour to browse the landscape at your own pace with plenty of time to read about the history of Chattanooga trains and the unique features of this one-of-a-kind experience! While strolling through the gardens, you can enjoy an exciting, entertaining, and educational excursion around the Choo Choo complex aboard an authentic 1924 New Orleans trolley. The trolley is open most days for 10-12 hours, and only ceases to run in inclement weather. Soak up the sunshine at two outdoor swimming pools amid beautiful landscaping or swim year-round in the heated indoor pool beneath a skylight dome four stories high. Or try out the whirlpool after crossing a bridge over the pool and relax to the soothing sound of the waterfall.
  Contact info: 1400 Market Street
Chattanooga, TN 37402 USA
phone: 423-266-5000
  Room amenities: All rooms at the Choo Choo provide wireless high speed internet, coffee maker, hair dryer, iron + ironing board, and a voice mail system. Non-smoking rooms are available upon request. Rooms have one king-size bed OR two double beds.
  Facility amenities: Fitness Room: Work out on one of three Life Fitness treadmills, two Lifecycle exercise bikes, and one Life Fitness stair climber. Tennis Courts: Work on your tennis game on two courts located in the back of the complex. The lights automatically come on at night. Business Center: For your convenience, a copy machine, a fax machine, and two computers with Internet access available. (All guest rooms are equipped with high speed wireless Internet access.) Dry Cleaning Service: Every morning at 9:00am (Monday through Friday), Champion Dry Cleaners will pick up laundry at the front desk and have it back by 6:00pm. Transportation: Downtown Shuttle. From the Choo Choo to the Tennessee Aquarium, the CARTA shuttle will take care of all your downtown transportation needs. Electric shuttles run every ten minutes and include stops for downtown shopping and sightseeing. You can catch this complimentary shuttle service just across the way from the hotel lobby. Airport Shuttle: In the event that you fly into Chattanooga and stay at the Choo Choo and you do not have your own transportation to and from the airport, our security team will be able to assist you. Please call 423-308-2466. Leave a message or tell the security officer your airline, flight number, and arrival or departure date and time. Call well in advance to ensure timely transportation. The hotel complex also includes shops, pools, gardens, trolley, and model railroad.
  Smoking allowed: Yes
  Elevators available: Yes
  Additional nights prior: Call hotel for rate. Additional nights before and after the program are available by calling 423-266-5000.
  Check in time: 4:00 PM
  Additional nights after: Call hotel for rate. Additional nights before and after the program are available by calling 423-266-5000.
  Check out time: 11:00 AM

Travel Details
  Start of Program:
Hotel Check-In begins at 4:00 pm (Eastern) in hotel lobby. Road Scholar Check-In begins at 5:00 pm in the lobby. You will be staying at Chattanooga Choo-Choo Historic Hotel that night.
  End of Program:
Program ends by 10:00 am (Eastern). Hotel check-out is at 11:00 am. You will be staying at Chattanooga Choo-Choo Historic Hotel the night before.
  Required documents:
The Participant Information Form is required.
  Parking availability:
There is no charge for parking.
To Start of Program
  Location:  Chattanooga, TN
  Nearest city or town:  Nashville, TN, 2 hours, Knoxville, TN, 1 hr. 50 min
  Nearest highway: I-24, I-75, I-59
  Nearest airport:  Chattanooga, TN
  From End of Program
  Location: Chattanooga, TN
    (Additional transportation information same as above)
Travel Details

Chattanooga, TN


From Airport




Hotel Shuttle
Chattanooga Choo Choo Historic Hotel
phone: 423-266-5000
Advanced Reservations Required


Per Person/One Way:


free of charge
Prices are subject to change.


Travel Time:


25 minutes 




15 miles


Shuttle to Chattanooga Choo Choo Historic Hotel Downtown...(423) 266-5000 - free of charge from the Chattanooga airport.

Driving Directions
  Eastbound to Chattanooga and Westbound to Chattanooga EASTBOUND, take I 24 to 27 North toward Downtown Chattanooga. Take Exit 1, Main Street. Go left on Main Street to Market Street. Turn left on Market Street and the Choo Choo is on the right. WESTBOUND, take I-24 to Exit 178. Take the North Market Street turn, travel six blocks. The Choo-Choo is on the right.
  From Knoxville, TN to Choo Choo Historic Hotel FROM KNOXVILLE & GA: TAKE I-75 TO I-24, EXIT 178, (MARKET ST), CHOO CHOO HISTORIC HOTEL IS ON THE RIGHT
The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Daily Schedule

Day 1: Arrival & Check-In, Registration & Orientation, Get Acquainted
(Sunday, October 27)
 Afternoon: HOTEL CHECK IN: You may check in beginning at 4:00 pm. PROGRAM REGISTRATION: Please register with the Road Scholar program staff at our desk in the lobby beginning at 5:00 pm. You’ll receive your arrival packet containing the most up-to-date schedule and program information that we’ll review during our orientation session after dinner.
 Dinner: Dinner will be in the Garden Room off the lobby of the hotel.
 Evening: ORIENTATION: You'll have an informative overview of the program to come plus an opportunity to meet the program staff and your fellow participants during an introductory get-acquainted session. We’ll review the updated schedule, answer any questions you may have, and cover responsibilities, safety guidelines, and emergency procedures. The remainder of the evening is yours to begin getting to know one another. (If you arrive late, please pick up your packet at the hotel front desk.)
Please be aware that program activities and scheduled times could change due to local circumstances. In the event of any changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding!
NOTE: Enrolled participants will receive a packet of preparatory materials several weeks before departure. If you still have questions after reading through the prepmats, please feel free to contact us.
Accommodations: Chattanooga Choo-Choo Historic Hotel
Meals Included: Dinner

Day 2: Hunter Museum of Art, Railroads & Missionary Ridge Train, Geological Wonders
(Monday, October 28)
 Breakfast: Breakfast in the Gardens. Start your day in the Gardens Restaurant, located off the dome lobby, with a delightful breakfast buffet offering a wide variety of menu items.
 Morning: FIELD TRIP: Begin your appreciation of Chattanooga’s history and culture with a field trip to the Hunter Museum of American Art, housed in a sleek contemporary building perched on an 80-foot bluff on the edge of the Tennessee River with stunning views of the surrounding mountains. This panorama is equaled only by the exceptional collection of American art recognized as one of the country's finest, spanning the Colonial era to the present. In addition to an expert-led look behind the scenes, you’ll have time to explore exhibits including paintings, works on paper, sculpture, furniture, and contemporary studio glass covering a diverse range of styles and periods. Just a few of the well known artists whose work is represented in the Hunter include Thomas Cole, Fitzhugh Lane, Winslow Homer, Mary Cassatt, Childe Hassam, Robert Henri, John Marin, Thomas Hart Benton, Helen Frankenthaler, Louise Nevelson, Jack Beal, George Segal, Duane Hanson and Robert Rauschenberg.
 Lunch: Lunch at the hotel.
 Afternoon: FIELD TRIP: Chattanooga was a railroad center for nearly a century and a hub of Southeastern U.S. travel. This afternoon, you’ll travel one of the original rail lines into the city via either steam or vintage diesel locomotive. Along the way, you get to witness two unique methods of turning a train around. Another highlight is riding through Missionary Ridge Tunnel, notable for its uniqueness as a horseshoe tunnel. The bottom of the tunnel actually pinches in so that as it rises, the sides curve out before curving back in to form the roof. You'll also go backstage at the East Chattanooga Back Shop where the conductor will take you through the restoration process.
 Dinner: Dinner will be at the hotel.
 Evening: PRESENTATION: Experts will set the stage for tomorrow’s field trip to marvel at the geological wonders of Lookout Mountain, Rock City, and Ruby Falls. Think geology is boring? Just take a longer view! Millions of years ago, the North American and African plates collided in a collision that lasted for several thousand years. The collision was felt even as far inland as the Chattanooga area. These tectonic forces produced a series of earthquakes that pushed and bent the hardened rock to form mountains. About 240 million years ago, a shallow sea covered the eastern Tennessee area, and it was in this sea that the limestone of Lookout Mountain was formed. Rock City is located atop Lookout Mountain — a true marvel of nature featuring massive ancient rock formations, gardens with over 400 native plant species, and breathtaking "See 7 States" panoramic views. Ruby Falls is a 145-foot underground waterfall more than 1,120 feet beneath the mountain’s surface.
Accommodations: Chattanooga Choo-Choo Historic Hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 3: Lookout Mountain, Rock City & Ruby Falls
(Tuesday, October 29)
 Breakfast: Breakfast will be served in the Garden Restaurant.
 Morning: FIELD TRIP: Depart for a full day of exploration, discovery, and wonder. We begin high atop Lookout Mountain. The high, wide plateau that forms the top of the mountain is surrounded by near perpendicular cliffs that give way to a more gentle slope near the bottom. Early Woodland Indians called this plateau home in the time of Alexander the Great. A progression of Native Americans lived on the mountaintop including Creek and Cherokee Indians. The name “Chattanooga” is the Creek Indian word for Lookout Mountain. The mountain’s human history is almost as fascinating as its geology, as you learned in last evening’s presentation. As early as 1823, people wrote about visiting the area now known as Rock City Gardens atop the mountain, describing “a citadel of rocks” and noting the immense size of the boulders and their arrangement in such a way “as to afford streets and lanes.” During the Civil War both a Union soldier and a Confederate nurse wrote about "Seeing seven states..." — a slogan Rock City still uses. Starting in the 1890s, Lookout Mountain became a major attraction, with grand hotels and three railroads to the top (including The Incline, that still runs today). You’ll walk through this marvel of nature — 1,700 feet above sea level — featuring massive ancient rock formations, gardens with more than 400 different native plant species, a waterfall cascading down the mountain, and wonders such as Grand Corridor, Needle's Eye Big Rock Grill, Fairyland Caverns, Lover's Leap with its famed See Seven States view, and the famous Swing-A-Long bridge that spans nearly 200 feet. Self-guided.
 Lunch: Lunch will be on Lookout Mountain.
 Afternoon: Ruby Falls — nearly 150 feet high — is an amazing UNDERGROUND waterfall, deep within the heart of Lookout Mountain. You’ll learn how this extraordinary geological wonder was formed inside the Lookout Mountain cave during our guided walk. The cave’s whereabouts have been known by local inhabitants for centuries as tales of its huge chambers and winding passages were passed down from generation to generation. The fascinating history includes Native Americans, cave explorers, outlaws, Civil War soldiers, and even a president of the United States. There have been reports of explorers traveling deep into this cave, as far as 12 miles without reaching the end. Located more than 1,120 feet beneath the surface, Ruby Falls is the nation’s largest and deepest waterfall open to the public. Hundreds of gallons of water rush over by the minute and amaze visitors.
 Dinner: Dinner will be at the hotel.
 Evening: PRESENTATION: Get ready for tomorrow's field trip with an enlightening and entertaining presentation on more of Chattanooga's natural and human history.
Accommodations: Chattanooga Choo-Choo Historic Hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 4: Tennessee River Gorge Explorer Study Cruise, Tennessee River Gorge, Fall Foliage, Free Afternoon and Evening
(Wednesday, October 30)
 Breakfast: Breakfast in the Garden Restaurant.
 Morning: FIELD TRIP: Welcome aboard the River Gorge Explorer. This hydrofoil-assisted vessel is the first of its kind to operate on an inland waterway in North America. Four water jets transport guests smoothly and swiftly along the Tennessee River. Angled seating allows each guest to relax in the climate-controlled cabin and enjoy the scenic beauty and wildlife through oversized windows. All cruises are led by Aquarium naturalists who bring the area’s rich history to life and share animal expertise while pointing out wildlife along the way. Passengers will have plenty of time to enjoy the topside observation deck while taking in the scenery on each cruise. Enjoy the beautiful fall foliage as you settle in to the tradition and hospitality of the riverboat. A detailed narration will tell you all about the Tennessee River Gorge, how it was formed, and highlights along the cruise route. The Gorge, 27,000 acres of land carved through the Cumberland Mountains by 27 miles of the Tennessee River, is one of the most extraordinary natural treasures in the Southeast. The scenic terrain of the Gorge creates a unique diversity of land forms. The land provides habitats for more than a thousand varieties of plants, ferns, trees, grasses and flowers as well as a rich wildlife population. Many of these are rare or endangered species. Dozens of archaeological sites bear evidence of human presence in the Gorge for at least 10,000 years.
 Lunch: Lunch will be at a selected restaurant.
 Afternoon: You will enjoy a free afternoon to explore the city on your own. You may want to return to some favorite spot or our coordinator will make suggestions and help you with your plans for the afternoon and evening. There is so much to see and do in Chattanooga that it won't be a problem to fill in your time. The free trolley is available and can be boarded right at our hotel.
 Dinner: Dinner this evening is on your own to sample some of the city’s many different culinary delights. The hotel is within walking distance of some of the finest local restaurants. You may also take public transportation, just outside the hotel entrance, for other dining options downtown.
 Evening: FREE EVENING: Pursue your own personal interests this evening. Choose from a variety of entertainment or other options. Our coordinator will gladly help you with your plans.
Accommodations: Chattanooga Choo-Choo Historic Hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch

Day 5: Chickamauga Battlefield, Singing Servers Dinner Entertainment
(Thursday, October 31)
 Breakfast: Breakfast will be in the Garden Restaurant.
 Morning: FIELD TRIP: During the Civil War, Chattanooga was a key rail center and gateway to the heart of the Confederacy. The Battle of Chickamauga was fought for this prize and is essential to understanding Chattanooga’s history. Only the Battle of Gettysburg was more lethal but unlike that notorious conflict, Chickamauga was a huge Union defeat. Our expert historian will lead the field trip to Chickamauga Battlefield where you’ll learn what happened September 19-20, 1863, and how it impacted the war.
 Lunch: Lunch will be at a popular local favorite restaurant.
 Afternoon: Chickamauga field trip continues.
 Dinner: Dinner will be at the hotel restaurant with singing waiters and waitresses.
 Evening: EXTRACURRICULAR: Experience a classic Chattanooga evening of entertainment and fun as you dine. The area which once housed the rail station's baggage room is now home to the most unique of all Chattanooga restaurants. Your delicious dinner comes complete with exciting entertainment provided by a live band and your own personal server. Our talented serving staff takes turns on stage throughout the evening to bring you live entertainment from all varieties of music. You'll never forget these "Singing Servers."
Accommodations: Chattanooga Choo-Choo Historic Hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 6: Challenger Space Center, Program Concludes
(Friday, November 1)
 Breakfast: Breakfast in the Garden Room.
 Morning: PRESENTATION: Our final program event brings us into the modern world and the future. University of Tennessee speakers will discuss the founding of the Challenger Space Center and its purposes today. Lecture ends at approximately 10:00 am and concludes our educational adventure in Chattanooga. Hotel check-out is 12:00 Noon. We hope you have enjoyed this exciting new program and will join us for other Road Scholar programs in association with the Center for Educational Adventure. Best wishes for all your journeys!
Meals Included: Breakfast
Important information about your itinerary: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the information featured on this website. Itineraries are based on our best information at this time. Circumstances beyond our control may require us to adjust itineraries or other details. We regret any inconvenience this may cause and appreciate your understanding. Information will be sent to you from your Program Provider approximately three weeks prior to the program start date. The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Suggested Reading List

Chattanooga (Then & Now: Tennessee) [Paperback]

Author: Rob Clifton

Description: Twenty-five years ago, the citizens of Chattanooga met together to plot the future of their city by reinvigorating the townÂ’s origins by the river. Changes since then have refreshed the city and the waterfront, renewing energy in this friendly Southern town. This volume documents the landmarks that remain and the ones that exist only in images and fading memories.

Chattanooga Landmarks (TN): Exploring the History of the Scenic City (The History Press) [Paperback]

Author: Jennifer Crutchfield

Description: Chattanooga's history and heritage are embodied in the historical sites, structures and groundbreaking feats of engineering that have defined the city from its beginning. Many of the Scenic City's most important landmarks are still preserved. Yet with so many fascinating historic sites and storied destinations, seeing them all is no easy task. Fortunately, Chattanooga Landmarks offers a helpful survey of the most historically significant sites in the city and the surrounding area. Join Chattanooga local Jennifer Crutchfield as she guides you through the city's historic wonders, both natural and man-made. From the top of Lookout Mountain down to the banks of the Tennessee River and through downtown, Chattanooga Landmarks covers the breadth of the historic sites that make this Tennessee city a landmark all its own.

Historic Photos of Chattanooga [Hardcover]

Author: William F Hull

Description: HISTORIC PHOTOS OF CHATTANOOGA captures the remarkable journey of this city and her people with still photography from the finest archives of city, state and private collections. From the Civil War through Reconstruction, the rise of industry, World Wars and into the modern era, Chattanooga has remained a unique and prosperous city. With hundreds of archival photos reproduced in stunning duotone on heavy art paper, this book is the perfect addition to any historian's collection.

You can't find a better value than Road Scholar.

As a not-for-profit organization, we are dedicated to providing all-inclusive educational programs at great value. From lectures to gratuities to field trips to accommodations - the tuition you pay up front is all that you pay.

Specifically, this program includes:

Plus these special experiences...

View the Daily Schedule to see more

And included with all Road Scholar programs:

© Road Scholar 2016 | Call toll-free: 1-800-454-5768