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The Great Smokies by Train: Day Trips in Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee

Program Number: 21267RJ
Start and End Dates:
4/27/2014 - 5/2/2014; 4/24/2016 - 4/29/2016; 9/25/2016 - 9/30/2016;
Duration: 5 nights
Location: Hiawassee, Georgia
Price starting at: $999.00 - Price may vary based on date, departure city
Program Type: Train Treks; History & Culture; National Parks Activity Level: t (see description)
Meals: 13; 5 Breakfasts, 3 Lunches, 5 Dinners    
Meal Options: Vegetarian; Gluten Free    

Capture scenic views and learn about Appalachian culture aboard three trains in the heart of the Great Smoky Mountains. Hear stories from the area’s long history, particularly those of the development and early influence of the railroad. Enjoy a delightful encounter with Great Smokies heritage as presented by a musician performing tunes of southern Appalachia, and learn about Cherokee Indian life in the “enchanted land” centuries ago.


• Take a winding train ride along the beautiful Toccoa River, with stops in the quaint sister towns of McCaysville, Ga., and Copperhill, Tenn.
• Ride the original railroad line in Chattanooga, crossing four bridges and passing through the pre-Civil War Missionary Ridge Tunnel.
• Tap your toes to the music of the Cherokee and to performances by a songwriter and musician specializing in southern Appalachian music.

Activity Particulars

Some walking and standing on field trips. Diesel engine train and coach transfers.

Itinerary Summary

Arrival Hiawassee, Ga., 3 nights; coach to Chattanooga, Tenn., 2 nights; departure.

Coordinated by Center for Educational Adventure.


Beginning in the 1800s, wealthy families in lowland areas would escape from heat and discomfort to “summer” in Hiawassee on beautiful Lake Chatuge. Today known as the state’s “Country Music Capital,” the town hosts music and folk festivals throughout the year.

Hiawassee: Lakeside resort. Chattanooga: Modern hotel in the heart of downtown.

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

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.
Lee Knight, Folk Singer, Story Teller, Cherokee Legends

Raised in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York, Lee is a folk singer, story teller and outdoor leader, performing at concerts, workshops, festivals and schools. He shares his knowledge of the natural world leading hikes, canoe trips and guiding whitewater rafts. Lee has collected and shares Cherokee legends and plays the Cherokee flute and rattle, as well as the Native American drum. He also plays the five-string banjo, guitars and the Appalachian dulcimer.
Justin Strickland, Locomotive History

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."
Carole Cloonan, Group Leader

Carole Cloonan has traveled extensively in the U.S., the Caribbean, and Eastern and Western Europe, living for a time in Portugal and Paris. She has also lived on the North Island of New Zealand. Conversant in Spanish and Portuguese, Carole has also been a chef for private and corporate yachts worldwide, as well as on private estates and plantations.
Maury Nicely, Chattanooga History

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.
Meals and Lodgings
   The Ridges Resort & Marina
  Hiawassee, GA 3 nights
   Chattanooga Choo-Choo Historic Hotel
  Chattanooga, TN 2 nights
 The Ridges Resort & Marina
Type: Resort
  Description: The Ridges Resort & Marina encompasses a tranquil lakeside escape in Hiawassee, GA. The Ridges is a world apart from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, featuring beautiful accommodations, a relaxed atmosphere, friendly service and memorable cuisine. Just two hours from Atlanta, this lakeside oasis is filled with recreational activities from boating to championship golf.
  Contact info: 3495 Highway 76 West
Hiawassee, GA 30456 USA
phone: 888-834-4409
  Room amenities: Coffee Service, Mini Refrigerators, Wireless Internet Access, 55 Channels Including HBO, Full Sized Desks
  Facility amenities: Decadent Dining, Swimming Pools, Fitness Center, Tennis, Lake Access, Marina & Water Sports
  Smoking allowed: No
  Elevators available: Yes
  Additional nights prior: Call for seasonal rate. Participants are responsible for making own reservations for any additional nights.
  Check in time: 4:00 PM

 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 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 at The Ridges Resort and Marina in Hiawassee, GA begins at 4:00 pm. Road Scholar check-in and orientation is 5:00 pm. Dinner is 6:00 pm. You will be staying at The Ridges Resort & Marina that night.
  End of Program:
Program ends in Chattanooga at the Choo Choo Historic Hotel. Hotel check-out time is 1:00 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 at the hotel.
To Start of Program
  Location:  Hiawassee, GA
  Nearest city or town:  Hiawassee
  Nearest highway: I-75 & I-85
  Nearest airport:  Atlanta, GA; Nashville, TN; Chattanooga, TN; and Greenville, SC are all 2 hours from site.
  From End 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
Travel Details

Atlanta, GA to Hiawassee, GA


From Airport




Commercial Van/Shuttle
Affordable Taxi
phone: 706-970-0794
Advanced Reservations Required


Per Person/One Way:


$185 plus gratuity per group of up to 4 people.
Prices are subject to change.


Travel Time:


3 hours 




124 miles


Atlanta, GA to Hiawassee, GA


From Airport




Classic Transportation of the Tri State, Inc
phone: 706-633-3668
Advanced Reservations Required


Per Person/One Way:


$145.00 - $200.00
Prices are subject to change.


Travel Time:


2 1/2 hours 




124 miles


Option 1: Toyota Prius, up to 2 people - $145.00 + gratuity for one person, $10.00 for an additional person. Luggage limited to one suitcase and one carry-on per person. Option 2: Lincoln Town car, up to 4 people - $200 + gratuity.

Driving Directions
  Atlanta,GA to The Ridges Resort and Marina, Hiawassee, GA From Atlanta - Interstate 85 N to where I-985 branches off to the left via Exit 113 towards Gainesville. Once on GA-369, take Exit 24, towards US-129. Take US 129 North to just past Cleveland. Turn right on Alt 75 N. Continue on GA 75 once it merges with 17 until it dead ends at a stop sign. Turn left (West) onto US 76 and go 9.5 miles, through the town of Hiawassee, toward Young Harris. The Ridges Resort & Marina will be 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: Registration and Check-In/Evening Presentation
(Sunday, April 27)
 Afternoon: Lobby of resort. Orientation held in conference room at 5:00 PM.
 Dinner: Dinner at resort.
 Evening: Presentation in preparation for next days field trip.
Accommodations: The Ridges Resort & Marina
Meals Included: Dinner

Day 2: Train Trip: The Blue Ridge Scenic Railway/Appalachian History with Music
(Monday, April 28)
 Breakfast: Breakfast at the resort.
 Morning: Participants will ride the Blue Ridge Railroad. It starts at the historic depot in downtown Blue Ridge, Georgia.The train winds alongside the beautiful Toccoa River with one stop in the twin border towns of McCaysville, Georgia and Copperhill, Tennessee. your destination is the mountain town of McCaysville, Georgia, sister city to Copperhill, Tennessee. During your two-hour layover, have lunch and take a walk across the "Blue Line" on the street and you're in Tennessee! You can actually stand in two states at once if you have one foot on the Georgia side and the other on the Tennessee side! The rail adventure is a two hour 26 mile round trip, with a two hour layover to explore. The scenic railway was recently designated one of the top five attractions for experiencing fall color by "Southern Living" magazine.
 Lunch: Find your favorite lunch spot in McCaysville. We will be happy to give you a list of restaurants right around the train depot
 Afternoon: Return to Blue Ridge on the train.
 Dinner: Dinner is held at the resort.
 Evening: Lecture - Appalachian History with music.
Accommodations: The Ridges Resort & Marina
Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 3: Train trip: The Great Smoky Mountains Railway/Free Evening
(Tuesday, April 29)

Note: Motor coach travel from Hiawassee, GA to Bryson City, NC is approximately 1 hour and 22 minutes. Commentary will be provided along the way by your expert guide

 Breakfast: Breakfast at the resort.
 Morning: Your journey today will take you by motor coach to Bryson City. The scenic rail excursion takes you from the historic depot through the beautiful countryside of Western North Carolina. Travel by train to the Fontana Lake Trestle spanning 780 feet and standing 100 feet above the water. View the magnificent sunset on the lake. This train trip will take you through the Great Smoky Mountains. Lunch is on the train.You will see beautiful mountains, trees, and flora and fauna. The Great Smoky Mountain Railway takes you over the Fontana Lake by way of the historic Fontana Trestle.
 Lunch: Lunch included on the train.
 Afternoon: Continuation of train field trip.
 Dinner: Dinner is held at the resort.
 Evening: Free evening to enjoy on your own.
Accommodations: The Ridges Resort & Marina
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 4: Check Out Of Hotel, Motor Coach to Chattanooga, TN, Check In Hotel, Track 29 and Choo Choo History, Behind The Scenes At The Terminal, Entertainment
(Wednesday, April 30)

Note: Travel from Hiawassee, GA to Chattanooga, TN is approximately 2 hours and 22 minutes by motor coach. Commentary along the way by expert guide.

 Breakfast: Breakfast at the resort.
 Morning: Travel from Hiawassee, GA to Chattanooga, TN. Your expert guide will provide commentary along the way while you sit back and take in the beautiful scenery. Upon arrival, you will check in at the historic Chattanooga Choo Choo hotel. On several occasions during the Civil War, the shed at Union station served as a makeshift hospital for wounded soldiers from both sides.The Terminal Station in Downtown Chattanooga has been converted into a hotel. You will learn more about the history of this famous hotel on your stay in Chattanooga. It is also within a short walk to the free electric shuttle ride away, which takes you through the downtown area of Chattanooga.
 Lunch: Lunch will be at the hotel.
 Afternoon: Join your instuctor for an informative presentation on the history of Track 29 and the Chattanooga Choo Choo Terminal. Look behind the scenes at the Choo Choo Terminal on a walking history at the historic hotel.
 Dinner: Dinner is at the hotel.
 Evening: Your entertainment will be presented by your coordinator who has just released the CD, FROM THE APPALACHIANS, and is currently working on a new CD of folk songs from the Adirondacks. In August 2003, he recorded with Chinese pipa artist Wu Man, who has recorded with Yo Yo Ma and the Kronos Quartet. He is currently working on a book of Adirondack ballads and folk songs as recorded by Majorie Lansing Porter in the 1940's and 1950's. In addition to having performed throughout much of the eastern United States and Canada as well as Scotland and Tashkent, he appears regularly at the Asheville Mountain Dance and Folk Song Festival and the Lake Junaluska Folk Festival. He has made several CD's of Appalachian music and was invited to perform at New York's Carnegie Hall.
Accommodations: Chattanooga Choo-Choo Historic Hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 5: Missionary Ridge Train, Train Museum, Chickamauga Battlefield, Singing Servers For Dinner
(Thursday, May 1)
 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 MISSIONARY RIDGE, TENNESSEE VALLEY RAILWAY MUSEUM: As you have learned, Chattanooga was a railroad center for nearly a century and a hub of Southeastern U.S. travel. This morning, 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. Visit the museum where railroad artifacts in an authentic setting will educate you in the role of railroads in the history and development of this region.
 Lunch: Lunch will be at the hotel.
 Afternoon: FIELD TRIP TO CHICKAMAUGA: 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 will learn what happened September 19-20, 1863, and how it impacted the war.
 Dinner: 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: Speaker From The Challenger Space Center, Hotel Check-Out, Conclusion Of Program
(Friday, May 2)
 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: Our final program event brings us past trains and 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. 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! The Choo Choo Hotel provides complimentary shuttle to the Chattanooga Airport. If needed, you may arrange this on your hotel arrival day. Anyone that left their car at the hotel in Hiawassee may catch a ride (free) back to Hiawassee with our motor coach
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.

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