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

Program Number: 21267RJ
Start and End Dates:
4/26/2015 - 5/1/2015; 4/24/2016 - 4/29/2016; 9/25/2016 - 9/30/2016;
Duration: 5 nights
Location: Hiawassee, Georgia
Price starting at: $1,098.00 - Price may vary based on date, departure city
Program Type: Train Treks; History & Culture; National Parks Activity Level: t (see description)
Meals: 12; 5 Breakfasts, 3 Lunches, 4 Dinners    
Meal Options: Gluten Free; Vegetarian; Low Fat; Low Salt    

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

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.

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

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

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

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
   DoubleTree By Hilton Hotel Chattanooga Downtown
  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 30546 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

 DoubleTree By Hilton Hotel Chattanooga Downtown
Type: Full Service Hotel
  Description: The DoubleTree Hilton Hotel Chattanooga Downtown boasts an ideal location just off I-24/Highway 27 in the heart of downtown Chattanooga, Tennessee. Our hotel is situated only minutes from Rock City, the Tennessee Aquarium, all of Chattanooga’s riverfront attractions, and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (UTC). Shop, dine and stroll the Scenic City that waits right outside our doors. We have complimentary wired and wireless Internet access throughout, including guest rooms and suites. Check email in our inviting lobby or with a cold beverage at the H2O lounge. Our hotel offers a vibrant choice of dining and rejuvenation options. Dine on bistro-style dishes at ELEVEN, plunge into the pool or reinvigorate at the fitness center. Our 11,000 sq. ft. of flexible meeting space and downtown Chattanooga location makes us ideal for meetings, weddings and social events. Nearby Chattanooga tourist attractions include Historic Chickamauga Civil War Battlefield, Lookout Mountain, Rock City and the Tennessee Aquarium. The hotel is close to several businesses including Alstom, Blue Cross and Blue Shield, CIGNA, Unum Group and Volkswagen. Set on two lakes and surrounded by mountain vistas, Chattanooga, Tennessee is a scenic city. With a unique blend of urban and rustic charm, the riverside city offers a mix of shopping and dining experiences. Our hotel is steps away from the city’s riverside attractions including the TN Aquarium, IMAX 3D Theater, and the Creative Discovery Museum. After a family day at the aquarium, cinema and museum, enjoy a dinner cruise along the Tennessee River on the Southern Belle Riverboat. Spend an enchanted day at Lookout Mountain, minutes from our hotel. Trek through Rock City and admire views of the Chattanooga Valley. Discover the waterfalls of the Ruby Falls underground cave, and ride the Incline Railway, the world's steepest passenger railway.
  Contact info: 407 Chestnut Street
Chattanooga, TN 37402 USA
phone: 423-756-5150
  Facility amenities: Automated Teller (ATM) ($2.50) Baggage Storage Elevators Gift Shop Laundry/Valet Service Lounge Luggage Hold Multi-Lingual Staff Room Service Safety Deposit Box Fitness Room Pool Parking: Self parking: $8.00 (per day) Valet: $12.00 (per day)
  Smoking allowed: No
  Elevators available: Yes
  Additional nights after: Call for hotel rate. Press 2. Call ahead to make reservations on your own. Press 2 for the Front Desk.
  Check out time: 12:00 PM

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 Double Tree Hotel. Hotel check-out time is 11:00 am. Motor coach will leave to carry passengers back to Hiawassee by 10:00 am. You will be staying at DoubleTree By Hilton Hotel Chattanooga Downtown the night before.
  Required documents:
The Participant Information Form is required.
  Parking availability:
There is no charge for parking at the hotel at The Ridges. There is an $8 per day charge for parking at the Double Tree if you decide to drive your car to Chattanooga instead of riding on the motor coach.
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




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.


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

Driving Directions
  Atlanta,GA to The Ridges Hotel 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 Hotel & 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 26)
 Afternoon: Lobby of resort. Orientation held in conference room at 5:30 PM.
 Dinner: Dinner at the hotel.
 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 And Music
(Monday, April 27)
 Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel.
 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 will be at the hotel.
 Evening: Appalachian History with music will be presented by your expert leader.
Accommodations: The Ridges Resort & Marina
Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 3: Train trip: The Great Smoky Mountains Railway/Appalachian Concert
(Tuesday, April 28)

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 hotel
 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 will be at your 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 Adirondak 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: 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 29)

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 hotel..
 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 Double Tree Hotel, located in the middle of downtown Chattanooga, within easy walking of restaurants and activities.
 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.
 Afternoon: Dinner is at the hotel.
 Evening: Your entertainer for the evening is a young blues guitarist and singer/songwriter who teaches at the Folk School of Chattanooga. He crafted his music into his own unique blend of raw Delta blues, driving bluegrass, Gospel, ragtime, and mellow jazz to name a few. Sit back and clap or join in to the music provided by a talented musician.
Accommodations: DoubleTree By Hilton Hotel Chattanooga Downtown
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch

Day 5: Missionary Ridge Train, Train Museum, Chickamauga Battlefield, Dinner Out in Chattanooga
(Thursday, April 30)
 Breakfast: Breakfast will be at the hotel.
 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: Dine with fellow participants at a popular restaurant in Chattanooga.
Accommodations: DoubleTree By Hilton Hotel Chattanooga Downtown
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 6: Speaker From The Challenger Space Center, Hotel Check-Out, Conclusion Of Program
(Friday, May 1)
 Breakfast: Breakfast will be at the hotel.
 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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