The Best of Chattanooga: History, Heritage, River Boats and Mountain Wonders
See how Chattanooga combines big city sophistication with small town charm as you explore its Victorian mansions, world-class museums, historic trains and modern river boats.
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Program No. 19022RJ
6 days
Starts at
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6 days
5 nights
12 meals
5 B 3 L 4 D
Getting There
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Check-In, Registration, Orientation, Welcome Dinner
Chattanooga, TN
DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Chattanooga Downtown

Activity note: Hotel check-in from 4:00 p.m.

Afternoon: Program Registration. After you have your room assignment, come to the Road Scholar table in the main lobby to register with the program staff and get your welcome packet containing your name-tag, up-to-date schedule that reflects any last-minute changes, other important information, and to confirm when and where the Orientation session will take place. If you arrive late, please ask for your packet when you check in.

Dinner: In our conference/meeting room of the hotel, we’ll have a buffet dinner with coffee, tea, water: other beverages available for purchase at the bar.

Evening: Orientation: 5:45 p.m. The Group Leader will greet everyone and lead introductions. We will review the up-to-date program schedule, discuss roles and responsibilities, logistics, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer questions. Travel and transfers will be via private motorcoach unless noted otherwise. Periods in the daily schedule designated as “Free time” and “At leisure” offer opportunities to do what you like and make your experience even more meaningful and memorable according to your personal preferences. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. Program activities, schedules, personnel, and indicated distances or times may change due to local circumstances/conditions. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding. The Group Leader will walk to the riverfront with those who would like to begin becoming familiar with the area. Continue getting to know one another, settle in, and get a good night’s rest for the day ahead.

Chattanooga History, Master Carver, Study Cruise, Geology
Chattanooga, TN
DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Chattanooga Downtown

Activity note: Walking from hotel to dock for study cruise approximately 1/2 mile. Study cruise duration approximately 2 hours.

Breakfast: At the hotel, choose what you like from the breakfast buffet including milk, juices, coffee, hot tea, water.

Morning: We’ll be joined by a local expert for a presentation on the history of Chattanooga. We’ll then ride to the nearby city of Soddy-Daisy for a special and unusual field trip to meet and learn from Master Carver Bud Ellis, who founded his own hand-carving school, the only one of its kind. Ellis is notable for restoring the 1894 Dentzel carousel in Chattanooga's Coolidge Park with its 52 hand-carved figures of camels, fish, giraffes, horses, ostriches, pigs, and rabbits. At the school, we’ll see first-hand examples of students’ carving abilities and also learn about the history of the carousel.

Lunch: At the hotel, we’ll have a lunch buffet with beverage choices of coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase from the bar.

Afternoon: Next, we’ll walk to the loading dock on the Tennessee River and board the Tennessee Aquarium’s study cruise boat, the River Gorge Explorer. During our 2-hour cruise on the river, an Aquarium naturalist will provide commentary on human and natural history. You are welcome to stand on the topside observation deck or sit in the enclosed cabin with large windows. The Tennessee River Gorge is popularly known as Tennessee’s “Grand Canyon.” It winds along 26 miles through more than 27,000 acres of protected land with awe-inspiring scenic landscapes and bountiful resources. These habitats sustain more than 1,000 species of plants, nearly 200 species of birds, and more than 60 species of mammals.

Dinner: Hotel buffet.

Evening: Our experts will set the stage for tomorrow’s field trip to explore the geological wonders of Lookout Mountain, Rock City, and Ruby Falls.

Lookout Mountain, Rock City, Ruby Falls, Train History
Chattanooga, TN
DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Chattanooga Downtown

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach. At Rock City, walking 100-foot trail; 35 stairs in sets of 4-5 stairs with handrails; uneven, some inclines. Ruby Falls entrance building is handicapped accessible; cave not wheelchair accessible. Elevator down to starting point of cave walk, approximately 4/5 of a mile one way; hard packed dirt, uneven paths.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: To begin a full day of exploration, discovery, and wonder, we’ll board the motorcoach with our Group Leader and take a short drive to Lookout Mountain. The mountain was the setting for two historic battles. The so-called “last battle of the Cherokee” took place in August of 1794. The 1863 Battle of Lookout Mountain —also known as the Battle Above the Clouds — sounded the death knell of the Confederacy when Union troops prevailed. As we ponder its history, we can marvel at the panoramic view of seven states. More than 200 million years of weathering have produced the massive, unusually shaped sandstone boulders in what is now known as Rock City, situated at 1,700 feet above sea level atop Lookout Mountain. During this self-directed exploration, you can traverse a walking trail more than 4,000 feet long that features not only these ancient rock formations but caves and gardens with more than 400 species of native plants. You may walk at your own pace and see what interests you most. There are places along the trail to sit as well as easy access back to the starting point. Our Group Leader will be available to answer any questions about trail logistics.

Lunch: At a restaurant on Lookout Mountain.

Afternoon: We’ll hop back aboard the motorcoach for a short drive on the mountain top to Ruby Falls, where we will go on a walking exploration with a local expert. We’ll learn how this extraordinary geological wonder was discovered in 1928 by a team of excavators who came across it 1,120 feet beneath the surface. The waterfall is 145 feet high, falling through a cavern created by the same geological forces as Rock City and Lookout Mountain itself. When they say don’t drink the water, they mean it! The water in Ruby Falls contains high concentrations of magnesium.

Dinner: Hotel buffet.

Evening: We’ll be joined by a local expert who has been fascinated by trains his entire life. He authored the only book dedicated to the Terminal Station in Chattanooga and has been interviewed for the railroad documentary "Tracing the Tracks." In his presentation, we’ll learn all about Track 29 and the Terminal Station. We’ll then take a short walk to see trains and the grounds of the Choo Choo Hotel, returning to the hotel via trolley.

Music Lecture, Terminal Station, Train Missionary Ridge
Chattanooga, TN
DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Chattanooga Downtown

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach. Walking at Missionary Ridge; uneven, unpaved terrain.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: We’ll be joined by an Appalachian music specialist who has been documenting and performing music of the Tennessee Valley region for many years. We’ll learn about the types of instruments used in pre-1930 string band music including fiddle and banjo and how they evolved into the popular music we hear today. We’ll then set out on a field trip that will take us Missionary Ridge by train. On the way, we’ll stop at Chattanooga’s Terminal Station, saved from destruction by a song. It began serving passengers in 1906, when the grand building was considered a masterpiece of Beaux Arts design. Train travel declined steadily after World War II, and Terminal Station was finally left vacant in 1970. But then, the strains of Glenn Miller’s “Chattanooga Choo Choo” began tantalizing a group of local businessmen. They invested millions of dollars and transformed it into a lively hotel and entertainment complex. Moving on, we’ll ride to Grand Junction Station for a train trip that will take us along one of the original railroad lines in Chattanooga, crossing four bridges and passing through pre-Civil War Missionary Ridge Tunnel, completed in 1858. It played an important part in the Civil War as we will hear from our local expert. The train stops at East Chattanooga, where we can see the locomotive rotating on a turntable. We’ll have time to look into the railroad restoration shop before re-boarding for the return trip. Back at Grand Junction Station, we’ll return to the hotel by motorcoach.

Lunch: Hotel buffet.

Afternoon: We’ll board the motorcoach again with our Group Leader for a field trip to the Hunter Museum of American Art, situated on an 80-foot bluff on the edge of the Tennessee River. We will explore the exceptional collection — recognized as one of the country's finest — with a museum expert. The Hunter has a particular focus on American art from the Colonial period to the present day. The collection includes contemporary studio glass, furniture, mixed media, paintings, photography, sculpture, and works on paper covering a range of styles and periods. The artists include Ansel Adams, John James Audubon, Thomas Hart Benton, Albert Bierstad, Mary Cassatt, Alexander Calder, Marc Chagall, Dale Chihuly, Currier & Ives, Salvador Dali, Willem de Kooning, Winslow Homer, Edward Hopper, Fitz Henry Lane, Louise Nevelson, Frederick Remington, John Singer Sargent, and Andrew Wyeth, to name a very few. We’ll also be able to enjoy splendid views of the river and surrounding mountains. Returning to the hotel, the remainder of the afternoon is free. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. The free trolley is available and can be boarded 1/2 a block from the hotel.

Dinner: This meal has been excluded from the program cost and is on your own to enjoy what you like. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. The hotel is within walking distance of some of the finest local restaurants.

Evening: At leisure. You might like to attend a performance or other event, explore independently, or relax at the hotel with new Road Scholar friends. The Group Leader will gladly help you with your plans.

Walnut St. Bridge, Dentzel Carousel, Chickamauga Battlefield
Chattanooga, TN
DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Chattanooga Downtown

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach. Walnut Street Bridge is a walk of 2,376 feet depending on personal preference. Driving approximately 1/2 hour to/from Chickamauga Battlefield; walking approximately 1 mile including to Park Ranger station/museum, uneven battlefield terrain.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: Next, we’ll board our motor coach and ride to the Walnut Street Bridge. If you’d like to walk, it’s just over 1/2 mile from the hotel. The bridge was erected in 1891 and at 2,376 feet (720 meters) is the world's longest pedestrian bridge. It connects downtown Chattanooga to the north shore. We’ll then walk over the bridge to the 1894 Dentzel carousel in historic Coolidge Park at the other end. (The motorcoach will take anyone who does not want to walk.) This is the antique carousel we learned about on Day 2 that was restored by master wood carver Bud Ellis and a devoted team of craftspeople and volunteers. Bud will meet us at the carousel and talk about his work on the 52 whimsical hand carved animals, the calliope band organ, and ornate, gold leafed benches. We’ll also get to ride the carousel! We’ll then ride back to the hotel.

Lunch: On your own to enjoy what you like.

Afternoon: 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 we’ll learn what happened September 19-20, 1863, and how it impacted the war.

Dinner: At one of Chattanooga's favorite restaurants, we’ll have a plated and served meal with beverage choices of coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase. Share favorite experiences with new Road Scholar friends during our farewell dinner.

Evening: At leisure. Prepare for check-out and departure after our closing session in the morning.

About the Challenger Space Center, Program Concludes
Chattanooga, TN

Activity note: Hotel check-out by 12:00 Noon.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: We’ll be joined by a guest speaker from the Challenger STEM Learning Center who will tell us about its work and educational mission of introducing students to real-world applications. The space shuttle “Challenger” exploded after take-off from the Kennedy Space Center on January 28, 1986. Challenger Learning Centers were developed as a memorial to the seven astronauts who died and to the goal of educating students in STEM: science, technology, engineering, and math. There are now 45 around the world. The first integrated into a university was on the campus of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. We’ll also have time for Q&A. The lecture session will end at approximately 9:15 a.m. This concludes our program. We hope you enjoy Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. Please join our Facebook page and share photos of your program. Visit us at www.facebook.com/rsadventures. Best wishes for all your journeys!

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