The Great Smokies by Train: Day Trips in Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee
Ride historic rails across scenic mountains and learn about three great Southern cities as you discover Appalachian culture, Cherokee heritage, traditional music and regional cuisine.
Rating (4)
Program No. 21267RJ
6 days
Starts at
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6 days
5 nights
12 meals
5 B 2 L 5 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 3:00 p.m.

Afternoon: Program Registration. After checking in and receiving your key at the front desk, please go to the conference room located near the lobby area 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 learn when and where the Orientation session will take place. If you arrive late, please ask for your packet when you check in. Orientation 5:00 p.m. The Group Leader will greet everyone with a warm welcome and lead introductions. We will review the up-to-date program schedule and any changes, discuss roles and responsibilities, logistics, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer any questions you may have. 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.

Dinner: In the hotel conference room, we will enjoy a buffet dinner including coffee, tea and water. Other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: In the conference room, our expert will give a short presentation on the Cherokees that lived in the Chattanooga area, which will set the stage for the story of the Trail of Tears.

Presentation, Missionary Ridge Turnaround, Chickamauga
Chattanooga, TN
DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Chattanooga Downtown

Activity note: Getting on/off the train and motorcoach. Walking battlefield and standing for some presentations in the field. Standing in museum for up to an hour with benches outside.

Breakfast: At the hotel, we will enjoy a buffet breakfast with a variety of hot and cold items. Coffee, tea, water, juice included. Other beverages available for purchase.

Morning: We will join a local expert for a walk around the downtown area of Chattanooga, become acquainted with the area, and get a look at the local revitalization. Our expert will give us a brief history of Chattanooga as we walk. Following our walk, we will board a motorcoach for the train ride to Missionary Ridge and the train museum. Chattanooga was a railroad center for nearly a century and a hub of Southeastern U.S. travel. This morning, we’ll travel one of the original rail lines into the city via either steam or vintage diesel locomotive. Along the way, we will witness two unique methods of turning a train around. We will also ride through Missionary Ridge Tunnel, notable for its uniqueness as a horseshoe tunnel, in which the top of the tunnel is wider than the bottom. After our ride, we will go backstage at the East Chattanooga Back Shop where the conductor will take you us through the process of restoring trains. After the train ride, we’ll have time for a self-led visit of the museum and learn about the role of railroads in the history and development of this region by observing railroad artifacts in an authentic setting. We will then return to the hotel by motorcoach.

Lunch: In the hotel conference room, we will enjoy a buffet lunch, plus coffee, tea, water. Other beverages available for purchase.

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 us on a field trip to Chickamauga Battlefield, where we will learn what happened September 18 – 20, 1863, and how it impacted the war.

Dinner: At a local popular restaurant, we will enjoy a buffet dinner, with coffee, tea, water. Other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At the terminal after dinner, our instructor will join us for an informative presentation on the history of Track 29 and the Chattanooga Choo Choo Terminal. We will then return to the hotel.

Cherokee Trail of Tears, Music, Challenger Center
Chattanooga, TN
DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Chattanooga Downtown

Activity note: Getting on/off motorcoach. Walking and standing in Challenger Center.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: We will spend time in the classroom first thing in the morning to review the Trail of Tears with our instructor, an expert on Cherokee history and songs. We’ll hear some of the music they would have played and sung on their march. Afterwards, we will board a motorcoach for the Challenger Center. In the center’s conference room, we’ll hear from an expert associated with the Center, then spend time at the exhibits that honor the crew of the Challenger. The UTC Challenger Learning Center is a member of the National Challenger Center Network that has 45 centers located in the United States, Great Britain, South Korea and Canada. The Challenger Centers were built as a living memorial for the crew of the Challenger Space Shuttle mission that ended in tragedy on January 28, 1986.

Lunch: 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.

Afternoon: Free Time. Take this opportunity for personal independent exploration to see and do what interests you most. Please refer to the list of Free Time Opportunities. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions.

Dinner: Hotel buffet.

Evening: After dinner, we will join our expert instructor in conference room for a musical performance and more history of the Cherokees.

Coach to Hiawassee, Train Trip to McCaysville
Hiawassee, GA
The Ridges Hotel & Marina

Activity note: Travel from Chattanooga,TN, to Hiawassee, GA, is approximately 2 hours and 22 minutes by motorcoach. Getting on/off the train and motorcoach.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: This morning we will travel from Chattanooga to Hiawassee by motorcoach. Our expert will provide commentary along the way while we sit back and take in the beautiful scenery. Our motorcoach will drop us off in the small town of Blue Ridge, where we will ride the Blue Ridge Railroad. Starting at the historic depot in downtown Blue Ridge, Georgia, the train winds alongside the beautiful Toccoa River with a layover stop for lunch in the twin border towns of McCaysville, GA, and Copperhill, TN. Take a walk across the "Blue Line" on the street and visit Tennessee!

Lunch: On your own in McCaysville to sample the local fare.

Afternoon: After lunch, we will return to the Blue Ridge Depot, and board our motorcoach for a short 30-minute ride to our hotel in Hiawassee, GA, on the peaceful shores of Lake Chatuge, surrounded by the picturesque Blue Ridge Mountains. After arrival and check-in, we will have a chance to relax before dinner.

Dinner: At the hotel, we will enjoy a buffet dinner plus coffee, tea, water. Other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: Our expert will present a lecture on Appalachian history, with music.

Bryson City Train Trip
Hiawassee, GA
The Ridges Hotel & Marina

Activity note: Motorcoach from Hiawassee, GA to Bryson City, NC approximately 1.5 hour. Train excursion 44 mile roundtrip/4.5 hours. Getting on/off the train and motorcoach.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: We will then ride by motorcoach to Bryson City, where we will board a train for a scenic rail journey from the historic depot through the beautiful countryside of Western North Carolina. As we travel along the Tennessee and Nantahala Rivers, we will enjoy bluegrass performances from local musicians with an occasional Appalachian story. The Fontana Bridge, a trellis bridge spanning 780 feet and standing 100 feet above the water, will bring us across Fontana Lake and into the beautiful Nantahala Gorge. Upon arrival at the Nantahala Outdoor Center, we can relax during our one-hour layover, after which we will return to the Bryson City Depot.

Lunch: A box lunch aboard the train will include a choice of either a pulled pork barbeque sandwich or a vegetarian wrap, coleslaw and potato chips with bottled water.

Afternoon: We will return to the depot in Bryson City for our motorcoach to Hiawassee. It's time to rest and relax after a fun-filled day on the train, with no commentary on the way home.

Dinner: At the hotel, we will enjoy a buffet dinner, plus coffee, tea, water. Other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: After dinner, we will enjoy music played by our expert musician and instructor, who plays many different instruments.

Program Concludes
Hiawassee, GA

Activity note: Hotel check-out by 11:00 a.m.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: We will board our motor coach by 8:30 am to return to Chattanooga by approximately 11:30 am. We will drop off first at the Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport (CHA) and then at the DoubleTree Hotel. 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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