Stand in one spot and see seven states. Sound impossible? Not when you visit Rock City. Located atop Lookout Mountain, six miles from Downtown Chattanooga, Rock City has been tempting people with natural beauty since it opened to the public in 1932. Today you can see the same massive rock formations explored by Native Americans centuries ago. Planning a visit to Rock City? Here’s what you need to know before you go.
History of Rock City:
Native Americans roamed the area for years before the arrival of two missionaries in 1823 who described the space as “a citadel of rocks” which appeared to be designed in a way to make streets and lanes. By the Civil War Era people had discovered “the rock city” atop the mountain, but it wasn’t until 1924 when the present vision began. Property on the mountain was purchased by Garnet Carter to create an exclusive new neighborhood and golf community. While Mr. Carter worked on the development of the neighborhood, his wife Frieda began to create a rock garden. She marked a trail through the area and imported native plants and statuary and the vision for Rock City began. Today, visitors can wind their way through the 4,100 feet Enchanted Trail planted with over 400 native species of wildflowers, shrubs, and trees. Of course, there is plenty to see when you visit.
Highlights of Rock City:
1. Lover’s Leap- The tragic legend behind Lover’s Leap is a tale worthy of a romantic novel and reminiscent of Romeo and Juliet. A young brave, Sautee, fell in love with the beautiful Nacoochee, a maiden from a rival tribe. They met secretly but they eventually discovered. Sautee was captured and the brave was tossed from the cliff. His lover, heartbroken at the loss, jumped from the cliff to share his fate.
2. See Seven States- Standing atop Lover’s Leap you can see the same views afforded to Civil War officers from both the Union and Confederate armies. Reports from both sides indicated they were able to see Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia from the site. Today you can try your luck at spotting the states through panoramic viewfinders.
3. Fairyland Caverns- One of the fascinating parts of Rock City, Fairyland Caverns is a tribute to Frieda Carter’s love of European Folklore and Fairy Tales. Sculptured Scenes from classic fairy tales are placed inside of hollowed rock inside the cave and backlit with lights. It’s a classic favorite of adults and children.
4. Mother Goose Village – Located inside Fairyland Caverns, this experience offers a walk around view of scenes from classic nursery rhymes like Little Boy Blue, Little Bo-Peep, Humpty-Dumpty and more. This will fascinate the kids so you’ll want to plan extra time to spend in this area. *Note: Because this is a popular attraction, plan for crowds.
5. Swing-A-Long Bridge- An 180 feet bridge swinging bridge offers a thrill to children and impressive views of the Chattanooga Valley region. For those afraid of heights, an alternative route featuring a stone bridge is available.
6. Seasonal Activities- Rock City offers activities for every season of the year. Perhaps the most famous are the Enchanted Garden of Lights, a beautiful array of Christmas lights which runs from mid-November until early January. Held at night, this spectacular light display is a favorite of local residents. Optional activities include kids’ activities and visits with Santa. *Note: Winter on the mountain top can be extremely chilly. Dress warmly.
Start out the year with Spring activities including Shamrock City, celebrating St. Patrick’s Day with live Irish music, Irish dance lessons and Irish food and beer. You’ll also be able to see the Falls from Lover’s Leap running green! March and April are perfect to bring the little princes and princesses to Fairy Tale Nights. There are opportunities to meet favorite Fairy Tale Characters. The kids will have an opportunity to meet Snow White, Peter Pan, Wendy Darling, Cinderella, Prince Charming and much more. There are also opportunities to train to be a night or have tea with Alice in Wonderland. April brings EarthDayz with fun crafts for the kids made with recycled materials and an opportunity to learn about birds of prey. For the gardeners, May features the Southern Blooms Festival, a tribute to founder Frieda Carter, including garden tours and make and take crafts for kids.
During the summer, you can enjoy Summer Music Weekends, featuring a variety of bluegrass and old and new country music. Kids activities, including a Rock Climbing Walk and Mining for Gems, are open seasonally. Fall brings Rocktoberfest, a celebration of Frieda Carter’s German Heritage. You’ll experience authentic German food and drink, live German Music and Polka lessons.
*Note: Some activities during these events cost extra and/or need advance registration.
Tips To Know Before You Go:
*Wear Comfortable Walking Shoes. Be aware there are a few tight squeezes between some of the rocks and the floor on the inside of the caverns can be damp. The caverns are dimly lit as well.
*Bring a Stroller or a carrier for small children as they will probably tire of walking.
*Plan 2 to 3 hours for your visit.
*During the summer months temperatures will usually be warm and humid. Take a water bottle for hydration.
*During the winter months temperatures range from cool to COLD. Dress warmly and in layers.
*Rock City is Pet-Friendly– Leashed animals are welcome on the terrace of Café 7 or to walk along the Enchanted Trail.
*The hours of operation change seasonally so check the website before you go. Typical summer hours are 8:30 AM to 8:00 PM.
*Several dining options are available, including the seasonal Café 7 and Dippin’ Dots. Year round options include the Big Rock Grill, a short order restaurant serving traditional dishes like hot dogs, hamburgers and chicken, Starbucks and the Fudge Kitchen.
Rock City truly lives up to their motto to “create memories worth repeating.” Have you visited Rock City? What was your favorite exhibit?
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