After 12 years in Cookeville, the BlueCross Bowl state championship games move 100 miles or so south down Highway 111 to the confines of Finley Stadium in Chattanooga.
Grudgingly, we say goodbye to the morning butter twist donuts from Ralph’s, the Spankie’s burger, the smoky aroma of the Blue Pig, and, for those in the know, the pizza rolls from T-Mart for those late-night cravings.
But for those of you making the trip to Chattanooga for the title games, we’ve sent out the advanced guard to scout out the local 411 on the happenings in the “Scenic City.” The town is in the midst of a renaissance of sorts, developing new and interesting attractions and dining experiences, turning what was once a quick restroom and coffee stop between Nashville and Atlanta into a true destination location.
Let’s start with the venue, Finley Stadium, located at 1826 Carter Street, home of the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga Mocs, as well as other events. Parking tickets will be sold on-site, cash or card. There are several pay lots throughout the city, the closest being the CARTA South garage next to the Chattanooga Choo-Choo within walking distance, but some close early, so if you have a late game, make sure to check those hours. Most will cost $6-$10. You can check them out here. If you are staying downtown, you might consider rideshares.
Things to do
If you’re planning on some extra time in Chattanooga, there will be plenty to do and see around town. Of course, the Tennessee Aquarium, is the most notable, with touch tanks, penguin and otter exhibits, and more fish than you can shake a hook at. And of course, you have the classics like Rock City and Ruby Falls.
For history buffs, the Battle of Chattanooga and Chickamauga National Military Battlefield is free and a short car ride away. Keeping with that, Chattanooga National Cemetery at 1200 Bailey Avenue is a couple of miles away from Finley Stadium. Look for the monument to “Andrews’ Raiders,” topped with a bronze replica of “The General,” a locomotive used in their daring raid. Several Medal of Honor winners are buried here including Desmond Doss, the “conscientious objector” that saved many lives, memorialized in the 2016 film “Hacksaw Ridge.”
Speaking of Medal of Honor winners, you can learn about them and the history of the nation’s highest honor at the Charles H. Coolidge Medal of Honor Heritage Center. It is located right next to the Tennessee Aquarium downtown.
For more family-friendly activities, there’s the Chattanooga Zoo at 301 North Holtzclaw Ave. Parking is free. Or see the wonders at the Creative Discovery Museum, designed for kids 12 years and under.
If you are looking to wander around the downtown area stop in at the Hot Chocolatier at 1437 Market St. Less than a mile away from Finley Stadium, this locally owned artisan chocolate shop has just about every fine confection you can think of. But their hot chocolate will be a welcome addition to your December gameday experience. Located across the street and attached to the Chattanooga Choo Choo hotel is a Nashville favorite, The Frothy Monkey, at 1400 Market St. If tea is more your thing, check out Wildflower Tea Shop.
Located at 429 Broad St., the Moon Pie General Store is a must-stop. Chattanooga has been the home of Moon Pie for more than 80 years. Just make sure you get a “bakery-fresh” moon pie and RC Cola.
Chattanooga is fertile ground for eclectic eats. Many downtown locations are very popular and do not take reservations, so we encourage you to phone or visit their websites in advance to get on the waitlist. Here are a few of our favorites:
For breakfast/brunch, try Ruby Sunshine downtown. Moderately priced, it’s a ‘Nooga outpost of a New Orleans fave, located at 405 Market St. Another great breakfast spot is Tupelo Honey, at 1110 Market St. it’s food with a southern flair.
For lunch or dinner, visit State of Confusion at 301 E. Main St for food with a Latin flair. They also offer winter igloos on the deck for small groups. Slick’s has inexpensive burgers and hot dogs in a casual and fun atmosphere. The Southside Social has a restaurant and bar with a bowling alley and live music and is located right at the stadium.
And Lupi’s Pizza, 406A Broad Street, sells authentic, hand-tossed pizza both by the slice and whole pies, with local brews for a moderate price in a family-friendly atmosphere.
Then, there’s always City Café, a 24-hour diner featuring more than 400 menu options with some of the largest cake slices around.
For more upscale dining, there’s the Old Gilman Grill for contemporary American food and St. John’s Meeting Place for French/American. If money is no object and you really want to impress your friends/wife/girlfriend/boss, Bridgeman’s Chophouse at the Read House will not disappoint.
For adults only, the Rosecomb in North Chattanooga has a great vibe. Located in a 1920’s cottage, their fun friendly staff serves inventive small plates. The Pickle Barrel is a classic pub in a flatiron building with a great “dive bar” serving great food. Or, have a tasting at The Chattanooga Whiskey Experimental Distillery. And finally, for the best view in town, Whiskey Thief at the Hotel Edwin has a rooftop bar with mountain and river views and a huge bourbon and whiskey list.
Whatever your inclination, Chattanooga has something for everyone. Make the most of your trip and be safe, but win or lose, make your trip memorable.
From all of us at 615 Preps, enjoy the games!