When I travel and people hear that I am from Chattanooga, I often get asked “What is Chattanooga like?” The media, including the New York Times , has recently lauded Chattanooga with “best town” and “must visit”. However, people really want to know what Chattanooga is like, from a native’s point of view.
My answer is always, Chattanooga is local. Local people, doing local things and embracing locally created businesses and products. This seems to both puzzle and intrigue people. If I have time, I go on to explain.
Here is my explanation…
We have live music outside almost all year round. This is our “community melting pot”. Go to Nightfall, Riverbend, the boat parade, or Track29 for Rhythm and Roots, and you will see people from every walk of life and every demographic. We show up and support our local musicians and vendors. We love our local music scene. Chattanooga boasts local bands of all different genres, who like major recording artists have a huge following.
Hit the trails at any of our parks or the Riverwalk and you will see people out and enjoying the local scenery and beauty that is the Chattanooga area. Why leave to go on vacation to the mountains, when you can drive 10 minutes and hit the trails? Or row on the water? Or walk along the Tennessee River? We take great pride in our city and Chattanooga’s riverfront is one of the cleanest of any city I have seen. Our local volunteer organizations that insure that these treasures are around are highly active.
The availability and support of local food is a common theme in Chattanooga. The ending of food deserts in certain areas of town has become a cause that local farmers and families alike have undertaken. Farms such as Crabtree Farm and Sequatchie Valley farm have gone as far as to offer education of anyone who will listen about the benefits of local food. Restaurants downtown have embraced the cause and many purchase most of their meat and produce locally. The Chattanooga Market and Chris Thomas have played a large part in bringing together farmers and consumers.
Let’s not forget whiskey (Chattanooga Whiskey), beer, Little Debbies and Moon Pies, all of which are made in Chattanooga and are perennial favorites. It is quite possible to go an entire day and only consume items grown or created in the Chattanooga area, which is something of which Chattanoogans are quite proud.
Best of all Chattanooga is a town that you can go anywhere and chances are you will run into someone you know. The local store or the mall, a music event or a 5k race…someone will know you. That sense of “local” is what has brought about so many positive changes in Chattanooga. My belief is that it will continue to grow and change for the better, but keep its local flair.