B-Day Part 4: Chattanooga

15 08 2017

Part 4 of 5 – 1 part left! Of course, you can’t visit the Chattanooga area without visiting the center of Chattanooga itself. While I wasn’t impressed with the famous Choo Choo (none of the shops were open noon-ish on Saturday, AND the one restaurant that was open said it was an hour wait for a bagel #areyoukidding), I was impressed with some great treat options and the Aquarium.

bday aquarium34

Jellies!!

bday aquarium39

The Aquarium consists of 2 huge buildings. One is for saltwater animals and the other is for freshwater. Above is in the freshwater building in the upper area that’s supposed to be like local mountain-type terrain. The saltwater building has the cooler upper area though due to a stingray petting zoo:

bday aquarium6

…and a butterfly garden:

bday aquarium10

bday aquarium12

Of course, anytime there are jellyfish, they steal the show. Just a couple out of about 100 shots:

bday aquarium28

bday aquarium19

I’m proud of the next one no matter how grainy it is; this next jelly was incredibly dark – much post processing was needed even with my highest ISO. The orange light you see moves through them looking like an electrical current. It’s the coolest thing ever.

bday aquarium31

Outer space jelly.
These buildings are massive –  I mean really massive. You could take pictures for a half a day. We only had a couple hours. Moving to the freshwater building, the seahorse room was my personal favorite, but all my pics there had too much noise. The cute otters came out though:

bday aquarium40

And amidst the piranhas and tree frogs are some guys practically out of my backyard:

bday aquarium44

And now – switching gears completely: the other highlight – TREATS!!

I had read up on The Hot Chocolatier on Trip Advisor and was dying to try it. Was not disappointed! So worth it! So amazing! Please open one in Jax!!

bday chocolatier6

It’s a little space right across the Choo Choo and has the biggest variety of hot chocolate options I’ve ever seen, each topped with your choice of homemade marshmallow (!) or whipped cream. Yum!

bday chocolatier2

Everything was good. Understatement! And, yes, they do have other treats:

bday chocolatier7

Wanted to try this macaron cake, but was too full; how pretty!

bday chocolatier8

But here’s the star of the show, complete with giant homemade marshmallow:

bday chocolatier9

The other good treat place is a bakery called Koch’s that’s been around for years. We were only able to stop on the way out of town, and only had my cell for pics which didn’t turn out great. But they have a great variety of cookies and donuts:

bday kochs2

…and an awesome mural.

bday kochs4

Donut selfie! Anyway, one final set of birthday pics next week. 🙂

Advertisements




B-Day Part 3: Arboretum and Cloud Canyon

8 08 2017

On my actual birthday we stopped by the Reflection Riding Arboretum, which is also on Lookout Mountain, followed by an unplanned but amazing hike at Cloud Canyon State Park. The highlight of the Arboretum is undoubtedly the tree house!

bday arboretum8

The rest of the Arboretum I found a little disappointing. Maybe I was expecting too much. They do have an area with animals they are rehabilitating, which is nice, and then the rest of it is mainly this huge grassy area you can do a driving tour around, and they give you a brochure outlining the path with points of note, but the brochure doesn’t always match to what’s there. Anyway, this tree house was fantastic.

bday arboretum10

It’s not very big and is really built on stilts over this wetlands area, but the trees run right through it and the architecture – well, just look! Plus it has some cute details…

bday arboretum11

The interior is fairly sparse but quiet and peaceful. There’s a little bench-swing and some other chairs inside. I didn’t get a good shot of it, but there’s also some interesting carvings.

bday arboretum12

..not to mention some cool stained glass windows.

bday arboretum14

I just love the aesthetic of the place!

bday arboretum15

One last tree house shot, walking away toward the canoe launch and animals:

bday arboretum16

The Arboretum didn’t take as long as expected, but it was around 4:00 I think, so near closing time for many attractions. However, state parks are open til sundown. We discovered Cloudland Canyon State Park not too far away and decided to head there.

bday cloud canyon20

For something unplanned, Cloud Canyon ended up being one of the most memorable parts of the trip. You park up on a mountain (obviously), and immediately come to one of many overlooks on scenes like the one above. I took a ton of shots with my camera and cell and not a single one captures the grandeur of the place (needed a wide angle). You can barely see a waterfall in the bottom left of the picture. The main waterfall attractions are down in the bottom of the canyon – a very long trek!

bday cloud canyon23

Rock formations everywhere! Above, this is pretty early on in the journey. Before we were sweating with burning calves from countless stairs.

bday cloud canyon25

Impressive rocks tower over you as you make the descent. At one point, there’s a fork and you choose – the waterfall to the left is easier to get to, and in my opinion, prettier to look at. People climbing back up from the right side looked like they were about to pass out (to be fair, it was really hot).

bday cloud canyon37

…making our way down to the waterfall on the left (I’ve forgotten its name!)…and here it is, a first glimpse:

bday cloud canyon36

If I’d had a towel I would have loved to have taken my shoes off and gone in the water, even though it says you aren’t supposed to (observe: no one heeding the sign).

bday cloud canyon28

Beautiful!! Next we made our way to the waterfall on the right. You can’t get as close (technically, you can, but you have to go down off a boardwalk so it’s trickier).

bday cloud canyon39

And then back up we go…

bday cloud canyon38

This is just partway. It doesn’t look like much, but according to my FitBit, we climbed 56 floors. Oye! Learn from my mistakes and bring a water bottle. Oh and when you get back to the top (overlook part), go all the way to the right to the furthest overlook – it has the best views!





B-Day Part 1: Rock City and Fairyland Caverns

25 07 2017

bday rock city15

For the past 3 – 4 years, I’ve made a point to take some time off at my birthday in May and go somewhere fun. This year it was a blast from the past – visiting a place I last saw at age 4: Rock City on Lookout Mountain! Lookout Mountain shares land with both Georgia and Tennessee and is basically right on the edge of Chattanooga.

Rock City was beyond amazing – not a single picture I took begins to do it justice.

bday rock city18

We got there on a Friday close after opening – which I would recommend. It’s great to have it mostly to yourself before the crowds show up.

bday rock city20

At first it was overcast, and the early morning + height and scope of the huge rocks kept in the cool. Everything had a misty, dewey feel.

bday rock city27

The path works its way around and through rocks, taking you up on outcroppings, under and through narrow passageways… it feels like an adventure.

bday rock city43

Look at the scope! Did not have a proper lens for capturing it. What I don’t show here but did take pics of are the cute labels they have for rock formations like “Mushroom Rock” or the little gnomes set up in random places.

bday rock city13

bday rock city52

The few animals were a surprise. A couple deer reside here in an enclosure, and wild chipmunks run around everywhere, usually too quickly to get a decent shot, but I did try:

bday rock city70

The waterfall under Lover’s Leap has a couple great “selfie” spots and a rainbow wall (with glass windows in each color of the rainbow) that you can walk behind. Only got cell phone shots there, and they weren’t great.

bday rock city56

bday rock city46

At the top-most area is the lookout over 7 states at once. It’s actually a big area with viewing binoculars and a café.  You then make your way down through more bridges and cavern-like areas with cute names:

bday rock city51

My childhood memories revolved around a part of Rock City called Fairyland Caverns, which you wander into near the end of the path:

bday rock city62

It’s definitely a hold over from decades past (mostly the 30s) when these kind of attractions (specifically the dark park and walk through sites) were big. Well, I still thought it was awesome.

bday fairyland23

First, the entrance is decked out in all these crystals (see the one peeking out under the plants above?), and the ceiling is embedded with coral.

bday fairyland6

bday fairyland7

You descend down into the cavern which becomes super dark except for little scenes embedded in the walls of gnome life:

bday fairyland9

bday fairyland10

Above, green light illuminates the path behind us. Then finally you get to the main area with fairy tales depicted in individual cave windows. I took a picture for each but will only show a few here.

bday fairyland14

Little Red Riding Hood…and Cinderella:

bday fairyland17

My favorite was Snow White:

bday fairyland18

It concludes in a large room with a huge castle and other fairy tale characters surrounding it.

bday fairyland21

Looking back, I wish I’d taken different lenses because the whole attraction was amazing and so different than anything you see anywhere else. Would def recommend. Even better, you can buy joint tickets to Ruby Falls which is practically right around the corner, and coming up next!








%d bloggers like this: