I love road trips. My friends and I have explored every back road within six hours of our hometown, usually in the middle of the night, with country music blaring from the speakers and Double Cola sitting in the cupholders. Once, we had a whole pumpkin pie in the backseat and a pound of pecans rolling beneath our feet.
Unfortunately, we’re all adults now and we can’t head out on a wild adventure every single weekend. How are we supposed to get that summer travel urge out if we can’t hop in the car and drive straight to the river every time we want? This summer, we’ve decided to explore our own city more. We went to most of the sites when we were younger, but they’ve faded out of our memory and changed a lot- usually for the better, a few for the worse. (Seriously, why did Fairyland tear down the awesome playground with the wood and metal slides? I tear up just thinking about all the fun that was lost with the removal of the best playground ever.)
Today, the fiance and I had a few hours before he needed to be at work. We decided to pack a picnic and hit up one of my favorite spots as a kid- Coolidge Park and Northshore.
Since I was little, they’ve added a new park beside Coolidge, known as “Renaissance Park.” Renaissance Park was our picnic destination, because it’s less crowded than Coolidge, despite being attached to it. Renaissance Park features a wetland, several sculptures, a reproduction Civil War ammunition bunker, and some hills that are encapsulating old industrial waste from Chattanooga’s not-so-distant dirty past. The hills have become popular spots for kids to slide down on flattened cardboard boxes- in the South, that’s as close as we get to sledding.
As Chattanooga is getting more and more dog friendly, we brought our rescue dog and our foster dog with us to enjoy the spring weather. We met several other dog owners in Renaissance Park, and there were plenty of places offering recycled grocery bags for people to pick up after their dogs.
After our picnic, we walked through Coolidge Park. The carousel was going, and children were running around climbing on the animal statues surrounding the fountain. It’s still a little chilly for kids to play in the fountain, but come May, the fountain will be filled with screaming kids and the occasional exasperated parent.
Northshore, where Coolidge is located, has undergone a revitalization recently, with an emphasis on local food, drink, and other businesses. There are plenty of great boutique shops lining Coolidge Park, and some awesome restaurants. From pizza, to sushi, to hot dogs, Northshore appears to have a bit of everything. You’re sure to find something you want there- the hot dog place, Good Dog, even offers some seriously good gluten-free options. They also have specials throughout the week, and a pretty decent Thirsty Thursday. If we hadn’t brought our own picnic, I would have stopped in for some of their fries and a brunch dog, but alas, not today.
One of the big draws of Northshore is the Market Street Walking Bridge, one of the famous Four Bridges in Chattanooga. It claims to be the longest walking bridge in North America, and it probably is, if we don’t count a certain bridge I used to walk across in Missouri that was definitely longer. From Market Street Bridge, you can view the Chattanooga skyline, both riverboats, and a nature preserve island. A drama was unfolding on the nature preserve island today, as two girls had gotten trapped on the island after their canoe floated off. EMTs and the Coast Guard arrived blaring sirens, but I promise, the bridge is usually much calmer.
The only problem you may have with Northshore is the parking. All parking is owned by Republic Parking, and it can get expensive. It’s worth parking directly behind the row of shops at Coolidge, as the cheapest parking is there and the machines are turned off for weekends after 4:30 pm. The parks, especially Coolidge, get crowded during peak “outdoors” hours in the warmer months, and the restaurants do too.
Northshore is not the Northshore I remember from my childhood. It’s matured and localized over the years. I appreciate the efforts to make it greener and more dog-friendly, offer more local food and products, and appeal to everyone. Some of the shops are a little hipster-heavy, but others are family-friendly, leading to an interesting blend of patronage of the area.
All in all, Chattanooga seems to be moving past it’s past industrial days. It’s going to be interesting visiting all my favorite childhood sites, and hopefully finding some new hangouts. The dogs are going to enjoy our exploring too, since there are more places they can go than ever before.