The iconic bright blue Walnut Street Bridge made for an impressive entrance to the North Shore of Chattanooga. The walk from downtown across the scenic Tennessee River seemed to take forever. But finally, I arrived at Frazier Avenue and stopped for a moment. I wondered: what can I do on the North Shore today?
Chattanooga has been one of my favorite destinations since my first visit in 2015. I have explored pieces of downtown and spent an entire day at the Tennessee Aquarium. I’ve been to Lookout Mountain and explored the Big Three attractions.
But one thing I hadn’t done yet was explore the North Shore. During a recent visit I decided it was time to discover all the excitement surrounding Frazier Avenue through the quaint neighborhood. Here are some of my favorite things to don on the North Shore of Chattanooga.
1. Walk or Ride the Walnut Street Bridge
When the Walnut Street Bridge opened in 1891 it was the first bridge connecting Chattanooga with the “north shore” community of Hill City. For nearly 90 years the bridge served as a connector across the Tennessee River until it was deemed unsuitable for vehicular traffic. A local campaign fought to preserve the bridge and in 1993 it was reopened as one of the longest pedestrian-only bridges in the country.
Spanning 2,376’ across the river it takes a good fifteen minutes to walk from end to end. The former roadway is now used for bicycle traffic while the pedestrian path on either side offers benches to sit and enjoy the views. Of course, the fastest way across the bridge is to bike it.
Bike Chattanooga has bicycle rental stations at both ends of the bridge. The short-term bicycle share is easy to use: pay for a rental using a credit card or debit card at the kiosk, use the provided code to unlock a bicycle, and away you go. In downtown the rental station is located beside The Ice Cream Show and on the North Shore side it is located beneath the bridge in front of Outdoor Chattanooga.
Did You Know? Bicycle shares are meant to be short-term rentals only. A single rental fee gets you access to the bicycle for 60 minutes. Before that time has elapsed you must return the bicycle to a docking station or you will be charged additional, and increasing, fees.
2. Start the Day at a North Shore Coffeeshop
If I were to change anything about the North Shore it would be to add more coffeeshops. There were plenty of retail shops, restaurants, and entertainment, but apparently everyone on that side of the bridge springs to life each morning. Kinda weird.
My favorite coffeeshop over there was Stone Cup Café. It’s located beside the Walnut Street Bridge and offers a pretty nice view of the bridge from their balcony. The coffee was just what I needed for a mid-afternoon pick-me-up and I found a ridiculously comfortable leather chair.
MeanMug Coffeehouse was something else entirely. I feel like it was the better place to get some work done with large tables and comfortable seating under the roof of a converted warehouse. In addition to the great coffee they also have a small menu of sandwiches and a display case full of wonderful treats. Hint: get the apple butter cinnamon roll.
3. Dance Along Frazier Avenue
Have you ever wanted to learn to dance the mambo? Maybe the waltz? I’m sure you already know the hokey pokey! You can learn some new dance moves with these really interesting public art displays embedded in the sidewalks along Frazier Avenue.
I laughed the first time I saw them because I wasn’t actually sure what I was looking at. These massive men’s size 12 bronze footsteps seamlessly installed in the sidewalk seemed so random. But then I realized the footsteps were numbered; each set teaches a different dance! I watched a lot of people try to learn some new moves with equal parts amusement and fascination.
4. Do Some Local Shopping on the North Shore
I’m more for hiking trails and scenic overlooks than I am retail shops, but that doesn’t mean I won’t peruse the arts and crafts when I’m in the area. I’m always on the lookout for that perfect Christmas gift or maybe even something for myself. I had no idea just how awesome it would be to shop in the North Shore.
I would normally save the best for last but I’m just too excited to write about Blue Skies! Filled with eclectic gift items, jewelry, and home décor, it was my favorite local shop on the North Shore. This is where I first discovered The Mincing Mockingbird’s line of hilarious journals. These full-size journals are adorned with slogans like “Screenplays About My Cat” and “Business Bullshit”. I picked up one titled “Half-Assed Ideas” and it’s already filled with notes!
Tangerinas was an awesomely funky shop to explore. A lot of the artwork was made from recycled products like antique doorknobs, silverware, and just straight up pieces of junk. It was like walking through a real life version of a Tim Burton animated film.
Another of my favorite places to browse was Plum Nelly. The mismatched shelving was chocked full of an eclectic collection of arts and crafts from local artisans. Home décor, pottery, jewelry, and paper goods abounded. This shop also had a bevy of unique gift ideas that made for quite a few Christmas gifts a few months later.
I just happened to walk in the front door of In-Town Gallery during one of their monthly First Friday Opening events. A tray of snacks and cups of punch sat near the entrance. I leisurely strolled through the art gallery admiring the pottery, woodworking, paintings, and photography.
No list about local shopping would be complete without a bookstore. Winder Binder Gallery & Bookstore was such an interesting place to browse. New and used books, vinyl records, and arts & crafts all jammed into a cozy little building.
5. Catch a Show at the Chattanooga Theatre Centre
Located on the banks of the Tennessee River, the Chattanooga Theatre Centre produces around 10 theatrical performances every year. A talented community of volunteers work alongside a professional staff to bring high quality performances to the small theater.
Performances are held in the 380-seat main theater or the smaller 200-seat Mildred M. Montague Circle Theatre. On Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights visitors are treated to a dinner show with food provided by North Shore restaurants Beast & Barrel and Food Works.
6. Ride the Historic Coolidge Park Antique Carousel
Walking along the Walnut Street Bridge visitors are treated to the sight of the Historic Coolidge Antique Carousel with gilded horse high atop a metal roof. Built in 1894 the carousel has always been an icon of Coolidge Park, spread out around the North Shore end of the bridge.
In 2012 the carousel reopened following an extensive renovation. Local woodcarver Bud Ellis and a talented team spent years reconditioning the 52 wooden rides of the carousel. Today the carousel is open to the public year-round with rides costing $1 per person.
7. Go For a Walk Along the Tennessee River
When the Walnut Street Bridge was decommissioned the John Ross Bridge was nearby. Market Street crosses the bridge from downtown to the North Shore, splitting the waterfront parks in the neighborhood.
On one side of the bridge is Coolidge Park. The large park has a water park in the summer, home to the Moon River Music Festival, and several hiking paths. A curvy path traces the banks of the Tennessee River with a kayak access and several benches along the way.
On the other side of the bridge is Renaissance Park. This park, with interesting angles and landscaping, is almost a work of art in itself. Several paths crisscross the park between the river and a public parking area beside the pavilion.
8. Discover Amazing North Shore Restaurants
Visitors will never go hungry on the North Shore from a lack of options. From breakfast until dinner, there are some pretty amazing places to get something to eat in this neighborhood.
Breakfast at Milk & Honey is a great way to start the day. They have a pretty good menu of breakfast sandwiches, burritos, and side items along with great coffee. Food Works has a robust menu of starters, salads, sandwiches, and steak. The one time I visited was during brunch, however, and the Mother and Child was simply amazing: had breaded fried chicken breast on an open face buttermilk biscuit topped with a fried egg, gravy, and potatoes.
After exploring some of the shops along Frazier Avenue I hopped into the River Street Deli for lunch. That was one of the best cold cut sandwiches I think I’ve ever enjoyed. On the upper level of the same building is Good Dog. If you are a fan of delicious hotdogs this is the place you need to visit. Taconooga is the place to go if you’ve worked up an appetite; get three absolutely loaded tacos for ten dollars that will keep the hunger away for hours.
With menu items like Basecamp Nachos, Campfire Wings, and Gourmet Mac N Chz it’s easy to see where Basecamp Bar & Restaurant gets its influence. Their motto of “Craft Beer + Comfort Food” is matched by comfortable indoor and outdoor seating. Brewhaus is Chattanooga’s only German-American gastro pub. Their menu of Kraut Balls, Glockenspiel Cheeseburger, and line up of schnitzels will be a pleasant introduction to food from the Rhineland if you’ve never tried before.
9. Grab a Sweet Treat
No dinner is complete without a great dessert. Although most of the restaurants serve up a small menu of sweets I still recommend visiting both these locations during your North Shore trip. Yes, both, even if you only have one day.
At Julie Darling Donuts you won’t just find donuts; you’ll find decorative, gourmet donuts that will forever change your perspective on Krispy Kreme. My favorite creation from them was two fresh glazed donuts in a bowl, topped with soft serve ice cream, and covered in Oreo crumbles. Close your mouth, please.
During my recent visit to Chattanooga I discovered a new favorite: my favorite locally made ice cream. Clumpies Ice Cream Company began in 1999 as a family-owned operation to make handcrafted ice cream in Chattanooga. The friendly staff let me try a few samples before I settled on Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookie Dough in a waffle cone. Oustanding.
Getting to the North Shore
The North Shore is located on the north side of the Tennessee River across from downtown Chattanooga. Getting there is pretty easy, but the easiest route will all depend on what you want to do.
From downtown take either Market Street across the John Ross Bridge or Georgia Avenue across the Veterans Bridge to reach the North Shore. Either rode intersects with Frazier Avenue. From outside of town take US Highway 27 across the Tennessee River and exit onto Manufacturers Road.
Once on the North Shore you’ll find plenty of parallel parking and five good public lots. Two lots at Renaissance Park are great for getting to Food Works, MeanMug Coffeehouse, and Heaven & Ale Brewing Company. The Coolidge Parking Lot along River Street is a good place for getting out into the parks.
For just about all other activities or events along Frazier Avenue choose the public parking lot at Outdoor Chattanooga, beside the Walnut Street Bridge, or the parking deck on Tremont Street.
Where to Stay in Chattanooga
Thinking about making a North Shore adventure an overnight trip? There are many wonderful places to stay in Chattanooga with a variety of amenities, locations, and prices. However, there are no hotels on the North Shore so you’ll have a hike or drive at the very least. Here are a few of my favorites in order of distance from the North Shore.
The Edwin Hotel If you want luxury and location all in one place, The Edwin Hotel is where you want to stay. Located at the very end of the Walnut Street Bridge this five-story hotel has a commanding view of the Tennessee River. Rooms are opulently decorated and comes with all the amenities you would expect in a luxury hotel.
Residence Inn by Marriot Although the Residence Inn’s location would be quite a hike to the North Shore, the amenities and comfort of the hotel still make it a great place to stay in Chattanooga. Take advantage of the easy access from US Highway 27, the indoor swimming pool, and the outstanding free breakfast in the morning.
Hampton Inn & Suites One thing I have come to love about the Hampton Inn chain is the delicious free hot breakfast in the morning. The secluded outdoor swimming pool is the perfect place to relax after a day of exploring the North Shore. The hotel is about a five minute drive from the North Shore.
The Crash Pad For something completely different why not check out The Crash Pad: An Uncommon Hostel? This is where I stay every time I visit Chattanooga because I thrive on the hostel experience of a shared living space and communal kitchen. The Super Bunks are spacious, private, and awesome. If you’re not keen on sleeping in a bunk be sure to check out one of their private rooms that include all the features of a hotel at a fraction of the cost.