Every year we get to have a Hallmark Christmas weekend at the Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel.
A mere two and half hours from Nashville, Chattanooga is a cool little weekend getaway, no matter what time of year.
You’ve heard of the Chattanooga Choo Choo song, but you probably don’t know that this famous song from Glenn Miller is partly responsible for the hotel as it exists today. The first Chattanooga Choo Choo Train was Cincinnati Southern Railroad’s small wood burning steam locomotive that started its journey through history from Cincinnati, Ohio on March 5, 1880.
Nearly all trains traveling to the South passed through Chattanooga. The song about the train inspired businessmen to save the Terminal Station and a hotel was conceived. The Choo Choo is on display behind the hotel complex. Read more about the history here.
Terminal Station became a hotel complex and over the years has experienced many millions of dollars of renovations. Every year, we see something new and this year was probably the most amazing so far with more to come.
Enter the spectacular lobby, get picture in front of the tree, stand in line for Santa, have a drink in the bar off the lobby.
If you have little ones, make an appointment for an elf tuck-in visit. Two elves comes to your room to tell a story and tuck the kids in. Even though the twins are nine, they still enjoy this tuck-in service.
Santa is jolly and ready for pictures. There’s a line, but it moves pretty fast. You can take turns and sit in the bar sipping hot chocolate or something else. I go for something else.
Head outside for life sized chess, checkers, jenga and corn hole. The twins play chess every year and it’s a highlight for them.
Ice on the Landing. Rent some ice skates and pretend you’re in Rockefeller Center, and yes there’s Christmas songs, a hot chocolate bar, and Puckett’s Food truck.
The Hot Chocolatier is Across the Street and a Must Visit
No trip would be complete without a walk across the street to the Hot Chocolatier, an artisan Hot Chocolate Shop with Homemade Marshmallows and an assortment of every kind of hot chocolate you can imagine.
They are closed on Sundays so you must do this on Saturday night, waiting in a long line that moves very fast, so go. The Hot Chocolatier is locally owned, serving hot chocolate, excellent house-made chocolate candy, gelato, pastries and full-size cakes.
The Hot Chocolatier also has gelato. FruityPebbles may take you back to childhood.
Order pizza from the Silver Diner Pizza Car – Pizza is available in one of the train cars, just in case.
Next March, Frothy Monkey opens right smack off the lobby, which is my personal favorite coffee shop in the Nashville area. I’m often at the Franklin location drinking honey rosemary latte. The lines will be long, but worth it and we can’t wait.
We always do dinner down the street at the Public House, which has great food for decent prices and menu items like duck confit and steak frites, plus a really good cheese plate. We love the food and it’s kid friendly. There’s a kid’s menu, but the boys always eat the cheese plate and a bowl of their homemade soup. The lighting is soft; you can have conversation, and they make a great old fashioned.
If you like burgers, a little tiny drive will take you to the Urban Stack, a few minutes drive from the hotel.
Make sure to take a drive past the blue trees on the river front. You might as well cross the bridge and have ice cream at Clumpies
There’s a lot more you can do in Chattanooga, but if it’s Christmas, and you’re making those kind of memories, stick close to the hotel and take advantage of all it’s stuff.
The Fabulous Vintage Ladies Room
It’s worth taking a peak in. The Crystal chandeliers, the marble sides in the stalls, gives a true glimpse into yesteryear’s glamour.
Hush Lounge at the Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel
There’s a vintage speakeasy type bar, the Hush Lounge. Have a cocktail there in the afternoon if you can. At night, the doors open to live music which you can attend for a cover price. Always check the band schedule. Some great, some not so great. Tickets run about $25-$30 each.
You can choose a regular room (rooms are renovated and livable, not luxurious) or you can stay in a train car.
There are a few shops and they keep adding more.
Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel: Refinery 423
The newest is the Refinery 423 located in a train car, which has hipster and not so hipster men stuff. I wanted these wooden log cocktail tables, at least one of them. The craftmanship is spectacular.
The bourbon maple syrup is amazing. Great stocking stuffer.
Brunch at the Stir
This is the perfect ending to a weekend. The Stir has vintage, historic ambiance, a jazz band, good food and service including big windows, lots of sunshine. There’s an oyster bar and gorgeous vintage inspired bar bar blending right into the history of building.
The only thing I didn’t understand is the hotel is all about Christmas and the entrance of the Stir has pumpkins at their door. Odd?
If you order a brunch item, the cold bar comes with it, full of salads, biscuits and cookies plus $1 mimosas.
If you’re willing to leave the hotel in your car because you want the world’s best pancakes, go to Aretha Frankenstein’s 7:00 a.m. to Midnight
If you don’t mind going super early or waiting in line, legendary pancakes and gigantic biscuits can be found at Aretha Frankenstein’s. I wrote about this place years ago here. If you can’t get there, order the insanely good pancake mix. It is just that good. I promise. It’s so kitschy; the kid’s will love it.
If you decide to venture outside of the Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel, check out their packages, which include some fantastic adventures involving more trains and a hotel stay.
Conductor’s Special. Ride the rails. Take an journey on the Tennessee Valley Railroad’s Missionary Ridge Local, one of Chattanooga’s original rail lines.
Mountain Top Adventures: The Lookout Mountain Attractions include three world-famous natural attractions that showcase the natural beauty of Lookout Mountain and views of the Chattanooga Valley – Ruby Falls, Rock City, and the Incline Railway.Take a ride aboard the world’s steepest passenger railway and enjoy the scenic views of Chattanooga’s mountains and valleys aboard the Incline Railway as it travels up Lookout Mountain.
One More thing while You’re at the Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel
End the trip with a quick car ride down to the river to the see the blue trees. Artis, Konstantin Dimopoulos led the city in coloring the trees a vibrant blue to “raise awareness of the city’s natural assets, and educate people about the importance of tress, and the role arts plays in highlighting environmental, social and political issues.”
I honestly don’t know exactly what that means, but they do add charm and spark to the river.
We usually visit the Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel at Christmas Time, but Chattanooga is charming small city to visit any time of the year.