NEW IN 2015! The Stämpfli Express, the world’s largest rowing boat, will be in Chattanooga for this year's Head of the Hooch regatta! The boat is 144 feet, 926 pounds, holds 24 rowers and a coxswain, and is made up of three, eight-person shells bolted together to form one rowing shell. Rides are available Nov. 5-8. Sign up here for this once-in-a-lifetime experience.
The first weekend in November every year, Chattanooga welcomes some of the best collegiate, high school and master rowers in the country for Head of the Hooch – the second largest rowing regatta in the country. Every year, 9,200 participants drop 60-foot boats into the water while 15,000 people watch.
Ross’ Landing is ground zero for the action with boats launching every 12 seconds. When you’re dealing with a boat that’s longer than a semi-truck, you have to take it out in the same place you put it in. For racers, that means paddling upriver 3 miles just to get to the starting line, turning around and rowing like mad to the finish. For spectators, it means you can witness most of the action from one spot.
People will swarm the grassy patches and stadium seating along the river to cheer on their favorite team, but for a bird’s eye view of the action, try the Walnut Street walking bridge. Those looking to stretch their legs can amble up the Chattanooga Riverwalk, an 13-mile strip of concrete hugging the river that offers views of the course along the way.
If your coxswain is screaming for some chow, you’re in luck – plenty of restaurants are within walking distance. Right on the river, The Blue Plate offers comfort food in ample doses. On the other side of the Tennessee Aquarium, Puckett’s Grocery and Big River are consistent crowd pleasers. Upriver, the Boathouse Rotisserie & Raw Bar has a wraparound porch with panoramic views of the river, raw oysters and wood spit roasted chicken that will not disappoint.
Once you’ve had all the rowing you can take, head to the Chattanooga Market. Named one of Frommer’s top 10 markets in the country, it features over 50 farms, which bring a variety of produce, meats and cheeses each week and over 130 artisans present their unique crafts, arts, farm-fresh goods, and many other locally-made specialties.
Also located a paddle’s length from the action is the Tennessee Aquarium, the world’s largest freshwater aquarium boasting penguins, sea otters, sturgeon and seahorses. For those in search of a cultural experience, head to the Hunter Art Museum of American Art and browse its impressive collection of American art. Afterward stroll around the Bluff View Art District for coffee at Rembrandt’s Coffee House or shopping at the River Gallery.
If you have little ones in tow, let them blow off steam at the Creative Discovery Museum, a two-story children’s museum that encourages hands-on fun.
The beginning of November is peak season for fall color. Travel deep into the Tennessee River Gorge on the Southern Belle or the Tennessee Aquarium River Gorge Explorer. If you’re looking to get a little higher perspective, a hike on the Bluff View Trail on Lookout Mountain provides a beautiful vantage point.