Every year, some of the best collegiate, high school, and master rowers in the country flock to Chattanooga for Head of the Hooch – the second largest rowing regatta in the country. Held on the first weekend in November, 2,000+ boats race down the Tennessee River – with 1,200 of those boats competing on Saturday alone.
Ross’ Landing is ground zero for the action where you'll find 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. If you're looking for a quieter and less crowded option, Coolidge Park on the Northshore is a great spot to see the finish line. Those looking to stretch their legs can amble up the Chattanooga Riverwalk, a 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 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 (Open on Sundays from 11am-4pm). Named one of Frommer’s top 10 markets in the country, the market features a variety of fresh produce and artisan foods, as well as locally-produced arts and craft wares. You can also enjoy live music and entertainment as you stroll through the First Tennessee Pavilion.
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, and there are plenty of ways to see it if you need a break from the race action. Travel deep into the Tennessee River Gorge on the Southern Belle to enjoy the spectacular views. 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.
For the full race schedule, spectator information, and more information about Head of the Hooch, click here.