Chattanooga offers the chance to stay onboard the historic Delta Queen riverboat, now hotel.
  • Chattanooga offers the chance to stay onboard the historic Delta Queen riverboat, now hotel.
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Chattanooga was one of the main starting points of the Cherokee Trail of Tears. It and the surrounding region of southeastern Tennessee are full of culture, preserving important elements of America’s heritage. And all this history lies in a part of the country that boasts stunning natural beauty in the Blue Ridge Mountains and tasty food, too.

The town's certainly come a long way since Walter Cronkite pronounced it “The Dirtiest City in America.”

Where to stay. The Delta Queen is a real riverboat – Coast-Guard regulated and everything – that’s currently moored in Chattanooga, serving as a hotel. It boasts presidents and celebrities as past guests.

Staying on the Delta Queen is a romantic step back into the 1920s: rooms are snug with showers, but luxuriously appointed with tons of huge down pillows, spa robes and some rooms facing the Tennessee River. The upstairs bar also has river views and recalls the riverboat gambling era. A hearty breakfast buffet is served to guests in the morning, while Creole-American fare is available for dinner.

What to do. The Portera family single-handedly purchased and developed the Bluff View Art District on the Tennessee River. This district, right next to the Hunter Museum of Art, is completely complimentary with all things artistic: the Porteras believe in art touching all of the senses. There’s a gallery, artisan bakers (video at left), candy maker, coffee roaster, restaurants, gardens and glass studio.

With a car, you can focus your visit on the Trail of Tears. Right at Ross’ Landing, enjoy the urban waterfront with its festivals and walking paths. It’s also the primary place where Cherokee Indians were rounded up to head west.

Eternal flame at Red Clay State Park.

If you want to see the area as it looked in the Cherokees’ time, reveling in the beauty of nature, head to Audubon Acres. Check out the plants and wildlife that were important to Cherokee settlers, and buy a souvenir at the gift shop that was once a Cherokee log cabin.

Red Clay State Park is on the Tennessee-Georgia state line. This historical site was where the Eastern Council of Cherokee was able to meet when the State of Georgia outlawed them altogether. The park has always been an amazing treasure trove of natural bounty, including healing waters, watercress, wild onions and black walnuts.

Cherokee chieftain statue in nearby Cleveland, TN.

What to eat. Tony’s Pasta Shop & Trattoria is one of the gems in the Bluff View Art District. Breads and pastas are made within the district, and you can design your own dish with a huge list of house-made sauces. The ambiance is super-casual and family friendly.

For Italian food with a twist, check out Café Roma. This Cleveland, Tennessee, restaurant makes its own house-made salad vinaigrettes and ice cream of the day in a bistro atmosphere.

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