Looking to escape the city with an easy day trip that the kids will love and won’t break the bank? That can be a hard task to accomplish. Lucky for you, Rock City is only a two-hour drive from Downtown Atlanta!
Odds are that you’ve seen the iconic red barn’s inviting you to “See Rock City” scattered around the country from Texas to Michigan to Tennessee. Originally named after the way the geological structures resemble a citadel, Rock City rests atop Lookout Mountain and provides the perfect escape for a fun day trip!
With its numerous seasonal events, stunning rock gardens, and jaw-dropping scenic overlooks, Rock City is a haven for beautiful sunny days in the Southeast.
Rock City was founded by husband and wife duo Frieda and Garnet Carter in 1932. Frieda had been keenly interested in European folklore and, more specifically, fairytales. Frieda’s passion for these stories manifested itself in the creation of Fairyland Caverns!
Founded in 1947, Fairyland Caverns contains a number of sculptures that depict scenes from well-loved fairytales throughout history. Fairyland is also the name of the residential neighborhood that encompasses Rock City. The neighborhood is characterized by roads named after significant fairytale characters, gnome statues, and lush gardens. While you’re visiting you can take a drive through Red Riding Hood Trail, Peter Pan Road, or even Aladdin Road to take in the beautiful sights that Lookout Mountain has to offer!
Fun fact: Garnet Carter also was the person to invent and franchise “Tom Thumb Golf” miniature golf courses, prior to the Great Depression!
See Seven States
One of the unique attractions offered by Rock City is the ability to see seven different states from Rock City’s panoramic overlook. Discovered during the civil war, the overlook at Lover’s leap allows the viewer to see Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama.
Lover’s Leap, named after a Cherokee legend that depicts two lovers from feuding tribes who jumped off the cliff to prove their love, provides a gorgeous view of High Falls, as well as a view of the entire valley that will leave you speechless.
Throughout the year Rock City is host to multiple special events including festivals, live music, and holiday festivities:
- Find the luck of the Irish at the Shamrock City. Festivities include Irish dancing, food, and music for the whole family. You’ll even see a green waterfall!
- Celebrate Earthdayz by taking in the great outdoors, participating in fun recycling-themed crafts, and observe the birds of prey show facilitated by Wings to Soar!
- The Southern Blooms Festival is a fantastic way to honor Frieda Carter’s legacy by touring the freshly-bloomed gardens. Guests can enjoy guided tours, help plant the garden, and enjoy relaxing music by harpist, Ellen Shiraef.
- Rock City’s Summer Music Weekends is the perfect way to take in the panoramic views whilst enjoying the sweet sounds of bluegrass and folk played by some of the region’s most talented musicians!
- Put on your lederhosen and come celebrate the harvest at Rocktoberfest! Festivities such as polka lessons, live music, traditional German food, and storytelling are provided to honor the German heritage of Rock City’s founders.
Enchanted Garden of Lights
For 25 years, Rock City has transformed into a winter wonderland for it’s annual Enchanted Garden of Lights. Patrons are invited to explore the elegantly designed lights and decorations while enjoying live music, hot cocoa, and even visiting Mr. and Mrs. Claus.
Rock City becomes split into four uniquely-themed sections: The Magic Forest, Arctic Kingdom, Yule Town, and The North Pole. We recommend that families end their trip at The North Pole so that the children can have time to visit with Santa!
In addition to the festivities mentioned above, visitors are invited to enjoy a 43-foot tall Christmas tree decorated with over 12,000 lights, the transformation of Tortoise Shell rock into Snowman Rock, cookie decorating, live music series, and more!
Taking day trips can be overwhelming. It’s often difficult to try to plan your time properly when visiting a new destination. To make it easier for you, we have compiled some tips and tricks to make your day trip to Chattanooga a smashing success!
1. Start the day off with a delicious southern lunch at Cafe 7, or a coffee at Starbucks in the Cornerstone Station.
2. We’d suggest setting aside about 3-4 hours of the day to exploring Rock City. Make sure not to miss Fairyland Caverns, Lover’s Leap, or the Enchanted Trail!
3. Before you leave, be sure to check out the gift shops, geode dig, or grab a photo to remember your trip to Rock City by.
4. By this time, it should be late afternoon. Our suggestion is to drive down the mountain to Historic St. Elmo and take a ride on the Incline Railway which has been dubbed “America’s Most Amazing Mile!”
5. Why not try one of Chattanooga’s amazing restaurants before making the drive back to Atlanta! While you’re downtown we’d also encourage you to take a walk on the Walnut Street Bridge, which is a gorgeous pedestrian bridge that overlooks the Tennessee River and Chattanooga’s art district.
Rock City is only a quick 7-mile drive away from a number of unique restaurants, attractions, and hotels. Most notably, Rock City is just seven miles away from the fascinating Tennessee Aquarium which is home to over 12,000 amazing creatures from the rivers and oceans.
Looking for a place to grab a bite to eat with the whole family? Try one of the marvelous restaurants or cafes at Rock City including Big Rock Grill, Starbucks, Dippin’ Dots, and many more! There are also gift shops, photo opportunities, and a geode dig available to make your visit to Rock City as memorable as can be!
Additionally, historic St. Elmo is less than ten minutes away. Nestled quietly at the base of Lookout Mountain, St. Elmo is a beautiful community with a number of great dining and leisure options. Mojo Burrito is a great restaurant to check out for farm fresh tex-mex at an affordable rate. Fun fact: they have $1 tacos on Sundays!
After you eat your meal, grab a coffee or homemade pastry at Plus Coffee, or, if you have a sweet tooth, you can walk over to Clumpies Ice Cream for the most delicious handcrafted ice cream you’ve ever tried. We guarantee it!
Lookin’ to bring your furry friend with you as you explore the Enchanted Trail? You’re in luck! Rock City is proud to be one of Chattanooga’s premier pet-friendly attractions. Your pup will even go home with a full stomach thanks to dog treats provided by Nooga Paws!
Rock City is located just miles away from Downtown Chattanooga. Below is the quickest route to get from Downtown Atlanta to Rock City!
Estimated Drive Time: 2 hours 5 minutes
1. Get on I-75 N/I-85 N from M.L.K Jr Dr SE (0.5 miles)
2. Follow I-75 N to TN-58 S/Market St in Chattanooga. Take the TN-58 S/Market St exit from US-27 N (116 miles)
3. Follow TN-58 S and GA-157 S/Red Riding Hood Trail to Rock City Trail in Lookout Mountain (5.5 miles)
4. Arrive at Rock City