In the foothills of the Appalachian mountains, surrounded by lakes, forests and the Tennessee River, Chattanooga has rightfully earned its “Scenic City” nickname. Locals spend their weekends kayaking, whitewater rafting and climbing the sandstone face of the legendary Tennessee Wall. The Bike Chattanooga System provides a fun and affordable way to get around (a 24-hour pass costs just $10) and its stunning, 16.1-mile riverwalk has access points downtown and on multiple trailheads, so you can cycle through cityscape and forest in the same outing.

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Woman bouldering outside and an image of a small waterfall in Chattanooga
From Left: Chattanooga Tourism Co. ; Laura Bellucci / Chattanooga Tourism Co.

Beyond its stunning scenery, Chatt is home to some of the best art in the U.S. — on view at the Hunter Museum of American Art (free on Thursday evenings) and the 100+ permanent art installations scattered throughout town. In June, the Chattanooga Film Festival, a “scrappy-ass, punk rock, rag-tag island of misfit films and film fans,” will screen dozens of independent features and shorts for the 11th year running. The city’s lively music scene thrives in the dark, rowdy corners of venues like JJ’s Bohemia and Barrelhouse Ballroom.

A lot of people gathered at a park in Chattanooga
J. Adams / Chattanooga Tourism Co.

Chattanooga’s charm — and its low cost of living — has led to an influx of newcomers, but the city remains dedicated to its existing community. New programs addressing eviction prevention, among other initiatives, helped the city cut homelessness in half last year, officials say.