Meeting Soar in Chattanooga

Soaring, gliding and performing acrobatic twists 2,000 feet up in the sky before dive bombing the camp is an exhilarating way to spend a refreshing Chattanooga morning overlooking the tree-covered hills and valleys. Take a group of up to 20 to Lookout Mountain Flight Park & Training Center located just south of the Tennessee border in Rising Fawn, GA. Tandem flights for beginners of all ages are available. This was my first flight, supervised by a friendly instructor named Mikey, who “loves to give flight.” It was such a rush and yet so peaceful at the same time, nothing has given me such an adrenaline high—everything seemed so much clearer.

“Chattanooga is to the East what Boulder is to the West,” says Olympic gold medalist and exec director of USA Canoe/Kayak, who I met during RiverRocks 2010, an annual festival celebrating Chattanooga’s natural resources. Both seasoned sports enthusiasts and weekend novices come from around the country to test their skills kayaking, canoeing, whitewater rafting, hiking, zip lining and rock-climbing.

Walk across the wood planked Walnut Street pedestrian bridge that was originally built in 1890 high above the Tennessee River, and hook up with Phillip Grymes, director at Outdoor Chattanooga. He will be glad to put together a custom program for your group. We donned life jackets, picked up our paddles and kayaks and pushed off within sight of the city skyline just after dawn. It was a gentle paddle all the way filled with the sights, sounds and smells of Mother Nature that left us all feeling totally invigorated by the time we reached the city center around lunch. This is a perfect way to start any day.

Downtown is home to the Tennessee Aquarium—a definite must! Every group should experience the River Journey and Ocean Journey exhibits inside the world’s largest freshwater aquarium. Both “Journeys” areas can accommodate groups from 50-1,500 for dinner with dolphins, cool drinks with penguins, etc., and be sure to ask about the sustainable menus.

Today Chattanooga is one of the most sustainable cities in the United States, and one of the key contributors is Tom Cupo, GM of The Chattanoogan. Tom created the Green Lodging initiative that is now a state-wide program.

Just minutes from the 312,000-sf, sustainably designed Chattanooga Trade & Convention Center, the 4-diamond, 199-room hotel is designed like an old foundry, complete with old foundry artifacts on display as artwork. Meeting capacity is 25,000 sf with 20 meeting rooms, and the 85-seat amphitheater is a real plus!

We were also impressed with the ambience at the downtown, 241-room Sheraton Read House Hotel Chattanooga, with its gorgeous Georgian architecture. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this is the grand dame property of the city, with its original 1926 sterling silver and Waterford crystal chandeliers preserved intact. Total meeting space is 19,000 sf, including the opulent 3,700-sf Silver Ballroom.