What is the first rule of Long Weekends? Yup! You always, always, do something fun. Long weekends are not to be wasted. Sure, you could relax, but you can relax any other weekend :P. These are the weekends that could easily turn into 4 or 5 day vacations if you play your cards right.
This past Memorial Day weekend, I decided to drive down to Nashville, TN to meet up with a friend and then drive together to Atlanta, GA by way of a giant pit stop in Chattanooga, TN- a city I had never visited.
Friends had told me to visit Ruby Falls (a waterfall inside a cave), Rock City (where I could see about 7 states at once), and ride the Incline Railway to the top of Lookout Mountain. And thanks to Pinterest, I had also found a few other things to see and do so I was really pumped. For Atlanta, I planned to visit Stone Mountain and maybe do some hiking there. Plus I heard they had a fantastic light show in the evenings.
I left work on Friday afternoon and drove the 4-ish hours to Nashville. That evening was spent catching up with my friend and relaxing. The plan was to start off early Saturday morning to Chattanooga, do all the fun stuff, then keep driving to arrive in Atlanta Saturday night. Spend the day in Atlanta on Sunday and depending on how things went, head back to Nashville Sunday evening or early Monday morning so I would have enough time to drive back home and at least have some time to rest before work on Tuesday.
Reality: First of all, we definitely did not wake up early. But it was no big deal, we had the whole long weekend ahead of us and a car with a tank full of gas :). Flexibility was the name of the game and I was going to attempt to be a great team player by relaxing the reins a little that weekend. We finally left Nashville; full of energy, in high spirits, listening to music. My friend played Ferrari by Yemi Alade over and over – it finally, officially, became our #tripanthem.
After about an hour of driving, my friend saw a billboard to exit for the Jack Daniel’s Distillery and suggested that we make a detour. I was a bit hesitant at first; I mean we had a planned itinerary and were already behind schedule but I decided to be spontaneous and said sure, let’s do it! Best decision [of the trip] ever.
I had never been there and my friend hadn’t either. She had lived in Tennessee for a few years and had always wanted to visit. I, too, had thought of it several times both when I lived in Tennessee and afterwards on several visits there but just never made it to the Jack Daniel’s Distillery. So anyway, we thought it was right off the exit- it wasn’t. We probably drove another 30 minutes or so. But it was one of those things where you had already invested so much [time and effort], it was best to just follow through.
Again, because of time, we decided we would have a quick look around, take a few pictures, and be on our way to Chattanooga. We went in and asked about the tours and they said it was about an hour’s wait so we said we were definitely not waiting. Somehow we stayed- and it was not for the hopes of getting free samples (there were none anyway). We entertained ourselves by looking through the exhibits at the lobby and the gift shop and the hour went by quickly.
Finally, it was our group’s turn. Even though it was a slightly wet day, it was a great tour and I highly recommend it! There is a family friendly option, which is also free- the one we did. And there is one where you pay, but you also get to sample a few Jack Daniel’s specials.
Also, apparently, Jack Daniel wasn’t a very tall man.
And he got killed by a safe! #truestorybro
We were taken through the whole process of how the whiskey is made, which is really interesting. We saw Jack’s old office, where he first discovered the water source he used for the whiskey, the wood they use in mellowing the whiskey, the fermentation process, the barrel making process, bottling, the single barrel club, everything!
By the time we left it was kind of late but since we were going to pass through Chattanooga to get to Atlanta anyway we decided to go to Ruby Falls. When we got there, the queue was ridiculous and they were about to close so we decided we’d go back on Monday (incentive for an early start). We were hungry so we decided to have dinner in Chattanooga. Thanks to Yelp suggestions, we dined at a Caribbean restaurant and the food was very delicious. We drove through the downtown area, just because, and to spy on the nightlife before heading to Atlanta.
Sunday in Atlanta was very relaxing. We went to church, then met up with some friends for brunch in midtown. Then went to a mall where it took us more time to find parking than to actually shop. Stone Mountain didn’t happen mostly because no one else really wanted to go. haha. I was bummed about missing the light show but the main goal was to wake up early the next day so we could have maximum time in Chattanooga. It was our last shot. Not really last shot forever, but you know …
We did slightly better Monday morning and left early. The queue at Ruby Falls was still ridiculous but at least we had more time to spend. We were initially going to get a combo ticket for all 3 attractions or at least 2- to save some $$ but when we found out how long it could take to actually finish them, we decided to take them one at a time.
There’s an elevator you ride down into the cave and then you walk [sometimes crouch] through the cave to get to the waterfall. It’s not a boring walk, by any means. There are a lot of interesting stalactite and stalagmite formations (like the donkey, the chandelier, steak and potatoes, etc) and stories about the discovery of the cave to keep you entertained along the way, especially if your tour guide is super awesome like ours was.
Seeing the waterfall was just spectacular! We heard the water before we saw it and we were duly warned not to drink the water because it had high Magnesium content. Think about what milk of magnesia does to you … good. Then multiply that by a ridiculous amount- that’s how much Magnesium is in the water :). You’re welcome.
The area was sectioned off so one would have had to be really rebellious or super curious to get into the water. There was a timer for how long our group could be there- good thing because otherwise we would have been there a long time or worse still the group before us would have never left and we would have never gotten to see the falls :). There was also music as well as choreographed lights [if that’s what it is called] to the music for an even more special effect.
Afterwards, we came back out of the cave and climbed the tower to get a great view of the city of Chattanooga. Overall, it was a very cool and unique experience and I would highly recommend it. I mean, a waterfall inside a cave?? Who wouldn’t want to see that?
Unfortunately, by our calculations, we wouldn’t have had enough time to visit Rock City and/or the Incline Railway so we decided to head back to Nashville, especially as I still had a 4 hour drive after that.
This was a different trip for me in that it wasn’t solo, and almost nothing went according to [my] plan- LOL. But it was still fun and I was able to spend quality time with my friend. Long weekends rock!
Oh- one more thing! Make sure you pee before you go down into the cave as there are no bathrooms down there and you can just imagine what tricks the sight and sound of continuous running water could play on the mind :).
Ok, for real, last thing- I liked this quote on the wall of the old office at the distillery – super deep quote, or it could be just about the whiskey, which is also super serious stuff, I suppose :).
Thanks for reading!