Road Trip Simply: See Rock City

Now that Allie O. lives in Tennessee, she has to Road Trip to Florida like the rest of the country! That’s the bad news. The good news is she’s sharing her favorite road trip stops with us! If you’re driving from Ohio to Florida, the quintessential road trip stop is See Rock City… which is the topic of today’s post! 

My grandma would say that a good Road Trip stop has to “meet muster” to be “worth its salt”… for my city-dwelling readers, that means the stop has to fulfill certain criteria to justify a stop. When traveling with kids, road trip stops should be convenient, memorable, provide an opportunity to move and stretch, have clean potties and serve food. To be honest, it’s hard to find a road trip stop that checks every box!! Hard, but not impossible. When you find one, you shout it from the rooftops… or from the scenic overlook in the case of See Rock City.

see rock city

See Rock City is perched in the mountains where winding roads dance from Georgia to Tennessee and back again. It’s technically on the Georgia side of Lookout Mountain but the attraction’s location has been advertised as Chattanooga, TN since it opened in 1932. One thing is for sure, you can’t get lost looking for it… there are painted barns and signs telling you to See Rock City across the nation!

see rock city
photo cred: TrailerLife.com

I’ve seen the signs all around the country since I was a kid and we had neighbors with a See Rock City birdhouse but I had no clue what the whole See Rock City deal was. So we decided to check it out.

On our road trip to Florida, the kids made a competition of looking for See Rock City signs. We detoured off I-24 in Chattanooga, TN just before we hit I-75 south… they likened this to watching for South of the Border signs off I-95 on our East Coast Road Trip.

see rock city
Start looking for See Rock City signs when you travel… don’t forget to count barns and birdhouses!

Our stretch-our-legs destination was only a 5 mile detour from our route and signs clearly marked each turn. Since See Rock City is up in the mountains, the drive can be slow going- especially if there is a slow tourist in front of you! Don’t be that tourist! Pull over if you’re not used to mountain driving and let the locals pass! But I digress… the drive can be slow going but the destination is still fairly convenient.

So that’s one check mark out of 5… but would See Rock City be memorable?

see rock city
Once at See Rock City, we joined the game of counting the gnomes that Frieda Carter started in the 1930’s! We counted well over 100… there is some dispute as to who actually counted and who made up a higher number just to win. LOL

Some sites are memorable for historic value, some for their unique nature experience and others for straight up silly fun. See Rock City is a fun stop for all of these reasons!

see rock city
There’s something new to see around every turn at See Rock City.

You can see 7 states from the overlook on Lookout Mountain. Georgia Anne had her picture taken next to the Georgia flag…

see rock city

… and then followed the trail to caverns in the mountain! These caves, first opened over 70 years ago, give a glimpse of the kitschy roadside America stops that make road trips so great! As y’all know, I love cheesy attractions {aka Tourist Traps}. In an era of fast-paced everything and high dollar entertainment, there is something grounding about finding joy in low-tech experiences.

see rock city
Mirror Lake was my favorite vignette. Our kids loved the black lights in the largest cavern.

When picking road trip stops, I give bonus points to experiences that will give us a way to connect with other people. For example, it’s always fun sharing memories with someone else who has dined at Versailles Cuban Restaurant in Miami, gazed in awe at the Redwoods of the West Coast or has seen Hamilton on Broadway and tasted a warm Dominique Ansel cronut! Since going to See Rock City, it’s been fun and surprising how many others are familiar with this mountaintop attraction.

If you’ll think back to my criteria for a good road trip stop, See Rock City has checked off convenient and memorable… and the next one is easy, too. There is plenty of space to stretch in these mountaintop gardens! You can easily walk a mile and not even realize it… the Enchanted Trail meanders for 4,100 feet {Homeschool mamma moment: a mile is 5,280 feet.}

see rock city
The main path descends quickly then meanders around rock formations… you can receive a geological education, and a reminder to steward the land {center- top sign} and your body too {center- bottom sign}, if you slow down and take it all in!

HEADS UP: If anyone in your caravan has limited mobility, be forewarned that the trail is smooth but it’s a mountain path. There are many stairs, tight squeezes and outcroppings that make the paths awkward for someone with encumbrances. There is another, smooth trail that takes you to the overlook so the whole crew can regroup for the scenic views and then split off again.

see rock city

See Rock City has 3 eateries plus a few treat options {Dippin’ Dots and Fudge!} sprinkled throughout the attraction. There is a Starbucks outside the park as well and, though it’s not fully stocked if you’re expecting a Starbucks Bistro Box for a grab-and-go meal, my go-to drink was made just right.

You can buzz through in 2 hours but I’d suggest setting aside half a day or a full day to really enjoy all this attraction has to offer. Set aside some road trip cash for the kids to climb the rock wall and then hit the See Rock City gift shop… souvenirs are reasonably priced and you’ll want to come home with a bird house to continue the tradition of painted barns. Hang it in your yard and you’ll become part of the legacy. Before you know it, your neighbors will want to See Rock City too!

see rock city
See Rock City… still a Great American Road Trip stop!

See Rock City
1400 Patten Road, Lookout Mountain, GA 30750
(706) 820-2531   (800) 854-0675
Hours change seasonally. Open 8:30 – 5:00 when we visited.
p.s. The potties are clean, too!

Comments

  1. Teresa Poston says

    All these years in Tennessee and I haven’t been there. Now I have to go since you made it seem so interesting. LOL

    • says

      I’m a sucker for roadside stops! I love the glimpse into local culture and, in this case, a time period in our country. See Rock City is doing a solid job of keeping current by adding seasonal experiences… if I lived closer, I’d go back a couple of times a year! ~Allie O.

  2. Dru Nugent says

    Was first at Rock City about 10 years ago. Chattanooga is our half way mark for our trip from Missouri to St, Augustine we take each winter, It’s well worth the stop.

    Hey Allie, when did you get a new little one? Congratulations!

    • says

      Hey Dru! Great to hear from you! Remi was born in January… I’ll introduce him on the facebook page soon. 🙂 ~Allie O.

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