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  • Writer's pictureDana Piccoli

7 reasons why LGBTQ-friendly Chattanooga should be on your future visit list

It's been over a year since travel came to a screeching halt thanks to Covid-19. For someone who travels quite a lot, it's been a huge adjustment. Safety has now become the number one concern for many of us when thinking of venturing out, but with vaccines becoming readily available and the CDC giving its travel blessing for the vaccinated, travelers are finally starting to venture out of their homes. A few months ago, with the confidence that we would be staying in a clean and highly sanitized space, my wife and I did take a small road trip to Chatanooga, TN, a town with longtime mandatory mask mandates and lots of outdoor spaces. We took the four-hour drive to Chattanooga, masks, hand sanitizer, and our pup Luce in tow. We had a few rules. First, we made sure to get tested prior. Once we knew we were healthy, wore masks EVERYWHERE, got takeout when we could, and only ever sat outside far away from other people. Now that we are fully vaccinated, we're planning on returning to the lovely Tennessee town for another trip. Here are seven reasons you should consider a trip to Chattanooga when you feel safe to travel again.

1. You can stay in an old converted Firehouse! Owned by lesbians! If you want to experience a little piece of Chattanooga history, then check out this nifty firehouse retreat run by Christy Brennand and Avery Carpenter. Christy and Avery were terrific hosts, warm and welcoming, and their space is dog-friendly, so Luce was able to join us on our trip. Inside, there are still pieces of nostalgia from the early 1900s when this spot housed local firefighters. Knowing the apartment was deep cleaned before our visit let us relax and finally get out of our home for a few days of social distancing somewhere other than Greenville. I'm an Advisory Board Member of FabStayz, for which Christy and Avery are FabHosts. FabStayz helps LGBTQ+ folks find welcoming and open vacation rentals with LGBTQ+ and ally hosts. It was a massive weight off our minds knowing we were safe and welcome in our rental. Traveling with LGBTQ+ can be a little stressful, and FabStayz helps alleviate some of that stress from the get-go.

2. There's art everywhere. From street art, stunning murals, and statues throughout the city, you can't walk or drive far without running into art. It ranges from rustic folk art to elaborate modern pieces and is worth a stroll around the Bluff View Art District. Grab a latte at Rembrandt's Coffee House while you're there.

3. Lesbian-owned Davis Wayne's will treat you (and feed you) like family. Want some of the best mac and cheese you've ever had in your life? Then don't miss Davis Wayne's restaurant, just outside of Chattanooga in Ooltewah, TN. Run by an amazing married couple, the food is fresh and delicious, the drinks are plentiful, and the outdoor patio is ample and dog-friendly. I had the Pineapple Jerk Pork, which was melt-in-your-mouth good, with sides of collard greens, that famous Mac and Cheese, and sweet potato casserole. It's definitely on my list to visit again when I'm in the area. Support LGBTQ-owned businesses!

4. Ruby Falls is breathtaking. One of the big sites Chattanooga has to offer is an amazing series of caves and tunnels that lead to the magnificent Ruby Falls, a natural underground waterfall. Stalagtite and stalagmites glisten and sparkle as you make your way through the winding path to the falls. It's truly a magical place. Masks are required and tours are spaced out and much smaller than pre-Covid times to allow for proper distancing.

5. Wet Your Whistle with Whiskey. If you are a whiskey lover like my wife and myself are, don't miss a tour and tasting at Chattanooga Whiskey. (The tours are very small and masks and distancing are mandatory.) Chattanooga Whiskey is actually responsible for getting the laws changed in Chattanooga so whiskey could once again be produced there, and the product and staff are top-notch. My favorite was the Tennessee High Malt Whiskey 91 Proof, but you can decide for yourself! They were also super warm and welcoming to my wife and me, and suggested we check out some LGBTQ pride events that were happening while we were there.

6. Woof! It's very dog-friendly. Nearly everywhere we went in Chattanooga welcomed well-behaved dogs. Now, I can't say Luce always fits that description, but we were able to bring her with us for all our meals which was really nice. In addition to most patios welcoming dogs, there was also a spot called Play Wash Pint, where you pupper could play with others while you enjoyed a local craft beer.

7. Queer book and vinyl nerds, there's a spot for us! On our way out of town, we popped into Winder Binder Bookstore, which is full of terrific used books, folk art, and records. My wife perused the wide selection of vinyl while I went in search of an LGBTQ section. Friends, they did indeed have one. It was awesome to see lesbian romance novels alongside queer theory books available for a great price. While we were there, the store had a banned-book-themed window that gave me serious Better Than Chocolate vibes.

So put Chattanooga on your list as an LGBTQ-friendly spot in the South for a fun weekend away with or without the puppers.

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