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Cheers for Chattanooga and the Riverbend Music Festival now

Starship plays for fans on the bank of the Tennessee River
Starship plays for fans on the bank of the Tennessee River
(c) Lisa TE Sonne, World Tourist

Cheers for Chattanooga!

Cheers are rising from the banks of the Tennessee River in Chattanooga as the Riverbend Festival 2011 continues far beyond the Chattanooga Cho Cho sounds of music. Five stages offer a gamut from rock, folk, and funk to bluegrass, country, electronic and jazz from June 10th to 18th.

Opening night, June 10th, Huey Lewis and the News wowed enthusiastic crowds from the Coke Stage, but twelve other acts also won hearts including Mickey Thomas with Starship playing classics like “I Believe in Miracles.”

A half century ago, the idea of over a half million people coming to the river to picnic and play in a week would have seemed like a “Miracle.” Chattanooga was designated one of the worst, most polluted places to live, but now shows up on top place lists. That kind of inspiring turn around can make for a refreshing vacation.

Part of the remarkable recovery was the establishment of the Tennessee Aquarium. The largest fresh water aquarium in the world prompted renewal of natural and manmade environments for locals and tourists.

The aquarium complex is still a great day destination with butterfly habitats, pools for petting rays and sharks, bird shows, Ranger Rick, penguin niches, and a chance to take a walking water journey by the many water ecosystems flowing from the local Tennessee River down to the tropical salt waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

The same day you are looking at the creatures in the river, you can also jet over their realms with a hydrofoil-equipped catamaran for a River Gorge tour or enjoy the Southern Belle for a more leisurely river trip with live music. The Music City Brass may be” floating your boat” with nostalgic tunes fit for dancing.

For visual treats by day before the evening concerts, Chattanooga showcases the Hunter Museum of American Art, and Bessie Smith African American Museum as well as outdoor sculpture parks and many galleries in the Bluff View Art District.

If kids are in tow, the unique International Tow Truck and Recovery Museum may appeal with tow trucks ranging from miniature toys to a giant real World War II tow truck. The Children’s Creative Discovery Museum is a hands-on playground to make music, art and science experiments.

For a cool dose of awe, walk with a guide through the narrow cave passages of Look Out Mountain to see a splendid cascade of water called Ruby Falls, the largest commercially developed waterfall inside a US cave.

Then in the evening, saunter back to the Tennessee River and enjoy a range of Riverbend headliners and discoveries, different each night. The bigger acts include Alan Jackson on Friday and Kellie Pickler starring Saturday night.

***For more information and musical fun, listen to the Beach Boys enchant thousands as Tom Wilmer interviews Chip Baker, the Executive Director of the Riverbend Festival for NPR radio affiliates.

And if this year’s festival is passing too quickly, why not go for an encore anytime and get a big jump on planning for future hopping and humming whether it's "I Believe in Miracles" or the "Chattanooga Cho Cho" ?

All aboard for visiting Chattanooga any time of year, click here for more attractions, accommodations, recommendations, and AAA discounts. There's also hang gliding, river rafting, Civil War reenactments, steam railroad trips, nostalgic Rock City Gardens and good eating.


For more travel stories by Lisa Sonne, click on other stories here and if you like this one or others, please click the like button above. You can also visit

All text and photos, (c) Lisa Sonne,, 2011


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