Yay, it’s that time of year again–that time when we all feel compelled to make a date night happen, even if we haven’t gone out in months. I do like the Valentine’s season; it’s short, way over the top pink and purple and glittery, and then it goes away. I like to get just a little caught up in the fun of surprising my kids with waffles and sprinkles on a random week day morning and maybe a small gift to remind them that I still love them after the chaotic mess that Christmas left in our house and on our emotions.
While I enjoy surprising the kids, trying to plan a Valentine’s date is torture: deciding where to go with the least amount of wait time, finding a babysitter on the most popular (read: expensive) day of the year, and all the forced feelings of “we have to make this the best date ever!” Maybe it’s just women who get caught up in that, but I do think the pressure is pretty high for men too. All year long, they hear their wives saying, “Just clean the kitchen, put the kids to bed, put on Netflix and I’ll be happy.” And then, once they stagger up from 60 readings of Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site, we are sitting on the couch, scanning Instagram and wondering when the flowers, babysitter and chocolate are going to arrive.
No one else? Maybe it’s just me.
Actually, I wouldn’t know, because out of the six past Valentine’s Days, five of them the Fireman has caught some kind of disastrous stomach illness and spent most of the day in the bathroom and then in the ER. I kid you not, it is uncanny. Needless to say, after an expensive date with the night shift nurses, neither of us felt like making it up to each other in some other way. Now I am mentally prepared for 2020’s food poison/flu/stomach virus/allergy to Valentine’s Day episode and am stocking up on Clorox wipes and saltines.
But for you, dear reader, I am dreaming of all the places I wish I could have gone in the past years and curating a Date Night Idea Guide to Chattanooga so you can avoid the stress of the date planning. Downtown Chattanooga is a great place to explore with your date: cheap or even free parking, access to many locations from one spot, a vibrant night scene and the hometown charm of a small and creative city.
Here’s to making your 2020 Valentine’s evening stress-free, enjoyable and celebrated anywhere but the emergency room!
- STIR: If you like local, artsy, hip and many options, this is a great place to begin your evening. Stir is located on the side of the Chattanooga Choo-Choo, and boasts unique drinks, bar-tending mastery and — who knew it was a thing? — artisanal ice. Don’t be afraid if you are novice to all of it; the staff will love to teach you what they know. And bonus: happy hour is M-F 4-6:30pm, with appetizers included.
- The Flying Squirrel: It’s rustic, it’s local, it’s warm and friendly. Local beer on tap and constantly rotating cocktails to keep you trying new concepts, The Flying Squirrel wants you to socialize and enjoy the evening. Located in the Southside, it is close to many fine dining establishments but you may end up staying for the locally sourced, Southern goodness that makes its way out of the kitchen.
- Wine Down Bar: Located in the up and coming Cambridge Square district of Ooltewah, Wine Down Bar is a locally owned and operated wine bar and restaurant. With a tasting room (reservations please) and the owner and manager Marcus on site to consult, its high end spirits, wines and hand crafted cocktails make it a lovely place to celebrate any occasion.
Steakhouses & Eats:
- Bald Headed Bistro: Please don’t send me hate mail when you first pull up to this Cleveland steakhouse. Located in a strip mall, it does not have the proper appearance for date night (trust me, the “look” was fiery at my husband on our first visit), but just wait until you get through the doors. The mood is hunting lodge-esque, with occasional live music, but the steak is what you came for. 28-day aged Black Angus beef (means nothing to me, except that it.is.good.), delicious sides, great service and free parking.
- 1885 Grill: Located in St. Elmo, right before the trek up Lookout, 1885 is a Southern seafood and steakhouse restaurant. Reasonably priced entrees, vegetarian options, and as another contributor has stated, “the best cheesecake ever.” On a good night, enjoy the patio seating, or if you are foodie, try the back dining room with a view into the kitchen.
- Alleia: Somehow this restaurant fuses authentic Italian with the South. And it works; oh my, it works. One of the coolest restaurant settings I have been to, it is intimate and invites lingering and talking into the night. Try whatever sounds good, but the bacon-wrapped dates are not to be missed. Valet parking, candles and chandeliers make it a perfect evening for two.
- Rembrandts: If you haven’t been to Rembrandts in the Bluff View Art District, you probably haven’t been in Chattanooga very long. On-site baked good and artisanal chocolate, coffee roasted steps away from the shop, and a courtyard with twinkle lights and a bubbling fountain. A perfect ending to a night’s stroll downtown.
- The Hot Chocolatier: Located across from the Chattanooga Choo-Choo downtown, it’s a wonderful little local shop that has creative desserts and drinks. Everything is chocolate, therefore everything is good. On a fair night, the courtyard is quaint and private.
- City Cafe Diner (locations in East Brainerd and downtown): It may seem seedy (okay, yes it is) but you won’t find bigger or more fantastical cakes and desserts anywhere else. The atmosphere may more akin to an after-prom joint, but you can pick your sugar from the case at the front of the store and bring it home to avoid the bad carpet and disco lighting.
- The Read House: Historic Chattanooga at its finest and an all-in-one stop if you don’t like navigating the downtown scene. With Porter’s Steakhouse on the bottom floor and a full service Starbucks in house as well, you can enjoy a night away without fussing over multiple locations. Stay luxuriously in spacious rooms with views of Chattanooga and old-fashioned quality service.
- The Chattanoogan: This modern hotel is fully equipped for a luxurious stay. The full service Spa is a welcome addition to a night away, and many restaurants and bars are a close walk down the street. Located close to the Southside area, with close shopping and eats at Warehouse Row.
- Bluff View Inn: Just around the corner from Rembrandts and behind the Hunter Art Museum, the Maclellan House (one of the three inns) is located on the precipice of the bluff, overlooking iconic Chattanooga sites without all the noise. It is a personal favorite setting from my college days, with memories of playing bocce ball on the court looking down on the river and then later saying “Yes!” under the twinkle lights and wisteria.
Adventure & Activities:
- The Sweet and Savory Classroom, Valentine’s Dinner: Want to cook dinner for your Valentine but thinking “where do I even start?” Book a Valentine’s dinner class and enjoy the process together! Chef Jeff will teach you all you need to know about creating a delicious four-course meal, providing all necessary ingredients and kitchen supplies. With only four nights to engage in a one of a kind culinary experience, reservations will be filled quickly. February 10th-14th.
- Hike to Sunset Rock: Since we are living in one of the best outdoor cities in America, we have to include an adventurous date idea! Sunset Rock is located on the west side of Lookout Mountain, overlooking Lookout Valley. There are multiple ways to get to Sunset Rock: 1) Hike from Point Park, enabling you to also enjoy the 180 degree view of Chattanooga as well. Hike down the very steep metal stairs and turn left at the bottom; 2) Park at Craven’s House and follow the signs around the mountain. Less steep climbs than Point Park and free parking; and 3) Park at the small parking lot on West Brow road and go down the steep 0.1 mile to the rock. On a clear day, the views of the city are spectacular.
- Chattanooga Theatre Centre: The Chattanooga Theatre Centre is putting on A Very Broadway Valentine’s Day, A Line-Up of Broadway Love Songs on February 8th at 8 pm. Some of your favorite CTC singers will perform a lively line-up of Broadway love songs, plus guests will enjoy complementary champagne and a dessert buffet. Cash bar.
- Dance Tonight Chattanooga: Always wanted to learn how to dance? Need a Valentine Date idea that will surprise and delight? Look no further than Dance Tonight Chattanooga! The studio offers private lessons, as well as the much less intimidating group lessons. On Friday, February 10th, a couples Latin dance class begins at 6 pm in honor of the holiday, and then on the 14th is their regularly scheduled Swing and Salsa group class. Surprisingly affordable and highly energetic, it may be the adventurous date night you have always been looking for!
- Ignis Glass Studio: Located in the heart of downtown Chattanooga, Ignis Glass Studio offers a one of a kind experience to make memories together. Master craftsmen include you in their art-making process of forming and blowing glass ornaments that will be cherished along with the experience. Walk-ins are welcome, but to be assured of an appointment, make a reservation!