While we continue to create content from our Midwest Road Trip here and on our Youtube channel, we wanted to take a quick break to bring a special Christmas-themed post and video to help ring in the holidays! This entire experience was a long time coming; we’ve been trying to make it to Rock City’s Enchanted Garden of Lights for years, and we were finally able to this year! Chattanooga, Tennessee is one of our favorite cities (though Rock City is technically on the Georgia side of Lookout Mountain), and no matter what time of the year you visit there’s always something to do. Nothing, however, beats the sea of lights that Rock City displays for Christmas. It’s absolutely beautiful, and we hope you enjoy viewing it through this blog and video as much as we enjoyed creating them!
Rock City is truly a unique place, and the Enchanted Garden of Lights only adds to the mystique. The location itself has actually been a tourist attraction since 1932 when owners Garnet and Frieda Carter did significant work to the areas around the various columns of rocks to create a walkthrough garden. Garnet had plans to build a golf course in the area but the work was too much, so he shrunk his ideas down to miniature putting greens that he laid out near what is now the current entrance to the park, and thus the game of mini-golf/putt-putt was born! Frieda was a big fan of European folklore, so she had different types of gnomes imported to display around the walking trail. The original trail that she created reached its pinnacle at Lover’s Leap, which is the beautiful point on the edge of Lookout Mountain that now has a waterfall pouring from just below its tip. According to Cherokee legend, the spot gained the name Lover’s Leap due to a Romeo and Juliet-style relationship between a Native American brave named Sautee and a young lady named Nacoochee from a rival tribe. He was captured and thrown from the cliff, and she followed shortly thereafter because she was so distraught over his death. Fun fact: the town of Sautee-Nacoochee over near Helen, GA is obviously named after these two lovers, as well.
Now that you’re caught up on Rock City history, let’s get into the Enchanted Garden of Lights! We arrived about an hour before dark, which was neat because we were able to wander through the trail to the Lover’s Leap area to get some yummy treats (read: hot chocolate for the boys and caramel apple sangria/another rum drink for us). We had a gorgeous view looking out towards Chattanooga and the autumnal trees from our table next to a fire pit as we waited on darkness to fall. And then Baby J also took that opportunity to throw one of his brand new mittens off the side of Lookout Mountain…literally.
Getting to see Rock City before and after dark (even though we’ve been during non-holiday times) made it feel like we got a freebie. The entire park is given an entirely new breath of life when the sun goes down and the lights begin to illuminate the mountaintop. Santa arrives and takes his place in his shop, Jack Frost or Inara the Ice Queen (depending on which night you go) are available for pictures and conversation, there are cozy wood-burning fire pits set up all throughout the pathways, and the multicolored Christmas lights bring about a true festive aura. When you combine all of that with the breathtaking mountain views on a cool winter’s night, the whole experience feels like you’re walking through a different world.
If you’ve ever been to Rock City, you’ve heard of places like the aptly named “Fat Man’s Squeeze.” This is part of the rock formation where two absolutely massive boulders are nearly touching, and the pathway runs right through the middle of both. Most people literally have to turn sideways to get through, and the squeeze goes on for about twenty feet. This time around, though, I was carrying Baby J on that backpack so there was no way for me to turn sideways to get through. Taking him off my back was far too much trouble (don’t judge) so I opted for the army-crawling route, since there’s a bit of a wider gap low near the ground. Twenty feet and two sore legs later, I emerged with Baby J cracking up at the ride he’d just took. There’s a lesson embedded in this paragraph somewhere…
Despite our comical attempt to get through Fat Man’s Squeeze, it was neat to see the differences in it and other famous Rock City spots when compared between night and day. The Enchanted Garden is tastefully illuminated, though. The spots we are so familiar with were noticeably different but recognizably familiar. Plus, even though this place has a ton of lights, they don’t just have them thrown up haphazardly. Every light has a purpose, and they go for quality over quantity (though there is still quite a bit of “quantity”).
Another famous spot in Rock City is the Fairyland Caverns and Mother Goose Village. On a normal, non-Christmas day these locations are already an interesting sight to see, and the holidays just increase the allure. Going back to Frieda Carter’s love for European folklore, Garnet had a sculptor from Atlanta create a TON of models depicting famous folk tales. These displays are found as you descend partially into a cave in the mountain, and they’re illuminated with black lights and special paint to really make the stories and colors pop. The focal point of Fairyland Caverns is definitely Mother Goose Village, which is a large room you enter as you begin to ascend back out of the cave. It continues the same style of statuesque figures and scenes such as Hansel and Gretel, Humpty Dumpty, Cow Over the Moon, and so many others. For the Enchanted Garden, the whole tiny village is also lit up with the Christmas spirit.
The entire landscape of Rock City is such a beauty to behold this time of year, and we totally recommend anyone in the southeast (or otherwise) making the trek to the top of Lookout Mountain for this amazing treat. Our entire family loves Christmas, and seeing a place we already know and love transformed into a winter wonderland is a blessing. Between the lights, music, Santa, tasty treats, warm campfires, and everything else this place has to offer, there is definitely something for everyone! Be sure to follow our other social media to stay caught up on the holiday mayhem!