There are many advantages to living in Chattanooga. A significant site during the Civil War, Chattanooga has blossomed into a tech hub (fun fact–Chattanooga is home to the fastest internet in the Western Hemisphere!), cultural player, and outdoor-adventure mecca.
While Nashville may get the lion’s share of love when it comes to Tennessee destinations, a growing number of people are discovering the joys of Chattanooga, just two hours south of Music City.
For Chattanooga-based organizer Kelly Lewis of Inspired Organizing, early trips to the city with a past relationship unexpectedly turned it into home.
“I lived here for years in my 20s and loved the friendly community, beautiful mountains, and plethora of fun things to do. I moved away to attend photography school in Montana and then to North Carolina for a job—and low and behold Chattanooga called me back again,” she said.
After meeting her now-husband in the area and traveling across the country, she felt the pull of this Tennessee gem calling again.
“From Florida we moved to California before deciding we'd like to finally settle down and stop moving and ‘plant.’"
Guess where she chose to plant? You got that right. Chattanooga. For Lewis, you just can't beat the climate, culture, scenery, housing market, thriving entrepreneurial community, entertainment, and more.
“It's the perfect place for us and where we hope to grow old!” she enthused. “So due to my history with Chattanooga, I'd say to be careful if you come here because you will keep coming back and then stay forever (which isn't so bad)!”
If you’re considering a move to this southern charmer, read on for everything you need to know about living Chattanooga.
Who Lives in Chattanooga?
From young professionals to retirees, Chattanooga appeals to people across the board. It’s been ranked 49th of best places to live in the country, and 27th for places to retire. So it makes sense that young families and downsizers alike are flocking to this southern city.
With a population of just under 200,000, Chattanooga has a small-town feel without compromising on culture or amenities.
Natural beauty abounds, including the Tennessee River, Lookout Mountain, and a portion of the Appalachians, so there’s always a way to get outside and enjoy spectacular scenery.
Pair that with a robust downtown scene full of restaurants, museums, and shopping, and you’ll find Chattanooga is especially popular with young families who want to stay busy without compromising on schools and serenity.
What should I know about Chattanooga?
A combination of commercial trucking and Tennessee’s natural geography (including the Tennessee River and the Appalachian Mountains) can cause regular bottlenecks, resulting in frequent traffic jams. Interstate 24 and U.S. Route 75 are two of the most commonly clogged roads, with the intersection of the two clocking in at number 11 in the worst interchanges in the nation, according to the Chattanooga Times Free Press.
One study even reported that Chattanooga drivers lost an average of 15 hours to traffic jams in 2020 alone.
Luckily, there are ways to avoid the road rage that comes from extended times stuck behind the wheel. The city offers a free electric shuttle that stops at popular destinations, as well as a bus system.
Biking is also popular for Chattanooga residents who want to get around without a car.
If you’re looking for employment in Chattanooga, you just may be in luck—the city has a healthy job market, and an unemployment rate that ranks below the national average (6.6% to 8.1%).
In the last few years, the city has pushed to expand jobs in the tech sector, with an annual “Startup Week” and designated “Innovation District.”
The city has a diverse industry profile, with jobs in manufacturing, food and beverage production, and corporate headquarters (including BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee) all accounting for significant hiring in the area.
Chattanooga families who are attracted to the area for the school system won’t be disappointed, as the city’s schools are well-ranked here. Hamilton County, in particular, has earned impressive scores.
The area features a mix of public, private and charter schools, so parents are in luck when it comes to making choices about their children’s education. (If you’ve got kids headed to class, don’t forget to read up on the best way to prep for back to school!)
For higher education, students pursuing a B.A. have the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga as a college option.
If you’re considering a move to Chattanooga, be aware that while the city does have its perks, it also has a significant crime rate: 229% higher than the national average, in fact, making it one of the highest in the nation.
With both theft and violent-crime rates remaining high, it’s important to scout out your potential new area and remain vigilant about anti-crime measures like home security systems and cameras.
Ryall Springs, Shady Rest, Parkshore Estates, and Greenway Village all rank as some of the safest neighborhoods in the city.
Southern weather is known for being hot and steamy, and Chattanooga is no exception on the muggy meter in the summer months. If you’re a ski bunny or looking forward to that yearly sledding adventure, you may want to plan for a winter vacation, as Chattanooga only gets an average of 2 inches of snow per year.
However, with short but chilly winters, abundant sunshine, and comfortable spring and fall temps, Chattanooga is considered one of the most pleasant places to live in the state of Tennessee.
If you’re concerned about the effect of warm temps and humidity when storing your stuff, check out our blog for the lowdown on climate controlled storage units.
How Expensive is Chattanooga?
Chattanooga residents are able to enjoy flexible budgeting with a cost-of-living 8% less than the national average. Chattanooga also ranks lower in cost-of-living than Nashville, if you want to save some extra money while staying in the state.
With a fairly even split between renting and owning, finding your dream home comes down to a matter of preference.
An abundance of nature and good public schools can also help keep costs down for families who are considering a move to Chattanooga.
Where Should I Live in Chattanooga?
The Fort Wood and MLK neighborhoods have become the city’s most desirable locations in recent years, appealing both to college students and families who want to buy into a piece of history.
Longtime restaurants are flanked by new eateries and breweries, and it’s easy to find a concert venue along the mural-rich MLK Boulevard.
Recent developments have created apartments in formerly abandoned buildings, while the tree-lined streets of Fort Wood are home to historical houses that are great for growing families.
If you’re not sure what kind of house is right for you, check out some tried-and-true tips from a real-estate expert on our blog. And if you run out of space in your new home, we’ve got several Chattanooga storage units near you!
St Elmo/Lookout Mountain
Located at the base of Lookout Mountain, this area is a great place to settle if you have kids or love getting outside. It’s one of the safer neighborhoods in town, which attracts both parents and retirees who are concerned about the city’s crime rate. Victorian houses and other historic architectural wonders truly make the neighborhood a must-see even if you end up living elsewhere.
Known for its suburban feel, Avondale is a great place for renters, with an abundance of studios and one- to two-bedroom apartments. If your plan is to rent in Chattanooga before settling down, Avondale may be just the place to start.
For young professionals, students, and anyone who wants a taste of urban living, Downtown Chattanooga is the place to be. With a thriving arts district, plenty of restaurants, and easy access to attractions like Tivoli Theatre and Terminal Station, you’ll never run out of fun things to do. The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga is located Downtown, making it a great option for students who want to make the most of their college years.
If Downtown proper doesn’t feel like home to you, check out Southside; it’s another buzzy destination where it’s easy to find a cocktail, a concert, and a cuppa coffee within a few blocks. Up and coming restaurants have transformed the area into a foodie destination, while renovated warehouses and apartments make for lofted city living.
Boutique shops, gastropubs, and several parks make NorthShore a go-to destination for families and young professionals. Several pedestrian bridges also make this an attractive neighborhood for anyone who prefers a nice stroll to being behind the wheel. New construction and recently renovated homes are in high demand here.
What is there to do in Chattanooga?
Chattanooga may be a small city, but it more than makes up for its size with things to keep you busy. Like this view of Ruby Falls above!
For Melissa Laseter of local parenting blog Chattanooga Moms, living in the city “has a little bit of something for everyone while maintaining a smaller town vibe.” But that’s just the beginning of why Laseter loves her adopted hometown.
“The seasons are mild, the cost of living is reasonable, and it’s decently close to other larger cities. Plus, the commute for the greater Chattanooga area is still under 30 minutes from most places to Downtown.”
And once you get Downtown, check out the Creative Discovery Museum, which sits just down the street from the Tennessee Aquarium and the Hunter Museum of American Art. If you want another way to get there, try ambling down the Tennessee Riverpark, which gives you a great view of the river, as well as fishing and boating opportunities.
For history buffs, don’t miss Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum, which was founded by the National Railway Historical Society in 1960 and offers rides on vintage train cars. For four-wheeled fun, the Coker Museum has more than 100 classic cars and hosts free events each month. The St. Elmo Historic District is also a great place to stroll into the past, with plenty of dining and shopping along the way.
When it's time to get outside, Lookout Mountain is the place to go—take the Incline Railway for the best views on your way up. Once you’ve scaled the mountain, hit Ruby Falls (image above), home to the country’s largest underground waterfalls. Raccoon Mountain Caverns also offers adventures fit for the whole family.
From exploring museums and the great outdoors to the great cost-of-living and entrepreneurial opportunities to a variety of affordable and walkable neighborhoods to settle in, Chattanooga may just be calling you home.