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Its larger neighbor to the west claims a fair share of buzzy headlines, but Chattanooga is the one stealing hearts at a rapid pace. Appropriately nicknamed “The Scenic City,” the East Tennessee destination has twice been named “The Best Town Ever” by Outdoor Magazine.

RELATED: 5 ways to imbibe in Charlottesville

Surrounded by mountains in the heart of the Tennessee Valley, Chattanooga perfectly blends city life with outdoor culture. The long-time mecca for outdoor activity is now bursting with new businesses, a thriving arts scene and great restaurants. It’s hard to imagine, thinking back to the late 1960’s, when Chattanooga was one of the most polluted cities in America. In a turn-around story fit for the silver screen, the town now has everyone from tech entrepreneurs to Iron Man athletes flocking to it. Below, you’ll find 10 reasons why the Scenic City is hotter than ever.

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Paddle boarding on the Tennessee River | Photo by Compass + Twine

1) Year-round outdoor adventures.

Hot summers and mild winters mean outdoor activities like paddle boarding and kayaking along the Tennessee River can run 9-10 months out of the year. With plenty of docks along the riverfront, it’s easy to put your board in and take a spin on the water.

The Hunter Museum of American Art | Photo by Compass + Twine

The Hunter Museum of American Art | Photo by Compass + Twine

2) Booming arts scene.

Chattanooga is home to a booming arts scene. Situated on the bluffs of the Tennessee River, the Hunter Museum of American Art houses artwork by the likes of Andy Warhol and Thomas Cole. Originally built in 1904, the mansion was first a family home and became an art gallery in 1952. A modern addition was added in 1975, and the acclaimed collection has grown rapidly ever since.

Wildflower Tea & Apothecary | Photo by Compass + Twine

Wildflower Tea & Apothecary | Photo by Compass + Twine

3) Indy shopping and dining.

New shops, like Wildflower Tea & Apothecary, are popping up on Chattanooga’s south side. Even as little as five years ago, this area was marked by run down, abandoned buildings. A recent revitalization has seen boutiques and new restaurants opening up by the dozen, breathing new life into the neighborhood.

Chattanooga whiskey | Photo by Compass + Twine

Chattanooga whiskey | Photo by Compass + Twine

4) Fine booze.

Chattanooga is making whiskey! Tennessee Stillhouse is the first legal distillery in Chattanooga since Prohibition. In keeping with the state’s deep-rooted tradition, they’re producing smooth, delicious batches in American oak barrels. Show up to the micro-distillery, any day of the week, for a tour or tasting—or both!

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The Riverwalk | Photo by Compass + Twine

5) Hiking, biking everywhere.

Move over, Lombard Street! Chattanooga is full of amazing walking and biking paths, like this, the Riverwalk, which has a fun zig-zag entry near the Hunter Museum. With beautiful river views and bike rental docks located on almost every corner, getting your cardio in is easy in this town.

Pimento cheese and fried pickles from The Public House | Photo by Compass + Twine

Pimento cheese and fried pickles from The Public House | Photo by Compass + Twine

6) Southern cuisine at its finest.

In Chattanooga, Places like the Public House, St. Johns and the Meeting Place are making delicious, upscale Southern cuisine accessible to everyone. Sourcing locally and serving staples like pimento cheese and fried pickles, you’re sure you get your fix of down home cooking here.

Track 29 | Photo by Compass + Twine

Track 29 | Photo by Compass + Twine

7) A great music scene.

Nashville isn’t Tennessee’s only music hub. Track 29, a new music venue downtown, is bringing up-and-coming artists to the Scenic City. One of the coolest spots it town, it provides music lovers with some great talent and a fun atmosphere for a show.

Warehouse Row | Photo by Compass + Twine

Warehouse Row | Photo by Compass + Twine

8) Burgeoning Warehouse Row.

Slowly but surely, big name retailers like Anthropologie and LuLu Lemon are moving in to Warehouse Row. Formerly business offices, the multi-level space, which spans several blocks, has revamped its image and houses dozens of big-box shops, as well as local mom-and-pop boutiques and restaurants. So now you have a one-stop spot to shop and dine your heart out!

The Dwell Hotel | Photo by Compass + Twine

The Dwell Hotel | Photo by Compass + Twine

9) Hip new hotels.

Cool boutique hotels now give travelers more options when it comes to accommodations. With just 16 rooms, The Dwell Hotel opened earlier this year, and the retro-chic vibe brings welcomed addition to the hotel scene, compared to the more traditional chains. Complete with a trendy new restaurant called Terra Mea, and a super swanky bar called Matilda Midnight, The Dwell is a spot to visit even if you aren’t staying overnight.

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The Block climbing wall | Photo by Compass + Twine

10) Incredible climbing.

You don’t have to leave downtown to get in some quality activity. High Point Climbing and Fitness has over 30,000 sq ft of climbing inside and out, and that includes the big, blue outdoor wall called the Block. It’s a great place to spend a fun afternoon, whether you’re participating or just admiring some serious climbing.

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Compass + Twine
Sarah Driggs and Lindsay Ridenour are the story-tellers behind the NYC-based luxury travel blog, Compass + Twine. Follow along on Instagram @compassandtwine as they unearth some of the best hotels and travel experiences around the globe. From scenic landscapes to local cafés, they reveal the true character of a destination, always highlighting the best place to stay on compassandtwine.com .

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