Sometimes the most amazing tourist attractions come from Mother Nature herself. Rock City Gardens, which sits on Georgia’s famous Lookout Mountain, is a prime example of nature’s beauty.
With impressive rock formations, colorful gardens, caves and a waterfall, Rock City Gardens welcomes nearly a half-million people each year to the site to walk the 4,100 feet of trails and take in the beauty of their surroundings. Although the mountain is located in Georgia, the attraction is mere miles from downtown Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Lookout Mountain was once home to Native Americans when in 1823 Daniel S. Butrick and William Chamberlain arrived to minister to the people.
According to Rock City’s website, an Aug. 28, 1823 entry in Butrick’s diary described “a citadel of rocks,” atop the mountain. He made notes about the large boulders and that they seemed to be arranged “as to afford streets and lanes.”
On Nov. 24, 1863, the Battle of Lookout Mountain was fought at the site as part of the Civil War’s Chattanooga Campaign. There, Union Major General Joseph Hooker defeated Confederate forces under the command of Major General Carter L. Stevenson.
In the early 1920s, Garnet Carter decided to build a community called Fairyland on top of the mountain. The nation’s first miniature golf course was built at the site because Carter had promised his investors a golf course, but the process was taking longer than anticipated. He gave them a mini version to enjoy.
The rock gardens are a testament to Carter’s wife, Freida, whose way with plants helped to bring life to the mountaintop. Her love of fairytales can be seen throughout the trails as she also incorporated gnome figurines and famous characters. Today, there are more than 400 species of national wildflowers, shrubs and trees at Rock City thanks to her early dedication.
Rock City Gardens officially opened to the public during the Great Depression on May 21, 1932. The Carters believed the public would be interested in seeing what they created and it’s become a local tourist site.
Several features have been added to Rock City since its opening, such as Fairyland Caverns and Mother Goose Village, as well as shops, restaurants and a wedding venue. Since 2009, Rock City has welcomed art installations throughout the gardens.
The site hosts special events throughout the year such as the Southern Bloom Festival in May; Summer Music weekends from Memorial Day to Labor Day; Rocktoberfest in October; Shamrock City in March; and Earth Day in April. One of the most popular events is the Enchanted Garden of Lights during the holiday season from November to January.
In a partnership with Wings to Soar, Rock City also hosts information and education birds of prey shows. Visitors are able to see raptors up close.
Rock City Gardens is the perfect destination for those who love the outdoors and taking in the dazzling sites of Lookout Mountain. Just remember to bring a good set of walking shoes.
Timed-entry reservations are required. To purchase tickets, to find COVID protocols and hours of operation, go to www.seerockcity.com.
By Crystal Schelle