Chattanooga’s scenic beauty will receive some high-profile national attention in the new year.
PBS travel host Samantha Brown spent four days here in May and filmed her discoveries for an episode of her Emmy Award-winning show, Samantha Brown’s Places to Love.
In 20 years of travel, Brown has visited more than 250 cities in over 60 countries. An average of 3 million viewers tune into her show every week to follow her man-on-the-road style visits to popular locations and hidden gems off the beaten track.
So when she declares that “Chattanooga stacks up” to these destinations, it’s success.
Chattanooga Tourism Co originally booked Brown as the keynote speaker for the 2022 Chattanooga Tourism Summit.
“We wanted a keynote that could share a unique approach to travel and inspire the community as the world turns to travel. After confirming Samantha for the Summit, we had the opportunity to host her for an episode of Samantha Brown’s Places to Love . We invested in shows and partnered with partners to deliver authentic Chattanooga experiences,” says Barry White, president and chief executive officer of Chattanooga Tourism Co.
The tourism agency compiled a list of potential filming locations that showcased “what made our community special.” Brown’s team researched these recommendations and made the final selections. Members of the Chattanooga Tourism team were on hand during filming to help however needed and answer questions.
White says “it was an honor to host Samantha and her team twice and have her highlight some of the experiences that make Chattanoogans love their community.”
Sometimes it takes an outsider’s fresh perspective to remind Chattanoogans of the beauty all around, so often taken for granted. As Brown previewed her episode in a phone interview, she was clearly impressed by the inclusion and emphasis on nature in Chattanooga’s culture.
Here’s why she thinks Chattanooga is a place to fall in love.
Chatter Magazine: What are the criteria for choosing the places you visit?
Samantha Brown: Variety and diversity. I love showing off places people might not have thought they could visit with something to do for everyone and can do it affordably.
Chatter: What did you do in Chattanooga?
Brown: We combined nature with downtown attractions. I loved it [Tennessee] The aquarium, not only for its shows, but because it is innovative in its conservation work. I had never been in a freshwater aquarium.
The rock formations at Rock City are phenomenal! I live in Brooklyn, and we don’t have it here.
I realized that rock climbing and sledding are central to Chattanooga’s culture. I don’t rock climb so we went to High Point Climbing and Fitness.
One of my favorite places we visited was the International Towing and Recovery Museum. We loved the whimsical aspect of it, but also the fact that it pays tribute to the history of attractive and attractive operators. People don’t realize how dangerous that job can be.
Chatter: From your unbiased perspective, what have you seen as Chattanooga’s most marketable feature?
Brown: His connection with the outside. During the pandemic, we saw a massive exodus from the cities – people who wanted a rural life. Now people are coming back but still want to live with nature.
I really liked the way Chattanooga blended access to nature with a vibrant city. In most cities, people have to travel miles outside the city for nature. But in Chattanooga, the river is right there in the center of town with Lookout Mountain right behind it. Chattanooga is associated with nature, and this is unusual. The city takes what it is.
Chatter: What impressed you the most?
Brown: The people. Chattanooga had a pleasant, easy going population. When I arrived I immediately went out for a walk and everyone was so friendly.
I really loved the people because we’re talking to Natalie Rodgers (the Tennessee Aquarium’s director of learning and assessment), and she told me that her first trip to the aquarium was in kindergarten and now she works there. Bill Hughes (herpetology coordinator at the Tennessee Aquarium) has dedicated his life to saving turtles.
I really enjoyed the Reflection Riding Arboretum & Nature Center and what it is doing to save the chestnut tree. We took a Swincar (electric off-road vehicle) tour around the property. They are one of the few places in the United States that have them. I loved it! Because it’s all electric, it goes through the arboretum without making any noise. It’s like being one with nature.
I loved how all these people are protecting these little pockets of paradise.
Chatter: How do you think the travel industry is faring after the pandemic?
Brown: I think people in the industry would do well to make more services less expensive and increase their services. We see people paying three to four times the cost of the trip and getting half the services. This is true for airfare, food, accommodation, everything
I don’t think people will accept that. We want to have the experience we pay for and even have it exceed what we expect. But we are finding places not staffed, not well run, long lines. We know that travel is a necessity as well as for pleasure, and I think people will be very discerning in the future.
Chatter: Of all the things you saw and experienced in Chattanooga, what would bring you back for another visit?
Brown: Uncle Larry’s Fried Fish Sandwich. It’s the best fried fish I’ve ever had! When the camera goes off I asked for another one; I ate two there. I still think about it.