Located atop the Lookout Mountain ridge of Georgia, just six miles from downtown Chattanooga Tennessee is Rock City, a cavalcade of natural wonder and historic stability, and thanks to this praising tribute in honor of Rock City celebrating its 90th anniversary from Southern Living, there’s never been a better time to discover this marvel of Southern majesty.
Initially founded by Garnet and Frieda Carter in 1932 as a German folklore-inspired neighborhood called “Fairyland” that would attract visitors with its mini-golf course, award-winning gardens, and incredible views have only gained rampant popularity across the decades to become one of the most-visited destinations in the Southern United States, with an average of 500,000 annual visitors.
Rock City officially celebrates its 90–year anniversary in May 2022, but the city has (expectedly) been hosting various festivities since the beginning of the year and even before that. For instance, in preparation of the nonagintennial (90th) anniversary, Rock City had partnered with the Tennessee Titans to paint the infamous Rock City barns to promote both the celebration and the team’s approaching season, and the Nashville-based visual artist “doughjoe”painted three additional barn billboards outside of the city to help promote. With such high-profile promotions, the 90thanniversary is filled with activities to ring in a new era for Rock City, and they promise a lot of fun, community engagement, and unforgettable experiences.
That being said, there’s literally never been a better time to make your way out to Tennessee, if you’ve never come face-to-face with the many features that Rock City has to offer. One such experience that you should seek out is the chance to see seven states in magnificent panoramic view while you’re 1700 feet above sea level in full display of breath-taking sweeping views of the Tennessee Valley from the restaurant patio of Cliff Terrace, or the See Seven States Flag Court. The Flag Court is a monumental tribute to the separate diary entries of a Union officer and Confederate nurse, who each noted that the human eye can visibly see Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia from the vantage point above High Falls.
If you’re a thrill-seeker, then you should consider crossing the Swing-A-Long Bridge, an impressive 180-foot expanse that takes you from Point A to Point B like never before. Additionally, this exhilarating bridge walk offers you a vantage point of the Chattanooga Valley like no other, making it the perfect spot to capture a photo that you’ll surely never forget. Though, if you’re less interested in dazzling heights and find yourself to be more interested in the German folklore-inspired origins of Rock City’s founding, then you should plan to visit the Fairyland Caverns.
As previously noted, Frieda Utermoehien Carter had a particular affinity for European folklore and fairytales from her homeland, so her husband and Rock City co-founder Garnet Carter, hired Atlanta-based sculptor Jeddee Sanders to create real-life scenes from some of the most famous fairy tales in the world. Take a magical trek through the Fairyland Caverns, where these scenes were preserved in 1947 and you’ll also be able to meet some of Rock City’s infamous gnomes who are spread throughout the cave.
Another Rock City destination indebted to its founder’s love of fairy tales is Mother Goose Village, another sculpture collection that was completed by Sanders in 1964 within Fairyland Caverns. This location serves as an impeccably impressive, storybook-inspired landscape filled with scenes from classic nursery rhymes like Humpty Dumpty, the Three Little Pigs, and Little Boy Blue. You’re sure to be in awe of and impressed by the hand-made dioramas of childhood come alive.
Rock City’s 90th anniversary isn’t only a time to celebrate its history but also its future. This is because Doug Chapin, a past employee of Rock City, will be taking over as the attraction’s fifth-generation CEO, after E.Y. Cfapin III, Garnet Carter’s nephew, took over in the 1950’s. Chapin commented on his vision for Rock City in saying, “we have always had a focus on hospitality, as well as on conservation. In the last 90 years, we have protected the geological wonders of Rock City Gardens for everyone’s enjoyment, and for future generations of the next 90 years.”
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