The historic Beaux-Arts-style station (dating from 1909) reopened as a hotel in 1972 and reserved a berth on the National Register of Historic Places two years later.
The Chattanooga Choo Choo hotel has 315 regular rooms, but the prize accommodations are the 48 additional rooms housed in authentic Victorian railroad cars sitting right on the station’s tracks. The rooms are outfitted in period décor with brass lamps, high-backed armchairs, wooden writing desks, beds with fancy headboards, twin marble-topped nightstands and even metal luggage racks, with reading lights just below the ceiling. They also have modern conveniences, including queen-size beds, full bathrooms and high-speed wireless Internet. Railroad car rooms generally run $180 per night for two, including those that feature a daybed with a pullout trundle—perfect for families.
To assure a vintage railcar room, reserve 2 to 3 weeks in advance. For the best value, ask about the hotel’s packages, which include restaurant vouchers good for any meal plus admission to various local attractions, including the ever-popular Tennessee Aquarium.
The railcar guestrooms aren’t the only historic draws. A stunning 82-foot-high domed ceiling graces the lobby, and the arch over the main entrance is thought to be the largest unsupported brick arch in the world. What was once the baggage room is now the Station House restaurant, known for its singing waitstaff. The Diner, a restored 1938 Class A dining car, offers more formal meals. You can even hop on a historic trolley car from the 1920s (originally placed into service in New Orleans) for a short ride on the station’s original tracks.
The complex also houses the world’s largest model-train display.
--MORE SUMMER TRAVEL QUESTS
16) Sleep in an Authentic Victorian Railroad Car