Visiting Chattanooga National Cemetery on Christmas Eve

My parents visited us in Chattanooga for Christmas. With the weather being unseasonably warm, we were looking for different things to do that would allow us to enjoy the outdoors.

My parents have never seen the Christmas wreaths at a cemetery, part of the national Wreaths Across America program.

We enjoyed walking around the cemetery, and we were in awe of how the graves looked, each with a Christmas wreath placed in front.

On Dec. 25, 1863, Maj. Gen. George H. Thomas issued General Orders No. 296 creating a national cemetery in commemoration of the Battles of Chattanooga, Nov. 23-27, 1863.

Wreaths Across America is held on a Saturday each December, and volunteers at about 2,500 participating cemeteries place wreaths at the graves.

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Falling Water Falls

On Christmas morning we did a short walk to see Falling Water Falls.

Falling Water Falls is just north of the town of Signal Mountain. It is about a 15 minute drive for us. Actually, it was about 20 minutes, but only because we had to take the long way around! W Road, the closest and fastest way up to Signal Mountain, was closed because of ice and snow!

It rained most of the day for us on Christmas Eve, and temperatures continually dropped. No snow by us, but up on Signal Mountain, it was cold enough for a little bit of snow! So in a way, we did get our white Christmas.

There is a small gravel parking lot at the trail head; Derek almost missed it driving by! About three cars can fit there. The trail is well maintained and easy to follow. It’s a short walk to the falls. You’ll know you’re on the right track because you can hear the creek and the falls as you get closer.

The path follows Little Falling Water Creek, and ends at the falls. If you’re careful, and daring enough, you can lean over enough to see the falls cascading down. (I got down on my belly and looked that way!) If you’re scared of heights, you can still see the edge of the falls well enough by standing on the nearby rocks that offer a higher vantage point.

The whole walk there and back is about .3 miles, but you can extend that a bit depending on how much you explore. We walked a little bit down the creek, as well as taking an upper level path for a bit before turning back around.

Also, I need to mention how cold it was! We tried to wait a few hours until mid-morning for it to warm up a bit, but driving up the mountain, we lost those few extra degrees anyway. It was about 23 degrees up there! We were mostly fine with layers, but our faces were so cold!

It was a nice, easy way to get outdoors and get a little bit of exercise on Christmas morning. The holidays are usually quiet for us, so this was a way to make the day feel special. I feel lucky to live in an area where there are so many scenic places nearby.

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The trail leading to the falls. You can see the tiniest bit of snow!
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The edge of the falls.
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Derek takes a peek over the edge.
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Rock City’s Enchanted Garden of Lights

This week we went to Rock City’s Enchanted Garden of Lights. This is the second time we have been to Rock City.

We have been to quite a few Christmas light set ups in a few different states. Most of them have been bigger than Rock City, but I think Rock City holds up to the others!

There was one initial disappointment. I was looking forward all night to taking a photo of the star on top of the waterfall, from the little balcony that juts out off to the side.

Turns out, we completely bypassed that area. The waterfall was actually shut off. We did see the star at the top and off to the side, though.

We went through the whole thing and ended up at the exit, and I said, “But what about the view of the waterfall????” At first I thought that we had missed an entire section, but that wasn’t possible because there were workers guiding us down the paths at each section.

Later that night, I was still concerned about it, so I watched YouTube walk through videos! When I realized that yes, we did see the whole thing, I felt better. But honestly, I think this is a missed opportunity on Rock City’s part!

My favorite section was the Arctic Kingdom, which was filled with penguins. There were tons of string lights there, and they were all in frosty colors like blue, purple and green, which just happens to be all my favorite colors. It was so pretty there.

We also enjoyed the view of the city lights from Lover’s Leap, and the synchronized lights to music in the Magic Forest. The synchronized lights reminded me of the lights in Hershey Park, Pennsylvania, which we have seen many times.

There were social distancing measures in place as usual. Tickets have to be bought online, where a timed entry is reserved. In certain spots where distancing was difficult, masks were required.

This was a nice holiday themed outing, and I recommend it to anyone looking for something festive to do in the Chattanooga area.

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Ice on the Landing

We went ice skating this afternoon. The ice skating rink is set up in the gardens outside the Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel.

I have not been ice skating in at least 12 years. Usually I am too afraid to go ice skating, because I am afraid of falling and hurting myself.

We have been to the Choo Choo a few times since the rink was set up, and we learned that it is $10 per person to skate for 80 minutes, which we thought was an excellent deal. They also offer “ice buddies” for those who are not as surefooted on skates.

On a Monday at 2 p.m., the rink was mostly empty. There were actually three older adults, me included, using the ice buddies. This made me feel a little less embarrassed. I think using one was great, because I was able to have a better time, not having a fear of hurting myself.

Newsflash: I ended up hurting myself at the end! But more about that later.

In the middle of our skating session, we got a crepe and hot drinks at the Adelle’s Creperie food stall. Adelle’s has been set up specially for the rink, which was a nice addition to our afternoon.

I enjoyed starting out skating with a buddy, because I got comfortable with knowing how to move my feet. Eventually, I tried pushing the buddy a little bit ahead of me and skating toward it, and then skating while holding on with just one hand.

Toward the end, I skated a few times around the rink without the buddy at all. I even managed to go one whole time around the rink without needing to grab onto the edge. I’m proud of myself!

Derek did end up falling twice himself. The first fall wasn’t so bad, but on the second fall he went down on his knee, which he said hurt pretty badly.

After the fall on his knee, Derek went to sit down outside the rink. I said I wanted to go around one more time before we left. I went around about 95 percent of the entire rink when I fell backwards! I was close enough to the edge that I grabbed the wall, but the force of me falling down was so great that I think I pulled a lot of muscles in my arm and shoulder area. It hurt badly! But I was able to pull myself back up and get over to Derek.

It’s laughable now, that I was SO CLOSE to finishing without falling at all. Oh well. My arm is still pretty sore, and it’s hard to move it in some directions, but I took some aspirin and a hot water bottle is helping.

Even thought we both took some spills, we had a great time doing something new.

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Derek ice skating around the rink. You can see some other people using the buddies in the background.
Skating on my own!

EBP Christmas Windows

EBP (Electric Power Board) in downtown Chattanooga has been creating a themed Christmas display in their windows for all to see for the last 60 years.

This year’s theme was “80 Years of Electricity Service.” Previous year’s themes included “The Spirit of Chattanooga” and “Holidays Around the World.”

We spent Christmas Eve out and about since it was a beautiful, warm day. After spending some time at the Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel, we decided to check out the windows.

The scenes are in the windows on two different sides of the large building, on Broad and Market Street. We were not the only ones there, oohing and ahhing at the different set ups.

The window setups remind me both of the New York City shops at Christmastime, and Disney World’s Emporium shop, on Main Street U.S.A. I am glad that we have our own version right here in Chattanooga, and I am looking forward to seeing what the themes will be in the future.

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Wreaths Across America

Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending Wreaths Across America, a national program held at many different cemeteries at the same time, honoring veterans by laying wreaths at their graves.

I was familiar with this program, but I have never participated before. I was there to cover the event for work, but I still enjoyed it and I was glad I got to have the experience.

There was a ceremony at noon before the wreath laying, and it was moving. There was a man who played the bagpipes, which sounded amazing. The ceremony also featured two men playing echoing taps, which brought tears to my eyes. It reminded me of my grandpa, who was in the Navy.

Chattanooga National Cemetery, which is where I was for the program, has about 47,000 graves. About 30 percent were able to be decorated with wreaths, which are sponsored and purchased by the public. I would like to possibly do this next year, sponsor a wreath or two, and then lay them at a Civil War soldier’s grave, because of my interest in Civil War history.

There is an interesting side note in this story.

A Civil War reenacting unit fired a cannon during different times of the ceremony. I got my hands on a program, and I realized with excitement that it was Burrough’s Battery.

A few years ago, while I was still reenacting myself, we fundraised to have a group from Tennessee with six horses come to Gettysburg to pull our original 1863 cannon in the 150th Remembrance Day Parade. I was actually got to ride one of the horses. And I guess you know where this story is going now. The group firing the cannon during the ceremony was Burrough’s Battery.

After the ceremony, I introduced myself to some of the members, some of which I recognized through my photos. They did not remember me, but they did remember that parade. They even tried to recruit me. I said, thanks but no thanks. I don’t even have my uniform anymore! I just wanted to say hi. But it was a small world to be in the same place that morning.

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The start of the ceremony.
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People starting to unbox wreaths to lay at the graves.
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The cannon belonging to Burrough’s Battery at the top of the cemetery’s hill.
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“Christmas in Dixie”

I completed a small bucket list item this weekend!

One of my favorite Christmas songs is “Christmas in Dixie” by Alabama. It has been my favorite song since I was little. I cannot explain why, seeing as I was born and raised in the northeast! More recently they have become one of my favorite bands. The band members are from Fort Payne, and so at the end of the song they sing, “And from Fort Payne, Alabama… Merry Christmas tonight.” We went to Fort Payne for the day and I got to spend a “Christmas in Dixie.”

I never knew much about the boys from Fort Payne, that is until we literally drove past Fort Payne, Alabama, when we were moving from Pennsylvania to Texas, over three years ago.

Living in Texas, there were more country stations on the radio, including a country classics one, which became my favorite. I was introduced to a whole new (well, new to me) section of country music. I kept hearing Alabama song after Alabama song and I enjoyed all of their music.

When we moved to Chattanooga, I realized that Fort Payne was only an hour away from us. I knew that going to Fort Payne during Christmas time would make the trip extra special for me, to make my favorite Christmas song come true for me personally.

We ended up having an activity packed day, and we learned a lot about Fort Payne’s history.

We arrived at lunch time and started out at The Spot, a cafe in downtown.

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After lunch, we walked up and down the street. We browsed in a few shops, and admired the Christmas decorations. Seeing all of the banners in town that said “Christmas in Dixie,” was a treat for me.

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“Christmas in Dixie, it’s snowin’ in the pines
Merry Christmas from Dixie, to everyone tonight.”
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James Dean is an artist from Fort Payne. He is famous for his Pete the Cat work. Pete was all over town!

We walked down a few blocks to the City Park, where there are Alabama statues. We stopped to take a few photos and then we scoped out the park, where a Christmas event would be taking place later on that night.

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Me with Randy, the lead singer of the band.

We walked across the street from there and checked out the Depot Museum. The Depot was built in 1891. Admission was $3 and there were a ton of interesting artifacts donated from Fort Payne residents inside.

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A wedding dress from 1903.
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A collection of old items.
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An old newspaper press! I was excited to see this and learn what it was.

Did you know that Alabama was known as the sock capital of the world? We learned at the free Hosiery Museum that during the height of the sock boom, one out of every eight pairs of socks was made in Fort Payne. The Hosiery Museum had machines that made the socks on display, as well as old historical photographs of the town.

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An old photo of the historical DeKalb hotel (named after DeKalb County) which burned down.

From there we walked next door to the Fort Payne Opera House, where we also got a free tour. The Opera House was built in 1891, and still holds performances today, including Alabama! The woman who talked to us at both the Opera House and the Hosiery Museum was wonderful and full of knowledge. I wish I had remembered her name.

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Then it was off to the Alabama Museum, the whole reason for the trip. It is a small museum and gift shop, but it is filled to the brim with items from the band members. We ended up buying a Christmas ornament from the gift shop.

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After that we checked out the Big Mill Antique Mall, housed in the old hosiery mill. Also in the mill was Vintage Cafe, where we had a mid afternoon light meal.

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When it got dark we headed back to the park for their annual “Christmas in the Park” event. There was a bonfire, free concessions, music and a tree lighting.

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We had a nice day exploring a new area in a new state. I am glad that we found a lot of different things to do and learned some history of the area. I had worried that Derek would be bored with a whole day devoted to the Alabama band, and it ended up being much more than that!

Holiday Cheer at the Pier

Holiday Cheer at the Pier is a Chattanooga riverfront event that signals the start of the Christmas season.

There were lots of food vendors and craft vendors (we did not check out the craft vendors though.) Derek had a hot apple cider and I had a hot chocolate. We enjoyed our drinks for a few minutes in front of a fire pit.

The two main parts of the event are a lighted boat parade and fireworks. Santa was also available to take photos with kids.

I was happy to be able to see the lighted boat parade. There was one on Galveston Bay, about a half hour from Houston, but we were never able to make it in the three years we lived there, due to the timing of Derek’s classwork. It is nice when things work out in a different way.

The highlight of the boat parade for me was seeing the Southern Belle riverboat in the lineup.

After the parade, we walked a few minutes towards the Bluff View Art District, where we had a nice view of the Walnut Street Bridge, and the fireworks.

Fireworks are one of my favorite things to photograph. I am always happy to be able to take photos of them in different spots with different backgrounds.

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