Ready to show your love for the Chattanooga Choo-Choo? See Rock City on the regular? Gaze out from Lookout Mountain whenever you want? We get it. Renowned for its stunning natural landscapes, vibrant cultural scene, and healthy economy, Chattanooga, Tennessee, offers a unique blend of Southern charm and modern living. It’s no wonder you’re daydreaming about it. But what is it really like living in Chattanooga? Here’s what we think you should know.
|Planning a move to Chattanooga? Start by getting a quote from PODS.
Chattanooga at a Glance
- Geographic location: Nestled in Southeast Tennessee along the Tennessee River
- City size: Approximately 142 square miles
- Population: About 184,000 residents
- Median age: Around 36 years
- Distinguishing features: Picturesque mountains, rich history, and vibrant culture and art scene
1. Cost of Living in Chattanooga, TN
The cost of living in Chattanooga, TN, is approximately 7 percent lower than the national average. The housing market is particularly affordable, with an average home value of about $287,400 — much lower than the national average of $342,700. Utilities, groceries, and transportation also cost less, compared to many other U.S. cities.
2. Living in Chattanooga – Pros and Cons
Pros of Living in Chattanooga:
- Scenic beauty: Nestled in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains and situated along the Tennessee River, the city offers picturesque views of mountains, valleys, and waterways. Outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy hiking, rock climbing, and participating in water sports in the surrounding nature.
- Thriving arts and culture scene: The city is home to numerous art galleries, theaters, and cultural festivals. The city's art district, known as the "Southside," is a hub for creativity and innovation.
- Strong job market: Chattanooga's diverse and robust economy is known for its strong manufacturing sector, which includes automobile production. Major companies Volkswagen and Amazon, in particular, have a significant presence in the area, providing job opportunities in various fields. The city also fosters entrepreneurship and innovation, making it an attractive destination for startups.
- Family-friendly environment: Chattanooga is a great place to raise a family, with excellent public schools, numerous parks and recreational facilities, and family-friendly events throughout the year. The Tennessee Aquarium and the Creative Discovery Museum are particularly popular attractions for children, providing both educational and entertaining experiences.
Cons of Living in Chattanooga:
- Weather variability: Chattanooga experiences a wide range of weather conditions throughout the year. While the city enjoys four distinct seasons, it can also have unpredictable weather patterns, including hot and humid summers and occasional severe storms. Winters can be relatively mild but may still bring occasional freezing temperatures and snowfall.
- Limited public transportation: The public transportation system in Chattanooga isn’t as extensive as in larger cities. There is a bus service operated by CARTA (Chattanooga Area Regional Transportation Authority), but it might not provide the same level of convenience that transplants from larger cities are used to.
- Education disparities: While Chattanooga does have some excellent public schools, there are disparities in the quality of education across the city. Parents of school-age children should do some research to find out which neighborhoods have access to those good schools.
- Limited diversity: Chattanooga, like many cities in the southeastern United States, has been historically less diverse, compared to larger metropolitan areas. While the city is becoming more diverse over time, new residents may still find the local scene to be more homogenous than they may be accustomed to.
3. Chattanooga Housing Market
The housing market in Chattanooga is somewhat competitive, with an average home value of about $287,400, which is considerably less than the U.S. average of $342,700. According to Rocket Homes, Chattanooga was a seller’s market in 2023 and still is today — which is to say, homes tend to sell faster and for more than in a buyer’s market.
There’s nice variety among the housing here, though, with a range of options from historic homes to modern apartments, great for families, singles, and retirees alike.
4. Renting an Apartment in Chattanooga
The average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Chattanooga is approximately $1,400 per month, but it really depends on where you live in the city. Rentals in East Ridge and Belvoir, for example, average closer to $1,100 a month. No matter where you look, though, it’s all lower than the state and national averages of $1,475 and $1,700, respectively. Rental options here are nice and diverse, too. From trendy downtown lofts to peaceful suburban apartments, the rental market caters to various lifestyles and budgets.
5. Best Places To Live in Chattanooga
Lookout Mountain, GA (and TN)
Lookout Mountain is a suburb (and actual mountain) nestled less than 20 minutes from downtown Chattanooga. There are actually two towns named Lookout Mountain here, as the north half of the mountain is located in TN, while its southern counterpart sits below the state line in Georgia.
Niche rated this safe and serene community the #1 best place to raise a family in the Chattanooga area (and the best place to live), clearly making it ideal for families. Those with young kids can take advantage of Lookout Mountain Elementary, a top-rated school in the area.
And when it comes to things to do, Lookout Mountain certainly delivers. Here, you’ll find the Lookout Mountain Incline Railway (on the TN side) — a historic cable railway that ascends the mountain, providing stunning views of the Chattanooga Valley — as well as Rock City Gardens (on the GA side) — a unique geological and botanical wonder with panoramic views (fun for the whole family).
Lookout Mountain’s blend of quick city access, natural attractions, and strong public education makes it an especially attractive spot for family living.
Northshore is a trendy Chattanooga neighborhood that’s connected to downtown by four bridges — including the Walnut Street Bridge, one of the world's longest pedestrian bridges — offering easy access to the city's urban life.
This walkable area is known for its picturesque riverfront views and outdoor activities in Coolidge and Renaissance Parks. For adventure enthusiasts, there are options like kayaking and paddle boarding available right there on the river.
And when it comes to shopping and entertainment, Northshore offers a variety of unique spots, including small boutiques, hair salons, breweries, and outdoor retailers. With local art galleries and public artworks, the area is also rich in culture.
Overall, living in Chattanooga’s Northshore neighborhood means plenty of outdoor activities, culinary delights, arts, and a community-focused atmosphere. Ask the locals, and they’ll certainly agree, this is an attractive place for singles and young professionals (or really anyone) seeking urban convenience and scenic beauty.
Signal Mountain, TN
For those looking to retire in or near Chattanooga, Signal Mountain is where you want to be. In fact, it’s ranked third on Niche’s list for “Best Places to Retire in Tennessee.” This mountain town presents an ideal balance of small-town community, natural beauty, and easy access to the city, which is just 8 miles away.
Alexian Village Tennessee is a popular retirement community located on the mountain that offers a range of amenities to support both independent and assisted living. The community features walking and garden areas, a chapel, a barber and salon, a dining hall, and more. And all within 20 minutes of downtown Chattanooga. Residents can choose from a variety of living options, from a studio to a 3-bedroom with a balcony and a view of the surrounding mountains and the river below.
Signal Mountain is also known for its cultural and outdoor activities. Retirees can enjoy a hike on the Cumberland Trail or an afternoon relaxing by Rainbow Lake (it’s not really a lake, but it’s worth the hike). And those looking to be entertained can take in some bluegrass at The Mountain Opry or visit the Signal Mountain Playhouse for a theatrical performance set in its natural amphitheater.
For dining, the town may not have as many options as nearby Chattanooga, but there are still plenty of places to get your foodie fix. From sushi and Chinese to southern cooking, pizza, and subs, Signal Mountain won’t leave you hungry. In fact, there’s even a Signal Mountain Cookie Lady!
Overall, Signal Mountain strikes a balance between a peaceful, nature-rich retirement and the convenience of nearby urban amenities, making it a highly desirable place for retirees living in Chattanooga.
6. Transportation in Chattanooga
Chattanooga offers a blend of public transportation options managed by the Chattanooga Area Regional Transportation Authority (CARTA).
CARTA operates 17 fixed bus routes that cover the city and its surrounding areas, with fares starting at only 75 cents. CARTA also manages the free Downtown Electric Shuttle, which makes frequent runs between the historic Chattanooga Choo Choo and the Tennessee Aquarium, stopping every block along the way.
Very BikeableFor those who prefer cycling, Bike Chattanooga offers over 400 bikes across 43 stations, making it easy for residents and visitors to get around the city without a car. Bike Chattanooga offers affordable passes for 1-day ($10), 3-day ($20), and annual bike use ($50).
While parts of Chattanooga are pedestrian-friendly, the walkability varies across the city. Owning a car may be more convenient for traveling longer distances or accessing less-walkable areas.
Overall, Chattanooga's transportation infrastructure offers a mix of options, though having a car might be necessary for complete accessibility.
In true Glenn Miller fashion, there are plenty of “choo-choos” to choose from in town. Though not particularly useful for getting around (you’ll need a bus, bike, or car for that), the Tennessee Valley Railroad is perfect for a romantic ride through Tennessee. It also has great options for families – like spending a day with Thomas the Tank Engine, and day trips to local favorites like Copperhill and McCaysville. And for those interested in the history of railroading in the state, visit the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum.
|Did you know? Adding to Chattanooga’s environmentally friendly efforts, there are over 200 charging stations in the region, for those of you who own an electric vehicle.
(Source: The University of Tennessee Chattanooga)
7. Schools and Higher Education
Chattanooga's education system offers a blend of high-quality K-12 schools and distinguished higher-education institutions.
For K-12 public education, notable schools include Chattanooga High School Center for Creative Arts, a magnet school emphasizing arts education; Normal Park Museum Magnet School, known for its integrated learning approach; and STEM School Chattanooga, focusing on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Each of these schools is recognized for their unique educational programs and commitment to student success.
Chattanooga also has some very highly-rated private schools available, including:
- Baylor School (a co-ed private boarding and day school)
- McCallie School (an all-boys private boarding and day school)
- Girls Preparatory School (an all-girls private day school)
In higher education, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (UTC) stands out as a key institution. It offers a range of undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs. UTC is particularly known for its business, engineering, nursing, and education programs, providing students with a blend of academic rigor and practical experience. The university's commitment to research and community engagement makes it an integral part of Chattanooga's educational landscape.
8. Sports Teams in Chattanooga, TN
A hub for both professional and collegiate sports, Chattanooga offers fans a variety of teams to support.
- The Chattanooga Lookouts, a Minor League Baseball team, play their home games at AT&T Field, located in the heart of downtown, with stunning views of the surrounding mountains.
- In soccer, the Chattanooga FC, members of the National Independent Soccer Association, play at Finley Stadium (which also hosts the UTC Mocs football team).
- The UTC Mocs, representing the university in various NCAA Division I sports, compete in venues like the McKenzie Arena for basketball and other indoor sports.
9. Chattanooga Weather/Climate
The area also receives ample rainfall throughout the year, contributing to the region's lush greenery and natural landscapes. You can expect all four seasons in Chattown, with a particularly breathtaking color-change display in the fall.
10. Chattanooga Crime Rate
According to Neighborhood Scout, Chattanooga proper experiences a relatively high crime rate, compared to both national and state averages. Its crime rate is one of the highest in the country, with those in Chattanooga having a 1 in 16 chance of becoming a victim of either violent or property crime. Keep in mind, however, that certain parts of the city are more prone to crime, while others are much safer — as it is in most cities.
Some of the safest neighborhoods in Chattanooga proper include:
- Shady Rest
- Falling Water
- Middle Valley
- Mountain Creek East
11. Job Market in Chattanooga
The job market in Chattanooga is dynamic and inviting, with several key industries driving employment.
Government services, including local government positions and organizations like TVA, form a significant part of the job market. Manufacturing is another major sector, with companies like Volkswagen Chattanooga and McKee Foods Corp. playing pivotal roles. Educational and Health Services are also prominent, led by institutions such as Erlanger Health System and CHI Memorial.
Additionally, professional and business services, leisure and hospitality, and the retail trades contribute significantly to the local economy.
12. Local Food Scene
Chattanooga offers a diverse and vibrant culinary scene. Some of the best places to eat in the city include:
- Milk and Honey: Known for its breakfast biscuits and burritos, this coffee shop focuses on locally sourced farm produce.
- The Bitter Alibi: This cozy neighborhood pub offers a comforting and intimate atmosphere, perfect for brunch.
- Food Works: Located in Signal Mill, this restaurant offers southern-style biscuits and other breakfast classics in an industrial ambiance.
- Nic & Norman’s-Chattanooga: This cool spot, located in the historic Chattanooga Choo Choo terminal station, offers gourmet burgers and more.
- Easy Bistro & Bar: Known for big flavors, this place elevates dinner with dishes like roasted spatchcock chicken and a wide selection of whiskeys.
13. Local Culture Scene
If you’re looking for rich cultural attractions, you’ll certainly find them here. Below are just a few of the many local spots that reflect Chattanooga's unique blend of history, art, music, and natural beauty.
- Hunter Museum of American Art: This haven for history buffs showcases a diverse collection, from colonial to contemporary art.
- Tivoli Theatre: Known as the "Jewel of the South," this theater offers a range of performances, including Broadway shows, concerts, and films.
- Chattanooga Choo Choo: A historic train station turned hotel, the Choo Choo captures the essence of the city's railway heritage.
- Reflection Riding Arboretum & Nature Center: This center provides a natural retreat with botanical gardens and wildlife.
- Tennessee Aquarium: This hotspot showcases river and ocean life in two separate buildings — featuring stingrays, sharks, sea turtles, otters, penguins, and more. It’s not only educational but also an engaging experience for all ages.
14. Fun Things To Do in Chattanooga
Believe it or not, there are even more fun things to do in Chattanooga (on top of everything we’ve already covered). If you’re looking for a unique activity in the area, check out what made our list below:
- Raccoon Mountain Caverns: Explore natural cave systems with guided tours and gem panning.
- Lookout Mountain Flight Park: Experience the thrill of hang gliding with stunning scenic views.
- Chattanooga Market: Shop for local crafts, art, and fresh produce at this seasonal market.
- Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park: Dive into Civil War history at this informative park.
- Creative Discovery Museum: Let your children discover interactive exhibits at this family-friendly spot.
- Ruby Falls: Marvel at this stunning underground waterfall located within Lookout Mountain.
- Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum: Experience a historic train ride and learn about railway history.
- Bluff View Art District: Explore this charming area with galleries, shops, and restaurants, while also enjoying stunning views of the river.
- Coolidge Park: Enjoy this beautiful riverside park, featuring an antique carousel and open green spaces.
Living in Chattanooga – FAQs
Q: Is Chattanooga a nice place to live?
A: Yes, Chattanooga is known for its natural beauty, affordable cost of living, and strong sense of community, making it a desirable place to live. Crime can be bad in some areas, but there are plenty of safe places to live in Chattanooga.
Q: How expensive is it to live in Chattanooga?
A: The average cost of living in Chattanooga, Tennessee, is very affordable, with overall costs sitting about 10 percent below the national average. To put it into perspective, $46,000 in Chattanooga would be the equivalent of about $75,000 in L.A.
Q: Why do people move to Chattanooga?
A: People are drawn to Chattanooga for its affordable living, scenic beauty, local culture, and growing job opportunities in diverse sectors like technology and healthcare.
Q: What is the nicest part of Chattanooga?
A: Areas like Lookout Mountain and Signal Mountain are often cited as some of the nicest parts of Chattanooga, known for their scenic views and strong community feel.
Moving to Chattanooga With PODS
Ready to call Chattanooga your new home? Whether you’re coming from another city in Tennessee or from across the country, you can make your move smoother with PODS portable moving containers. Each move comes with convenient and flexible storage solutions that fit your schedule. And PODS can even connect you with local packing and loading services. It doesn’t get much easier than that!
Editor’s note: For ease of reading, monthly rental prices were rounded to the nearest $25 and home values were rounded to the nearest $100.