Tripadvisor names Chattanooga top trending winter travel destination

Chattanooga is a growing destination for winter trips in the United States, as rated by TripAdvisor.

The scenic city has topped TripAdvisor’s list of “Top Local Destinations” for tourists this winter. The ranking is based on how many more people searched for things to do at a location this year than last year.

Chattanooga followed Virginia Beach in second place, then Milwaukee. Hugh Morrow, president of Ruby Falls and president of Chattanooga Tourism, said that although the list highlighted popular places for winter travel, Hamilton County has seen increases in tourism at all times of the year.

(Read more: Chattanooga-area tourism spending jumped more than 40% last year)

“You don’t have a summer tourism season like you used to,” Moreau said on the phone. “The way people are traveling now, we really don’t have a lull in our schedule.”

Local tourism officials said the ranking reflects an abundance of things to do in Chattanooga, indoors and outdoors, throughout the year. The area also has relatively mild winters and is easily accessible by car for people who live throughout the area, said Barry White, president of Chattanooga Tourism.

“We have a winter, but it’s not a harsh season,” White said over the phone. “It’s cold enough to know it’s winter, but you won’t get snowed under two feet of snow.”

(Read more: Opening of a visitor information center near the aquarium to help boost Chattanooga’s $1.5 billion tourism industry)

White said tourism in general is on the rise in Chattanooga. The Chattanooga Times Free Press previously reported that Hamilton County visitors brought in a total of $1.5 billion in 2021, up 40% from the previous year. On an average night, about 15,000 people stay at local hotels, White said.

The rise in tourism comes as travelers are venturing out more than they were at the height of the pandemic. White said Chattanooga has seen increases in all types of tourists, with the exception of business and conference travelers. The holiday season also tends to be a peak time for tourists in Chattanooga—for example, Ruby Falls sees a spike in visitors once the kids head out for winter break, Morrow said.

(Read more: The Tennessee Aquarium—Chattanooga’s Biggest Tourist Magnet— Turns 30 With Celebration Saturday)

“We have a huge number of friends and family who come here, go out and do things,” Morrow said.

White said tourists emerging from the pandemic appear willing to travel further by car. Recently, he said, Chattanooga has seen a 25% increase in travelers coming from more than 250 miles away. Morrow said many come from residential areas like Nashville, Charlotte or Birmingham.

Other cities in the South that made this TripAdvisor list were Hilton Head, South Carolina; Charlotte, North Carolina; and Jekyll Island, Georgia.

Contact Ellen Gerst at eg[email protected] or 423-757-6319. Follow her on Twitter @employee.