If Chattanooga isn’t Southern enough for you, travel just a little further down I-75 to Ringgold, GA.
My town was founded in 1846 and has changed landscape from cattle farms and hay fields to well-established neighborhoods and a lively exit for motorists. Mayor Millwood has recently replaced Mayor Joe Barger of 47 years. When you look beyond the fast food stops of exit 348 and go just a mile into the original town, you will find antique shopping, local restaurants, restored old homes with big front porches, and tradition at every corner. Ringgold is beautifully set in the valley between Taylor’s Ridge and White Oak Mountain.
Traditionally known for quick marriages during the World War II era, a couple of my favorite celebrities tied the knot here including Dolly Parton and Tammy Wynette. It’s rumored that Dolly comes through every year in her RV to commemorate her anniversary. No one will recognize her without her hair and makeup done, so she can come and go as she pleases. For the regular southern women of Ringgold, it’s rare for us to travel out of the home without at least lipstick and mascara on. This is what I call “Basic Belle” attire: ball-cap (or visor if you’re over the age of 50), small child on the hip, light makeup, and a smile spread widely that is quick to drag out a “Well, hello there!” to almost every person you pass by in the store.
Raise Them Up
If you are a Mom raising little ones or big ones in Ringgold, there are plenty of places to entertain at no cost. The Little Generals Park sits in the heart of town with a perimeter fence. Shaded and clean restrooms make this a nice play park for all ages. There is a walking path around the park to get a quick jog in while the little ones make friends. I like to skip the jog and bring my coffee from Legendairy, along with a book to read on a bench. Feeling social, it’s a good park to meet up with friends or make a new one. Bring your recycling to the park for a teaching moment on reducing and reusing trash. Take it a step further and let the kids swap out one of their books for a new one at the Little Free Library outside the park.
Birthday parties seem to be the main social events we attend throughout the year. With several places to hold them in town, you can expect family and friends to like the convenient locations. Some of our best memories come from days spent at the Ringgold Pool for a birthday party. The seasonal fee is inexpensive if you want to make swimming at the public pool a habit. If you are looking for a summer sport, the Ringgold Tiger Sharks will get your kiddos out of bed early and active as they learn a new sport. Elsie Holmes Nature Park is a hidden gem with nature trails and a screened in meeting area. We have held family reunions, graduation parties, and band events at Elsie Holmes. It is always a clean location with plenty of privacy. Take the kids anytime for a quiet walk through the woods, no hiking boots required. Or, you can sneak away with your spouse for an easy time away.
Activities for Family Time
While not many people flock to Ringgold for outdoor sports like Chattanooga boasts with kayaking, rock climbing, or outdoor bike riding, we still have plenty of family oriented locations for slow paced seasonal outdoor time. Bring a picnic and sit by the creek downtown. Let the kids walk across the rocks when the water is low. Feeling adventurous, then you can put a kayak or raft in the water and float down, then paddle back. The Nature Trail runs along the creek and is a great place to go on a safe run. Find a fishing spot by the water treatment plant behind the Ringgold Pool and you are sure to catch something.
Indoor activities are a must during a cold winter. The Catoosa County Library always keeps kids busy with activities. Lego parties, magicians, story telling, and wildlife specialists are on constant rotation. Pick up a calendar and save some dates! Close to the library is the Colonnade. While you may have visited there for a wedding or your high school prom, they also have a nice auditorium with constant plays going.
Weekend Agenda from a Native
When Friday night comes and you want a Moms’ Night Out as I highly encourage all moms to partake in monthly, you can start with some early shopping at Lily and Rose down Alabama Highway. Make an appointment or drop into Alydots to paint something to hang on your front door. We all know that no front door is complete without a monogrammed pumpkin!
On Saturday morning, you can immerse yourself in the traditions of family, slowed down living, and good food at Richard’s restaurant. Go in and seat yourself. If you’re “not from around here” or are dressed above the Basic Belle attire, then you will get a few stares. There have been several weekday occasions in which my youngest and I have sat with an older gentleman or woman to keep them company. It is always welcome to be friendly! My perfect afternoon would be followed-up with a to-go coffee and browsing at Ringgold Feed and Seed. (Don’t miss the next High Cotton Christmas Market in November!) Browsing always turns into buying as the antique booths are sure to be stocked with a seasonal gift or special accent for the home. Looking for custom furniture? Head next door to the old barn to hand over your measurements and ideas. Gregory’s Antiques is another favorite stop of mine. Two beds for my girls, several chairs, a footstool and pieces to finish off my china cabinet prove my love for this store. Don’t expect to leave without having a full conversation with either owner about their favorite pieces in the store.
Needing some entertainment for older kids or a group of friends? The Haunted Depot will start in October on Friday the 13th. You will be sure to find a fright here! Finish off a good scare with a calming cup of gourmet coffee at Caffeine Addicts. The couches and music mixed with friendly wait staff are a good combination.
Sunday morning you can attend one of several churches in the area. Ringgold First Baptist steeple will rise up in the middle of town. Picnic afterwards with a bucket of fried chicken down by the creek. Wait for a table at Cracker Barrel while rocking away on the front porch. There is just something special about a Sunday in a small town. Take a historical drive down Highway 41 to the Old Stone Church. Traffic will be heavier when the leaves start to change.
Tradition Runs Deep
Visiting the local Nathan Anderson Cemetery you will find graves dating back to the mid-1800s. If you want to truly get the feel of a small hometown, come into town to see the flags and white crosses lining our roads during Memorial and Veteran’s Days. 1890’s Days is our time for a small town street festival boasting over 100 food, art, and craft vendors.
My husband and I met at Ringgold High School. He was an athlete attending several state championships. I was a band beauty that had the opportunity to travel all of the United States for competitions. The history of my family living here goes back to a 1900 home built by my great grandfather, Wash Cawood. When asked your name, a native will connect you in some way to someone they know living in Ringgold. With my married name being “Guess” I am always asked if I’m related to the Guess family up over the hill that used to have the dairy farm. “No sir, my Mom was a Cawood and my daddy a Ledford,” is what I respond with pride.
Everyone can be family when they immerse themselves in the hometown feel of Ringgold, Georgia. Come, stay a while!