Tourists, Treasures, and Time


Inviting my parents to come to one of my concerts this season was a something I’d looked forward to for months. Of course I was excited for them to see the orchestra, but I was equally excited to introduce them to the remarkable city of Chattanooga.

In many cases, one can say all the nice things they want about a place, but until it is experienced in person, it really doesn’t mean as much. This was the case for Chattanooga and my parents. I had told them how lovely the river front was, how exciting and beautiful the downtown was, how the city planners and historians did an outstanding job for tourists and locals alike.

I could tell my parents were skeptical, but I waited patiently until mid-November when they came to visit and take in the Mozart Requiem.


There are too many outstanding options to enjoy in only 3 or 4 days in Chattanooga. So it was important to narrow down what we wanted to do most.

For our first tourist experience, we chose Chickamauga Battlefield. It was an unseasonably cold and cloudless day; autumn colors amplified the beautiful blue sky which served as a perfect backdrop to the empty and silent the battlefield.

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Cannons sit quietly on the various parts of the field

Planning to only stop in the visitor’s center for a map, we were pleasantly surprised to find it was organized so thoughtfully. The displays were informative, the collections were lovingly cared for, and the pictures told stories that words could not.

We also enjoyed talking with the ranger who strongly encouraged us to view the 20 minute movie which detailed how the events in Chickamauga unfolded 150 years ago. While the movie was full of the expected facts and dates, it also put a very human face to what we were about to see. I found it more compelling than most visitor center movies I’d seen in the past.

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We walked to the top of Wilder Tower for a wonderful view
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My parents at the top of the monument

Driving the tour around the battlefield was as outstanding and organized as the visitor’s center, and the interactive cell phone tour option kept our interest engaged. It was a meaningful day on multiple levels, but we left the battlefield with a new appreciation and understanding of the events that happened in a different and troubled time.


“You simply must see the aquarium,” our executive director, Molly Sasse, said to my parents when I introduced them. “It’s one of Chattanooga’s best treasures.”

I didn’t even think to take my parents to the aquarium and I don’t think it was on their radar either. Since my parents have worked as docents, volunteers, and naturalist interpreters at various zoos and wildlife sanctuaries, I assumed the aquarium would be like a “busman’s holiday.”

Thank you, Molly, for putting that bug in our ears. We ended up going to the aquarium and what a marvelous day that was! From the entrance of the aquarium we were submerged into a river world, one of relevancy and tangible understanding. The intelligent layout encouraged learning, enjoyment, and appreciation of the wetlands and rivers that were just outside the walls of the aquarium.

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Seeing a Parachromis Dovii, “Wolf Cichlid” face to face in the River Journey exhibit was exciting as I use to own one of these aggressive characters. It was great to see a large tank of these fish!
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Feeding the penguins and answering visitor questions is a challenge when the birds are demanding

From the river section of the aquarium to the saltwater part, there was plenty to look at and take in. What seemed like only two hours turned out to be the better part of a day. You know you’ve had a good time when time like that flies.


My parents were lucky enough to see two concerts while they visited. The first was the Chattanooga Symphony & Opera’s Veteran’s Day concert. This free concert featured patriotic and thoughtful music to show appreciation to our Veterans. The free concert was a community wide success as about 1000 people attended, many in uniforms, to share and show their appreciation. I’m so proud that my music director, Kayoko Dan, and my symphony take this type of concert to heart. The pride that the audience felt was palpable and contagious!

The main attraction for my parent’s trip was the Mozart Requiem concert. They had even invited several other couples to join them in the lower balcony; their friends from various wildlife preserves drove in from Georgia, North Carolina, and Kentucky making for a fun reunion and a shared concert experience.

The time that flew as we lost ourselves in the aquarium was countered with the time that seemed to stand still as we contemplated history on the battlefield. But, for me, the most important aspect of time during this particular week was the time spent with my parents.

About Holly Mulcahy

After hearing Scheherazade at an early age, Holly Mulcahy fell in love with the violin and knew it would be her future. She currently serves as concertmaster of the Wichita Symphony Orchestra and the Chattanooga Symphony Orchestra. She spends her summers at the celebrated Grand Teton Music Festival. Believing in music as a healing and coping source, Holly founded Arts Capacity, a charitable 501(c)3 which focuses on bringing live chamber music, art, artists, and composers to prisons. Arts Capacity addresses many emotional and character-building issues people face as they prepare for release into society. Holly performs on a 1917 Giovanni Cavani violin, previously owned by the late renowned soloist Eugene Fodor, and a bespoke bow made by award winning master bow maker, Douglas Raguse.

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