Seasonal menu, local brews, and restoration of an iconic focal point return venue to its roots
PGAV Destinations and Ruby Falls-home of the tallest underground waterfall open to the public in the United States-unveil a new café in the attraction’s historic castle. This PGAV Destinations project features Ruby Falls’ Great Hall restoration within the National Register 1929 Castle Building.
“Ruby Falls entrusted PGAV Destinations with creating a path forward through a multiphase and multiyear project starting in 2018. Through their encouragement and expertise, we have reimagined our 93-year-old attraction and guest experience through enhanced arrival, tours, shopping, and food service,” said Hugh Morrow, President & CEO, Ruby Falls.
The Castle Café is the latest element in the attraction’s multi-phase expansion plan, including LEED certified venues at the park. PGAV Destinations was selected to design the new café, bringing extensive tourism industry background in designing experiences at leading attractions across the globe, including UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
“We are thrilled and humbled to work with Ruby Falls on another innovative project,” said Diane Lochner, PGAV Destinations Vice President. “The Café exemplifies hospitality, storytelling, authenticity, and sustainability. And, of course, we enjoy the collaboration with Hugh and the talented Ruby Falls team.”
Ruby Falls’ limestone castle was built as a venue for social gatherings and a welcome center for guests touring the Lookout Mountain cave system. During the attraction’s earliest decades, the castle featured a fashionable tearoom by day, and at night, an upscale restaurant providing private dining, live orchestra accompanied dinner-dances, and according to accounts in area newspapers at the time, “the largest ballroom in the city.”
As the dinner-dance era gave way to an emerging preference for quick-service snack bars, the hospitality offerings at Ruby Falls followed suit. The expansive dining room was repurposed, and the rustic fireplace, which had been the centerpiece for dining at the castle, was resurfaced and eventually obscured by a flight of stairs and storage for more than 50 years.
According to Hugh Morrow, “The design of the Cafe celebrates the Castle’s deep history as a social gathering place, bringing back the tradition of reconnecting with friends and family at the Castle. The new café and restoration project merges Ruby Falls’ rich history with modern comforts and 21st-century sustainability practices.”
Creation of the café involved restoring the castle’s first floor to reveal the original limestone fireplace. Additional renovations expanded the kitchen to include state-of-the-art equipment, allowing options to serve guest needs better. The new kitchen offers breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert, and lighter fare options. New beer taps highlight a rotating selection of craft beer and hard seltzer from Chattanooga craft breweries, including Empyreal Brewing, Chattanooga Brewing Company, Naked River, and WanderLinger. Iced and hot coffee features fair trade-certified coffee from local Signal Mountain roaster Mayfly Coffee. The renovated space will also host musical performances on select dates.
The renovation created seating inside the castle and outside on the covered front porch with a view of the Cumberland Plateau. Mid-century style armchairs provide comfortable seating in front of the fireplace and are a popular spot for enjoying coffee and sweets.
Waste reduction is one of Ruby Falls’ five major environmental focus areas, along with land use planning, renewable energy, water conservation, and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Through the attraction’s two-year-old partnership with NewTerra Composting, the café’s organic residuals are composted, keeping food waste and compostables out of landfills. The café is committed to using only 100% plant-based compostable food packaging. Compost and recycling stations are provided in the café to encourage proper disposal.
About PGAV Destinations
PGAV Destinations is a global leader in the planning and design of unique destinations. Now entering its sixth decade, the practice has evolved to become the ideal destination-consulting partner, skilled at developing growth-oriented master plans and translating those plans into successful projects. No other firm offers such an integrated approach to destination planning.
PGAV Destinations’ key clients include industry leaders such as Delaware North Companies, SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment, the Biltmore Companies, Bass Pro Shops, Ameristar Casinos, Universal Studios, the Gettysburg Foundation, the Saint Louis Zoo, and many others. Recent assignments include planning and design at many of the world’s “must-see” destinations, including the Grand Canyon, Biltmore Estate, Space Shuttle Atlantis, The Alamo, National Air & Space Museum, Chimelong Ocean Kingdom, the Georgia Aquarium, the Hoover Dam, and SeaWorld Adventure Parks. PGAVDestinations.com
About Ruby Falls
Ruby Falls is home to the tallest and deepest underground waterfall open to the public in the United States. Over half a million guests visit the thundering waterfall annually, located 1,120 feet beneath the summit of Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga, TN. Committed to cave conservation and environmental sustainability, Ruby Falls is the first attraction in the United States to earn certification from Green Globe and is recognized as a leader in tourism sustainability. RubyFalls.com