Savor the Soul of Bristol
When you plan your next trip, are you looking for a trail filled with breathtaking sights or a cityscape full of unique shops and cultural experiences? Do you prefer a night out on the town, or a wide open sky filled with stars? Do you prefer Southern comfort food or international cuisine? You might be interested in a city that offers it all.
Bristol is located on the Virginia-Tennessee border and offers travelers of all ages an opportunity to enjoy Southern hospitality. You can fill your days with music and excitement, or just find a quiet place to recharge and relax. One city, two places. This is Bristol.
The Downtown Experience
Downtown Bristol, no matter the season, is a sight to see. As you explore the city’s best Southern cuisines, sweet treats, or entertainment, follow the state line.
A stop in Bristol must include a visit to the Birthplace of Country Music Museum. Exhibits, recordings, and artifacts celebrate the 1927 Bristol Sessions, recognized as the “Big Bang” of country music. You can plan your visit around one the museum’s events such as the popular Bristol Rhythm and Roots reunion music festival. You can also walk to other landmarks such as the famous Bristol Sign, Paramount Bristol and The Cameo Theater. There are also many local shops.
Dive into Appalachia’s rich and varied history of homemade spirits and brews with a sampling of downtown offerings. State Street Brewing Company is a popular place to meet with friends. They offer a rotating selection of beers and live music. Michael Waltrip Brewing Co. offers a wide range of beers, snacks, and cocktails. The award-winning Lost State Distillery is also nearby. Enjoy the delicious Tennessee whiskey, Gin, Rum, and Cannabombs distilled in-house.
As your stroll down State Street, you will be tempted to stop at the local restaurants and try the delicious aromas. Bloom offers everything you need, from a cup of coffee to start your day, to a hearty breakfast before you head out on a day of exploring, to a delicious dinner prepared with the finest ingredients. Maybe you’re feeling like a plate of barbecue and craft cocktails from Southern Craft BBQ or looking to try anew dish from the extensive menu at 620 State Restaurant. Southern Churn also offers delicious homemade fudge.
You don’t need to walk far to find a cozy room near the action. Two boutique hotels in downtown are the ideal basecamp for your adventures. The Bristol Hotel is right next to the museum. It has a rooftop bar with stunning mountain views, a large farm-to-table restaurant, and thoughtful amenities. The Sessions Hotel offers a variety of options: you can relax at the spa, enjoy a concert on the lawn, or sit by the firepits overlooking the city. You can have the whole Downtown Bristol experience within reach.
You don’t need to travel far to find more fun than the bright lights and bustling streets downtown.
Just a short drive takes you to South Holston Lake, one of the best fishing spots in the South. The undeveloped shoreline, surrounded by Cherokee National Forest, makes for a tranquil day on the water casting for catfish, walleye, crappie, bass, and walleye. Fly anglers should visit the Holston River below Weir Dam for some fly fishing. This river is known for being one of the best trout fisheries anywhere in the country.
If you prefer to stay on the ground, you can head into the national forests for many trails, including miles along the Appalachian Trail. There are many other things to do in the city parks, including the gritty mountain biking trails at Sugar Hollow Park or Steele Creek Park. The Mendota Trail is one of Bristol’s most popular attractions. It offers several miles for running, walking, and biking. There are many hotels, inns, campgrounds and other accommodations in the area that make it easy to explore and stay within your budget.
Racing fans won’t want to miss out on a visit to the iconic Bristol Motor Speedway, recognized as one of NASCAR’s loudest and most popular tracks. You can take part in a race weekend at The Last Great Colosseum and experience the thrill of the drag strip or one of many unique events such as a music festival, holiday light show, or a NASCAR track.
If that’s still not enough excitement, it’s time to check out the brand-new Bristol Casino. Through the doors of Virginia’s first casino, there are over 870 slot machines, all of the classic table games, and sports betting. You can grab a bite or a drink at a bar while you wait between rounds to view some of the most important memorabilia from music history. Keep an eye out for big things happening in 2024 when permanent facilities for the Hard Rock Hotel and Bristol Casino are slated to open.
Then, it’s time for a unique experience at Nice wonder Farm and Vineyard. You won’t regret making this stop, whether you taste the wines or the Appalachian cuisine at Hickory.
It’s time to embrace all that one city has to offer and let the good times roll. You never know what you might discover.
The author of 5 books, 3 of which are New York Times bestsellers. I’ve been published in more than 100 newspapers and magazines and am a frequent commentator on NPR.