Savor the Soul of Bristol
As you’re planning your next trip, do you want an adventure on the trail filled with majestic sights or a cityscape filled with eclectic shops and cultural experiences? Do you prefer a night on the town or wide-open skies filled with stars? Are you in the mood for classic Southern comfort foods or fare from around the world? What about a city that can offer it all?
Bristol straddles the Virginia and Tennessee border, welcoming travelers of all ages a spot to revel in genuine Southern hospitality. From the historic downtown to the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, you fill your days with excitement and music or find a quiet spot to relax and recharge. One city, two places. This is Bristol.
The Downtown Experience
Downtown Bristol is a sight to behold, no matter what season you visit. Walk the state line, running right through downtown, as you search for the best Southern dishes, sweet treats, and entertainment the city has to offer.
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. Plan your visit around one of the museum’s events, including the ever-popularBristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion music festival. From the museum, you can walk to other notable landmarks, including the infamous Bristol Sign, Paramount Bristol, The Cameo Theater, and countless local shops.
Dive into Appalachia’s long and storied history of homemade brews and spirits with a sample of downtown offerings. State Street Brewing Company is a popular gathering place with a rotating list of beers on tap and live music. Make a pit stop at Michael Waltrip Brewing Co. for a wide selection of beers, bites, and cocktails. Then, of course, there’s the award-winning Lost State Distillery. Savor the taste of their Tennessee whiskey, gin, rum, and canned cocktails distilled in-house.
As you meander down State Street, the savory aromas call for you to stop and sample the local fare. Bloom has it all, whether you need a coffee to get you going in the morning, a hearty breakfast before a day of exploring, or dinner made 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. You might even treat yourself to some mouthwatering homemade fudge from Southern Churn.
You don’t have to walk far for a cozy room close to the action. Two downtown boutique hotels provide the perfect basecamp for your adventures. The Bristol Hotel, located right beside the museum, features a rooftop bar with sweeping mountain views, an extensive farm-to-table menu, and thoughtful amenities. At The Sessions Hotel, you can sit by the fire pits overlooking the city, relax at the day spa, or attend a concert out on the lawn. The whole Downtown Bristol experience is within your reach.
You don’t have to drive far to discover even more fun beyond the bright lights and bustling streets of downtown.
Just a short drive provides access to one of the South’s best fishing destinations on South Holston Lake. The largely undeveloped shoreline surrounded by Cherokee National Forest makes for a peaceful day on the water as you cast for bass, walleye, crappie, and catfish. Anglers who prefer fly fishing should check out the waters of the Holston River below Weir Dam, known as one of the best trout fisheries in the country.
If you’d rather stay on land, head into the national forest for dozens of trails, including miles of the Appalachian Trail. There’s even more to see and do at several city parks, including gritty mountain bike trails at Sugar Hollow Park and Steele Creek Park. Experience the Mendota Trail, one of Bristol’s newest attractions, with several miles for walking, running, and biking. A variety of hotels, inns, and campgrounds in the area make it easy to stay and discover 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. Take in a race weekend at The Last Great Colosseum, experience the thrill at the drag strip, or one of several unique events like a music festival or holiday light show.
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. In between rounds, grab a bite to eat or a drink at the bar before viewing some of music history’s most iconic memorabilia on display. 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 to treat yourself to an experience like no other at Nice wonder Farm and Vineyard. Whether you sample the wines in the tasting room, taste the dishes inspired by Appalachian heritage at Hickory, or book a night at the luxurious resort, you won’t regret this stop.
It’s time to embrace the dualities one city can offer and let the good times flow. Who knows what you’ll discover?
To request your FREE Discover Bristol Visitor Guide, visit DiscoverBristol.org.
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.