Nestled in the Appalachian Mountains about 5 ½ hours from DC lies Bristol, a two-state city that straddles the border between Virginia and Tennessee. While it may seem like a quaint, Southern mountain town, Bristol has a storied past. Since 1998, it’s officially been recognized as the birthplace of country music and its origins date back to just after the French and Indian War. Bristol has a lot to offer visitors, from great music, food, and shopping to historical sites and outdoor adventures.
So if you’re searching for a weekend getaway beyond the borders of Northern Virginia, consider a trip to this unique city. Here are some suggestions for what to see and do.
Things to Do
It wouldn’t be a trip to Bristol without a visit to the award-winning Birthplace of Country Music Museum. An affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, the museum tells the story of the legendary 1927 Bristol Sessions and how those recordings helped usher country music into the mainstream. After your visit, walk two blocks south to State Street, where you can, just for a moment as you cross the road, have one foot in Virginia and the other in Tennessee. In the evening, consider catching a live concert at Paramount Bristol, a local landmark in the heart of downtown, or a race at the Bristol Motor Speedway, home to the “world’s fastest half mile.” If you’re looking to spend a day in the great outdoors, South Holston Lake has several hiking trails and good fishing, while Bristol Caverns offers the chance to see an underground river.
Where to Eat & Drink
What’s a trip south without great barbeque? Consider stopping by Southern Craft Barbeque for one of its Southern-smoked specialties and a cocktail. Delta Blues BBQ not only serves up all your barbecue favorites, but also is a live music venue focused on singer/songwriters and Blues musicians. The menu at Eatz on Moore Street serves comfort food like fried catfish fillets and Jamaican jerk chicken, with sides such as collard greens and black beans and rice. For something sweet, stop by Blackbird Bakery for a pastry, tart, or scoop of ice cream.
Bristol is also home to several local distilleries and breweries, including Lost State Distilling, a family-owned craft distillery that produces small batch gin, rum, and Tennessee Whiskey and was voted the best new craft distillery in USA Today’s Readers’ Choice Awards last year. And just a few blocks away is Elderbrew, Tennessee’s first small batch brewery.
Where to Shop
For casual clothing, visit L.C. King, a manufacturer of jeans, coats, shirts, and more that has called Bristol home for nearly 110 years. Around the corner is Wm. King Clothiers, a purveyor of classic dress clothes and accessories like suits, dress shirts, slacks, and ties. If you’re looking for something a little more contemporary or funky, check out Serendipity and Studio 6, two boutiques located in the heart of down Bristol on State Street. If your shopping priority is more home décor, take a stroll through Cranberry Lane, which offers a large selection of country designs, including furniture, framed art, lighting, and curtains.
Where to Stay
Aptly named The Bristol Hotel is a 65-room luxury hotel located inside a 1920s-era architectural landmark that has a swanky rooftop bar for visitors to kick back and enjoy the open air and 360-degree views of the picturesque surrounding mountains and city center. The Bristol Hotel also has an on-site restaurant, Vivian’s Table, which features a “chophouse-style Appalachian menu” that includes smoked trout dip (a nod to Bristol’s local fishing scene) as well as a classic caprese salad made with fried green tomatoes.
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