Nestled in the Appalachians about 5.5 hours from DC is Bristol, a two-state city that straddles the border between Virginia and Tennessee. Although it may seem like a quaint town in the southern mountains, Bristol has a history steeped in history. Since 1998, it has been officially recognized as the cradle of country music and its origins date back to the aftermath of the French and Indian wars. Bristol has a lot to offer visitors, from great music, food and shopping to historic sites and outdoor adventures.
So if you are looking for a weekend getaway beyond the borders of Northern Virginia, consider a trip to this unique city. Here are some suggestions of things to see and do.
Things to do
It wouldn’t be a trip to Bristol without a visit to the award winning Home of the Country Music Museum. A subsidiary of the Smithsonian Institution, the museum tells the story of the legendary Bristol Sessions of 1927 and how these recordings helped bring country music into the mainstream. After your visit, walk two blocks south to State Street, where you can, for a moment while crossing the road, have one foot in Virginia and the other in Tennessee. In the evening, consider attending a live concert at Primal Bristol, a local landmark in the heart of downtown, or a race to Bristol Motor Circuit, home to the “world’s fastest half-mile”. If you want to spend a day in the great outdoors, South Holston Lake has several hiking trails and good fishing, while Bristol Caves offers the chance to see an underground river.
Where to eat and drink
What’s a trip down south without a big barbecue? Remember to stop Southern artisanal barbecue for one of its smoked southern specialties and a cocktail. Delta Blues barbecue Not only serves all your favorite barbecues, but is also 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 like collard greens, black beans, and rice. For something sweet, stop by Merle bakery for a pastry, a pie or a scoop of ice cream.
Bristol is also home to several local distilleries and breweries, including Distillation in the lost state, a family-owned craft distillery that produces gin, rum and Tennessee Whiskey in small batches and was voted Best New Craft Distillery in United States todayReaders’ Choice Award last year. And a few blocks away is Elderberry beer, Tennessee’s first small batch brewery.
Where to shop
For casual wear, visit LC King, a manufacturer of jeans, coats, shirts and more who have made Bristol their home for almost 110 years. Around the corner is Wm. King clothiers, a supplier of classic clothing and accessories such as suits, dress shirts, pants and ties. If you’re looking for something a little more contemporary or funky, check out Serendipity and Studio 6, two shops located in the heart of lower Bristol on State Street. If interior design is your shopping priority, take a stroll through Cranberry Way, which offers a wide selection of country designs, including furniture, framed artwork, light fixtures and curtains.
Where to stay
Aptly named Bristol hotel is a 65-room luxury hotel located inside a 1920s architectural landmark that features a chic rooftop bar for visitors to relax and enjoy the outdoors and 360-degree views degrees over the picturesque surrounding mountains and downtown. The Bristol hotel also has an on-site restaurant, Vivian’s Table, which offers a ‘Chophouse-style Appalachian menu’ that includes a 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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