Straddling Virginia and Tennessee, Bristol provides the perfect winter getaway for adventurers of all kinds. Whether you’re looking for miles of scenic trails and trout waters, thrilling racing, toe-tapping music, or mouthwatering cuisine, the Twin Cities have it all for a safe and socially distant trip.
Start your visit with a walk, run, or bike ride on the Mendota Trail. With 6.2 miles currently open for recreation, this gravel and natural surface trail is fun for the whole family. You can even break out your cross country skis if the area gets enough snow. When completed, the rail trail will run 12.5 miles from Bristol to Mendota, Va., connecting the two towns and taking visitors past rolling hills and scenic waterways.
Anglers should make their way to South Holston Lake, an excellent spot for catching smallmouth bass. With much of the shoreline bordered by Cherokee National Forest, the lake provides a scenic spot for boaters and hikers alike. You could spend days fly fishing the South Holston River, a world class trout fishery, for native brook, brown, and rainbow trout.
A number of local parks offer a variety of ways to get outside in the winter. Sugar Hollow Park features an 18-hole disc golf course, miles of trail, and 75 camping sites. Mountain bikers of all skill levels will enjoy riding the network of singletrack trails through the park. Just across the state border, visit Steele Creek Park for 24 miles of trail through 2,000 acres of forested knobs and along the shore of a 54-acre lake. Make sure to stop in the nature center to learn about the natural history of the Southern Appalachians through exhibits and an interpretive arboretum. Follow the Lakeside Trail to Rooster Front for scenic picnic areas along Beaver Creek.
Head over to Mountain Sports Ltd. for all of your outdoor needs while you are in town. From an in-shop bike mechanic and camping gear to fly tying classes and a wealth of local knowledge, these outdoor enthusiasts carry a wide range of brands and products to keep you safe and warm on any outing this winter.
Get out of the cold and explore the rest of what Bristol has to offer. Head underground into the Bristol Caverns, where the ancient Underground River carved out vaulted chambers over millions of years. Each room highlights stunning displays of natural stone formations like arches, columns, cascades, and draperies. Temperatures inside remain constant throughout the year, making it the perfect adventure no matter the weather.
A visit to the area wouldn’t be complete without a stop at The Birthplace of Country Music Museum, celebrating the iconic 1927 Bristol Sessions recordings and their lasting impact on country music today. The museum achieved Healthy Business Certification from the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce & Industry for its disease prevention plan to keep visitors safe while visiting. Plan a return visit in September for the 20th annual Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion, featuring more than 100 of Appalachia’s best artists over the course of three days.
The whole family will love visiting Bristol Motor Speedway. This winter is the perfect time to take in the Pinnacle Speedway in Lights show running from November 13 to January 2, a fun socially distanced activity. Explore more than 250 displays illuminated with over 2 million lights around the Speedway. The route will take you for a spin around the iconic half-mile banks of the speedway and down the legendary Thunder Valley dragstrip. Make sure to stop by the Christmas Village for local vendors and a light show set to music or reserve tickets for some time on the Tri-Cities Airport Ice Rink.
When it comes to kicking back and refueling, Bristol offers a range of dining options to keep you happy and energized. Blackbird Bakery has something for every meal, from doughnuts and scones for breakfast to tarts and cupcakes for dessert. Get your day started with hot coffee, a smoothie, and homemade granola from Bloom Cafe & Listening Room. A few doors over, Bristol Bagel & Bakery serves up delicious breakfast sandwiches, baked goodies, and daily soups.
For that classic diner feel, complete with mouthwatering burgers, chili cheese fries, and milkshakes, Burger Bar has been a local staple since 1942. Bristol Gardens & Grill combines the flavors of their smoked meats with fresh produce and herbs, including smoked chicken salad and barbecue. Swing by Eatz on Moore Street for those comfort foods you’ve been craving like cornbread, fried chicken, and collard greens.
Located in a restored 1850 Victorian home, J Frank specializes in top notch seafood, steaks, and craft cocktails with a unique ambiance. Or sit down for a family style meal at Taste, Wood-Fired Kitchen, an open-air establishment that shows off the beauty of Nicewonder Farm & Vineyard and the surrounding area. Stop by The Southern Churn for a post dinner sweet treat, including homemade ice cream and kettle cooked fudge.
Finish off your day at one of the craft breweries or Lost State Distilling, the hottest new distillery in the area. Elderbrew has found their niche, producing small batches of hand-crafted ales and lagers. For the casual beer drinker interested in a little bit of everything, State Street Brewing Co. is a great post-adventure hangout for everyone. Grab a seat in Bristol’s historical bus station for one of Bristol Station Brews & Taproom’s refreshing drinks or try The Cascade Draft House for a rotating list of over 40 brews, ciders, sours, and seltzers that are sure to hit the spot. Voted the 2020 Best New Craft Distillery by USA Today, the spirits drinker will find a bourbon, gin, rum, vodka, or Tennessee whiskey to enjoy from Lost State Distilling.
Settle in for the night at one of the area’s award-winning hotels. The Bristol Hotel, named a Top Ten City Hotel by Travel + Leisure and Top Pet Friendly Hotel by USA Today, features cozy rooms and a rooftop bar with views of the mountains. Since opening in the summer of 2020, The Sessions Hotel has quickly become a top destination for the country music lover with onsite music venues and a day spa. Both hotels are located in the heart of downtown with easy access to dining options and cultural amenities.
Discover all of this, and more, when you visit Bristol on the Tennessee and Virginia border.
All photos courtesy of Discover Bristol