Discover the bright lights with a small city feel when you visit Bristol, Va./Tenn. This thriving hub features historical landmarks, cultural centers, and world-class dining around every corner.
Start your visit off with the Downtown Bristol Walking Tour for some of the area’s must-see attractions. Take a photo with the Bristol Sign, listed on the National Register of Historic Places and a spectacular sight when lit up at night. With one foot in each state, you can straddle the Tennessee and Virginia border at this iconic location.
Step back in time at the Bristol Train Station, another location on the National Register of Historic Places. Originally built as a railroad town, Bristol’s history is inextricably linked to the railway line. Restored in the early 2000s, the large waiting room features cathedral ceilings, Gothic-style architecture, original flooring, and a spacious balcony.
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 as well as numerous other genres. Through permanent and special exhibits, film experiences, and live performances, immerse yourself in the sounds and history of country music through the decades. Plan a return visit in September for the 20th annual Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion, featuring more than 100 regional and national recording artists over the course of three days. For more local music history, swing by the birthplace of tv, radio, and recording star Ernest Jennings “Tennessee Ernie” Ford. You can contact the Bristol Chamber of Commerce for tours of the house.
If you’re looking for more of the arts, two historic theatres feature a wide variety of music, dance, film, and theatre shows to delight all ages. The stage at Paramount Bristol, characterized by its Art Deco styling, features performances by some of the biggest names in music as well as up and coming stars. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to hear the sound of the Mighty Wurlitzer, an organ that can reproduce the sound of a complete orchestra, filling the space. The whole family will love the performances, workshops, and other educational programs at the Theatre Bristol.
The Historic Downtown Shopping District features an eclectic mix of antique stores, art galleries, specialty shops, and restaurants in beautifully restored buildings. Do a little bit of window shopping or pick up a one-of-a-kind souvenir. Make sure to visit the Benjamin Walls Gallery on State Street for stunning images of Appalachian landscapes and wildlife from an award-winning photographer. The resurgence of downtown with the opening of cultural amenities, breweries, and a distillery has made it the place to be for exploring by day and celebrating at night. Other stops on the walking tour include the Bristol Motor Speedway mural, Cumberland Square Park, and the WCYB radio station.
Just outside of town, Sugar Hollow Park is a scenic location for getting outside on the trails and by the water. Stand in the shadow of the Resting Tree, a hallowed spot marking the final resting place of some 100 enslaved people. The large oak tree is estimated to be between 400 and 600 years old.
Who could forget the iconic Bristol Motor Speedway? Built on a dairy farm in 1961, the high banked half-mile track located inside a stadium-like venue has hosted some of the biggest NASCAR races, concerts, and sporting events, like the 2016 Battle At Bristol college football game, in entertainment history. Schedule your visit around an event at the Last Great Colosseum and Thunder Valley for a heart racing good time.
Unwind With a Side of History
Take a break from your sightseeing to refuel and relax. Sit down at the Burger Bar, a staple since 1942, for that classic diner feel, complete with mouthwatering burgers, chili cheese fries, and milkshakes. Local legend says it’s the last place Hank Williams Sr. was seen before he passed away.
For an upscale dining experience and unparalleled views, visit the wood-fired kitchen at Nicewonder Farm & Vineyards. Order food to go or dine in at 620 State, with a wide range of eats like stir fry classics, fresh sushi, and juicy burgers while J Frank specializes in craft cocktails, steak, and seafood that will delight your palate.
You’ll find a cozy atmosphere with a beer for just about everyone at Bristol Station Brews & Taproom, plus live music, trivia nights, and a spacious outdoor beer garden including a firepit. Located inside an old Greyhound bus station, it’s a great place to enjoy award-winning brews surrounded by Bristol history.
Spend the night in Downtown Bristol for access to the best restaurants and amenities the area has to offer. The Bristol Hotel features cozy rooms and sweeping views of the Appalachian Mountain while The Sessions Hotel has quickly become a top destination for the country music lover with onsite music venues and a day spa. Both hotels were created from renovated buildings and feature a rooftop bar with delicious cocktails, local brews, and epic views of the city.
Relax the Bristol way as you take in the sights, sounds, and tastes of the Virginia and Tennessee border.
All photos courtesy Discover Bristol