Bristol has plenty of great places to visit within the twin cities, but here’s a list of 16 must-visit locations visitors will enjoy within 16 miles of our historic downtown.
1. Adventure Mendota
Adventure Mendota offers kayak (unguided) rentals from their base camp on Swinging Bridge Road on the North Fork of the Holston River, which is perfect for recreational kayaking. The water’s gentle flow ensures your first kayak trip will be as good as your next 10 and the best part? Anybody can do it – no experience is necessary!
2. Appalachian Caverns
The Appalachian Caverns is the largest show cave in Northeast Tennessee. Check out the walking tours or be adventurous and take the wild adventure tours, guaranteed to get your muddy. Kids can check out the climbing wall and mine for real gems.
3. Barter Theater
Barter Theatre began in 1933 with one man’s idea to have patrons pay with produce and has grown today into a year-round theatre with more than 160,000 visitors each year.
4. Birthplace of Country Music Museum
The Birthplace of Country Music® Museum, a 24,000 square foot facility, which opened in August 2014, in affiliation with the Smithsonian Institute, tells the story of Bristol’s musical heritage. The Museum provides the BCM with a new, permanent facility to house its operations, including the museum, educational programs, and artistic programming.
5. Bristol Motor Speedway/Bristol Dragway
Located in Northeast Tennessee in the town of Bristol, Bristol Motor Speedway is a legendary NASCAR short-track nicknamed The Last Great Colosseum for its epic battles and Roman-like architecture. The speedway is among the largest sporting venues in the world. In addition to the speedway, Bristol has a .25-mile dragstrip that hosts an annual NHRA event, the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals.
6. Bristol Pirates
The Bristol Pirates are a minor league baseball team in Bristol, Virginia, USA. They are a Rookie-level team in the Appalachian League. As of October 16, 2013, they are owned by the Pittsburgh Pirates.
7. Bristol Caverns
One of the largest and most stunning caverns in the region, Bristol Caverns takes visitors along the banks of the ancient Underground River that carved the spectacular caverns from the hard core of the earth 200 to 400 million years ago.
8. East Hill Cemetery
Called the “Most Haunted Place in Bristol”, East Hill is an American Civil War-era cemetery established in 1857, with sections for Confederate soldiers and veterans as well as a small section for African American burials. It is listed on the National Register for Historic Places.
9. The Paramount
Paramount Bristol, built in 1931 and restored in 1991, serves as a showplace for the arts in Bristol, featuring nationally known musicians, while hosting Broadway touring shows and presenting a varied performance line-up.
10. Rocky Mount
Owned by William Cobb, the original residence at Rocky Mount served as the first territorial capital of the Southwest Territory (which would become the state of Tennessee in 1796) from 1790 to 1792. Rocky Mount opened to the public in 1962 and has undergone several renovations over the years, adding a visitor center, museum store and, in 1990, a 175-seat auditorium, library and classrooms.
11. South Holston Lake/Dam
South Holston Lake, a Tennessee Valley Authority reservoir covering 7,580 acres, is considered one of the top two lakes in Tennessee and among the best in the Southeast for smallmouth bass fishing and also is well known as a fly fisherman’s paradise. The lake also provides many other recreational opportunities for residents, with 60% of its shoreline bordered by the Cherokee National Forest.
12. Steele Creek Park
Located in Bristol, TN, Steele Creek Park features over 2,200 acres with playgrounds, picnic areas, amphitheater, nature center, paddleboats, disc golf, train ride, walking trails and a 9-hole golf course and driving range.
13. Sugar Hollow Park
Located in Bristol, VA, Sugar Hollow park is a 400-acre park with three softball fields, five soccer fields, 100 picnic sites, six picnic shelters, 75 campsites, a private pavilion and pool.
14. Twin City Drive-In
The Twin City Drive-In Theatre is a family-operated drive in theatre. Open on weekends during the spring and fall seasons; nightly during the summer months with a double feature showing.
15. The Bristol Sign
Over 100 years ago, in 1910, the Bristol Gas and Electric Company wanted to do something for Bristol so they donated an electric sign to the community. The Bristol Sign, however, was first erected on top of the Interstate Hardware Company building near the railroad tracks off of State Street. In 1988 the sign, which boasts approximately 1,330 bulbs, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
16. The Bristol Train Station
The Bristol Train Station has been central to much of the local history. Indeed, local historian Bud Phillips believes “there would have been no Bristol had it not been for the coming of the railroad.”