Bristol: Sounds Good

Bristol is built on sound: engines revving, fiddles singing and the silent peace of the outdoors. The downtown buzzes with live music and the outdoors quietly await just beyond. Nestled in the Appalachian Mountains and surrounded by scenic South Holston Lake and the Holston River sits Bristol—The Birthplace of Country Music and home of the “World’s Fastest Half Mile”—Bristol Motor Speedway.

Any first-time visitor’s journey to Bristol should start downtown at the state line on State Street. Tennessee and Virginia are divided by brass markers and double yellow lines, and are the ultimate photo opp. Historic downtown Bristol has been “A Good Place to Live” since 1856 and proof of that is the historic Bristol Sign, which has spanned State Street since 1915 and has new LED lights that brighten up downtown. Other downtown gems that can’t be missed include the Bristol Train Station, the Paramount Bristol, the Birthplace of Country Music Museum, and an array of locally-owned restaurants, shops, and art galleries.

Photo by Jonathan McCoy

The Birthplace of Country Music Museum, a Smithsonian-affiliated museum, honors Bristol’s musical roots, which began with the historic 1927 Bristol Sessions. The museum tells the story of the Sessions recordings, explores how evolving technology shaped their success and highlights how this rich musical heritage lives on in today’s music. In connection with the Museum, Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion, takes place downtown each September. The annual three-day festival features more than 150 artists and draws in excess of 40,000 music lovers.

It’s Bristol Baby! You can’t miss The Last Great Colosseum—Bristol Motor Speedway, which opened in 1961, and has long been one of NASCAR’s most popular tracks. It draws fans from all 50 states and more than two dozen countries to its highly anticipated April and September events every year. Bristol Dragway hosts one of the most anticipated NHRA races of the year for drag racing fans every Father’s Day weekend, the Thunder Valley Nationals.

As the gateway to the region’s outdoors, Bristol is home to world class fly fishing waters, golf, mountain bike trails and hiking year-round. South Holston Lake, one of the most visited lakes in Tennessee, is perfect for swimming, boating or water skiing. The bass fishing on the lake is top-notch, and the Holston River just below is considered one of the top fly fishing waters in the country. Steele Creek Park features a Nature Center, seasonally-run kids train, splash pad and paddle boating. Sugar Hollow Park and Whitetop Creek Park are multi-purpose sports complexes with plenty of trails and picnic shelters. Bristol also has two caverns: Bristol Caverns and Appalachian Caverns, which can be accessed year-round.

Home to many locally owned and chain restaurants, Bristol has some of the best BBQ and burgers you can find. The famed Burger Bar is among Bristol’s top locally-owned eateries, with other favorites including 620 State, Bloom Café and Listening Room, Stateline Bar & Grill, Machiavelli’s, The Angry Italian, Southern Churn and Blackbird Bakery. Bristol has five breweries and two distilleries, adding State Street Brewing and Lost State Distilling in 2019. Stay in or near our downtown to enjoy live music any night of the week and during the day, get lost on the lake or on a trail when you come discover Bristol!

All about Bristol: See DiscoverBristol.org for more information and the events calendar.