Let’s face it, looking forward to your summer vacation while it’s still the middle of winter feels a lot like looking for the finish line in a marathon. You know you’ll get there sooner or later, but at the moment it seems impossibly far away.
Luckily, Northeast Tennessee has a huge variety of attractions that make it the perfect destination for a winter getaway, so you don’t have to wait for summer to enjoy a fabulous vacation. Whether you get your kicks from fun indoor activities or prefer to head into the great outdoors, Northeast Tennessee will make you forget your winter blues. And the region’s temperatures actually stay pretty mild, so there’s nothing stopping you from visiting at any time of the year. Here are a few of our favorite ways to while away winter days in Northeast Tennessee.
Take your Kids to the Hands On! Discovery Center
The Hands On! Discovery Center and Gray Fossil Site is a brand new all-ages science center that offers fun interactive programs and exhibits that include a musical Tesla coil, giant building blocks, and a maker studio inviting guests to engineer a rocket, create a masterpiece, and uncover something new. Get up close and personal with an active prehistoric fossil dig site dating back 5 million years. Enjoy exhibits and programs featuring plant and animal fossils that have been unearthed at the site.
Tour the Birthplace of Country Music Museum
The Bristol Sessions are considered by many to be one of America’s most influential events in early commercial country music. In 1927, esteemed producer Ralph Peer launched a recording trip through the Southeast, and while in Bristol he made many famous recordings that included early country musicians like The Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers. The Birthplace of Country Music Museum in Bristol, which opened in 2014, tells the story of the 1927 Bristol Sessions’ impact on country music and hosts a variety of educational and public programming, including summer camps, a film series, lectures and workshops, family fun days, and special performances by roots musicians.
Make a Splash at the Kingsport Aquatic Center
Swimming is especially exciting when your family gets to do it in the middle of winter. While the Kingsport Aquatic Center boasts a grand outdoor water park in the summer months, its indoor pool area is great for cooler weather. The giant swimming pool and waterslide are sure to provide hours of entertainment.
Catch a Show at a Cozy Coffeehouse
Spending a chilly winter evening with good music and delicious food is just downright good for the soul. In downtown Bristol you’ll find the quaint Bloom Cafe and Listening Room, where you can enjoy coffee, café fare and draft beer while you take in a show. In Johnson City, stop in for the fun and funky atmosphere at The Willow Tree Coffeehouse and Music Room. From live music and art to books and tasty treats, The Willow Tree is one of the coziest spots in Northeast Tennessee.
Fly Fish the Watauga River
Teeming with rainbow, brown, and brook trout, the Watauga River in Elizabethton is a hidden gem among fly-fishing spots in Northeast Tennessee. The 17-mile river flows from one of the cleanest lakes in the country and can be waded or fished from a drift boat, depending on whether Wilbur Dam is generating. Make sure to check TVA’s dam release schedule before casting your line into these pristine waters.
Hike Sill Branch and Pine Ridge Falls
Sill Branch Falls and Pine Ridge Falls in Erwin sit so close together that you’d be doing yourself a disservice if you didn’t visit both. Tucked into the Clark’s Creek area of Cherokee National Forest, the falls are nestled into a scenic forest with steep cliffs and babbling creeks. The hike to the base of Sill Branch Falls is about half a mile uphill. From a nearby trailhead, the walk to Pine Ridge Falls is also half a mile, but you gain less elevation than you do during the Sill Branch hike. Since neither of the falls is especially powerful, winter months often afford a unique opportunity to visit the falls while they’re frozen.
Take a Guided Tour of Worley’s Cave
For a truly unique Northeast Tennessee adventure, spend a winter day underground among the stalagmites and stalactites of Worley’s Cave in Bluff City. Because caves remain at a constant 55 degrees year round, winter is the perfect season to hone your spelunking skills. Because Worley’s Cave has more than 4,000 feet of caverns and tunnels, you’ll make the most of your visit by exploring with a guide. You won’t find handrails or light shows here, because Worley’s is a living cave, and you should be ready to get your feet wet.
Visit Roan Mountain State Park
Roan Mountain State Park is situated at the base of 6,285-foot Roan Mountain and offers visitors the opportunity to explore 12 miles of hiking trails among rhododendron, evergreen balsam and hardwood forests. Snowfall makes these trails optimal for cross-country skiing, which is a memorable way to experience the park’s breathtaking winter peacefulness. The beautiful Doe River winds throughout the park and supports a healthy population of trout year round. If you want to extend your visit, the park provides abundant camping and cabin options.
Originally written by RootsRated for Northeast Tennessee Tourism.