In the United States, people often consider places like Los Angeles, New Orleans, or Atlanta to take trips to, but have you ever considered a quiet, laid-back vacation? If you are into that sort of thing, next time you travel, maybe consider the Tri-Cities located in Eastern Tennessee. The Tri-Cities are made of up Johnson City, Kingsport, and Bristol Tennessee/Virginia.
Exclusive to the Tri-Cities, you will come across a unique fast food restaurant called Pal’s. Not only does Pal’s have the coolest aesthetic, it is a drive-thru only restaurant with some of the best burgers and fries. It is also the quickest fast food place I have personally been to.
If you plan to hang out for a bit and want a luxurious experience, I highly recommend staying at the Carnegie Hotel in Johnson City. Upon entering the hotel, you will be astonished to see the detail put into this establishment. If you really want to treat yourself, check out the Austin Springs Spa where you will be treated like royalty and leave completely relaxed and reset.
If you want to keep that high-quality experience going, check out Cafe Lola for dinner. This restaurant is split into two different rooms: the restaurant/bar and a lounge/bar. Both are dimly lit, intimate spaces that you can thoroughly enjoy yourself in. Everything on the menu is house-made, including their amaretto, which is made by the owner of the restaurant. And if you are a lover of sweets, try out their tiramisu with your amaretto and cream. You will be in Heaven!
Depending on the time of year you visit and if you are into the outdoors, check out Watauga Kayak. Located on the Watauga River, Watauga Kayak offers guided rafting, kayaking, and caving! It’s about a 30 minute drive through some beautiful back roads that you should be driving on anyway, and the white water rafting trips usually last a few hours. If whitewater rafting makes you nervous- don’t worry- they have 3 different rivers with different types of water. This is an experience perfect for the whole family!
Johnson City’s Downtown is relatively old and historical with a few shops to look around in and restaurants to hang out at. A lot of the buildings are very old and should be restored, but that is part of the beauty of this Downtown.
Korean Taco House
The Korean Taco House is definitely an interesting one; it’s a tiny establishment that you may not even notice, but aren’t those usually the best places? Upon entering it’s clear that this place was made for only a few people at a time, all the tables very close together. The tacos are $1.75, and they are delicious! They offer three types of meat, spicy or sweet sauce, and come stuffed with veggies. This is a place to visit for a quick bite, on a budget, or just for some good tacos.
Fizz Soda Bar
Need a place to take the kids for yummy treats? Check out Fizz Soda Bar. This is a fancy soda shop offering every type of soda or float you could ask for in a family-friendly environment. My personal favorite is birthday cake.
The coolest thing about Bristol is that it is considered a Twin City- partially in Tennessee and partially in Virginia. Downtown is actually split in half between the two states so you can basically be in two places at once while you’re wandering around!
620 State Street
On the Tennesee side of downtown is a wonderful restaurant called 620 State Street. A darker environment with a friendly staff, you are sure to enjoy your time here. They have sushi, noodles, burgers, and desserts. They also offer half off sushi on Tuesdays!
If you are interested in a fresh twist on Southern cuisine and you also enjoy a nice glass of whiskey, head over to Whiskey Rebellion. They wanted this place to feel like stepping back in time to the days of the Prohibition; that is what it feels like hanging out at the Whiskey Rebellion.
One of my personal favorites for a quick bite, other than Pal’s is Bristol BBQ- a tiny establishment that packs a punch! They offer items such as pulled pork and chicken, delicious coleslaw, bread pudding, and most exciting- a “Loaded” menu. This includes loaded baked potatoes tots, nachos, and fries. They are all fabulous, but the tots are outstanding and basically a meal for two. Definitely, stop by Bristol BBQ if you are in the mood for something fast but outstanding.
Bristol Motor Speedway
The last thing I have for Bristol is Bristol Motor Speedway of course! They have two races a year as well as something called Speedway in Lights for the Holidays. It costs $15-$20 per car depending on the day you go, and if you are here during the Holidays, I recommend checking it out especially if you have little ones. The Speedway in Lights offers the largest light show in the South! Best of all, once you finish driving through the beautiful maze of lights and you get into the speedway, there are different tents with hot cider, popcorn, Santa pictures, and a ton more! When the races are going on, there are even more tents, street food, and lots of excited people obviously! It’s a blast to be a part of!
I only have one attraction for Kingsport, but this one is a big one- the legendary Sensabaugh Tunnel. If you are into the paranormal or you just want a good scare, go visit Sensabaugh Tunnel. Rumor stands that satanic rituals were taken place there which include suicide and murder. This tunnel was built in the 20’s, and in the late 50’s, rumors of being haunted began. Upon entering the tunnel, your car engine may die and you may hear shrieking and laughter. It is quite creepy but also a unique experience if you find yourself in the area. Now, if this is too dark for you, obviously you might want to go ahead and skip it but if not, I say go check it out and see if you come back with some wild stories.
The Tri-Cities may be a little bit different than what you are used to, but this quiet set back region is so beautiful and you can really relax and enjoy some of the Southern Culture you will encounter.