The Weekender: Bristol

Editors’ picks for a weekend on the edge (of Virginia).

The Virginia state line cuts through downtown Bristol.

Photo courtesy of Discover Bristol

At only 13.2 square miles, Bristol may be compact, but tucked against the Blue Ridge Mountains along the Virginia-Tennessee border, the city is packed with history and culture. Recognized as the official birthplace of country music (not so fast, Nashville), Bristol enjoys the influence not just of one state’s culture, but of two: the state line between Virginia and Tennessee runs right through the heart of downtown along the aptly named State Street. Across the border, Bristol, Tennessee, mirrors Virginia’s own Bristol as a twin city, sharing not only the name, but also a sense of camaraderie as residents travel regularly across the line to live, work and enjoy the best of both sides.


Eatz on Moore Street

Since opening in 2007, Eatz on Moore Street has offered a small but hearty menu. It specializes in comfort food, offering entrées such as fried catfish fillets, meatloaf, fried chicken and slow smoked ribs. Each plate is served with a dense square of cornbread and two additional sides— select from an expansive list of everything from collard greens or black beans to macaroni and cheese. Affiliated with Rooted in Appalachia, which connects businesses with local vendors and products, Eatz uses fresh and local ingredients whenever possible to create substantial meals that feel like home.

Burger Bar

According to legend, the Original Burger Bar, open since 1942, was the last place that country music great Hank Williams Sr. was seen alive, apparently enjoying a burger as his last meal. Burger Bar keeps Williams’ memory alive by featuring menu items named after his songs, such as the Cold, Cold Heart burger topped with green chilies and jalapeños and the Howlin’ at the Moon, topped with chili, grilled onions and cheese. In the style of a 1950s-era diner, the walls are covered with Americana; the bar evokes an old-timey soda shop, with a menu of classic milkshakes, floats and malts. Closed on Sundays, Burger Bar is open for lunch and dinner the rest of the week and “ ‘til we run out,” on Saturday nights.

Blackbird Bakery

Blackbird Bakery, which will celebrate its 10th anniversary next year, offers a wide selection of treats, specializing in made-from-scratch pastries, breads made in house and uniquely flavored doughnuts (such as red velvet and coconut cream) that are constantly changing. The shop recently expanded to keep up with growing demand, and features an art gallery showcasing the work local artists and regularly hosting live music. And you’ll never miss satisfying a late-night craving; Blackbird is open around the clock Monday – Saturday.


Birthplace of Country Music Museum

Named by Congress in 1998 as the Official Birthplace of Country Music, Bristol is where in 1927 some of the most significant country music recordings, known as the Bristol Sessions, were produced for national distribution. Built in 2014, the museum details the events of the sessions, showcasing artifacts, letters and recordings from the time, including the music of the Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers. According to Johnny Cash, “These recordings in Bristol in 1927 are the single most important event in the history of country music.” This year marks the 90th anniversary of these sessions; the museum will celebrate July 25 – Aug. 5. In addition, the museum will host a special exhibit from now through June 4, called “Hometown Stars: Southwest Virginia’s Recording Legacy, 1923-1943,” which illustrates the effects of the growing country music movement on widely-unknown regional artists.

Sugar Hollow Park.

Sugar Hollow Park

Located off I-81 at exit 7, Sugar Hollow Park is 400 acres of lush regional flora and distant mountain views. Popular among both visitors and residents, the recreation areas are perfect for longer stays or quick day trips. Sugar Hollow has campsites, picnic shelters, a disc golf course and numerous trails for running, hiking and biking. Having recently added an enclosed dog park, Sugar Hollow is also the site of the annual Woofstock event, a dog-centric celebration emphasizing the importance of spaying, neutering and rescuing dogs in need. The park’s numerous fields and trails host local soccer associations, cross country events and NCAA mountain biking competitions.

Bristol Brewery and Taproom

The Bristol Brewery and Taproom, which opened July 2015, is the brainchild of Ken Monyak, who in 2013 won a $5,000 grant from Believe in Bristol’s Entrepreneur Grants Program to support his idea to open Bristol’s first craft brewery. The brewery is located in the historic Piedmont bus station downtown. It comprises Monyak’s 10-barrel brewing system, a sizeable taproom and an outdoor patio, where live music and trivia nights are held for patrons. Food trucks provide suds and snacks. 


The Bristol Hotel

Work on the new Bristol Hotel is currently underway.

As part of a comprehensive revitalization project, construction has begun on Bristol’s first boutique hotel—and the only hotel located downtown. The Bristol Hotel will open in fall 2017 at the renovated historic building known as the Executive Plaza, and will feature 65 luxury rooms, a rooftop bar, a fitness center, a fine-dining restaurant and a coffee shop.

Flo’s Hideaway

Flo’s Hideaway is a private residence located in the historic Solar Hill neighborhood. Calling itself “Bristol’s Best Kept Secret,” the residence was built in 1895 and has been lavishly restored. Primarily, Flo’s Hideaway serves as a showcase of revitalization efforts in the neighborhood, but for special events such as NASCAR races at the nearby Bristol Motor Speedway or the yearly Bristol Rhythm and Blues Reunion, the Hideaway offers bed and breakfast accommodations for the few lucky guests who reserve rooms on time. Call to schedule a tour or to book a room for special events.

June 11, 2022

Star Gazing and Laser Nights

Virginia Living Museum
July 9, 2022

Star Gazing and Laser Nights

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August 13, 2022

Star Gazing and Laser Nights

Virginia Living Museum