If you plug in Tennessee's Tri-Cities into Google Maps, starting with Johnson City continuing to Kingsport and finishing in Bristol, the whole trip will take you approx. an hour to complete. But, this hour's drive will transport you to a time where saber-toothed cats roamed the region; pioneers made their pilgrimage; and a different sort of "Big Bang" happened in Bristol, affecting not only the city but the entire nation. Here's what to expect when you visit the Tri-Cities:
Family fun – Johnson City:
Reconnect with family and Mother Nature by exploring caves Daniel Boone is said to have inhabited while making his trek at Tipton Hayes State Historic Site in Johnson City. The 45-acre park holds a natural spring, buffalo trace, 11 historic buildings, and exhibits about the surrounding areas. Cast a line with the kiddos along Watauga/South Holston Rivers, the Southeast's best trout fishing holes, or Nolichucky River, where world-class smallmouth bass swim and thrive. Catfish and musky can also be caught. Quench your thirst for adventure by taking a whitewater rafting ride along the rapids in Nolichucky as well.
Take the family to hear stories and tales by acclaimed storytellers at the International Storytelling Center in Jonesborough, approx. 15 minutes from Johnson City. The preservation of storytelling is conducted at the Center through exhibits. Live, daily stories are told May through October.
Continue on to Gray, Tennessee, 33 minutes from Jonesborough, to visit the fossils and findings on display at the East Tennessee State University & General Shale Natural History Museum Visitor Center and Gray Fossil Site. The name is a mouthful, but the visit is memorable as guests catch a glimpse of East Tennessee's 5 million year-old past. Tapirs, red pandas, saber-toothed cats, shovel-tusked elephants, touch-screen computer games, and a dig pit are all on display. And, with adult tickets at $6 and children tickets at $3, it's affordable fun.
A Good Time with Wine – Kingsport
Sample and sip some of Tennessee's great wines, as a number of vineyards have found their home in Kingsport, approx. 30 minutes from Johnson City.
Countryside Vineyards & Winery, which has several award-winning Tennessee wines and is open for tastings, tours, or if you just want to stroll through the vineyard.
Tennessee's largest vineyard is Reedy Creek Winery, which bottles a bit of Southern history in its award-winning wines. Step into the wine tasting room to sample the wines. You can also purchase gourmet crackers, cheeses, sausages, and chocolates to enhance your wine experience.
Courtesy of Bays Mountain Park and Planetarium
Continue your romantic trip to Kingsport by gazing at the stars at Bays Mountain Park and Planetarium. Take a trip around the universe from the comfort of a theater chair by catching a show at the Planetarium followed by a live tour of the night sky or participate in StarWatch at the Observatory March-April and October-November Saturday evenings.
End on a High Note – Bristol
The trip culminates with music in none other than Bristol. The U.S. Congress named Bristol the official Birthplace of Country Music and the city, in all its roots music charm, has taken that title and ran with it.
Photo credit: Sarah Hauser
Bristol is home to the Birthplace of Country Music Museum, a 24,000 square-foot music museum that tells the story of the 1927 Bristol Sessions through interactive exhibits including touch-screen components. Guests can give classic songs a modern twist at the mixing station, become a music star in the sing-along station, and listen to contemporary versions of Bristol Session songs. Live music can always be heard in restaurants, on street corners, and on public squares along Bristol. You'll be mesmerized by the seamless melding of traditional tunes and modernity.
The music takes on a different form as NASCAR racing zips around the World's Fastest Half-Mile track at Bristol Motor Speedway. The roars of the engines as drivers battle for top honors will be a beautiful sound to your ears.