Bristol, Virginia is located in Southwest Virginia. It is right next to the state’s border with Tennessee. In fact, it is the twin city of Bristol, Tennessee, which is right across the state border.
The city of Bristol has the unique distinction of being located in both Northeastern Tennessee and Southwest Virginia. The Virginia side of Bristol is surrounded by Washington County, while the Tennessee side of Bristol is located in Sullivan County.
Bristol has a rich musical history and is a great destination for music lovers. It was named the “Birthplace of Country Music” by Congress in 1998. A museum honoring this tradition is one of the major attractions in town.
Bristol is home to major music festivals, lovely parks, caverns, and even a major racetrack. Though it’s small in size, the town has something for just about everyone!
Below are my top recommendations for things to do in Bristol, VA and Bristol, TN.
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|Where to Stay in Bristol, VA|
Gorgeous Modern Decor Near the Birthplace of Country Music Museum
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Historic Building and Cool Modern Decor on State Street
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101 Country Music Way, Bristol, VA 24201
- Monday: Closed
- Tuesday – Saturday: 10:00 am – 6:00 pm
- Sunday: 1:00 pm – 5:00 pm
If you’re a country music fan, you will definitely want to check out the Birthplace of Country Music museum. The museum celebrates the Bristol Sessions, which took place in 1927 and are considered the beginning of country music.
Special exhibits in the past have focused on a wide range of subjects, including folk music, honky tonk, Appalachia art and music, and instrument-making traditions of the Blue Ridge.
Other rotating exhibits are curated by other museums such as the Smithsonian Institute.
The museum also hosts a major annual music festival: The Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion. The event usually takes place in September over a three-day period.
The festival features music performances celebrating a wide range of genres, including Americana, country, bluegrass, rock, Piedmont blues, and even Celtic. There are over 100 musical acts at the festival and 17 stages!
151 Speedway Blvd, Bristol, TN 37620
Hours vary based on event.
You can buy tickets for events online.
Bristol Motor Speedway is located in Tennessee, but it is another major attraction near Bristol. The speedway is just 9 miles south of Bristol, VA. The speedway was previously called Bristol International Raceway and Bristol Raceway.
The NASCAR track is known as the “World’s Fastest Half-Mile”. The venue is the fourth-largest sports venue in the U.S., with a capacity of 153,000.
There are a wide range of regular events and races that take place at the track throughout the year. Several NASCAR Cup Series races take place during the spring and fall.
There are other special events at the track too, including the Ice Rink at Bristol Motor Speedway, which takes place from mid-November to mid-January.
The venue even hosts Vintage Market Days, which features indoor and outdoor vendors selling art, jewelry, clothing, home decor, food, and much more.
You can find a full list of events online.
1157 Bristol Caverns Hwy, Bristol, TN 37620
March 15 – October 31:
- Monday – Saturday: 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
- Sunday: 12:30 pm – 5:00 pm
November 1 – March 14:
- Monday – Saturday: 10:00 am – 4:00 pm
- Sunday: 12:30 pm – 4:00 pm
You can call or email Bristol Caverns to learn about pricing and tours, including group tours.
Bristol Caverns is located in nearby Bristol, Tennessee. The caverns were created 200 to 400 million years ago by an underground river.
The caverns feature paved and lighted walkways to make it easy to travel through them. Visitors are treated to spectacular rock formations, massive columns, stalagmites, stalactites.
The unique mineral deposits even create rocks of different colors, such as red, blue, gray, and white.
Some of the memorable landmarks in the caverns include the colorfully named Bridal Veil and Lover’s Leap.
You can take a guided tour of the caverns. The tours leave every 20 minutes from the caverns gift shop and last approximately one hour.
State Street, Bristol, VA
Hours vary by store, restaurant, venue, and event.
Tickets vary by venue and event.
One of the highlights of Bristol is State Street, which is located in historic downtown Bristol. The street serves as the Main Street of Bristol. It has the name State Street because it also serves as the state line between Virginia and Tennessee.
You can even take a picture at one of the markers that indicates that you are in both Tennessee and Virginia, which is very cool!
State Street features shopping, dining, and two main hotels: the Bristol Hotel and the Sessions Hotel. The downtown district also features over 30 artisan shops and vendors selling a wide variety of arts and crafts from local artists.
State Street is also home to live entertainment venues like the Blue Ridge Comedy Club, which features comedy acts, cabarets, and Open Mic night on Wednesdays.
Another highlight of the downtown area is the Bristol Sign, which is an enormous light-up sign that marks the state border between Virginia and Tennessee. The sign reads the Bristol slogan: “A Good Place to Live.”
State Street also boasts two landmarks that are on the National Register of Historic Places: the historic Bristol Train Station, dating all the way back to 1865; and the Paramount Center for the Arts, which dates back to 1931.
You can find a great interactive map of the entire Appalachian Trail online!
Open at all times, except in the event of inclement weather.
The Appalachian Trail is the famous 2,180 mile trail that runs along the eastern United States from Maine to Georgia. A large part of the trail travels through the western part of Virginia.
Just to the east of Bristol, part of the trail travels through the Cherokee National Forest.
You can learn more about the Appalachian Trail and other national parks in my guide to the Best National Parks in Virginia.
South Holston Lake, Tenessee
Open at all times
South Holston Lake, River, and Dam are all part of an extensive body of water that is part of the Tennessee Valley Authority. It is located on the Tennessee-side of Bristol. The reservoir itself is 7,580 acres in size.
The reservoir is a popular spot for smallmouth bass fishing and boating. The South Fork Holston River is a trout fishery and very popular destination for fly fishing.
The South Holston Dam is actually the third-largest earthen dam in the world!
The area is also great for nature lovers. Nearby Osceola Island has a one-mile-loop wildlife trail where visitors can spot deer, waterfowl, and other birds.
4 Little Ln, Bristol, TN 37620
Open Daily: 9:00 am – 9:00 pm
Steele Creek Park is a major regional park located in Bristol, TN. It is a massive 2,200 acres in size, which makes it the third largest municipal park in Tennessee.
The park features many amenities including an 18 hole disc golf course, picnic tables, a 52-acre lake, a nature center, playgrounds, paddle boat rentals, a splash pad, and much more.
There is also an outdoor amphitheater and the Steele Creek Express, which is a train for kids and families to ride in the park.
The park also includes trails for walking, running, and biking.
23261 Sugar Hollow Rd, Bristol, VA 24202
Open Daily: 7:00 am – 9:00 pm
Sugar Hollow Park is located in Bristol, VA. The park a great destination for sports and recreation.
The 400-acre park has a bike trail, camping sites, picnic areas, a playground, a swimming pool, three softball fields, and five soccer fields.
Learn more about things to do in Southwest Virginia!
And check out more things to do in the Shenandoah Valley!