Bristol, Virginia: A Good Place to Visit


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Words by Ashley Locke

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“A good place to live.” 

That’s what the sign says when you drive into Bristol, Virginia–but it should also say “A good place to visit,” because Bristol is the perfect place to spend a few relaxing summer days.

While beach towns may be the traditional summer vacation spot, Bristol is a hidden gem nestled in the Appalachian mountains against the Virginia-Tennessee border. When you walk down main street, Virginia is on one side and Tennessee is on the other–the sign lets you know which side is which. People are friendly on both sides. The food is good too.

Bristol used to be a booming town. Then, like so many American towns, it wasn’t anymore. With the help of a generation of millennials that left and returned, the pieces are being picked back up. New breweries, bakeries, and boutiques line the streets, and in the center of it all is The Bristol Hotel.

The Bristol Hotel sits just off Main Street. It used to be a historic office building, first constructed in 1925. The hotel kept the history, but blended it with modern comforts. They did such a good job with the renovation that Bristol locals booked dozens of rooms on its Grand Opening night, staying in rooms that had previously been their grandfather’s office space many years ago. 

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Each room is thoughtfully designed to pay homage to the city’s history. The rolltop curtains are reminiscent of old railway cars, and the printed carpet mimics train tracks. Flashback photos line the hotel lobby–a reminder that the city once was thriving, and soon will be again. 

The hotel also hosts Lumac, Bristol’s only rooftop bar. With specialty cocktails, live music, and gorgeous views, it often gets so busy that entry becomes a one-in-one-out situation. Thankfully there’s another bar downstairs in the hotel restaurant, Vivian’s Table. 

Vivian’s Table is another local affair. A friendly neighbor brings by batches of locally grown mushrooms, featured in several menu items. Another makes sure that every table has a mason jar full of fresh flowers. It’s a cheerful reminder that the hotel staff is happy you’re visiting, and the residents of Bristol are too. 

Though for awhile Bristol has been seen as a stop on the way, there’s enough in walking distance of the Bristol Hotel for the city to be a destination in itself. Check out our weekend guide to Bristol, Virginia below.

A Weekend in Bristol:

Friday Night

  • 2:00 PM: Get to town early to visit the L. C. King Factory Store, where they make denim pants and jackets the same way they did 100 years ago. (If you’re lucky, you can get a tour!)

  • 4:00 PM: Check in to the Bristol Hotel. (Pro tip: pets welcome! Bring your pup, and they’ll get a welcome bag with treats and toys, plus a water bowl and their own bed for the room!)

  • 6:00 PM: Grab dinner at Vivian’s Table, and don’t skip dessert!

  • 8:00 PM: Head upstairs to Lumac for good drinks, good views, and good music.

Saturday 

  • 8:00 AM: Breakfast at Vivian’s Table (You don’t have to get the French Toast, but you should)

  • 10:00 AM: Visit The Birthplace of Country Music Museum (Smithsonian affiliated) and learn about country music roots––the Bristol Sessions.

  • 12:00 PM: Stop for lunch and coffee at Bloom Cafe and Listening Room.

  • 2:00 PM: Spend the afternoon walking the historic streets and antique shopping (The scores of well-seasoned cast iron pieces will steal your heart.)

  • 6:00 PM: Grab lunch at the Burger Bar, a classic 1942 diner that hasn’t aged a day.

  • 8:00 PM: Hop from brewery to brewery. Elderbrew, State Street Brewing, and Studio Brew are a few favorites!

  • 11:00P PM: Snag a late night snack from Blackbird Bakery. It’s open 24/7 through the week, but it closes at 11:59 PM on Saturday night.

Sunday

  • 8:00 AM: Sunday brunch at Vivian’s Table.

  • 10:00 AM: Pack a picnic lunch (The Bristol Hotel will be happy to help), grab your hiking shoes, and head to nearby Damascus for a trip down the Appalachian Trail.

  • 1:00 PM: Get cleaned up just in time for a late check out.