Spring is approaching. With just weeks to go before we feel that warm touch of nature’s promise of growth and change, everyone’s mind is turning to outdoor adventures. In Bristol, Virginia, outdoor exploration is a way of life. Nestled in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains, this town offers so much more than just a place to stay for the night. With natural wonders and a few manmade delights, Bristol is the place to be this Spring.
Bristol is a Nature-Lover’s Paradise
Everyone’s just a little sick of staying indoors. After two years of isolating and a brutal Winter across parts of the US, it’s time to get back to nature and breathe some fresh air. Few places in the United States offer the kind of wild, mysterious aura of the Appalachian Mountains. The Appalachians are often overlooked because they don’t have the soaring height of the Rocky Mountains or the visually striking snow-covered peaks, but the mountains themselves are unimaginably old, which is why they aren’t as tall as their Western sisters.
This means that the region is literally built on history, from beneath your toes to the tops of the mountains. And under your toes in Bristol, you’ll find something remarkable: Bristol Caverns. The caverns themselves are paved and lighted now, with walkways wending through the heart of the caves and vaulted chambers long ago carved by an underground river. The Caverns are estimated to be between 200 to 400 million years old and once gave European settlers headaches as Indigenous Native Americans used them to launch attacks on their camps.
Once you’ve explored the mineral-rich and colorful underground playground of Bristol Caverns, the Appalachian Trail wends through the area for some above-ground fun. The Virginia Creeper is one of the famous Trail’s most scenic legs, and it ends in Damascus. Damascus is called, “The Friendliest Town on the Appalachian Trail” and is a short 30-minute drive from Bristol, making it the natural next destination on your outdoor romp. And from May 13-14, the Appalachian Trail Days Festival brings together thousands of hiking enthusiasts, outdoors lovers and adventurers from all walks of life.
If you’re looking to cool off after a day of hiking, the South Holston Lake and River area offers hundreds of miles of shoreline and water wonders. For fishing, boating, water skiing and more, hop across the state line to Tennessee and settle into the heart of fly-fishing paradise.
Accommodations and Dining
Of course, you need some place to set your things at night even if you’re raring to go and ready to stay out all day getting to know the beauty of the Bristol area. One thing you’ll notice upon entering the town is the charming old-town feel, with a cast-iron arch welcoming guests and a rolling main street lined by trees and quaint brick buildings.
One of those charming brick buildings is the Bristol Hotel, a 65-room boutique hotel that offers panoramic views of the Appalachian Mountains. The rooms are classic contemporary, with a white and blue palette, pops of dark wood and reds throughout and clean lines to soothe your mind after a day on the trail.
Guests can enjoy a delightful bite at Vivian’s Table, offering local cuisine in an Appalachian-style chophouse atmosphere. Or perhaps you’d prefer to take drinks on the rooftop terrace with Lumac Rooftop Bar. The hotel works closely with local venues and can book a fly-fishing tour or give you information on where the best hiking is – all you have to do is ask.
For more information on accommodations or dining, visit the website.
Something a Little On the Beaten Path
Perhaps you’ve had your fill of the sounds of nature and the dirt between your toes, and you’re looking for something a little more manmade. Bristol has you covered there, too. 12 golf courses within a 20-mile radius make this the perfect place for a bit of cultured nature appreciation, and golf-lovers will appreciate the mild weather through Spring and Summer.
If it’s racing on your mind, the Bristol Motor Speedway hosts races in several NASCAR touring series. April and September are the best times to visit for these events, as BMS hosts two NASCAR cup series in these months.
There are few places as picturesque as the heart of the Appalachian Mountains, and this city perched at the heart is a must-see for those who love the outdoors. With Spring a month away – it’s time to make your plans. Vacasa recently conducted a survey and over half of Americans – 56% – are planning a trip this Spring. Of those, 75% plan to travel domestically. If you’re one of the wander lusters and you need a place to go – pencil Bristol into your plans.