Blake Walsh

22 Best Things to Do in Tri-Cities, TN

  • Published 2023/01/17

Tri-Cities, Tennessee, comprises three areas, namely Bristol, Johnson City, and Kingsport.

They form a triangle near the state’s northeastern border with Virginia and provide a variety of activities and accessibility to the Appalachian Mountains and Crockett National Forest.

Additionally, the Tri-Cities include the smaller cities and settlements in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia.

Tri-Cities was once a single Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA).

Still, the US Census Bureau updated its definition of urban areas in the early 2000s, making it a Combined Statistical Area (CSA) with two parts: Johnson City and Kingsport-Bristol (TN)-Bristol (VA).

However, the Tri-Cities, Tennessee’s sixth-largest city, is still regarded as a single population center.

The Tri-Cities Regional Airport is the best way to get there.

West from Boone, North Carolina, to the Tri-Cities area is a picturesque journey across the Appalachian Mountains.

Always be ready for snow and endless splendor.

Read on to find out the best things to do in Tri-Cities, Tennessee.

Stroll Along the Tweetsie Trail

Bridge part of Tweetsie Trail

Jason Sanderford /

The Tweetsie Trail is an excellent option if you’re looking for more attractions to visit in Johnson City and if you want to get some exercise.

The trail lies in the heart of Johnston City, but it feels worlds away from the hustle and bustle of daily life despite its proximity to Alabama Street and Legion Street.

The grounds of Tweetsie Trail

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The trailhead takes you down a broad, flat path that’s suitable for hikers of all abilities and ages, as well as those looking to bike or skate.

It’s also a terrific spot for a day out with the kids, thanks to the easy hiking trails that take you through a variety of exciting sights.

You’ll pass rivers, woodlands, rock formations, and a quarry on your way to the trail’s several side trips.

Welcome arch of Tweetsie Trail

Donald R Slaughter /

Catch a Race at Bristol Motor Speedway

Exterior of  Bristol Motor Speedway

Nolichuckyjake /

Catch some esteemed NASCAR racing at this race track complex.

You’ll enjoy hearing the engines roar as drivers compete for top honors.

Race cars at Bristol Motor Speedway

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Take a tour of the track, the dragstrip, and even the winner’s circle.

Drive around and even write your name at the track’s checkered finish line.

Aerial view of  Bristol Motor Speedway

Grindstone Media Group /

Gaze at the Natural Wonders in Bristol Caverns

Located deep down in the breathtaking views of Bristol Caverns, you’re in for a treat when you go exploring.

Caverns carved out of the Earth’s core millions and millions of years ago are now accessible through paved, well-lit paths that meander among the domed chambers and along historic Underground River banks.

During the early days of the American frontier, Indians would utilize the Underground River to fight and escape from settlers.

Different sizes and shapes of stalactites and stalagmites will captivate and inspire your imagination.

These formations have grown together, producing floor to ceiling, massive columns.

All around, nature’s handiwork is on display in the spectacular falling waterfalls and billowing drapery.

Listen to Classic Tunes at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum

Front View of Birthplace of Country Music Museum

Nolichuckyjake /

An interactive museum in Bristol, the Birthplace of Country Music Museum, is dedicated to commemorating the 1927 Bristol Sessions with multimedia displays, including touch screens.

The mixing station allows guests to give old songs a fresh spin, the sing-along station will enable them to become the next big thing in music, and the Bristol Session Playlist allows them to hear new takes on Bristol Session tracks.

Large guitar sculpture in front of the Birthplace of Country Music Museum

Nolichuckyjake /

Throughout Bristol, you’ll always be able to hear live music at bars, restaurants, and public spaces.

This attraction will offer you its perfect blend of old and new.

Front View of Birthplace of Country Music Museum

Nolichuckyjake /

Catch a Concert at Freedom Hall Civic Center

Johnson City’s Freedom Hall Civic Center is an excellent place to visit if you wish to watch various shows.

The university’s home field is Science Hill High School, which has a seating capacity of 8,000.

For the most part, this center serves as a multi-purpose venue for everything from concerts to sporting events.

The Freedom Hall Civic Center caters to various sporting events, including professional wrestling and basketball.

High-quality sound, dramatic lighting, and comfortable seats make it a worthwhile experience.

In addition to sporting events, some notable artists have performed here, including the Creed, Elvis Presley, and Luke Bryan.

Ride the Kingsport Carousel

It all started with Gale Joh’s proposal for a carousel in Kingsport.

He also gathered other civic leaders, volunteers, and funders to help him achieve his goals.

Building Sign of Kingsport Carousel

Joshua Sturgill /

The Kingsport Carousel eventually opened in 2015, making the dream a reality.

The carousel features 32 hand-carved and hand-painted animals, 24 sweep animals, and two chariots. It also caters to special occasions.

The carousel runs from Wednesday to Sunday.

Go Fishing at South Holston Lake

The waters of South Holston Lake

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Go tubing, fishing, and boating in South Holston Lake’s crystal-clear waters (a nationally famous trout fishery) for a memorable day at the lake.

The lake’s 7,580 acres make it one of the most incredible places in the Southeast to go smallmouth bass fishing, with hundreds of miles of coastline and water to explore.

Walk across the footbridge from the parking area below the dam to Osceola Island, where you may stroll a one-mile-long nature trail to see a variety of birds and other species.

Here, you’ll witness a wide variety of animals such as deer and many kinds of birds and geese.

Aerial view of South Holston Lake

Dee Browning /

Unleash Your Imagination at the Inventor Center

Learn various skills, including carpentry, fine arts, metallurgy, animation, and coding at The Inventor Center in Kingsport.

It aims to develop an artistic and creative community that will benefit the people in the community.

You may pick from various classes, and those who live in the region or are long-term visitors may also sign up for monthly memberships that allow them entry to The Inventor Center at various levels.

Members of the Inventor Center have access to the facilities 24 hours a day, seven days a week, while non-members are permitted access from 3 pm to 8 pm Monday through Friday and from 10 am to 5 pm on Saturdays.

See the Exhibits of Kingsport Art Guild

Get to know the city’s local artists at the Kingsport Art Guild.

There are several ways in which this art gallery and studio help its members and the broader arts community in Kingsport to showcase their abilities.

Visit the Art Guild’s two-room gallery at the Renaissance Center if you want to admire works of art in a wide range of mediums.

The guild welcomes visitors Monday through Friday from 9 am to 8 pm and on Saturdays from 9 am to noon.

At any moment during business hours, walk-ins are also welcome to stop by for an appointment.

Tour Tipton-Haynes State Historic Site

A cabin at Tipton-Haynes State Historic Site

Dee Browning /

Colonel John Tipton built the houses that now make up the Tipton-Haynes State Historic Site in 1784 on 45 acres of land.

Tipton, a staunch supporter of the Union cause, erected eight structures on the property, including a house, and bequeathed it to his son, who died young.

When the Civil War broke out, the Haynes family had the money to buy the land, only to relinquish it again.

The Tennessee Historical Commission purchased the property in 1945 when it came under state limits.

It’s hard to beat a visit to the Tipton-Haynes State Historic Site in Johnson City.

The Museum and Education Center houses the permanent and rotating displays of antiques, pictures, media files, old documents, and archaeological relics of the Woodland Indians.

Admire the Scenery at Buffalo Mountain Park

Buffalo Mountain Park in Johnson City, Tennessee, is widely regarded as one of the top tourist attractions in the area because of its combined outdoor activities and breathtaking views of the surrounding countryside.

As a hiking destination, it has well-defined paths that are easy to follow, frequently affording views of the city as you traverse forests and streams in the hilly area.

As one of Buffalo Mountain Park’s best-known vistas, the White Rock trail provides breathtaking views from its summit.

If you’re not up for the challenge, there are many less complicated route options.

There are nature programs available for those who want to immerse themselves in the native plants and animals.

Buffalo Mountain Park has several picnic spots and is pet-friendly, so feel free to bring your pet and the kids along for a day of relaxation.

Taste Local Beer at Yee-Haw Brewing Company

Building sign of Yee-Haw Brewing Company

Nolichuckyjake /

Check out this location if you want to spend some downtime and take the day easy.

Yee-Haw’s bartender will be happy to provide you with some locally produced beer and a little food for a relaxing evening of socializing.

Downtown Johnson City’s Tweetsie Depot houses Yee-Haw Brewing, which manufactures a wide range of beverages, including the “Pale Ale,” “IPA,” “Scottish Ale,” “Dunkel,” and “Kolsch,” among others.

Al fresco dining at Yee-Haw Brewing Company

Nolichuckyjake /

Experience the Paranormal With Appalachian GhostWalks Ghost History and Bigfoot Adventure Tours

For those who enjoy the strange and esoteric, this spooky tour is here for you.

They specialize in bringing you to a variety of exciting tourist destinations in Johnson City, Tennessee.

It offers 16 various tours, some of which may take you outside the city depending on your interests.

A significant focus of Appalachian GhostWalks is Adventure Tours, which include bigfoot hunting, ghost encounters, and historical teaching.

If you’re ready to put in a whole day, the company will draw up a complete itinerary for you, including food options, lodging, and a wide variety of activities.

Tours are available all year round.

Learn the Kingsport’s History at Exchange Place

Experiment with time and space at The Exchange Place!

The Exchange Place has been a farm, a stagecoach relaying stop, and a post office throughout its 160-year existence.

This 62-acre “living history” farm allows visitors to experience what it was like to be a settler or farmer in the mid-to-late nineteenth century.

The main house, schoolhouse, blacksmith forge, barns, and granary are accessible to visitors.

You’ll find a wide variety of odd livestock such as chickens, lambs, cows, and horses at the farm.

From May to October, this attraction also organizes several annual festivals and other celebrations.

Explore Bays Mountain Park and Planetarium

Exterior of Bays Mountain Park and Planetarium

Bonita R. Cheshier /

Enjoy the great outdoors while learning something new at Bays Mountain Park!

More than 3500 acres belong to Kingsport, Tennessee, and feature a 44-acre lake and 38 miles of hiking, bicycling, and jogging paths.

Visitors may also get closer to bobcats, birds, snakes, and more on-site wildlife habitats.

Building of Bays Mountain Park and Planetarium

Bonita R. Cheshier /

The park’s rope course, which features a 300-foot zip line, is open to visitors, and the planetarium, which features cutting-edge exhibits, is a great way to cap off an exciting day.

The Bays Mountain Park is accessible 24 hours a day.

However, the operating hours change with the seasons.

The waters of Bays Mountain Park and Planetarium

Bonita R. Cheshier /

Cycle at Tannery Knobs Mountain Bike Park

An excellent spot for a bike ride is Tannery Knobs Mountain Bike Park in Johnson City, Tennessee.

One of Johnson City’s most famous attractions, it’s also a secure place to practice your mountaineering talents, no matter what level you’re starting.

There are 40 acres of forested terrain at Tannery Knobs Mountain Bike Park, thanks to a grant from Summers-Taylor construction business in 2016.

All ages and abilities may enjoy Tannery Knobs Mountain Bike Park’s off-road routes.

There’s a track for every level of rider, from novice to expert.

There is a progression from the more flowery, accessible regions to the more difficult ones for beginners, including youngsters.

Grab Some Fresh Produce at Kingsport Farmers Market

Exterior of Kingsport Farmers Market

Nolichuckyjake /

To meet the growing demand for locally grown food, a group of local farmers banded together in 1977 to participate in food fairs around the region.

It was the beginning of the Kingsport Farmers Market.

The Kingsport Farmers Market is still going strong today, supplying the people of Kingsport with top-notch products and other agricultural produce.

Visitors can engage in culinary workshops and baking activities in addition to purchasing fresh vegetables and ready-to-eat cuisine.

There are also several regular events here where you can discover some of the best food in town.

Kingsport’s weekly farmers market runs from April through November.

Learn More About Model Railroading at George L. Carter Railroad Museum

The museum honors the legacy of George L. Carter, who established the Clinchfield Railroad and is devoted to the area’s ancient links to railways.

Four enormous active layouts in three different sizes give viewing delight in the George L. Carter Railroad Museum’s 5,000 square feet of the display area.

The museum’s exhibits, which feature toy trains and model railroading engines, rolling equipment, and buildings, are enjoyed by thousands of visitors each year.

Volunteers from the Mountain Empire Model Railroader organization run the model railways at the museum.

The volunteers also share knowledge about the area’s historic railroads and instruct visitors on the fundamentals of model railroading.

Take a Dip at the Pool at Kingsport Aquatic Center

The cutting-edge Kingsport Aquatic Center stands out from any other tourist destination.

The indoor facility has three multifunctional indoor pools specifically made for education and enjoyment.

It houses the HMG Competition Pool, the region’s only eight-lane, 50-meter multifunctional indoor Olympic-size pool.

Don’t miss out on the spectacular Aqua Run, an inflated water obstacle course that keeps the excitement going at the Aquatic Center.

The numerous facilities are accessible for groups of different sizes, including business meetings, workplace picnics, mothers’ club meetings, and birthday celebrations.

Watch a Production Held at the Theatre at Kingsport Renaissance Arts Center

Kingsport Renaissance Arts Center is a venue that offers services to the neighborhood as a hub for senior citizens and artistic events, as well as a place for corporate meetings, celebrations, receptions, and daylong seminars, to mention a few.

The Center, once the John Sevier School, was rebuilt in 1991 and currently stands as one of Kingsport’s most recognizable structures.

The building has a 350-seat theater, a three-story atrium with skylights, an art gallery, a gym, meeting spaces, and workspaces.

The 350-seat theater hosts theatrical productions and concerts all year round.

With neighboring breakout rooms and space for 200 people, the theatre makes a perfect venue for meetings and seminars.

It is suitable for all-day events with or without meals.

Shop for Unique Items at Village Antiques and Home Décor Mall

The Village Antiques and Home Décor Mall is the ideal place for collectors of antiques and other unusual finds.

They offer an infinite selection of stalls, with shop locations in Johnson City and Bristol.

The mall constantly have an endless supply of stylish antiques, home decor, classic to contemporary, vintage, and mid-century products.

Many of their specializations include unusual artifacts and treasures that would make a fantastic addition to just about any collection area.

Feel comfortable exploring and shopping in their temperature-controlled space, have simple access to parking, and enjoy filling your bags with one-of-a-kind products.

Schedule a Tour of the Tennessee Ernie Ford House

Bristol Historical Association started restoring Tennessee Ernie Ford’s ancestral home in 1991.

The house was constructed in the early 1900s and is situated in Bristol, Tennessee.

The property is outfitted as it would have been when the Ford family lived there; furnishings and antiques from the early 1900s were purchased or donated.

Although, Tennessee Ernie Ford House still has many original features, such as the antique cast iron bathtub.

In addition to displaying many of Tennessee Ernie’s personal belongings and renowned legacy, the museum-style room of the house also has exhibits and memorabilia that celebrate the local country music scene.

Schedule a private or group tour of the Tennessee Ernie Ford Birthplace!

Final Thoughts

If you’re looking for a place with vast and various options to try, whether it’s the great outdoors, museums, galleries, or entertainment, look no further.

You will never run out of options in Tri-Cities, Tennessee.

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