Blake Walsh

15 Best Things to Do in Washington County, TN

  • Published 2023/03/03

Filled with vibrant and unique attractions, Washington County is the oldest county in Tennessee.

The county was established in 1777 following the organization of the Washington District by the Wataugans, the area’s first settlers.

It’s part of the Johnson City, TN Metropolitan Statistical Area, and has a population of 133,001 as of the 2020 census.

The Town of Jonesborough is the county seat, but the largest city is Johnson City, which is an oasis of educational, medical, and commercial industry.

The county was named after former President George Washington.

The county is home to a rich arts and cultural heritage, historical sites, and fun festivals.

Whether you want to relax in a park or explore the great outdoors, the county has something for you.

Here’s a round-up of the best things to do in Washington County, Tennessee:

See the Ancient Animals and Plant Fossils at the Gray Fossil Site & Museum

Dinosaur exhibit in Gray Fossil Site & Museum

Zilantophis, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Dating back to five million years ago, the Gray Fossil Site & Museum is the gateway to the Appalachian Highlands, which is preserved by the East Tennessee State University (ETST).

Discovered in 2000, the site is said to be a pond where a collapsed underground limestone cave formed a sinkhole and left many plant and animal fossils.

Pliocene-era animals include a 10-ton mastodon, rhinoceros, saber tooth cat, short-faced bear, alligator, red panda, rabbits, peccaries, and more.

The museum at the ETST holds thousands of specimens, including the paleontological collection from the Gray Fossil Site.

Get closer to these fossils and learn more about natural history, which is carefully preserved at Gray Fossil Site & Museum.

You can find it on Suncrest Drive.

Have a Family Outing at the Just Jump Trampoline Park in Johnson City

If you’re traveling to Washington County as a family with little kids, you can spend a fun-filled day at Just Jump Trampoline Park.

The facility features a Kiddie Zone, an obstacle course, gladiator pits, massive open jump areas, dodgeball courts, and more.

There are a lot of activities to enjoy with your family, and even adults can have fun too!

It’s also great that the staff keeps an eye on the little ones.

If you need some pampering, the facility also features massage chairs, which you can use for only a few bucks while the kids are having the time of their life.

Just Jump Trampoline Park also hosts special events like birthday parties and corporate outings.

It’s located on Silverdale Drive.

Explore Founders Park in Johnson City

People at Founders Park

Nolichuckyjake /

On a fine afternoon, you can relax at Founders Park, which has a water feature.

The park is home to a creek that rushes through the lush green space, making it more relaxing and peaceful.

There are also paved walking trails to explore, bushes, sculptures, and more.

Founders Park is located at Commerce Street.

The waters of Founders Park

Nolichuckyjake /

Befriend the Animals at Brights Zoo in Limestone

Located on the hills of East Tennessee, Brights Zoo houses rare, endangered, and exotic species.

Here, you can get closer to Bactrian camels, addax, scimitar-horned oryx, spider monkeys, red kangaroos, zebras, and birds, among others.

Established in 2007, the zoo offers guided tours, providing interesting facts about the animals and how they’re cared for.

They have goats, giraffes, camels, birds, and many other friendly animals that you can feed; you can also watch the staff feed the penguins.

There’s also a train ride to the little Safari area at the zoo, where you can see the endangered animals.

If you have kids, they can also play at the zoo’s Oliver Sandbox.

Brights Zoo is located on Highway 11E.

Bring a Picnic to Winged Deer Park in Johnson City

The waters of Winged Deer Park


Featuring a pavilion and open areas with picnic tables, Winged Deer Park is a great spot to share a picnic with your loved ones.

The picnic area is ideal for a cookout with a water basin, which makes it more convenient for family picnics.

At the playground, the kids can play and interact with each other, as well as take scenic walks on the paved trails to explore nature.

Boardwalk trail at Winged Deer Park


Fishing, kayaking, canoeing, and boating are also available at the lake.

There are also batting cages, volleyball courts, and a disc golf course for those who love sports.

Winged Deer Park is located on Bristol Highway.

A statue at Winged Deer Park


Enjoy Italian Fare at The Black Olive in Jonesborough

The Black Olive is well-known for its sumptuous homemade Italian dishes.

Owned by Mo Farrouki and Kinsey Holliday, the restaurant only uses organic and locally sourced ingredients, supporting local farmers in the area.

Guests rave about its delicious Stromboli, chicken pesto Alfredo, Philly Cheese Steak, and Italian Nachos.

If you love spicy food, the restaurant’s spicy shrimp & chicken pasta and spicy bowtie are a must-try.

The restaurant also hosts big parties and features an outdoor patio where you can your meals during the warm season.

The Black Olive is located on East Jackson Boulevard.

Explore the Historic Jonesborough

Buildings along the Historic Jonesborough

Dee Browning /

Beautifully set on the scenic Appalachian Mountains, the Historic Jonesborough is home to historical structures and quaint and bustling areas for shopping and dining.

As the county seat and Tennessee’s oldest town, Jonesborough has successfully preserved and maintained its 72 historic structures.

If you wander around the 120-acre Historic Jonesborough, you’ll see buildings built in Greek Revival, Queen Anne, and Federal Style architectural styles.

Washington county courthouse at the Historic Jonesborough

Nolichuckyjake /

Some of these notable structures include the Washington County Courthouse, the Jonesborough United Methodist Church, and the Old Jonesborough Female Academy, among others.

It also houses many restaurants and stores, where you can dine with your family and friends, and shop for gifts and souvenirs.

The district was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1969.

A building at the Historic Jonesborough

Dee Browning /

Go Hiking at Buffalo Mountain Park in Johnson City

A natural resource area encompassing 725 acres, Buffalo Mountain Park offers five miles of hiking trail on the White Rock Loop trail.

Along the way, you’ll encounter small wildlife, forested areas, native plants, bushes, shady trees, wild blueberries, and lots of rhododendrons in bloom when in season.

You may also see black bears with their cubs, rattlesnakes, as well as lots of birds on treetops.

You can take your pet dogs here, but make sure to put them on a leash so as not to disturb other hikers and wildlife.

Buffalo Mountain Park was established in 1994 and is located on Highridge Road.

Read a Book at the Johnson City Public Library

Exterior of the Johnson City Public Library

Nolichuckyjake /

The Johnson City Public Library is a great spot or traveling bookworms to enjoy solitude.

A two-story building, the library provides amazing views of the mountains with its large windows at the reading nooks.

Here, you’ll find various resources with its huge collection of books for kids, teens, and adults.

If you prefer staying outdoors during warmer months, you can settle in the library’s outdoor reading nook.

Looking through the window of Johnson City Public Library

Donald R Slaughter /

There are also dedicated spaces for kids and teens where they can enjoy activities that suit their ages.

The computers, printers, and WiFi are available for library users too.

Digital resources include e-books, movies, music, and audiobooks.

The Johnson City Public Library was established in 1895 and is located on West Millard Street.

Get Your Coffee Fix at Still Waters Coffeehouse in Gray

Serving fresh and delicious coffee in the small community of Gray, Still Waters Coffeehouse offers a vibrant and vintage-style atmosphere.

People love the coffeehouse’s latte, cold brew, and espresso, as well as its bacon jam toast.

If you’re there during lunchtime, try the mouthwatering lunch toast with chips such as Pimento Cheese, Chicken Salad, and Spicy Garden Hummus.

If you’re vegan, you can ask for almond, oat, coconut, or Still Waters milk, which is a combination of oat and almond milk.

Its Japanese Iced Coffee and Italian Soda are also a must-try!

You can find Still Waters Coffeehouse on Bobby Hicks Highway at Century 21 Heritage.

Learn about the Past at the Tipton-Haynes State Historic Site in Johnson City

A smokehouse at Tipton-Haynes State Historic Site

Dee Browning /

East Tennessee has an interesting past, which is preserved at the Tipton-Haynes State Historic Site, a house located on South Roan Street.

Colonel John Tipton built the house in 1784, including a loom house, a smokehouse, a log barn, a pigsty, a still house, a corncrib, a springhouse, and a slave house.

Tipton, a statesman who opposed the State of Franklin movement in the 1780s confiscated the slaves from John Sevier, which led to a standoff at the site.

After Tipton’s death, his heirs sold the site to David Haynes.

The 45-acre property also features a cemetery, a natural spring, a limestone cave, a buffalo trace, and a nature trail.

In 1970, the Tipton-Haynes State Historic Site was included in the National Register of Historic Places.

Attend Johnson City’s Fridays After 5 Summer Concerts

During summer, Fridays After 5 Summer Concerts are held in downtown Johnson City, showcasing local and regional talents.

This summer event is held from May to the first week of August every year, which gives allows the community to unwind and watch free live performances.

Food vendors are available during the event.

You can also bring a picnic and share a delicious meal with your loved ones while you enjoy the shows at Fridays After 5 Summer Concerts.

Also, you can bring your own lawn chair for more comfortable seating.

Enjoy Authentic Drinks at Tennessee Hills Distillery in Jonesborough

Exterior of Tennessee Hills Distillery

Nolichuckyjake /

According to Tennessee Hills Distillery, the best spirits are born in the mountains, particularly in the Appalachian Highlands.

The distillery is the go-to spot for lovers of spirits, beers, and great company.

Established in 2016 by the Callahans on the historic Salt House, the distillery handcrafted its first small-batch spirits, and the rest is history.

Building sign of Tennessee Hills Distillery

Joshua Sturgill /

Try its award-winning spirits with lots of flavors, as well as its hand-crafted beers and a mouthwatering pub-inspired menu at the Whiskey Kitchen.

Take note: when the train passes by, everyone in the room gets a free shot!

Tennessee Hills Distillery is located on Fox Street in the state’s oldest town, Jonesborough.

Barrels in Tennessee Hills Distillery

Joshua Sturgill /

Shop for Unique Items at The Village Antique & Home Decor Mall in Johnson City

Take home some nice and unique finds from Washington County by heading to The Village Antique & Home Decor Malls.

Choose from home decor, furniture, collectibles, paintings, books, and many other vintage and unique finds you’ll love.

Look out for holiday events and special promos at The Village Antique & Home Decor Malls, and you may find a good item to take home at a discounted price!

The store is located on Sunset Drive.

Buy Fresh Produce at Johnson City Farmers’ Market

Shoppers at Johnson City Farmers’ Market

Nolichuckyjake /

Fresh, organic, and locally produced vegetables and fruits are a good addition to your Washington County travel.

At Johnson City Farmers’ Market, you can buy fresh vegetables and fruits from the local farmers growing their own crops.

You can also buy locally made products from local artisans, including handmade crafts, canned goods, baked products, and more.

The building of Johnson City Farmers’ Market

Nolichuckyjake /

Established in 1976, Johnson City Farmers’ Market operates every Saturday from May to October.

Visit it at The Pavilion in Founders Park.

Final Thoughts

Steeped in history, culture, and heritage, Washington County is worth a visit.

Its numerous interesting attractions and fun activities make for a worthwhile, memorable trip.

Take note of these best things to do in Washington County, Tennessee, for your next travels!

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