East Tennessee

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a great place to visit. However, there is so much more to east Tennessee than just the Smokies.  East Tennessee is a day trip for us and we go there often from our home in southeastern Kentucky.  Despite our frequent visits to the area, we are still finding fun spots and quaint destinations to explore.

Bristol and Johnson City

Obviously, we enjoy the antique malls and junking available there, so let’s start with that.  Downtown Bristol has some interesting shops and is just a great place to spend a Saturday morning. Begin with a stop at the Blackbird Bakery and grab a cinnamon roll.  I haven’t had the chance to try Vivian’s for lunch or dinner, but it is on my list of places to try. My son and daughter-in-law say their salmon dip is delicious!  Johnson City has Village Antiques that is one of our all time favorites.  It is well-decorated with frequent turnover of items. Cootie Browns is a good place for lunch if you enjoy an eclectic vibe.  I particularly love their sweet potato fries with the sweet mustard drizzle.  Both Bristol and Johnson City have a little more mall type shopping, too.


The Kingsport area is a favorite of ours for a great hamburger or seafood at Riverfront Seafood Co, and plant shopping at Evergreen.  We also enjoy a walk along the South Fork of the Holston River and a drive past the historic Netherlands Inn.  Just past Kingsport going toward Johnson City is Bays Mountain which is a great spot for a stroll through nature and to view animals native to the woodlands.  Kids love the planetarium, herpetarium, and zipline. They also have a nice shady picnic area available.   If you plan on doing the kid friendly zipline, you should call ahead because it isn’t always available.


Driving on toward Johnson City is historic Jonesborough which is a storytelling mecca.  The visitor center is a must along with a walk through the shops on Main Street.  We particularly enjoy this area during the time leading up to Christmas.  Our favorite stop in Jonesborough is the flea market although we aren’t able to go a lot because it is only open on Sundays.  I feel this flea market has a little more old-fashioned feel than other flea markets that I have visited.  There are many antiques or vintage items, and fresh vegetables along with chickens and a few other farm animals.  In the same area is Gray’s Fossil Site which is a very interesting place to take the kids. They can learn about an actual fossil dig site as well as to view the scientists at work on the fossils.

I really enjoy the drive through East Tennessee.  You can make a day trip from just driving along the farmland and  rivers in the area and looking at the beautiful scenery.  The lakes are picturesque as well and would be a great place to rent a houseboat or Airbnb for a weekend.  There are many historical sites as well if you enjoy that kind of thing.  Pack a picnic, jump in the car, and enjoy a beautiful day exploring the area.

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