By Paul Kavanaugh
Yes indeed, summer is here! School is out or getting out and you need a plan. If you are taking a vacation somewhere, good for you. Our planning advice is still apropos. But many of us aren’t getting away. Relax! You know that line from the old song, “There ain’t no cure for the summertime blues”? Well forget it. We are lucky enough to live in an area where there are multiple cures for the summertime blues. So, let’s plan the perfect Staycation. Funny, that word is pretty recent but I remember my family just doing a local hotel with a swimming pool back in the 60s and my brothers and sisters and I all thought we had died and gone to heaven. We have some ideas for you to plan the Perfect Staycation, all courtesy of The Loafer. You know us, we aim to please our readership. So, beg, borrow and steal from the following recommendations – the main thing is to have the entire family enjoy themselves.
This is the most critical part of any vacation, staycation, or darn near anything. I have learned from past experience that the more everyone is involved in the planning process, the better everyone will enjoy themselves. For instance, you might enjoy water adventures, but before you book it, make sure you don’t have any anti-water people involved. Doesn’t mean you can’t go – you just might have to sell them on the idea! Do that before you confirm, not afterwards.
I recommend laying out all the days in advance with at least general timeframes. Don’t forget that this is your vacation too, so a little extra sleep should be prominently in the equation. Remember to allow time for supply acquisition or restaurant meals when you put your plan together. If everyone is starving and you have to be there in 20 minutes, well, ugh.
Allow for the weather. Have a backup plan if outdoors activities may be affected. Our recommendations contain many outdoor and indoor activities. We don’t want you to be stuck!
Make a supply list. If outdoor activities, are you eating there, are you taking a picnic, maybe eating on the way? Plan this ahead, so that you know where to get the supplies you need or the stops you need to make. Don’t forget a cooler or maybe two, depending on the plans.
OK – we’re going to do some planning. Let’s look at some options in several categories. Remember, this is a Staycation, so we’re planning and recommending local.
You need one, and it it’s all up to you. Some folks like just using their residence as their Staycation Headquarters. Many others like using a local hotel to enhance the “get away” feel that tends to really enhance Staycations. Plus, often there are enticements like a pool that will keep kids entertained for those times when you just don’t want to do anything. Family friendly and accommodating is what we are looking for and we have two recommendations. The Holiday Inn in Bristol is a very nice spot to make your Headquarters; the kids will love it and adult entertainment is typically available on weekend nights. Out Elizabethton way, we like the Americourt. Totally family friendly and the rates are quite reasonable; plus, you can enjoy Friday evening in downtown Elizabethton without having to go very far at all!
At least one, and more likely two or three days of your Staycation you are going to want to do a major activity, typically some sort of adventure. Our region has few equals in the variety and abundance of accessible adventures.
Let’s start off in Elizabethton. Off The Grid is one of our very favorite places. It’s on the Elizabethton Highway, only about 10 minutes from the Bristol Highway. They have zip lines, off road excursions, you can base jump, try rappelling or even experience a gravity-defying giant swing. Fun for the whole family. Allow yourself plenty of time – the kids won’t want to leave, and neither will you!
How about some water? Fishing is fun, and any number of local marinas can set you up, but we’re talking adventure. So, let’s plan one. Wahoo’s Adventures is a local company that has been in business for 39 years. They have a variety of options, from whitewater rafting to relax & tube. Their facilities are a half hour to just over an hour from Johnson City, so not a bad drive. And you’re on vacation, so who cares? When planning, discuss what everyone else might enjoy the most and make some appropriate selections. Reservations are highly recommended.
If competition is the hot button in your family, Airsoft or Paintball might be just the thing. These are both fun activities, and lend themselves to Saturday afternoons (for planning purposes).
Airsoft is a sport where you simulate war games or other tense situations and engage in combat using what amounts to BB guns, although much more sophisticated than that. GSF Airsoft in Piney Flats is the local go to spot. Call for times and which location you will be using. They provide everything you’ll need.
If you would rather have things go splat, give Paintball some consideration. The Alternative Sport in Blountville off Exit 66 is a full-service facility and they will rent you all the stuff you need. Saturday afternoons are open for walk-ins as well as reservations. Sometimes just shooting each other with paintballs is the best feeling in the world!
Since you’ve planned ahead, now decide where to get your supplies. BBQ always makes for a great take along, and Phil’s Dream Pit is the place to go. Then hit George & Sid’s on Commonwealth in Bristol 2 blocks past State. They have a wide array of cold adult beverages as well as snacks, picnic supplies, plastic cups, etc. Don’t forget ice for the cooler. If pizza is your thing, you’ll be close to Boomershine’s on 394. Call ahead and they will have your food ready for you. Wings, salads and subs are also on the menu.
If ever there was a virtual utopia of evening options, the Tri Cities is it.
As long as the weather cooperates, there is nothing more fun than a round of miniature golf. Our favorite is the standard, Putt Putt, and there’s a location in Bristol on the Bluff City Highway as well as on Stone Drive in Kingsport. It’s fun, at least mildly competitive (sometimes way more) and always generates a bunch of laughs. Funny how the least likely participant seems to record the best score!
Grabbing a cold brew is always fun, and Studio Brew in downtown Bristol is a popular spot and they have great food as well. The kids will love their root beer made on premises (no alcohol, naturally). The adults will revel in their large selection of craft beers, all made right on the premises.
Station Brews & Taproom is another downtown option, although the kids won’t find as much for them. If it is you and the spouse and the dog, they are pet friendly and have an extensive selection of craft beers.
Daytime & Rain Options
Rain is a fact of life, so if you find one of your outdoor activities affected by the weather, simply move inside. How about playing some pool? Corner Pocket in Bristol is a family friendly billiards hall. All ages are welcome and the price is right, its just $5 per person to play all day long. It is an alcohol-free space and they have an incredible collection of gas station and oil company memorabilia. You’ll find yourself spending as much time browsing as playing!
Movies are certainly another option, with theatres across the Tri Cities. Summer is the time for many big releases. Check our columnists for recommendations.
The Grand Finale
Now it’s Sunday and you want one more killer activity to top off the old Staycation. Appalachian Caverns in Blountville is the place to go. They have one-hour tours as well as more extensive ones for the real adventurers. Weather doesn’t matter at all since you are going to be underground! They open at 1:00 on Sundays and you can simply drop in and get set for a tour. In the meantime, the kids will love the rock and mineral collection in the store – and they will be talking about the caverns to all of their friends for some time to come.
OK, we have given you a lot of good options. Plan that Staycation, make any reservations needed and get going. The family will enjoy and appreciate it, especially when they get included in the planning phase. Good luck!