In the time since I moved, I’ve managed to keep a steady schedule of at least once monthly visits to my home in the Tri-Cities. I still own my house in Elizabethton so I don’t have to pay for lodging, and it’s great to be able to catch up with my closest family and friends in person. However, I’m usually packing everything into a weekend and it’s hard to fit everything in, especially considering how much there is to enjoy in the summertime. The natural beauty of our Tennessee mountain towns is unmatched and such a great place to get out and explore. This week I want to plan for you all a version of the perfect weekend in the Tri-Cities, so whether you’re just visiting or you’re a lifetime resident, you might find something new to do in your own backyard.
Assuming we’re arriving on Friday, let’s start our trip early in Johnson City. A 5 mile hike up to the White Rock lookout on Buffalo Mountain is the perfect way to get some exercise, stretch your legs and take in some breathtaking views while remaining centrally located. Following your trek up and down the mountain you’re sure to be famished. Grab a light lunch and refreshment at Café Lola. Their paninis, soups and salads are always seasonally fresh and their lunch specials are budget friendly while being served in a high end bistro atmosphere.
Time to check in to the Carnegie with your weekend bag. There are no bad rooms in this stunning hotel, but if you want to really indulge yourself, book one of the Presidential suites that include a fireplace, dining room table and clawfoot tub. After a relaxing soak and tidying yourself up for the evening, venture downstairs to the bar and lounge area where you can enjoy live music and a bourbon from their extensive collection.
Next head over to King Commons park in downtown for the Fridays After 5 concert series. Roam around and enjoy a local brew while taking in great tunes outdoors. Afterward, I suggest a late dinner at the rooftop bar at Watauga Brewing, and if you’re not already exhausted you can barhop up and down the surrounding streets until 3am.
Following a fun-filled Friday, you’re going to deserve a self-care Saturday. Start your day with some pampering at Austin Springs Spa, located downstairs at the Carnegie. They offer a variety of services from basic mani/pedi’s to deep tissue massage and even have a hair salon. Following your hot stone massage and blowout, feel free to move your glass of cucumber mint water poolside while you soak up some sun out back.
Saturdays are also the perfect day to explore downtown Jonesborough. Get there early enough to secure locally sourced goods at the weekly farmer’s market, and don’t miss any of the unique shops located along Main Street of this historic town. From antiques to candy stores, world market items, the national storytelling center, bed and breakfasts and more, Jonesborough is not lacking in charm and unexpected treasure at every turn. Don’t miss lunch at Main Street Café, and before you leave, take in a tasting at Tennessee Hills Distillery.
Be sure to reserve your spot for dinner al fresco tucked away on the patio at Gourmet. As the sun is setting you can enjoy one of their chef curated dishes and hand crafted cocktails while being served by the best and most knowledgeable hospitality team in the area. This long-standing crew of culinary professionals can answer any questions and make fabulous recommendations to ensure a special evening you won’t soon forget.
Sunday it’s time to pack up your things and head for the hills. Specifically the ones surrounding Watauga Lake. It’s just not summertime in the south without a day at the lake. Whether you choose to rent a boat for the day, kayak or just lay at the beach at Shook Branch or Watauga Point, there are numerous options for enjoying the water. Beat the church crowd for an early lunch at Shirley’s before you head in though. This restaurant will pile you full with plate after plate of family-style country cookin’. Just be sure you wait 30 minutes before swimming so you don’t cramp! Spend the rest of your afternoon floating up and down this 16 mile stretch of aquatic beauty surrounded by the Appalachian Mountains.
Finally, wrap up your weekend in a low-key fashion by grabbing a couple of pizzas and heading to the drive-in theatre in Elizabethton. Just 10 minutes down the mountain from the lake, it’s the perfect way to wind down. Pack the back of your truck or SUV with blankets, pillows, or even an air mattress, stock your cooler with snacks and drinks and take in a movie under the stars. But remember to bring your radio so you can tune in for sound!
There are so many more fun options for a weekend in the area I could fill every page of this publication. From Greeneville to Mountain City, Northeast Tennessee is blessed with good food and natural beauty, rich history and creative business owners so there is no shortage of ideas. This is just one sample, but I hope to cover some more of these over time! No matter where I go in life, my first love will always be my hometown, and I hope you love it too.