Traveler’s Guide to Bristol, Tennessee

If you are traveling through Tennessee, you should take a trip up to Bristol. Bristol is unique in that it comprises one community of people, but it is actually located in two different states. The state line between Tennessee and Virginia runs right through the town. In fact, Bristol, Tennessee, is on the south side of State Street (which is the former Main Sreet) while Bristol, Virginia, is on the north side of State Street. This means that Bristol residents and business owners – merely yards from each other – may have different telephone area codes, mayors, tax rates and addresses.

When going down State Street, you can plainly see that the community is united. Residents of this “twin-city” do not let their different state affiliations deter them from keeping Bristol a simple and peaceful town. In fact, as a show of their love for the town, the community erected a neon sign in 1910 which crosses State Street. This sign is still there today and it reads “Bristol is a Good Place to Live.”

There are two things that keep this town united . . . the communities love for country music and motor sports.

Bristol, Tennessee and Country Music

Those passing through Bristol may be surprised to learn that Bristol is actually the “Birthplace of Country Music.” The world was first introduced to recordings from Appalachia by artists such as Jimmie Rogers, the Carter Family, the Stonemans and more when Ralph Peer, a talent scout for Victor Recording Company, traveled to Bristol. This two week long recording event in Bristol has since been dubbed “The Big Bang of Country Music.” When Peer arrived, music makers and song writers from the south came out of the hills to have the chance to introduce the world to bluegrass and country music. Bristol honors her musical roots by a Country Music Monument that can be seen at State Street and Edgemont Avenue. You can also view a large mural which has been painted to honor these musical pioneers on the side of a building located on State Street.

Tennessee Ernie Ford was born in Bristol, Tennessee. You may know him from songs such as “Mule Train” or “Sixteen Tons.” You can visit the Birthplace of Tennessee Ernie Ford which is located on Anderson Street. Here you can take a trip back in time as you view memorabilia of Ford’s life and musical career.

One thing you can’t say is that Bristol is stuck in the past. The city restored the Paramount Theater in 1991 to its original 1931 Art Deco appearance. It is now known as TheParamount Center for the Arts and is located near the Country Music Monument on State and Edgemont. If you are going to be in Bristol and would like to catch a show, check their website for a look at the venue The Paramount Center.

Each Fall Bristol puts on its annual Rhythm and Roots Festival. This is a weekend long music festival which celebrates Bristol’s musical heritage while doing much to revitalize Downtown Bristol. Thousands of people descend upon Bristol to hear country, bluegrass, and gospel music performed by locals, up and comers, as well as renown recording artists. To learn more about the Rhythm and Roots Festival you can go to their website Bristol Rhythm and Roots. Tickets can be purchased for one day or the entire weekend.

Bristol, Tennessee and Motor Sports

Anyone who is a Motor Sports fan knows that Bristol is home to the “World’s Fastest Half Mile” or “Thunder Valley.” Bristol, Tennessee is the host to more than 165,000 NASCAR fans twice a year as they flock to Bristol Motor Speedway to watch the world’s finest NASCAR drivers try to tame the track. You haven’t seen a race until you have seen one at Bristol! Be sure to visit the Speedway’s Website for the track’s history, facts and racing records, as well as the race schedule and ticket information.

Bristol sees an average of one million visitors to the Bristol Motor Speedway and Dragway each year. In fact, it is the third most popular tourist attraction in the entire state of Tennessee. One of the main attractions to tourists is the Track Tours. First, visitors will be given a tour of the Bristol Dragway where drivers have been known to top speeds of 320 mph. Next, visitors are taken to the Bruton Smith Suite where they can get a bird’s eye view of Thunder Valley. Next, visitors will have the opportunity to take a lap around the notorious track and then a ride down pit road. If you would like to learn more about Track Tours you can do so by visiting the Track Tours Website.

There is much to do in Bristol, Tennessee, if you are a Country Music or Motor Sports Fan. For more information on what Bristol has to offer, you can visit the Bristol Chamber of Commerce.

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