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20 Things to Do with a Weekend Getaway to Johnson City – The Hub of Northeast Tennessee

From museums to outdoor recreation and savory local food, Johnson City is the weekend getaway you didn’t know you needed.

By Jason Barnette | Travel writer and photographer with 15+ years of road tripping experience

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my Affiliate Disclosure here.

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Johnson City is the “Hub of Northeast Tennessee.” If you stand in the middle of Founders Park, any direction you point leads to an adventure. Outdoor recreation, craft breweries, local shopping – it’s all there. And Johnson City is the perfect place to stay during these adventures.

The city has long been known as the home of East Tennessee State University. But now, it’s becoming a tourism destination. Surrounded by Cherokee National Forest, it’s also one of the most gorgeous destinations in Tennessee.

Find out what you can do with a weekend getaway to Johnson City – the Hub of Northeast Tennessee.

Brief History of Johnson City

In 1856, Henry Johnson built a railroad station called Johnson’s Depot at the intersection of three railroads in northeast Tennessee. It became a major rail hub in the Southeast, and a town grew around the depot. In 1869, Johnson City was incorporated, and Henry Johnson was elected as the city’s first mayor.

For nearly fifty years, Johnson City was a boom town for development and quickly became the fifth largest city in Tennessee. But the failure of local railroads at the end of the 1800s and the Great Depression in the early 1900s stifled the city’s growth for decades.

In 1911, the East Tennessee State Normal School was founded to educate K-12 teachers. The name changed several times as the school expanded until 1963 when it officially became East Tennessee State University. With almost 15,000 full time students, ETSU is one of the most common reasons people visit Johnson City today.

But not the only reason.

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Open Doors Coffeehouse – Favorite Coffeeshop in Johnson City

If you’re like me, coffee is the first thing you need to get a day of exploring a new destination started. Opened in 2017, Open Doors Coffeehouse is another success story of Ohio-based Crimson Cup’s Seven Steps to Success – a program that helps people open local coffee shops.

The baristas serve coffee using every method imaginable, from drip to latte and pour over – and they even serve nitro cold brew. Get something to eat for breakfast with a menu that includes eggs, biscuits and gravy, and their scrumptious Huevos Rancheros. Get a table inside the small coffee shop or stretch your legs outside on the deck overlooking downtown Johnson City.

101 East 8th Avenue, Johnson City, TN | 423-268-2997 | www.opendoorscoffeehouse.com

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No. 01

Visit the Tipton-Haynes State Historic Site

The Tipton-Haynes State Historic Site preserves and interprets the historic buildings and land of Colonel John Tipton and Landon Carter Haynes. Tipton purchased the land in 1784 when the area was still part of North Carolina. In 1837, David and Rhoda Haynes purchased the property from John Tipton, Jr.’s heirs, and gifted it to their son, Landon, after he married.

Visitors to the historic site can tour a wonderful museum interpreting the local history of Native Americans, the first European settlers to move into the area, and the failed State of Franklin movement that pitted Colonel Tipton against John Sevier. Guided tours are offered of the historic buildings, where visitors can see period furniture, learn about the dozens of alterations to the original frontier house, and explore Haynes’ private law office.

2620 South Roan Street, Johnson City, TN | 423-926-3631 | www.tipton-haynes.org

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No. 02

Go for a Walk at Sycamore Shoals State Historic Site

In 1775, a group of frontier settlers led by Richard Henderson purchased 20 million acres of land from Cherokee leaders. Known as The Transylvania Purchase, it was the largest private land transaction in North American history – and the deal was signed on the property now part of the Sycamore Shoals State Historic Site.

In 1780, the site was a muster ground for the Overmountain Men. The volunteers from Virginia and Tennessee crossed the shallow shoals of the Watauga River, gathered their strength, and then marched to Kings Mountain for a pivotal Revolutionary War battle. A leisure walk along the 1.2-mile Patriot Path retraces the steps of the soldiers along the banks of the river.

READ MORE: Sycamore Shoals State Park in Elizabethton, Tennessee

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The museum at the visitor center interprets this history with life-size mannequins and lively narration. Outside, a recreation of Fort Watauga is open for visitors to explore, and it comes alive each year with the annual Siege of Fort Watauga reenactment. Liberty! is the official Outdoor Drama of the State of Tennessee, performing every weekend throughout June.

The Carter Mansion is a satellite component of the state historic site, located about three miles away. Completed in 1781 by John and Landon Carter, the two-story structure is Tennessee’s oldest standing frame house. Visitors can tour the grounds of the house and the family cemetery.

1651 West Elk Avenue, Elizabethton, TN | 423-543-5808 | https://tnstateparks.com/parks/sycamore-shoals

National Park Week 2024

Learn about the annual celebration of the National Park System and read my travel guides to national park units across the country.

No. 03

Visit the George L. Carter Railroad Museum

George L. Carter came from humble beginnings as the oldest of nine children born on a farm in Hillsville, Virginia, in 1857. With backing from New York financiers, Carter founded the Clinchfield Coal Company and was instrumental in building the Carolina, Clinchfield, and Ohio Railroad. Living in Johnson City, Carter donated a 120-acre farm to establish what would later become East Tennessee State University.

In 2007, the George L. Carter Railroad Museum was opened on the ETSU campus. The 5,000 square foot exhibit space features thousands of model trains, rolling stock, and structures. Visitors can walk the perimeter of the impressive to see the trains in motion.

176 Ross Drive, Johnson City, TN | 423-439-3382 | www.etsu.edu/railroad

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No. 04

Visit the Reece Museum

You wouldn’t know it by standing outside the brick building with a dark blue ETSU sign, but inside the walls of the Reece Museum are nearly 25,000 historical artifacts. In the late 1920s, history professor Maxine Matthews created the museum as a class project. In 1965, the museum was officially dedicated as the B. Carroll Reece Memorial Museum after his widow, Louise Goff Reece, donated the congressman’s personal library to the museum.

Visitors can tour the museum free of charge. Exhibits interpret the history of the Appalachia region throughout Northeast Tennessee.

363 Stout Drive, Johnson City, TN | 423-439-4392 | www.etsu.edu/reece

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No. 05

Explore the Boones Creek Historical Trust Museum and Opry

In 1768, William Bean planted corn on land around Boones Creek and became the first European settler in Tennessee. The Boones Creek Historical Trust Museum and Opry is in the same area as the first community and interprets the early history of the region.

The museum contains thousands of artifacts and dozens of exhibits on Tennessee’s early history. The museum is free of admission and takes about half an hour to explore.

Every Saturday night, a featured performer is hosted at the opry, where they put on an outdoor show. The musicians play bluegrass, country, and gospel with the backdrop of a barn and surrounded by hay bales.

632 Hales Chapel Road, Johnson City, TN | 423-461-0151 | www.boonescreekhistoricaltrust.org

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No. 06

Learn History and Science at the Gray Fossil Site and Hands On! Discovery Center

In 2000, the Tennessee Department of Transportation built Fulkerson Road in Gray. During the grading of the road, construction crews discovered fossils – and the work came to a stop. Realizing the site’s significance, Governor Don Sundquist moved the road, and ETSU President Paul Stanton applied for grants to build the Gray Fossil Site.

Opened in 2007, the site is an active archaeological dig and the largest of its kind in the Appalachian Highlands. ETSU created a new department offering a Paleontology Master’s Degree, and many of the students work at the site. Visitors can view the dig sites behind the museum, peek through windows inside at the fossil storage and examination, and chat with paleontologists.

The Hands On! Museum opened in 1987 in downtown Johnson City. The museum featured hands on exhibits geared toward children. In 2019, the museum moved to the Gray Fossil Site and rebranded as Hands On! Discovery Center.

The discovery center features a singing Tesla coil – you’ll just have to hear it for yourself – and dozens of hands-on stations demonstrating scientific principles. The museum also regeared for a broader age range, now offering things for adults to do – and giving them a reason to visit without children in tow.

1212 Suncrest Drive, Gray, TN | 423-434-4263 | http://etmnh.org & http://visithandson.org

National Park Week 2024

Learn about the annual celebration of the National Park System and read my travel guides to national park units across the country.

No. 07

Visit the Elizabethton Covered Bridge

In 1882, Carter County approved $3,000 to build a bridge over the Doe River to allow Elizabethton room to expand. Unable to find a qualified contractor, local Doctor E.E. Hunter took on the job and hired local laborers to build the bridge. The one-lane Elizabethton Covered Bridge is 137-feet long and only open to pedestrian traffic today.

Visitors can park on either side of the bridge to enjoy walking along the Doe River. A concrete path meanders through a small public park on the west side of the river, frequently populated with ducks.

Elizabethton Covered Bridge on Google Maps

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No. 08

Take a Day Trip to Jonesborough – Tennessee’s Oldest Town

Founded in 1779, Jonesborough is the oldest town in Tennessee and just a twenty-minute drive from Johnson City. The most popular attraction in the small town is the International Storytelling Center – bestowing the name “Storytelling Capital of the World” on the town.

At the Chester Inn State Historic Site, take a tour through the historic building, spend some time in the museum, and book a guided walking tour through town. The downtown area stretches five blocks along Main Street, where historic buildings tower over the brick sidewalks, and people walk beneath the shade of small trees.

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Grab a coffee to go at The Corner Cup, then head to The Lollipop Shop to explore an old-fashioned candy shop. Browse through the aisles at the Jonesborough Antique Mart in an old commercial building complete with creaking wooden floors.

Get something to eat at Texas Burritos & More or Jonesborough Barrell House, and then visit Krazy Krepes for a savory treat. Visit the Tennessee Hills Distillery in the historic Salt House beside the railroad tracks. Opened in 2016, Stephen and Jessica Callahan put their biology and chemistry degrees to work crafting local spirits.

Stop at the Historic Jonesborough visitor center on your way in or out of town. Take a tour of the free museum to learn about local history and browse the local artwork, books, and baked goods in the gift shop.

Inside Tip Plan to spend about 1-2 hours in Jonesborough for window shopping and walking the wide brick sidewalks. If you want to get lunch or dinner, add an extra hour. The best time to visit is late afternoons before the evening dinner rush.

National Park Week 2024

Learn about the annual celebration of the National Park System and read my travel guides to national park units across the country.

No. 09

Go for a Hike at Buffalo Mountain Park

From just about anywhere in Johnson City, nearby Buffalo Mountain looms. The 725-acre nature preserve was opened to the public in 1994 as a place for hiking and picnicking.

Several trails begin at the picnic area and sprawl across the mountain’s north face. The most popular hike is to the summit at 3,282-feet. There are many options for the hike, including the moderately easy Fork Knob trail along a ridge and the White Rock Loop with cascades and scenic overlooks.

570 Highridge Road, Johnson City, TN | 423-283-5815 | www.johnsoncitytn.org/residents/parks_and_facilities/residents/buffalo_mountain_park.php

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No. 10

Hit the Trails at Tannery Knobs Mountain Bike Park

Locals were thrilled when Tannery Knobs Mountain Bike Park opened to the public. The 40-acre park on a hilltop above downtown features a concrete pump track and four miles of trails. The park was meticulously designed and built to accommodate all skill levels for adults and children to enjoy mountain bike rides.

The trails “are more about how many features and challenges rather than flat out mileage.” Hit the trails to discover jumps, challenges, crazy descents, and challenging climbs while enjoying the stunning mountain views from dozens of scenic overlooks.

18 Tannery Knob, Johnson City, TN | 423-283-5815 | www.ridetk.com

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No. 11

Go for a Bicycle Ride on the Tweetsie Trail

The 9.6-mile Tweetsie Trail is a Rails to Trail along the right of way of the previous East Tennessee and Western North Carolina Railroad. In 1881, a 14.1-mile segment of the ET&WNC was completed between Johnson City and Hampton via Elizabethton. The railroad, dubbed Tweetsie Railroad because of the sound the steam locomotives made, was eventually extended as far as Boone, North Carolina.

The railroad continued operating for freight trains until 2003 when the final ten-mile segment between Johnson City and Elizabethton was abandoned. In 2014, work began to convert the right of way into a Rails to Trail.

The trailhead is just minutes from downtown Johnson City at a small gravel parking lot. Tweetsie Trail is a mixture of urban and rural trail that passes through residential neighborhoods, farmland, and commercial districts. In Elizabethton, the trail runs parallel to the busy US Highway 321 before turning through a commercial area and ending.

The best route to enjoy on the Tweetsie Trail is a 5.8-mile ride to Sycamore Shoals State Historic Site. At Williams Avenue, use the public crosswalk to cross Elk Avenue and visit the state historic site.

Local Motion Cyclery is located adjacent to the trailhead in Johnson City. The local bicycle shop rents mountain bikes, gravel bikes, and Tweetsie Trail bikes in conventional and electric models. Bicycle rentals include a helmet, a required item for riding the Tweetsie Trail.

Alabama Street & Legion Street, Johnson City, TN | www.tweetsietrail.com

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No. 12

Play Disc Golf at Winged Deer Park

Winged Deer Park looks like any other 200-acre municipal park from the highway. Baseball fields come alive with Little League sports, trucks pull small boats toward the ramp onto Boone Lake, and locals walk their dogs through the large field.

But hidden inside the park is an 18-hole disc golf course – one of the best courses in the region. At 5,755-feet in length, the course winds through a dense forest terrain with hills and obstacles. Concrete pads at the tees offer good support for getting started toward the baskets. The course is challenging but still fun for novice-level disc golfers.

4137 Bristol Highway, Johnson City, TN | www.johnsoncitytn.org/residents/parks_and_facilities/residents/winged_deer_park.php

National Park Week 2024

Learn about the annual celebration of the National Park System and read my travel guides to national park units across the country.

No. 13

Go Whitewater Rafting on the Nolichucky River

The Nolichucky River is one of the most adventurous rivers in the Southeast. But don’t take my word for it – just trust the thousands of people who raft the river every year. With Class III-IV rapids, the river provides a challenge most casual rafters can face.

USA Raft is based at an interesting campus along the Nolichucky River in Erwin, about half an hour from Johnson City. The whitewater rafting specialists offer guided boat tours through the Nolichucky Gorge. Not eager to try such a challenge? The Lower Nolichucky features only Class I-II rapids.

2 Jones Branch Road, Erwin, TN | 800-872-7238 | www.usaraft.com

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No. 14

Go Hiking at the Beauty Spot on Unaka Mountain

After passing through Erwin, the Appalachian Trail crosses Unaka Mountain – and one of the most beautiful spots on the entire trail. That’s why the locals called it the Beauty Spot. It’s only a 10.6-mile hike from the crossing at the Nolichucky River to the Beauty Spot, but that short hike includes a 2,737-foot climb.

The easier way to see the Beauty Spot is a leisure drive from Erwin. The 7.5-mile drive on Tennessee Highway 395 only takes fifteen minutes to drive – unless you make a stop at Rock Creek Recreation Area for a short hike to a waterfall.

READ MORE: The Stunning Beauty Spot on the Appalachian Trail

Three things intersect at Indian Grove Gap on TN Highway 395: the North Carolina border, the Appalachian Trail, and the gravel road leading to the Beauty Spot. The road is typically well maintained and passable for two-wheel drive passenger vehicles, even minivans. The two-mile drive to the parking area takes about 10-15 minutes.

A short hike on a well-worn trail through waist-high wavy grass leads to the Beauty Spot – a place with an uninterrupted panorama view of the surrounding mountain landscape. It’s a gorgeous place to watch the fog drift through the valleys after sunrise or the colorful hues dance across the sky at sunset. Bring a tent to spend the night, or just a couple of chairs to enjoy the breathtaking views.

Beauty Spot Gap Road, Unicoi, TN

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The view of the lake while relaxing at Watauga Point Recreation Area.

No. 15

Explore Watauga Lake

The 6,430-acre Watauga Lake was created by the Tennessee Valley Authority in 1948. The reservoir is used for flood control and hydroelectricity by the TVA, but everyone else can enjoy boat rides, swimming, fishing, and scenic drives. It’s only a thirty-minute drive from Johnson City and a perfect day trip destination.

The TVA Watauga Dam Visitor Center is located on the north side of the lake near Elizabethton. The parking lot has a spectacular view of the lake. A short walk along a relatively level path leads to an overlook above the dam. Below the dam, the Watauga Dam Campground features 29 sites with electric and water hookups, many of them riverfront.

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From Hampton, US Highway 321 meanders along the south side of the lake, connecting to Boone, North Carolina. The Shook Branch Swimming Area is the best place for getting into the water on Watauga Lake. The recreation area features restrooms, picnic tables, and a beach area. The Watauga Point Recreation Area is the best place to spend an afternoon on the lakeshore. The recreation area features restrooms, a covered shelter, picnic tables, and plenty of places to sit at the lake’s edge and enjoy the natural beauty.

At more than 1,900-feet elevation, Watauga Lake is the highest reservoir in the TVA system. The 105 miles of shoreline are almost entirely undeveloped. Spending a day cruising the lake is one of the most rewarding experiences in Tennessee. Watauga Lakeshore Resort and Fish Springs Marina rent pontoon boats perfect for a day on the lake – the boats include a Bimini top and comfortable seating for 10 people.

Finish a day at Watauga Lake with dinner at Southern Craft BBQ. Located on a bluff at the Watauga Lakeshore Resort, the Johnson City based barbecue restaurant and brewery took over the space of The Captain’s Table. Opened in May 2022, the restaurant offers savory BBQ, homemade sauces, and spectacular views.

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Blooming rhododendron bushes surround a trail on Roan Mountain.
Blooming rhododendron bushes surround a trail on Roan Mountain.

No. 16

Go for a Drive to the Roan Highlands

The Roan Highlands are just a 40-mile drive from Johnson City, a drive that includes gorgeous scenery and exciting things to do along the way. It’s an excellent day trip activity and one of the reasons why Johnson City is the hub for outdoor recreation in Northeast Tennessee.

From Elizabethton, US Highway 19E begins as a four-lane highway and eventually narrows to just two lanes winding through Christmas tree farms. In the small community of Roan Mountain, the route turns right onto TN Highway 143. Roan Mountain State Park is a 2,000-acre park at the base of the towering mountain. Visitors can go hiking on the 12 miles of trails, fishing in the Doe River, and explore the Miller Farmstead.

After leaving the state park behind, the road begins a long and curvy climb to Carvers Gap. The gap in the mountain is where the Tennessee and North Carolina borders meet as well as the Appalachian Trail. Use the small parking area to leave the car behind and go for a short walk on the AT to Grassy Ridge Bald, the beginning of the Roan Highlands, and a series of bald mountain tops.

READ MORE: How to View Thousands of Blooms at the Rhododendron Garden on Roan Mountain, Tennessee

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From late spring through early autumn each year, the road to the summit of Roan Mountain is open for traffic. At 6,285-feet in elevation, Roan High Knob is part of the Southern Sixers – a group of peaks in the Southern Appalachian Mountains above 6,000-feet in elevation. The nearby Roan High Knob Shelter is the highest shelter on the entire Appalachian Trail.

In late spring, usually around the middle of June, the rhododendron bushes across Roan Mountain bloom in spectacular fashion. Concrete and primitive paths wind through the gardens, leading to an observation deck with a view of the brilliant pink blooms across a vibrant green landscape.

Before leaving, go for a short 1-mile walk to Roan High Bluff. At 6,267-feet, the observation deck on the rocky outcropping offers a spectacular view of the Tennessee mountains.

Pro Travel Tip The drive to Carvers Gap takes about an hour from Johnson City. Give yourself 3-4 hours for the out-and-back drive and a few activities.

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No. 17

Sneak into The Windsor Speakeasy

Speakeasy bars became popular during the Prohibition Era in the 1920s and 30s. To circumvent federal laws against selling alcohol, the bars would charge admission for seeing a mythical “blind tiger” and offer a complimentary alcoholic drink.

And Johnson City has a speakeasy.

Although it’s no secret The Windsor Speakeasy is a fully licensed bar operating in the city, you still have to sneak into the hip lounge through a hidden door. Inside, talented mixologists craft creative cocktails in an intimate setting. Live entertainment is offered on some weekends, and you can sit outside on a patio for hushed conversations throughout the night.

220 West Market Street, Johnson City, TN | www.facebook.com/thewindsorspeakeasy

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No. 18

Get a Drink at Tennessee Hills Brewstillery

In 2016, Northeast Tennessee natives Stephen and Jessica Callahan used their college degrees in Biology and Chemistry to open the Tennessee Hills Distillery in the historic Salt House in nearby Jonesborough. Teaming up with entrepreneurs Scott and Daphene Andrews, they bought a brewery in Johnson City and opened the Tennessee Hills Brewstillery.

It’s the best of both worlds, a brewery and distillery under one roof. And they aren’t afraid to be bold and patient with their craft beers. Indian Pale Ales and stouts are typical staples, but they also craft lagers and German-style Hefeweizen.

Their Tennessee Whiskey Kitchen food truck serves savory food on the weekends. Live music is often heard rumbling from the parking lot. And inside, a gorgeous wrap around bar is the perfect place to sample the cocktails, craft beer, and food.

458 West Walnut Street, Johnson City, TN | 423-789-9105 | www.tnhillsbrewstillery.com

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No. 19

Get Food and Drinks at Yee-Haw Brewing Company

Capitalizing on the success of Ole Smokey Distillery, Gatlinburg native Joe Baker bought the 116-year-old CC&O railroad depot in Johnson City. But that’s not the depot for this story. While renovating that depot, Baker set his eyes on the even older East Tennessee & Western North Carolina railroad depot across the street – the original depot for the Tweetsie Railroad.

After buying the building, Baker and Cory Cottongim founded Yee-Haw Brewing Company in 2015. Unlike most local breweries, Baker wanted to focus on producing pilsners and lagers – a type of craft beer that takes significantly longer to ferment than the more common pale ale and IPA.

The building is a textbook example of chic industrial décor. Painted concrete floors, brick walls, and exposed rafters set the tone. Large windows bathe the solid wood tabletops on steel legs with light, and when the sun goes down, the cast iron pipe chandeliers with Edison bulbs keep the party going. The craft beers are served in straight-sided glasses emblazed with their logo. And the beer perfectly pairs with the food from White Duck Taco Shop in a corner of the depot.

126 Buffalo Street, Johnson City, TN | 423-328-9193 | www.yeehawbrewing.com

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No. 20

Explore the City’s Only Rooftop Bar at Watauga Brewing Company

Johnson City doesn’t feature skyscrapers or impressive architecture, but the city is surrounded by mountains – and that is exactly why you want to spend an evening at the only rooftop bar. When “four regular guys who love to brew and drink beer” founded Watauga Brewing Company in 2017, a rooftop bar was as important as craft beer.

After three years of renovations, the brewery opened in a commercial building. The first floor served as the brewery operation space with shiny stainless-steel fermenters and lots of seating at wood tables. Food was always part of the plan, with a small selection of appetizers and entrees. The second floor is additional seating for the restaurant and a quieter place to enjoy an evening in the city.

But the rooftop bar is the most popular place in the city on warm evenings. It’s the perfect place to watch the sunset across Bays Mountain in the distance. Once the sun goes down, the string lights come on, and firepits ignite to create a casual, romantic atmosphere.

142 West Market Street, Johnson City, TN | 423-631-5150 | http://wataugabrewingcompany.com

National Park Week 2024

Learn about the annual celebration of the National Park System and read my travel guides to national park units across the country.

Top: A burger topped with BBQ and homemade tater tots at Southern Craft BBQ. Bottom: A personal pan pizza topped with local veggies at The Main Street Pizza Company.

Where to Eat

Johnson City could be a foodie destination. But first, people need to know it’s a foodie destination. The ninth-largest city in Tennessee is a busy hub for business travelers, outdoor recreation enthusiasts, and pleasure seekers – so of course, there is fantastic food.

BURG’r & BARREL is the latest addition to the Peerless Steakhouse family of restaurants. The restaurant opened in the renovated 1908 CC&O railroad depot, a gorgeous industrial space with a casual intimate atmosphere. The covered loading docks offer unique outdoor seating options where visitors will find tables and firepits surrounded by Adirondack chairs.

When Tony Vella opened a restaurant in 1999, he envisioned a fictional world traveler who’d sampled all the greatest foods and brought them to Northeast Tennessee. He named the restaurant after that character, Cootie Brown’s. The eclectic restaurant with funky décor has a varied menu of appetizers, entrees, pizzas, burgers, and barbecue – and don’t leave without a slice of their famous Key Lime Pie.

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In 1981, Tom Seaton and Jimmy Carter (not that Jimmy Carter) bought the West Walnut Street Firehall at auction and moved their one-year-old barbecue restaurant into the space. The Firehouse restaurant has remained at the location ever since, with several renovations expanding the seating area and enclosing a 1925 Seagraves Fire Engine in the lobby. It’s the best barbecue in the city, with marinated meats cooked on-site and homemade sauces to satisfy your tastebuds.

In 2008, Andreas and Michele Herholz opened Frieberg’s, an authentic German restaurant in downtown Johnson City. Named after Andreas’ German hometown, the menu features staples like bratwurst, schnitzel, and boulette made from scratch. Enjoy the dinner in the rustic restaurant along with imported German beers.

In 2011, RMM Hospitality opened One 12 in a downtown renovated commercial building. Described as an “upscale sports bar,” the restaurant was rebranded as Label five years later. The expansive menu features appetizers, burgers with hand-cut fries, sushi, and a few wood-fired grill entrees. Enjoy the meal at comfortable chairs and booths with real wood tabletops and surrounded by industrial décor.

The Main Street Pizza Company owners get as many of their ingredients as possible from a farm just minutes outside Johnson City. Specializing in hand-tossed thin crusts, you can choose from a variety of recipes or build your own pizza from scratch for a custom meal. Open in 2009, the restaurant is located inside a gorgeous renovated commercial building on Main Street with comfortable booths and large windows overlooking downtown.

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Pal’s Sudden Service, locally called Pal’s, opened its first fast-food location in Kingsport in 1954. The regional chain is known for the iconic style of the building – a ginormous burger, hotdog, fries, and a drink on the cyan blue concrete building. It’s not like any other fast-food chain and is a definite stop during any visit to Northeast Tennessee.

Along with Label, RMM Hospitality also owns Southern Craft BBQ. The restaurant opened in 2017 in a renovated commercial building at the edge of downtown Johnson City. Inside, hardwood floors are accented with brick walls, and dim lighting creates an intimate atmosphere. The restaurant makes smoked meats on-site and a selection of craft beers in the brewery in the back.

Since opening the first location in Asheville, North Carolina, in 2011, White Duck Taco Shop has launched nearly a dozen locations throughout the region. When Yeehaw Brewing opened in the renovated railroad depot, it included White Duck Taco Shop. The menu is quirky, featuring chicken, beef, fish, crab, and a variety of toppings in their made-to-order tacos. Order some tacos, pick up the tray, and walk into the brewery for a cold craft beer and a comfortable seat.

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The Carnegie Hotel on State of Franklin Road.

Where to Stay

East Tennessee State University and Johnson City Medical Center bring a lot of people into the city. Fortunately, that means there are a lot of great hotels. Nothing too luxurious, but there are some great budget and moderate hotels for a comfortable weekend getaway.

Budget

Red Roof Inn is surrounded by the commercial side of the city – but that’s okay because it’s a comfortable budget motel. The property is sans any amenities, but all the rooms featured renovated hardwood floors and new furnishings. Choose from rooms with two full beds or one king bed.

Comfort Suites is still moderately budget-friendly and features a few nice amenities. The hotel features a nice outdoor swimming pool and secure access through the lobby to all the guest rooms. Choose from rooms with two queen beds, a suite with two queen beds and a sleeper sofa, or a suite with one king bed and a sleeper sofa.

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Moderate

Holiday Inn is a very nice hotel located beside Interstate 26 on the commercial side of the city. The hotel features a nice outdoor swimming pool, an on-site bar, and plenty of free on-site parking. Choose from rooms with one queen bed, two queen beds, or a suite with one queen bed and a sleeper sofa.

Carnegie Hotel & Spa is the most gorgeous and comfortable hotel in the city. A recreation of the original hotel from the early 1900s, the Carnegie features an on-site spa, outdoor swimming pool, on-site bar, and plenty of free on-site parking. Choose from rooms with two queen beds, one king bed, or a suite with a king bed and a sleeper sofa.

Hampton Inn is one of the best places to stay in Johnson City because of the complimentary hot breakfast served every morning – it’s one of the best of any hotel chain in the country. The hotel features a small outdoor swimming pool and a spacious lobby. Choose from rooms with two full beds, one king bed, or a suite with a king bed and a sleeper sofa.

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