Why Bristol VA/TN is the coolest hometown of them all
It’s time you NOVA natives learn a little bit about the South
Upon my arrival at UVA one measly year ago, I quickly found that I could rarely open my mouth and speak without being prompted with the question, “Where are you from?!”
The answer: Bristol – which is not really a known place unless you’re from there. Commonly referred to as the “twin cities,” Bristol is actually split almost directly in half by the Virginia/Tennessee state line. So, there is in fact a Bristol, VA and a Bristol, TN – but both are the same city.
Are you confused yet?! Fret not! Bristol is a place 100% worth getting to know (I’m not biased, promise…).
Being the official birthplace of country music, home to one of the most thrilling NASCAR racetracks in the country, host of its own annual music festival, and then some, Bristol has a lot to offer (other than just great southern accents).
As aforementioned, Bristol is split in half by the state line, which is cool for many reasons. The downtown area surrounds the line that divides the states on a street called State Street.
State Street is populated with mostly local restaurants, locally owned shops and stores, bars, great breweries, art galleries, and pretty much anything else you could want out of a city. Plaques are placed throughout the center of the street indicating which side is Virginia and which is Tennessee.
So if you’re one of ~those~ tourists (admit it, we all are deep down), you can take a cool picture where you’re standing in two states at once! Wooohoooo!
Your typical high school rivalry…kind of
Since we were blessed with having two cities in one, the high school rivalry is amped to the max. There of course cannot be two Bristol High Schools, so instead there is Virginia High School (S/O, go bearcats!) and Tennessee High School. During football season, the week leading up to the Virginia High vs. Tennessee High game is chocked full of school-spirited activities.
This week, known as “VT Week,” is a week full of dress-up days, pep rallies, a bonfire with a burning of a stuffed Viking (THS mascot), and finally the much-anticipated football game on Friday night.
Birthplace of Country Music
Dear all country music fans, you’re welcome. In 1998, the United States Congress named Bristol the official birthplace of country music. In 1927, recording sessions took place in Bristol that launched the insanely successful careers of the Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers.
Johnny Cash once said those sessions were, “the single most important event in the history of country music.” Take that, Nashville! The Birthplace of Country Music Museum just opened this past year, so definitely check that out while visiting Bristol.
Rhythm & Roots Reunion
Considering its deep musical roots, it should come as no surprise that Bristol has its own annual (and really awesome) music festival. Since Rhythm & Roots Reunion began in 2001, it has hosted some big names, including The Avett Brothers, Dr. Dog, and Doc Watson.
On the third weekend in September, the entirety of State Street and downtown is closed off to traffic, around 20 stages are set up, and people come from all over to enjoy a weekend of unbelievable music. And you get to wear your most hipster clothes and flower headbands – yay!
Twice a year, the population of Bristol nearly triples. Why? NASCAR!!
Bristol Motor Speedway is one of the bucket list racetracks for many dedicated NASCAR fans. It is estimated that about “100,000 race fans camp in and around Bristol for each race.” The track is buzzing with fans, campers, live music, games, and racing at its best.
But for us native Bristolians, it’s a weekend to dress in jorts and camo, carry around a giant cooler of cold brews, and see everyone you’ve ever known since preschool. Dale yeah!
Speedway in Lights
During the winter, Bristol Motor Speedway might be even cooler than during an actual race weekend. More than 1.5 million Christmas lights in over 100 displays are available for viewing throughout a four mile course throughout the speedway, campgrounds, and the drag way.
This has helped raise millions of dollars for charities in the area since its commencement. Cruise through the track like a real racer, and don’t forget to stop in the center of the track for hot chocolate and a picture with Santa. And when you’re done, hit up the ice skating rink outside of the track!
At only 28 locations, all in NE Tennessee and SW Virginia, are you able to be blessed with Pal’s Sudden Service, aka the nectar of the gods (OK, I’m the only one who says that). If you’re craving a good burger and some fries, look no further. As soon as you lay eyes upon the blue building with giant versions of the delicious food your mouth waters for on the front, congrats, you’ve made it to heaven. (Even buzzfeed thinks it’s great).
My undeniable Southern accent, which is so natural to my ears, sparked immediate conversation when others spoke with me. Being thrown into a shark-tank of Yankees (no offense) was undoubtedly intimidating, but I soon found that the more I talked about where I was from, the more I realized how truly rad my hometown is.