Let’s face it: Most travelers with any experience can name the great cities of the world, the American “second cities” that are equally as appealing and, of course, well-traveled specific tourist destinations.
But is Manhattan, Miami Beach or Milan the kind of place you want to head off to, with limited vacation time and a deep need to get away from the hustle of modern reality and recharge your battery, whether solo, on a romantic recharge or with the whole family in tow? Not so much.
To really escape to the quiet world – the world of Walden’s Pond and wanderlust –one must escape the tried and true and certainly abandon any list of most popular tourist destinations. The good news? The United States is full of just such places, in virtually every state and in any type of physical environment you might personally find refreshing, from desert to remote beaches to mountains and every other green-scape. And in the Tri-Cities region of northeast Tennessee.
While major cities and western Tennessee are better-known visitor regions in the Volunteer State, this region and its primary city, Kingsport, make for an exceptional natural getaway. Particularly in the fall, when the region turns lush and colorful, this obscure part of the state is a hidden treasure that should not be missed.
Check into your accommodations and acclimate to your environment. While three cities and land in two states technically fall into this region, Kingsport is the best bet for accommodations and access to the regional natural attractions. If a late dinner sounds good, try Braeden’s Barbeque for a delicious take on regional cooking. Walk it off in this quaint town, and you’ll be aching to see more of the area by morning.
Saturday morning, it’s time to connect to the region’s past, and there is no better way than Exchange Place, a farm that to this day reflects the reality of Kingsport’s agricultural past in a way that will fascinate historian and child alike. See period livestock, crafts and a real-world view of history here. Finish the afternoon with high-speed fun at Bristol Motor Speedway. Leaping Lizard Family Entertainment Center is an essential stop for the with-kids crowd before heading back to town for dinner at Phil’s Dream Pit for more regional barbecue or Chop House for traditional cuts of meat.
Sunday is connect-with-nature day, and this is an ideal location for that. It’s as easy as a scenic drive through the Tri-Cities region if it’s fantastic foliage season, or else choosing between Bays Mountain Park and its many ways of viewing the surrounding beauty. Warriors’ Path State Park is another good bet, particularly in the fall, as is a round of golf at Cattails at Meadowview, where you’ll want to be sure and check the seafood buffet schedule in advance. Enough with barbecue for dinner? Go for old-school fast food at Pal’s Sudden Service or Riverfront Seafood Company to complete an eclectic but relaxing escape to another green country.
Access: By commercial flight, the Tri-Cities area is serviced, regionally, by Tri-Cities Regional Airport.
Population: Approx. 500,000 in the region.
Climate: Generally mild, with measurable differences based on altitude; cooler evenings in general and an intense fall.
Main Attractions: Fall foliage, scenic paths, parks and historical interests.
Marriott MeadowView Conference Resort & Convention Center is luxury, amenities and comfort at its best in Kingsport, and service is top-notch. The business center is well prepared for the executive and the fitness center helps you keep on routine. www.marriott.com
The Fox Manor Historic Bed & Breakfast is different, a world away with quiet and comfort. Great breakfasts, personalized service and comfort pair nicely with “getting away with it all.”
Pose: Don’t show off that you’re from out of town; and know the municipal components of the Tri-Cities region are Kingsport, Johnson and Bristol – and Bristol has a twin city in adjacent Virginia.
Ride: Budding equestrian or long-time rider, check out Warriors’ Path Riding Stables for a different way to connect to the region’s past.
Kiddies: If nature and foliage bore the kids – of any age – consider the Putt-Putt Fun Center for family fun that has been known to get out of hand, in a good way.