Bristol, Virginia

Photo: The Bristol Hotel

The weekend is almost here. Finally. This week has felt especially long after two weeks of little to no work due to the holidays. So you’re winding down a bit early. You’re starting with drinks and appetizers with a view. Smoked trout dip, roasted oysters, and andouille-and-macaroni croquettes sit in front of you around a glass-enclosed fire pit. A band is setting up by the nearby bar. Below you, the city’s lights are flickering on as the color drains from the sky. The Appalachian Mountains in the background now have a purple hue. While you’re holding a glass of barrel-aged whiskey.

This feels like the beginning of a great night in Nashville. Except you’re not in Music City. That’s four-and-a-half hours away. You’re not even in Tennessee. Though you can literally see the state border. This chic rooftop bar is actually in Virginia. You just discovered the Birthplace of Country Music.

Welcome to Bristol, Virginia. The small city lies in the southwestern corner of the state. Its twin city, also called Bristol, sits right across State Street in Tennessee. There’s even a bronze marker, separating the two states, in the middle of the road. Though the southern state is the one that draws music lovers, it’s the northern one that first began recording country music. In 1927, a record producer started capturing the sounds of the area’s traditional folk music. The local musicians with whom he worked included the now-famous Carter Family. Bristol is also now home to the Smithsonian-affiliated Birthplace of Country Music Museum and live-music venues like the Downtown Center and the Paramount Center for the Arts.

Photo: The Bristol Hotel

As of last fall, Bristol also has its first boutique hotel. A prominent office building from 1925 was converted into the Bristol. Classical Revival-style elements, including the stucco exterior and Roman arched entryways, remained. Sixty-five rooms were carved out of the interior. The design-forward spaces feature graphic carpets and bright pops of citrus. Your standard king, larger than the petite rooms, even has a view of the mountains through its historic windows.

The blend of classic comforts and modern charm continues throughout the rest of the hotel, as well. Handcrafted cocktails are served in the Lobby Bar. Vivian’s Table, a street-front restaurant, has brick walls and soulful Southern food. There’s a historic ballroom for special events. Plus you’ve already discovered Lumac, the first rooftop bar in the city. The fiddle player in the bluegrass band has captured everyone’s attention. Now all you need is a refreshed drink—there’s only melted ice left in your glass—for this weekend to truly start off on the right foot.

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