Johnson City, TN, is a city of 66K (73K with students) that is part of the Tri-Cities, along with Bristol and Kingsport. This Eastern Tennessee town has a noteworthy downtown area, great eateries, beautiful scenery, and is amid the Blue Ridge and Great Smoky Mountains. Here are 11 fun things to do in Johnson City, TN, that I personally enjoyed as I fell in love with this mountain escape.
Johnson City is exploding with growth and have many exciting projects coming, which will further their tourism industry.
1. Have a Fabulous Spa Treatment
Pamper yourself in the Austin Springs Spa & Salon, a luxury spa experience with skilled aestheticians. The spa is located inside the Carnegie Hotel and offers a variety of massage, pedicures, manicures, facials, waxing, and body treatments. Acupuncture and hydrotherapy are other features of the x spa.
I was extremely pleased with the anti-aging facial I had ta Austin Springs. The spa uses high-rated Eminence Organic skin products and the result was firmer and hydrated skin with fewer fine lines. Spa packages are available, many with a spa lunch included. Book in advance; the spa is highly popular.
2. See the Sculptures at Founders Park
Founders Park is a five-acre greenspace right smack dab in the middle of town, perfect for walking, getting in touch with nature, and admiring the rotating art installment sculptures that decorate the landscape. In the park are a pavilion and amphitheater for hosted events. Check out the Founders Park Sculpture Garden, with life-size works of art that make for an interesting addition to the stormwater retention project.
3. Visit a Speakeasy
Who doesn’t love a carefully thought out and creative speakeasy? I had a really great time at the Windsor Speakeasy in downtown Johnson City. The craft cocktail list was full of complicated creations that were magical to taste. I had the Arabian Night with cherry vodka, Galliano, raspberry liqueur, and soda, then given a hint of edible shimmer for the final effect. there are new menu additions often, so check Windsor’s Facebook page for details.
4. Hang Out at Yee-Haw Brewing
One of the highest producing and well-known breweries in Tennessee hails from Johnson City. Yee-Haw Brewing not only makes excellent beer, but it also has a fun and eye-catching taproom for fun, games, and hanging out. Not sure which beer to order? I always try a flight: Proud Mary (a hibiscus margarita gose), Dunkel (Yee-Haw’s World Beer Cup award winning dark Munich lager), Cold Brew Lager, and Winter Porter were all four great sips. The outdoor patio offers a fire pit and plenty of space for social distancing, while the adjoining White Duck Taco Shop is available for all your food needs.
5. Cycle Down the Mountain
Tannery Knobs Mountain Bike Park is not only a great place to watch a sunset or take panoramic photos of Johnson City, but also a biking adventure park. This world-class attraction was built and designed by IMBA (International Mountain Biking Assoc.) and includes carefully curated paths for all skill levels and a paved pump track. Helmets are required.
Whether you bike or not, Johnson City’s 360-degree views from this vantage point are spectacular and make for great photo-ops.
6. Go Mural Hunting
There are several great murals around Johnson City, perfect for selfies, Instagram, or enjoying talented artists’ works. A few of my favorites were Wildabout (pictured here), Wagon Wheel (…to Johnson City, TN), and Go All Out, Johnson City’s newest campaign. (or We’ll Always Be Together)
7. Play a Game
Kid’s willl love Downtown Johnson City’s Wildabout Walkabout Scavenger Hunt, offering clues for things to search that are hidden around town. There are 15 bronze animals to find on your search. You’ll find the clues at this location.
Adults, kids, and families will enjoy one of Johnson City’s newest additions, Mulligan’s Gaming Pub. Mulligan’s sells and provides a place to play a wide array of board games with an emphasis on role playing games. Craft beer, sodas, and other beverages are on the menu. The space is huge and the owners are planning a multi-story venue that will be fun for all ages.
8. Tour the Gray Fossil Site
A unique attraction in Johnson City is the Gray Fossil Site & Museum, home to the ongoing dig site out back that has turned up hundreds of Miocene-early Pliocene era plant and animals fossils in the country. Think about this…the fossils are four to eight million years old! You can see the dig site from the museum, take a guided tour, or just enjoy the exhibits and museum displays.
The Hands On! Discovery Center, which is connected, is an awesome science center with a climbing apparatus, musical Tesla coil, and many hands-on things for kids and parents to explore and enjoy. I like the life-size Lite Brite myself. Admission is $10 for anyone four and up and free to children three and under.
9. Eat Amazing Food
You’ll find an arsenal of good local restaurants throughout Johnson City. For breakfast, I recommend gourmet toasts and coffee from Java Juice House. At lunchtime, the Indian lunch buffet from Sahib is excellent, as are the salads and tuna melt from Gourmet and Company—don’t forget the apricot tea.
At dinner, dive into the tasty options at Label Restaurant (which also has a sushi bar) or Timber, which pays homage to camping and national parks. You can read more about the food in Johnson City in this post.
10. Stay in a Luxury Hotel
The stunning Carnegie Hotel is the premier lodging choice in Johnson City. This AAA four-Diamond Hotel has loads of charm, a picturesque library with private seating nooks, and a full-service high-end restaurants. The Carnegie sits across from the East Tennessee State University Campus and also houses a fantastic spa (see #1 above). Complimentary Wifi and parking are included in your stay.
My favorite thing about staying at the Carnegie Hotel, besides the obvious convenient access to downtown, were the heavenly beds. My beautiful sleigh bed (first time I’ve had one at a hotel), featured high-thread count linens and excellent pillows. Room service was affordable and tasty, and the spacious room made me want to hang out there. There was also a fantastic soaking tub with separate shower.
11. Take a Day Trip
Two exciting day trips less than an hour from Johnson City are Bristol and Jonesborough. Bristol, a town associated with racing and being the birthplace of country music is fun to explore the downtown, murals, and of course the incredible pastries from Blackbird Bakery. I like to think of myself as a donut expert, and the ones from Blackbird are the best ever.
In historic Jonesborough, Tennessee, the oldest city in the state, you will feel like you are set back in New England with a village like setting, cute boutiques, and great architecture. It is also home to the International Storytelling Center, the only facility devoted to the process of telling stories and a Smithsonian Affiliate.
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