WHERE IS IT? In downtown Bristol – which is part of the Tri-Cities region along the Tennessee-Virginia border – The Bristol Hotel is blocks from State Street. The street divides the city in half straddling both Virginia and Tennessee. The city is known as the birthplace of country music thanks to the 1927 Bristol Sessions; these recordings produced some of the earliest country music stars like Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family. Free parking is available across the street from the hotel near a small park. Other attractions include The Birthplace of Country Music Museum next door to the hotel and the Bristol Motor Speedway not too far away.
WHAT’S IT LIKE? The historic 1925 building, which was once used for offices, towers over downtown with great views of the rolling hillside. COVID-19 restrictions meant that there were adjustments in the public areas, restaurant and bar, but the staff was overwhelmingly hospitable in what is sure to be a strange time for hotels. At reception, where the front desk is made from recycled glass, they noted that the hotel is seeing an uptick in people taking road trips. The lobby has modern accents and plenty of conversation seating. Throughout the hotel, local elements are evident such as the denim fabric on chairs, in staff uniforms, and restaurant napkins from local manufacturer L.C. King Manufacturing Co. There’s even a charitable program where guests can leave behind denim products that they no longer want to be repurposed for area children in need.
ROOM FACILITIES The building’s original hand-crank elevator is used to display regional art, but another elevator takes guests to the contemporary rooms. Leather-cushioned headboards with plump pillows are inviting with built-in bedside power and USB outlets demonstrating modern flair. A wide desk with rolling chair is great for a bit of work although the armchair with movable glass side table was my preferred option. Tall windows bring in tons of natural light, including in the bathroom. My fifth-floor room had great views of the city below, a nearby park, and the lush Appalachian Mountains in the distance. I really liked having a Keurig coffeemaker with Starbucks coffee and a refrigerator in the room. Guests can also request a Crosley turntable to their room should they wish to enjoy some music – perhaps put on a new country tune to get into the local spirit. The ceiling lamps had super-quiet ceiling fans built in, which were a great way to sleep cool and comfortably. Bathrooms are bright with Gilchrist & Soames toiletries, great water pressure and thoughtful touches like dark towels designed for makeup removal. I appreciated how the housekeeper had turned the showerhead toward the wall so I wouldn’t be splashed when turning on the water. In my experience, great hotels always think of the smallest details.
RESTAURANTS AND BARS Vivian’s Table on the ground level serves Americana soul food both indoors and at sidewalk tables. I had a black bean burger with fried green tomatoes and Brussels sprouts, which was delicious. Especially tempting were the southern friend cheese sticks and spicy pimento cheese dip. I also visited Lumac, the rooftop bar overlooking the city, which has its own menu serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. The menu included biscuits and gravy in the morning, along with the New Orleans blend coffee they serve, which made a great start to the day (full disclosure: I had a healthier omelet instead). Normally, the hotel has complimentary coffee in the lobby, but it was not available due to restrictions. The restaurant had no problem providing free coffee though, which was a nice touch. The views at sunset were beautiful, and the craft cocktail and wine list had enough choices to keep you busy for a month. The hotel even has its own craft beer brewed especially for The Bristol. Live music is a popular draw for the rooftop bar although during my visit, coronavirus restrictions meant limited service. I can see that this is quite the place to enjoy an evening during normal times.
LEISURE FACILITIES There is a gym although it was closed during my visit. Instead, I took a brisk walk downtown, which was a great way to get to know the neighborhood.
BUSINESS AND MEETING FACILITIES Wireless Internet is free and works well throughout the hotel. On the lobby level, several meeting rooms, including a boardroom, are great for small group functions. The rooftop lounge and patio can also be used as event space.
VERDICT Pet-friendly and ideal for an entertaining road trip stop, The Bristol bustles with visitors. Its rooftop bar is worth a visit, and contemporary interiors paired with friendly service show the true spirit of today’s Southern hospitality.
HOW MANY ROOMS? 65 rooms and suites
PROPERTY HIGHLIGHTS Lively rooftop bar, luxurious rooms, and huge windows with great views
PRICE Internet rates for a traditional room start at $149.
CONTACT 510 Birthplace of Country Music Way, Bristol, VA, 24201, Phone 276-696-3535. bristolhotelva.com