Bristol, TN

5 Cool Things to do in Bristol this Winter

John M. Dabbs

Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay

Winter is upon us! As the darkness settles in and the winds pick up, the cold weather is here for a bit. There isn't much to do outside these days for recreation, in the traditional sense. We don't stay cold enough to have ice hockey on local ponds or enough snow for regular cross-country skiing.

What do we have? We have an abundance of enthusiasm and pent up energy! We and our children are dying to get out and do something. It is in our blood. We need to be doing something and burn off some energy and enjoy this great time of the year - before it does us in! The days are shorter and the sun hangs lower on the horizon. If we don't take action we could fall into depression.

There are many great things to do this time of year in Bristol. We have the Hard Rock Cafe's Casino project in the works at the old mall property off the Gate City Highway, but we need to do something now.

Here's my top 5

1. Pinnacle Speedway In Lights

The Pinnacle is sponsoring the Speedway Children's Charities - Speedway In Lights again this year. In its 24th year at Bristol Motor Speedway (the World's Fastest Half-Mile). Due to COVID-19, the event staff has made a concerted effort to make the event safe with room for social distancing in the BMS infield's Christmas Village.

The carnival and Santa Clause are not visiting the village this year, yet photo-opportunity props have been placed around the village. Vendors are wearing masks and following all guidelines of the state and Sullivan County Regional Health Department to keep you safe.

The Speedway In Lights can be accessed from the Bristol Dragway entrance on highway 394. The route goes through the campground and parking areas to the ticket booths at the dragstrip tower, where you begin your journey down the drag-strip. The trail meanders through the Bristol Motor Speedway and Dragway complex, culminating in a trip around the Last Great Colosseum's track surface with an opportunity to enter pit-row for a visit to the Christmas Village.

Stop in and see the vendors. You'll find food, souvenirs, crafts, fire-pits, bathrooms, and plenty of access to hot chocolate. Hours are 6 pm-10 pm. The event runs until January 2nd

2. Ice Skating

The Tri-Cities Airport Ice Rink will be at the North entrance of Bristol Motor Speedway again this year, presented by HVAC. The ice-rink is one of the most popular destinations during the Speedway In Lights at BMS.

The rink is available only through advanced registration this year as capacity is limited due to pandemic mitigation efforts. The rink is open most nights and will be open through January 10th, 2021. Hours of operation vary. Check the schedule using the link here.

3. Decorate Your Outside

Have you ever notice how happy looking at outdoor displays make you? Decorate your house, trees, and property for others. Sure, we see TV shows and movies where they go overboard and someone is nearly as problematic as National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation and their Clark W. Grizwald, but it doesn't have to be that way.

We tastefully (yes I know that is subjective) decorate our home with lights strung along the eves of the house, and place wreaths on the doors. We also place candle-lights in the windows and have our decorated tree where it can be seen through the living room window.

Some years, when we have time and enough working lights, we decorate at least one of the large hemlock trees in our yard. It's a sight to behold and the neighbors can all see. We live in a rural part of the area adjacent to our family farm. We do not have many neighbors but we try to bring what joy we can to those around us and share a little of what we have.

4. Go window shopping

This may sound pretty lame, but there is more to it than the name suggests. Window shopping involves getting together with people who want to spend a few hours together. If your kids are not in for this - they are happy visiting with friends, family, or entertaining themselves at home - if old enough to stay alone.

Have fun dressing up for the holidays, without having on party attire. Wear comfortable clothes and shoes which are suitable for the forecast and have at it! No need to have a plan here. Hit the main streets in your town where you can walk and enjoy looking in and through local stores and check out their window displays and specials. You may find yourself antiquing, going through pawn shops, or checking out the latest chic boutique.

Plan accordingly to spot and rest during your adventure. Have cash and plastic so you can pick up your favorite beverage and a snack. You may want Starbucks, a donut, a bagel... or even fudge! Use the time to unwind and get ideas if you need to shop for someone or maybe get ideas for next year. Nobody cares - just get out and enjoy yourself. Just remember to distance appropriately and wear a mask as needed.

5. Take a drive

My mother and father got me into this when I was a boy. After coming in from working at their jobs or around the farm, we'd eat dinner and brush our teeth. Dad would announce, more than ask... "Who wants to see the lights." My sister and I would pile into the backseat of the car, dressed warmly in our pajamas.

We began making the trip at least once every year since the early 1970s. Dad would drive us through the local subdivisions and neighborhoods where he knew there would be plenty of holiday lights and displays. We'd venture into town and he would cruise the streets and neighborhoods of the more prosperous people in town. The lights and decorations on the homes and in the yards were a sight to behold for a child with eyes full of wonderment. I am still a big kid and continue to enjoy seeing these sights today.

Joy and peace can be found in the strangest places, in the strangest ways. Even during this pandemic, there are ways of creating simple pleasures for your family - or just yourself. It's just a matter of getting out there and making an effort.

I hope you've enjoyed my 5 tips for things to do in Bristol, Tennessee-Virginia. I am sure there are many more that I have missed that you could offer. Do us a favor, and leave them in the comments for this article on News Break.

Thank you for reading. I hope you'll follow me and be sure to download the News Break app here.

Happy Holidays!


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An outdoor enthusiast with a passion for travel and adventure. John is a professional consultant and photojournalist.

Johnson City, TN

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