Johnson City, TN

5 Cool Things to Do in Johnson City This Winter

John M. Dabbs

Photo by Tadeusz Lakota on Unsplash

While we don't normally get a lot of snow in Johnson City during the winter, we get a few falls of snow worthy of sledding or a snowball fight or two. The temperate climate allows us to get out and about frequently without having to endure the bitter cold for long stretches at a time.

Many people do not venture out as winter arrives. They are missing out. There is still plenty to do in Johnson City this winter. Here are my top five fun things for your consideration.

1. Tweetsie Trail

The Tweetsie Trail is a walking and biking path between Johnson City and Elizabethton, Tennessee. The old railroad line was constructed in the 1800s, connecting Eastern Tennessee and Western North Carolina for transporting timber and iron ore. The line extended from Johnson City to Cranberry, North Carolina, and was nicknamed the "Tweetsie" because of the high-pitched whistle of the steam engine, and its comparison to the tweets of birds along the trail.

The railroad ran through the rugged Doe River Gorge of Carter County, where a small park was established. The rail line fell out of use in 2003. In the years since local officials sought to convert the unused line to tourism and recreation use through the Rails to Trails project. It is currently the longest Rails to Trails project in Tennessee at 9.5 miles long.

The flat rail bed of compacted gravel is ideal for hiking, biking, walking, and running. The trailhead at Alabama Street in Johnson City has parking, with additional parking nearby. The trail is ideal for a leisurely stroll or serious exercise and is used year-round.

2. Tannery Knobs Mountain Bike Park

Less than a mile from the Tweetsie Trail, the 40 acre+ Tannery Knobs Mountain Bike Park park sits at the top of Tannery Knobs behind city hall in Johnson City. Designed as a skills park for riders of all experience and ages, everyone can enjoy the excitement of off-road riding.

The property was donated by Summers-Taylor Construction Company in 2016. All trails and features were professionally designed and built to give all riders -novice and professional alike- an opportunity for an awesome ride.

Even if you're not into mountain biking, the trails are good for hiking, trail running, and enjoying the spectacular views of the city and surrounding mountains. The park is a short ride from downtown with free parking at the entrance.

3. Hands On Discovery Center & Gray Fossil Site

The Hands On Discovery Center is not just plain to learn and see. It's designed to allow you to interact. Here you'll be able to get your hands and eyes involved to help absorb what you see and hear. The center is designed for visitors of all ages. You'll find the science center offering interactive programs and experiences that include gain building blocks, a three-story Paleo Tower, and a musical Tesla Coil.

Visitors have the opportunity to engineer a rocket, or get up close and get their hands dirty with an active fossil dig. The fossil exhibits and programs feature plants and animals unearthed at the Gray site, including a red panda, rhinoceros, 10-ton mastodon, and a tapir.

The fossils were discovered in May of 2000 as Geologists were investigating unusual clay deposits in preparation for a widening of state highway 75 in Gray, Tennessee - just outside of Johnson City. The Johnson City Hands On Museum moved to the East Tennessee State University and General Shale Brick Natural History Museum and Visitor Center in 2018, changing its name to the "Hands On! Discovery Center".

4. Freedom Hall

The Freedom Hall Civic Center often hosts many internationally known performers, such as the Beach Boys, Sir Elton John, Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, and many other events. Here you'll find a venue that held a Jehovah"s Witnessesconvention, professional wrestling, Disney On Ice, KISS, the Shriner's Circus, AC/DC, and even Elvis.

The venue hosts basketball games for the Harlem Globetrotters, and more lately - the East Tennessee State University Buccaneers, as their current gymnasium is inadequate for most men's basketball games. many festivals and shows use the facility. Check the box office for scheduling. Who knows, maybe you could be on a special edition of the Price is Right here.

Freedom Hall opened in 1974 on the Liberty Bell Complex next to the city's high school, Science Hill. The City of Johnson City built the venue as both an entertainment venue and for additional space for use by Science Hill High School and other city schools for theatrical, sporting, and other events.

5. Explore the breweries

If you like good brewskies, there are some fine establishments in Johnson City. Yee-Haw Brewing Company right next to the Wild Wing Cafe gets rave reviews, as does the Johnson City Brewing Company, JRH, Watauga, and Little Animals.

In these local breweries, you'll be able to get a quick tour of the facilities and taste their brews until you find the one that suits your palate. A few of the breweries can also be found on tap at local bars and pubs - like the Atlantic Ale House or Tipton Street Tap Room. If you don't care to venture a bit further, Jonesborough is home to Depot Street Brewery, right on the tracks and across the road from the farmer's co-op.

If you aren't much on beer, you can find Tennessee Hills Distillery in Jonesborough, at the old Salt House. You can tour their facility and sample their distilled beverages. My favorite is the Lemon Drop. It is corn whiskey with lemon juice. They also have a Lavender Lemon, but it's not on my favorite list - perhaps just due to the color. My distant second choice is S.E. Callahan's Straight Bourbon. it's a bit stronger but makes for excellent mixing and sipping... purely for medicinal purposes.

There's lots more

There's lots more to do in Johnson City, for kids of all ages and adults as well. Indoor places like the George L. Carter Rail Road Museum at ETSU, Carroll Reece Museum at ETSU, Founders Park, and Winged Deer Park are great for just getting out and having a place to walk and run, or walk your pet. You can find historic tours at Tipton Haynes Historic Site, take a Ghost Walk Tour, or check out the Appalachian Underground and see the caves.

If these aren't your thing... see a play, go shopping, or check out the many restaurants.

Thanks for reading. I hope you'll share this article with friends and follow me for more.


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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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