Bristol or Bust: Traveling Down I-81 to the Battle at Bristol


bristolRoad tripping across Virginia is an adventure in itself, but sometimes you need a break from the open road to eat, get a few hours of much-needed sleep, or maybe just stretch your legs. If you are planning to attend the Battle of Bristol, the biggest college football game in history, you may be traveling quite a far distance. As you get closer to your final destination for Battle at Bristol and are in need of a pit stop, check out these exciting stops off Interstate 81 that won’t lead you far from the beaten path, as well as a few ideas for activities for the whole family once you get to Bristol.

Coming to Bristol from the eastern coast of Virginia or the Richmond area down Interstate 64? There are plenty of amazing restaurants just off the highway that will give you a break from the road and fill you up on fantastic food.


1790 Rosendale Inn: Bed and breakfast located at the base of Massanutten on 20 acres in the Shenandoah Valley.

New Market- Exit 264


Johnny Appleseed Restaurant: You will want some of these apple fritters for the road.

New Market- Exit 264 I-81 South


Joshua Wilton House Inn:

Joshua Wilton House Inn and Resturaunt

An elegant restored Victorian mansion in Downtown Harrisonburg with an in-house chef that creates exquisite pastries.

Harrisonburg- Exit 247B


Stonewall Jackson Inn Bed & Breakfast: A B&B dating back to 1870 that overlooks the Historic District of Downtown Harrisonburg. Pet-Friendly.

Harrisonburg- Exit 247B


Berkeley House Bed and Breakfast: Directly across the street from the birthplace of President Woodrow Wilson. 8,000 square foot inn beautifully decorated with antiques, but with modern amenities.

Staunton- Exit 225


Kline’s Dairy Bar & Hog Wild BBQ:

Kline's Dairy Bar

Serving old-fashioned ice cream since 1943.

Staunton- Exit 220 I-81 South


Riders Rest Bed and Breakfast: Get away to the country without ever leaving the town of Lexington. Overlooks 200 acres of mountainside, but only two miles from Downtown Historic Lexington. Pet-friendly.

Lexington- Exit 195


Pink Cadillac: Don’t forget to take your picture with the 50s style pink Cadillac outside.

Rockbridge County just south of Lexington in Natural Bridge- Exit 180 I-81 South


Safari Park:

Virginia Safari Park

Drive-through safari with free-roaming elk, gazelle, zebra & other exotic fauna, plus a petting zoo. The kids (and adults) will get a kick out of this!

Rockbridge County- just south of Lexington in Natural Bridge. Exit 180 I-81 South


King George Inn Bed & Breakfast: Newly renovated B&B has private baths for each of the four luxurious suites. Walking distance to downtown Roanoke and a view of the Mill Mountain Starr.

Roanoke- Exit 143


Due South BBQ: Award winning pit cooked BBQ and sauces.

Christiansburg- Exit 118B I-81 South


Claytor Lake State Park:

claytor lake state park

Lot’s to do from swimming at the beach to hiking, biking, kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding with Mountain 2 Island Paddleboarding.

Dublin- Exit 101 I-81 South


Draper Mercantile & Blue Door Café and Bakery: Upscale café experience, great food and home-made desserts. Located on the New River Trail, Virginia Transamerican Trail and the Virginia Mountain Bike Trail. Bike Rentals are available next door at The Junction. Great place to take a break from traveling and ride on the trail.

Draper- Exit 94 I-81 South


Trinkle Mansion Bed & Breakfast:

trinkle mansion

This B&B has large rooms with private baths, and some have fireplaces and clawfoot tubs. Close to history and fantastic restaurants in the Wytheville area.

Wytheville- Exit 73


Big Walker Lookout: Great place to stop and enjoy the most spectacular views of the Appalachian Mountains at an elevation of 3,405. Shop at Big Walker Country Store which features local arts and crafts.

Wytheville- Exit 70


Hungry Mother State Park:

hungry mother state park

Beautiful sandy beach with boathouse, boat rentals, hiking and biking trails, visitor center and restaurant.

Marion- Exit 47 I-81 South


Wolfe’s BBQ: Locally owned by a Virginia Tech graduate. Wolfe’s BBQ was voted best in town and winner of Virginia Is for Lovers Culinary Challenge.

Marion- Exit 45 I-81 South


Skeeter’s:Skeeter's, E. N. Umberger Store


Home of the Skeeter Dog (the best chili and cheese hot dog) since 1920.

Wytheville- Exit 45 I-81 South


27 Lions: Bar & grille featuring 27 beers on tap, artisan brick oven pizzas, all surrounded by an open concept kitchen.

Marion- Exit 45 I-81 South


Dip Dog: Corn dog stand turned restaurant and gift shop. Be sure to check out all the pictures from dip dog bumper stickers that have traveled all around the world.

Marion- Exit 39 I-81 South


Harvest Table:

Harvest Table Restaurant

Local farm-to-fork cuisine, next to the Meadowview Farmers’ Guild General Store. Meadowview- Exit 24 I-81 South


Spearhead Trail: The MountainView “Off Highway Vehicle” (OHV) system is a multi-use trail system primarily designed for ATVs, Side by Sides and dirt bikes. The 60+ miles of picturesque trails begin in the “ATV Friendly” town of St. Paul where riders have access to lodging, shopping, and dining offerings. Forty minutes northwest of Abingdon in St. Paul- Exit 17 I-81 South


Virginia Creeper Trail: The trail is 34.3 mile railroad bed converted into trail system for hiking and biking, named after the steam engine that once creeped up the rails into the Iron Mountains.

Abingdon- Exit 17 I-81 South


Barter Theatre:

Barter Theatre

Take in a show at the State Theatre of Virginia.

Abingdon- Exit 17 I-81 South



While in Bristol

Of course you’ll have a full itinerary attending all the pre-game and game day festivities, but you won’t want to miss these must see spots while in Bristol.

Bristol Sign:

Bristol Sign

Hangs 25 feet over the line dividing the states of Virginia and Tennessee, on State Street. Popular stop for visitors, who like to stand in the middle of the street with one foot in each state for a photo.


Studio Brew: Taproom offers over 15 of our Artisan Craft Beers that pair wonderfully with the German inspired food from their Wood Fired Brick Oven. They also make their own nonalcoholic Root Beer, perfect for those in your party under 21.


Burger Bar: Burgers and other American foods including milkshakes in a classic diner setting. Legend has it, the Burger Bar was the last location where Hank Williams was seen alive, adding to Bristol’s unique musical legacy.


Birthplace of Country Music Museum:

Birthplace of County Music Museum

Located in Historic Downtown Bristol, the 24,000-square foot Birthplace of Country Music Museum, an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, tells the story of the 1927 Bristol Sessions, explores how sound technology shaped their success and evolved, and highlights how these early recordings impacted and continue to impact American music.


Adventure Mendota: Kayak and tube rentals on the North Fork of the Holston River.


Blackbird Bakery:

blackbird bakery

Baked fresh daily, the specialty of the house is doughnuts, you will also find delicious pastries and desserts ranging from mouth-watering baklava and chocolate croissants, to brownies, cupcakes, and pies.


Whether you are coming for the Battle at Bristol or just traveling down the I-81 corridor during your vacation, refuel and take in some small town character right off the interstate when you stop at these interesting and sometimes delicious locations.



© Caitlin Castainca for Virginia’s Travel Blog, 2016. |

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Caitlin Castainca

We are FUN! We are RVA! We support local business and charities! Life is good!