Bristol vs. Bristow: Two Monumental Music Festivals

Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion

The weekend of September 16th is all about the music in Virginia, with two huge music performances occurring on opposite sides of the state. The Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion rocks the southwestern corner of Virginia for three days, with live country and bluegrass music on 22 stages, including country music icon Loretta Lynn. Occurring the same weekend in the northern Virginia region at Bristow’s Jiffy Lube Live, Farm Aid brings huge headliners, like Neil Young, William Nelson, Dave Matthews, and Alabama Shakes, together with local farmers for a one-day concert that helps raise money and support for family farms.


If you’re looking to fill your weekend with live music and entertainment, either of these destinations will fit the bill. Can’t decide between the two shows? Here are a few more things to do in these similarly-named cities that might help you decide whether to head north to Bristow, or travel to Bristol along the winding roads of southwest Virginia.



Bristol straddles the Virginia/Tennessee border near Abingdon, the last stop off of Interstate 81 before you leave the Commonwealth. Known as the “Birthplace of Country Music”, Bristol’s streets are almost always filled with the sounds of live performances, whether that be bluegrass, folk, country, blues, or gospel. You’ll discover the deep roots of country music when you visit Bristol.


Places to Visit

Bristol Sign

The Bristol Sign & State Street: You can’t miss the large neon sign that marks the border of Virginia and Tennessee. Walk down State Street to cross the official line between the states.


Birthplace of Country Music Museum

Birthplace of Country Music Museum: Learn about the region’s musical heritage at this museum, with educational exhibits, listening stations, and year-round performances.


Mountain Music Museum: There is just too much country music history in Bristol to fit it all into one museum! The Mountain Music Museum displays artifacts and memorabilia from country legends like the Carter Family, Archie Campbell, Jimmie Rodgers, and many more.


Bristol Motor Speedway: NASCAR fans flock to the Bristol Motor Speedway for thrilling races, live concert performances, and even football games.


Paramount Center for The Arts

Paramount Center for the Arts: This restored Art Deco-style theater, originally built in 1931, hosts live music, plays, movies, and other entertainment.


Where to Eat

Blackbird Bakery

Blackbird Bakery: This bakery has everything sweet, from baklava to brownies, but they are famous for the donuts.


Burger Bar: An old-fashioned diner where they serve up quality burgers, fries, and shakes with a side of nostalgia.


Studio Brew: In the downtown area of Bristol, Studio Brew creates artisan craft beers as well as food options built around their brewing pride, with spent grains and other beer ingredients used in their menu.


Get Outdoors

adventure mendota

Adventure Mendota River Outfitter—Gear up at Adventure Mendota with kayak rentals, then head down the North Fork of the Holston River


Appalachian Caverns: Take an underground tour with Appalachian Caverns, where you’ll walk about a mile through awe-inspiring natural wonders.




Less than an hour from the nation’s capital, Bristow has plenty of activities for visitors, no matter what your interests. There are Civil War sites and museums nearby that cover the history of the region, Indoor sporting venues to keep you active year-round, and a bevy of places to experience Virginia’s delicious food culture.


Places to Visit

Jiffy Lube Live

Jiffy Lube Live at Stone Ridge: The headquarters for this year’s Farm Aid concert, this popular outdoor amphitheater offers the hottest music performances in the region.


Elite Golf: Don’t let your golf swing get rusty during the cooler months! Stop by Elite Golf for an indoor golf experience.


Murlarkey Distilled Spirits

Murlarkey Distilled Spirits: Take a tour and sample a few spirits when you stop by Murlarkey Distilled Spirits. They make potato vodka, botanical gin, and several infused whiskeys.


The Freedom Museum: Celebrate America’s freedom and learn about the courageous American men and women that served our country through the armed forces and military support groups.


Vertical Rock Climbing Center: Whether you are a beginner or expert climber, the Vertical Rock Climbing Center has courses for every experience level. The walls soar overhead, reach 50+ feet in some areas, and instructors are on hand to teach you the ropes.


hylton performing arts

Hylton Performing Arts Center: Come see a smaller play on the Gregory Family Theater stage or experience live musical productions and theatrical shows in the Merchant Hall, which seats over 1,000 people in an elegant opera house space, complete with box seating.


Autobahn Indoor Speedway: Experience the rush of speed at the Autobahn Indoor Speedway, an indoor go-karting facility. Carts can go up to 50 mph, but junior carts are available as well that stay under 25 mph.


Manassas Museum: Full of local artifacts and stories from the Civil War and the area’s railroad history, the Manassas Museum is a must-see for history buffs of all ages.


Where to Eat

Birch Kitchen & Bar: Birch emphasizes local ingredients in their menu, and the décor makes you feel as if you stepped into an authentic farmhouse kitchen at a resident’s country home. A seasonal menu keeps things fresh and interesting at Birch Kitchen & Bar.


Okra’s Cajun Creole: With a menu echoing the unique culinary culture of New Orleans, Okra’s Cajun Creole serves up southern favorites like classic gumbo, shrimp and grits, and a traditional jambalaya.


Heritage Brewing Company: Stop into Heritage Brewing Company for a flight of hand-crafted brews. On Saturdays, the brewery offers guided tours that give you a behind-the-scenes look at how their beers are made.


Get Outdoors

Bristoe Station Battlefield Heritage Park: The park reenacts the Battle of Kettle Run that occurred in 1862 as well as the 1863 Battle of Bristoe Station. Tour the 133 acres of grounds to see examples of old homes and barns built after the Civil War.


harris pavilion

The Harris Pavilion Ice Rink: During warmer months, you will find live performances, festivals, and weekly farmers markets at the pavilion. From November 1 through April 15, the pavilion turns into a public outdoor ice skating rink.


It might be a tough choice now that you have discovered what Bristol and Bristow have to offer for visitors, but while you may have to choose one for the weekend of the 16th, you can always plan a second trip further down the road. Visit both of these wonderful cities to experience Virginia’s diverse and interesting regional cultures.

© pkeppel for Virginia’s Travel Blog, 2016. |

Permalink |

One comment |

Post tags: ,

About FunRVA

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

Patricia Keppel

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