Day Trips!

10 min readMay 18, 2021
Dr. Jared Betts, Posey, Dr. Josh Hinkle

Once again, this week’s blog is pretty much a re-post of a blog I posted last fall. COVID restrictions have eased up, but as I type this, gasoline is in short supply in places because of the debacle with the Colonial Pipeline. If you’re looking for a day trip in Upper East Tennessee, you’ll want to read this. As I cautioned before, however, check on the days, times and price of admission, as appropriate.

On a bit of a different note, several weeks ago, I asked readers to tell me the titles of some of their favorite books. I had more than a few friends who reported they could not post a comment. With that said, I invite you to try again. And if that doesn’t work, feel free to email me at with “Books to Read” in the subject line. Many thanks!

Around Christmas, 2019, I was in Robinson Animal Hospital with one of my critters. I no longer remember who was being seen, but I believe we were seeing Josh Hinkle, DVM. Dr. Hinkle is Chief of Staff at the clinic; since the untimely and unfortunate death of James Robinson, DVM, we generally have seen Dr. Hinkle. Jared Betts, DVM, came to visit with us; he is pictured above on the left with Posey, who had just been bathed and shaved, in June of 2019 on his very first day at Robinson’s. Dr. Hinkle is on the right.

Dr. Betts was visiting with us while we were either waiting to be seen by Dr. Hinkle or waiting for some lab results. As Christmas was nearly upon us, he told me his family was going to be joining him for a visit for a few days as the day approached. Dr. Betts, knowing I was a native of the area, asked me for some day trip suggestions. I rattled several places off the top of my head, but the idea took hold. Here is an expanded listing.

Please keep in mind that I made most of this list well before we had heard of COVID-19. Before you make plans to visit any of these places or to partake in any of the activities, please make sure you check to see any applicable days and times they may be open, any restrictions they have put in place, etc. More than a few of the events and venues have had to (I hope) temporarily close in the advent of COVID-19. In addition, while the websites listed were correct when I wrote the blog, it does not mean it have not or will not change. Google is your friend!

I’ve not been to nearly all of these sights, but friends have. They are all things that either my friends or I would recommend doing again. I have made no attempt to list hours of operation, admission charge, if any, etc. Don’t attach any importance to the order in which they’re listed — I typed them as I thought of them. The events are typically held yearly.

My good friend, Nancy Williams, has a great listing of some wonderful day trips, too. Look for another guest blog post from her soon!

Knoxville’s Dogwood Arts Festival, in Knoxville, Tennessee. Although I’ve not been in years, there are many different events that make up the festival, which is held in April. Here is the website: I have been to many events, all of which were nice.

Kingsport’s Fun Fest in Kingsport, Tennessee. There are usually several outdoor concerts. Here is the website: Over the years, I’ve been to several things, but it’s been a while since I’ve been to any of the events. This festival is held in July.

Wooly Worm Festival in Banner Elk, North Carolina. I’ve never been to this. Here’s the website: I believe my parents, aunt and uncle, and I kind of “drove through” once when I was in college, but I’m not positive.

Banner Elk. A nice place to spend a day, or at least part of a day, just wandering around. A delightful town!

Blowing Rock, North Carolina. A good place to plan to spend a day; nice day trip. In many ways, I find it similar to Banner Elk.

Grandfather Mountain State Park, Linville, North Carolina. It’s been years since I was there, but this continues to attract visitors from all over, and rightly so. Their “Mile High Swinging Bridge” scared me as a child!

Natural Bridge State Park, Lexington, Virginia. I’ve not been to this park, but several friends have. They say it’s worth the drive, which is nearly 3 ½ hours from where I live.

Natural Tunnel State Park in Duffield, Virginia. I’ve been there several times for Girl Scout events. It’s about an hour from Johnson City, and beautiful.

Carter Fold, Hiltons, Virginia. This is another place I’ve never been, but a ton of my friends have. Because of COVID-19, Carter Fold, like many places on this listing is closed at the moment. Many famous people (Johnny Cash, June Carter Cash, Dolly Parton, etc.) have performed there.

Bays Mountain Park and Planetarium in Kingsport. I’ve been there several times, but it’s been decades. There is usually an exhibit or something to do that will be attractive to every member of the family.

Riverfront Seafood Restaurant in Kingsport. My good friend, retired Judge Lynn Brown highly recommends this. I have never eaten there, but I hope to soon.

The Netherland Inn in Kingsport. Built in the very early 1800’s, the Netherland Inn is a museum, and is located just a few blocks from the Riverfront Seafood Restaurant. This is another place I have yet to visit, but several friends love it.

City Garage Car Museum in Greeneville, Tennessee. I’ve never been to this, but several men I know rave about it. is the website.

Iris Festival in Greeneville. I’ve never been to this, either, but several of my “crafty” friends say it’s a “can’t miss this!” event. The festival has crafts, art, music, etc. and takes place in May.

Andrew Johnson National Historic Site, Homestead, and National Cemetery in Greeneville. I’ve been to each of these several times; they’re certainly worth a visit.

Niswonger Performing Arts Center, Greeneville. Before being unfortunately impacted by COVID-19, there were lots of performances year round. A variety of genres. Here’s the link: The best seats are the Mezzanine or the Balcony, NOT the floor.

Margarette Falls in Greeneville. This is sometimes spelled Margarite Falls. Nancy Williams says this is not an easy hike unless you have boots. It’s extremely rocky, but the falls are a beautiful, fan-shape. For more information, go to

Biltmore in Asheville, North Carolina. I’ve been several times to the Biltmore; their displays change often. Some are seasonal (e.g., Candlelight Christmas tours, regular Christmas tours), other’s aren’t. Because of COVID-19, 2020 was the first year in a long time they didn’t have a Summer Concert Series; these concerts were always a hit and sell out rapidly. The restaurants are beyond fabulous! Here’s a link to their events calendar:

Grove Park Inn, also in Asheville. This is a magnificent property — people who don’t stay there wander in and walk around to view the history. They have the Gingerbread House competition, usually around Thanksgiving, and the houses are on display until a few days after Christmas. Some friends took me for Sunday brunch and a tour this year for my birthday. (If you plan to eat, make reservations at least 2 weeks ahead of time.) I thought it would be all little girls, that I’d be bored stiff, but no. A full complement of many demographics attended.

Estes-Winn Antique Car Museum, in Asheville. I’ve never been here, but I understand it’s definitely worth a visit. It’s located adjacent to the Grove Park Inn. Here’s a website:

Mount Airy, North Carolina. Mount Airy and Pilot Mountain provided the inspiration for the long-running television show Mayberry. Enough said for this day trip that’s popular with all ages!

Mount Mitchell State Park, Burnsville, North Carolina. Mount Mitchell is the highest point east of the Mississippi River. I’ve been there, but it’s been many years.

Brown Mountain Lights, Morganton, North Carolina. I’ve heard of Brown Mountain Lights as far back as I can remember. When I was probably 4 or 5 years old, my parents and I, on a Friday night during the summer, went looking for them. We saw them! Much mystery surrounds them!

Wellington’s in Johnson City, at the Carnegie. Not a day trip, but before COVID-19, if you like jazz, this was the place to be on Thursday nights, from 8–10. It’s free. Their food is fantastic! Wellington’s is one of two really nice (meaning romantic) restaurants in Johnson City. Make reservations.

Gourmet and Company in Johnson City is the other really nice restaurant in Johnson City. Open for lunch and dinner, reservations are very highly recommended. It’s a favorite of mine! Clearly, this isn’t a destination day trip, but the food is always wonderful and the servers are highly attentive.

Barter Theatre, Abingdon, Virginia. The Barter has been a mainstay in Abingdon for generations It’s always delightful. Plan for a day trip, complete with either lunch or dinner. After COVID-19, you’ll probably have to wait for several weeks to get tickets, due to pent up demand. Abingdon is approximately equidistant from my house and where a friend from college, Sarah Hammer Asbury, lives. We have met at The Peppermill, a restaurant located a stone’s throw from the Barter, to have lunch before going to see a play. The Peppermill is beyond fabulous. Sarah and I did this initially in 2018. We had so much fun after having only seen each other a handful of times from college graduation that we decided we would make a point to have such an outing every year. 2019 went by without a hitch, but 2020 and COVID….we are hoping to be able to get together again in 2021.

Jonesborough Reparatory Theatre, Jonesborough, Tennessee. I’ve been to several performances there; a friend who frequently visits New York City (her daughter lives there) and goes to Broadway plays says the JRT is just as good as almost all of the Broadway productions.

The Laurels Picnic Area, Elizabethton. It’s been decades since I’ve been there, but it’s lovely. It’s part of the Cherokee National Forest. Here’s the website:

Sycamore Shoals State Park in Elizabethton, Tennessee. Here’s the website; There are a ton of events that take place there. It’s been a while since I’ve been there, but friends rave about it. You can learn a lot there!

The Blue Hole, Stony Creek in Tennessee. This is a waterfall located in Carter County, near Stony Creek and is part of the Cherokee National Forest. It’s another place I’ve never visited, but I’ve seen pictures. It looks to be absolutely gorgeous. Thank you to Lynn Brown for telling me about the Blue Hole!

Roan Mountain State Park, Roan Mountain, Tennessee. I think I remember going there when I was 4 or 5 years old, so it’s time for a revisit. The Rhododendron Festival is held there in late June. Because of COVID-19, there was no festival in 2020. Here’s the website;

The Dave Miller Farmstead, Roan Mountain. Located within Roan Mountain State Park, Lynn Brown made me aware of this. The property has applied for a listing on the National Register of Historic Place. This website lists more information:

Watauga Lake, Tennessee. I’ve driven around it, but never been on or in it. It’s a gorgeous drive from Johnson City; my favorite times are spring or in the fall.

Bristol Motor Speedway, Bristol, Tennessee. Racing isn’t my cup of tea, but here’s the link: There are lots of meetings that are held at the Speedway; even if you’re not a race fan and have a chance to go to a meeting there — go! It’s super-exciting to get to drive ON the speedway to get to a building for a meeting.

Blue Ridge Parkway for a daytime drive. I’ve never done this, but many times Dr. Robinson would get one of his little red sports cars, 2 or 3 bottles of beer, a cigar and some Moon Pies and take off to explore the backroads for a day. Or so he said.

Drive on Highway 107 from Tusculum to Unicoi, Tennessee. Spring or fall are the best times to make this trip. The mountains are gorgeous. I’ve made the drive several times.

North Carolina’s Scenic Waterfall Loop. I’m hopeful the leaves will be beautiful this fall. If they are, this loop, which takes about 5 hours, should be a lovely day trip. Here’s the link for more information:

Waterfalls Park, Newland, North Carolina. I’ve never been there, but I’ve seen pictures. It looks to be lovely.

Brushy Mountain Prison, Petros, Tennessee. I’ve never been there, but a good friend has taken the tour and couldn’t say enough good things about it. Some of my book club friends and I are tentatively planning a field trip after COVID-19. Here’s the web site:

Cades Cove, Tennessee. I so appreciate Nancy Williams reminding me about Cades Cove, located in the Smoky Mountains. Drive the loop! Here’s the website:

Clinch Mountain Lookout Restaurant, Thorn Hill, Tennessee. As far back as I can remember, my Aunt Alice would stop here for a piece of their world-famous vinegar pie when she traveled from Dayton, Ohio, back home to Tennessee. She always called it “The Vinegar Pie Place.” And so my family has always called it The Vinegar Pie Place!

Pressman’s Home, Rogersville, Tennessee. I remember going with my parents to visit it years ago. From what I have been able to find, it is more or less abandoned now. I’m listing it to see if anyone happens to have any information about it. If you do, I’d love for you to comment below.

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Copyright, September 10, 2020 and May 13, 2021 by Rebecca A. Henderson