Why You Should Go
It’s Up and Coming
Johnson City is a small college town in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, and its logo aptly states “start your adventure here.” It’s a great hub for outdoor adventures minus the crowds (and prices) of other outdoor hot spots like Asheville, NC.
Over the years, Johnson City’s downtown has been revitalized and offers a nice selection of restaurants and breweries in a quaint downtown setting. It’s a place where you can spend a day hiking the Appalachian Trail over numerous mountain balds with amazing 360 degree views, bike a local family-friendly bike path, or tour the nearby Gray Fossil Site and Hands On! Discovery Center. And from all of these activities, easily return to town for lodging, a local craft beer, and a great meal.
Hike One of the Most Beautiful Sections of the Appalachian Trail
Just one hour’s drive from Johnson City, you can hike the Appalachian Trail northbound from Carver’s Gap across Round Bald and Jane Bald. This amazing 3 mile roundtrip hike to Jane Bald is a crowd pleaser. Affording stunning views, this hike is one of the easiest, most accessible family hikes in the Appalachian mountains. Bring a kite, pack a picnic, and relax in your nature bath here.
Scenes From Johnson City and Nearby
Where You Should Stay
Johnson City doesn’t have many VRBO or Airbnb listings, so a hotel in town or camping at Roan Mountain State Park might be the best lodging option. This is our personal list of places that we have stayed in previously, have been recommended by friends we trust, or we have bookmarked as possibilities for future visits.
Heads Up: We do participate in affiliate marketing with some of the companies that we personally use. They don’t pay us to write, we simply get a commission if you enter those sites through our “gate” as opposed to say a Google search. We never accept free gifts or comped stays. Full Disclosure Statement
Hotels in Johnson City
These listings are roughly 10 minutes from downtown Johnson City and 1 hour to Carver’s Gap/Appalachian Trail.
Carnegie Hotel- This classic and elegant hotel is considered the most luxurious stay in Johnson City but is priced under $150 on weekends. It has an outdoor pool as well as a restaurant and bar on site. Good location to downtown dining (1 mile away) and across from East Tennessee State University (ETSU). You could walk to restaurants but it would be along a busy road, so car travel is recommended. (Uber is available here too.) This would be my first choice for hotel lodging. 1216 West State of Franklin Road.
Doubletree Hotel- Indoor and outdoor pool located a 10 minute drive away from downtown. Prices average about $100 night. 211 Mockingbird Lane
Hampton Inn also averages about $100 night and offers free breakfast and an outdoor pool. A 6 minute drive to downtown. 508 N. State of Franklin.
Airbnb Listings in Downtown Johnson City
The Vault Loft downtown- Sleeps 4 in 1 King bed and 1 Queen bed. Terrific location but could be loud in the main room because of street noise. One bed is actually located in the vault. Averages $150 night. Site description: “Downtown loft in an old bank building from the days of Capone. Secured with code access to the building and unique code to loft. One of the rooms is inside the bank vault. It is an open floor plan with large windows over looking Spring St, YeeHaw Brewery, the train tracks, and on the backdrop of Buffalo Mountain.” Located on Spring Street.
Other Airbnb Listings
Guesthouse at Jones Farm- Sleeps 6 in two bedrooms. 2 Queen beds in upstairs loft (accessible by ladder) and 1 queen downstairs. It offers a gorgeous outdoor pool and patio area. The guesthouse sits on a 90 acre farm. Would be a wonderful rental in the summer. A rural setting but within 20 minutes to downtown Johnson City and 48 minutes to Carvers Gap. Average $225 night.
Where You Should Eat Downtown
Dos Gatos Coffee Bar is good for a quick takeout on the way to a hike. Think specialty toast topped with topping of choice (PB&J, Nutella, cucumber/cream cheese, avocado, etc).
Friebergs is your place if you’re in the mood for a good German schnitzel. Your kiddos will enjoy the mini-brats and pretzels, and the pork schnitzel and mashed potatoes are yummy.
Main Street Pizza is fantastic for both breakfast AND dinner. Don’t let the restaurant name deter you from eating breakfast here. Featuring traditional breakfast classics as well as creative biscuits (the “Benton’s Bender” with bacon, green tomato bacon jam) and yummy breakfast entrees like peaches and cream stuffed french toast.
Southern Craft BBQ is relatively new to the scene with a cool vibe inside. 601 Spring St. downtown. 11am-9pm
White Duck Taco is our favorite stop along with the adjoining taproom of Yeehaw Brewing. Housed in the historic Tweetsie Railroad Depot, kids are welcome and a kids menu is offered (quesadilla, BLT chicken sandwich, etc.) as well as free popcorn from Yeehaw.
The tacos are unique and fresh. We’ve always enjoyed the Bangkok Shrimp and the Thai Chicken Curry, but all are terrific. Service is quick, but sometimes there’s a bit of a line to order. Order your taco and dine on the outside patio or inside Yeehaw Brewing.
Johnson City has an easy, casual vibe that will resonate with the entire family- enjoy amazing hikes, bike a local bike path, or visit Gray’s Fossil Site. You won’t have any trouble filling your weekend getaway with good times. So load up the minivan, unplug those devices, and go have yourself a weekend of fun and family togetherness!
What Makes Our Travel Guides Simply Awesome?
If you want to visit Johnson City but don’t have time to plan your weekend adventure, check out our Johnson City Weekend Getaway Guide.
It lists additional lodging and our favorite dining choices, highlights a fantastic hike to amazing views, a great bike trail for the family, downtown restaurants and other worthwhile activities in the area.
Most importantly, our guide includes all the little things that can be so helpful in making a trip a success—detailed maps so it’s easy to find your way around, rainy day ideas, and helpful tips we discovered along the way.
We have done these trips with our own families so we know what works and what doesn’t. We’ll tell you what’s skippable and what’s a must do in this fun city.
All Of Our Travel Guides Include:
Where To Stay
The lodging choices for each destination have been carefully selected for their ideal location, price point, safety, and proximity to the day’s activities. We tell you the best area to stay so you can minimize driving or walking distances and maximize your moments having fun. Knowing what part of town to stay in is a huge part of making a trip a success, and that’s hard to do when you are not familiar with a destination. We save you time and energy by doing all the research for you.
Where To Eat
Local dining establishments are highlighted. The kind where children are welcome but isn't necessarily a restaurant geared primarily towards kids. You won't find many restaurant chains in our itineraries, just good local food mirroring the destination's culture. This could mean a food truck, a pizza place, or a nice sit-down restaurant, but always delicious. If there are any local brews, specialty foods, wines, or coffee houses around, we'll mention those too.
Where To Play
The organization of each day has been thoughtfully planned in order to group activities together by proximity, ideal time of day to visit, and the best nearby dining choices. It’s all been laid out for you, along with directions, maps, travel tips, links to more info, and more. We cover the most worthwhile activities to do in a destination (based on our own family’s reviews) without forgetting that vacations are meant to be fun and relaxing, not a list to be checked off while hauling around whining children.
You’ll find plenty of outdoor activities for the family as well as cultural and historical sites unique to the destination. Many itineraries include easy hikes, bike rides, and float trips that have been selected for their kid-friendly length and ease of difficulty as well as their scenic beauty. (Always worth it!) We are all about getting families outdoors so we include as much fresh air as we can in our itineraries, whether it is a day-long trek in a national park or just the location of a fantastic playground perfect for a break from sight-seeing.
At the founding of Simply Awesome Trips, we agreed to travel as we always have with our families—on our own dime. No free nights, no comped visits, not even any swag. We continue to feel good about that decision. We do participate in affiliate marketing with some of the companies that we personally use (Booking.com, VRBO.com). They don’t pay us to write, we simply get a commission if you enter those sites through our “gate” as opposed to say a Google search. But we also recommend lodging, restaurants, and activities, where we don’t receive any commission, such as Airbnb or private rental companies. If it’s good; it’s good. We don’t change recommendations based on vendor.