Johnson City, TN is the largest of the Tri-Cities, with a population of roughly 67,000. Founded in 1856, Johnson City, or Johnson’s Depot as it was known at the time, was home to one of the largest railroad hubs in the Southeast. Downtown Johnson City has been redeveloped in recent years and has attracted a strong following from local residents. Home to parks, breweries, eateries, and more!, Johnson City has something everyone in the family can enjoy.
El Charolais – A local chain of wonderful (and cheap) Mexican restaurants. Some locals might refer to it as “El Kroger” as their first location was located inside the Kroger on State of Franklin near ETSU. While still housed here, El Charolais has expanded throughout the Tri-Cities. Don’t go without trying their margaritas and authentic tacos with cilantro and onion. Feeling adventurous? Give the Torito Piña a shot.
Firehouse Restaurant – In the mood for BBQ? Look no further than Firehouse. We love their pulled pork with Carolina vinegar BBQ sauce. Eating on the lighter side? The BBQ house salad is just the right amount of protein and fresh vegetables. Get this with the house dressing and you’ll want to buy a pint to take home with you. Yes, it’s that good.
Freiberg’s – Our list wouldn’t be complete without Johnson City’s go-to for authentic German fare. For those of us in the office that have been to Bavaria, it’s the closest thing to actually going to Hofbräuhaus and ordering a stein of bier and an authentic pretzel. While you can’t go wrong with anything on the menu, the goulash and schnitzel are divine. Order extra beer cheese, you’ll thank us.
Gourmet and Company – Whether you’re taking the business partners out for a nice dinner or just enjoying a meal with friends, Gourmet and Company should be on your radar. Under the same ownership for over 30 years, their seasonal American menu puts a unique twist on dishes with locally harvested ingredients. To start, we recommend the goat cheese salad followed by any selection of fresh fish. Happen to find the roasted duck on the menu? Get it. Don’t leave without trying one of their home-baked cookies.
Scratch Brick Oven – A mainstay for delicious pizza in Johnson City. While it may take longer to make, the pizza is well worth the wait. Created in their massive, 100-ton brick and riverstone oven, pizzas emerge hot, bubbly, and with just the right amount of char on the edges. Try: their monthly rotating “Neighborhood Pie,” which features inspiration or ingredients from other local businesses.
Johnson City Brewing Company – What started as a local beer club soon transformed into one of Johnson City’s best niche breweries. Founded in 2014, JCBC is always trying new things and experimenting with unique flavors and styles. Feel free to bring the kids – they have games and more to keep the little ones entertained, as well as small snacks to go along with that ice cold beer.
YeeHaw Brewery – Established in 2015 in the old Tweetsie Train Depot in downtown Johnson City, Yee-haw brought craft beer culture to the Tri-Cities. Their bright, in-your-face marketing is hard to miss, and has since expanded across the state and made a name for themselves nationwide. Swing by with friends, family, and the fur-babies for a cold one. During the summer, the outside patio area with humongous fire-pit is always lively. Hungry? Their taproom also features White Duck Taco Shop for delicious tacos and quick bites.
B. Carroll Reece Museum – Located on the ETSU campus, this museum is free and open to the public. Designated as one of only 18 museums in the state to be accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, the Reece Museum has told the story of Appalachia for over 50 years.
Gray Fossil Site – Home to fossils from almost 5 million years ago, this hands-on museum offers kids (and kids at heart) an experience unlike any other. The world’s largest tapir fossil can be found here, as well as a complete skeleton of the Teleoceras (an ancient rhinoceros), one of only two red pandas found to exist in North America, and more! The Gray Fossil Site can also be rented out for special occasions or day trips.
Tannery Knobs – Designed as a skills park for all ages. Tannery Knobs is a quick ride from downtown Johnson City and offers a near 360-degree view of the region. Mountain bikers will enjoy the various trails, each with different levels of difficulty. Those wishing to hike around are also allowed on certain paths. Bring plenty of water and enjoy the ride!
Tweetsie Trail – This gravel trail follows the old “Tweetsie” railroad path from Johnson City to Elizabethton, TN. Spanning for 9.5 miles, this trail is great for biking, walking, and running. Residents of all ages enjoy this trail that features many stops and pull-offs along the way.
Watauga River – While just outside of Johnson City, in Elizabethton, TN, the Watauga River offers some of the best trout fishing in the area. If fishing isn’t your thing, head up to Wilbur Dam and partake in some awesome white water rafting. You’ll definitely want to stop along the way and take in some of the best views in the Watauga River Gouge.
Johnson City Farmer’s Market – A vital fixture in Johnson City since 1976, the farmer’s market offers a wide variety of vendors from around the region. Food trucks from local staples are also known to come share their delicious fare.
Mahoney’s Outfitters – Providing Johnson City, Abingdon, VA, and the surrounding areas with quality products and a high level of service since 1960. Mahoney’s offers the best names in outfitting, including Arc’teryx, Columbia, Mammut, The North Face, and more. They are also the regions supplier of fly fishing, hunting, and camping equipment.
The Mall at Johnson City – As one of the region’s largest shopping destinations, the Johnson City Mall offers name brands in a clean and comfortable environment. You can find American Eagle, Belk, Dick’s Sporting Goods, DSW, Forever 21, and more.