Begin the day at the Jonesborough Visitors Center and tour the Jonesborough/Washington County History Museum at 117 Boone St., Jonesborough, 423-753-9580. See the first hand powered water pump, a remnant of one of the first log courthouses, minie balls from a Civil War skirmish and many mementos. Then it’s on to the Jonesborough Historic District, Tennessee’s oldest town with one of America’s most charming main streets, distinctive architecture, and a unique and culturally rich town.
Explore shops where you will find treasures made by local artisans from one-of-a-kind pieces of jewelry to handmade quilts, stained glass or handcrafted Windsor chairs. Guided tours are available. As you walk the cobblestone sidewalks make your way to the International Storytelling Center/Chester Inn Gift Shop. The Center is only one of its kind, devoted solely to the art of storytelling. It is located on a three-acre park in the heart of Jonesborough’s Historic District. The Chester Inn beckoned U.S. Presidents’ traveling to the nation’s capitol and weary settlers journeying westward. The inn is the oldest frame structure in Jonesborough. Storytelling Live performances occur May through October.
Then it’s off to Greeneville to visit the home of the 17th President of the United States. Retrace the tale of Andrew Johnson’s life by visiting his tailor shop, two residences and burial ground – all part of the present Andrew Johnson National Historic Site. You can also visit the Davy Crockett Birthplace State Park.
On a quiet street in Elizabethton, the unpretentious but stately Carter Mansion sits back among old shade trees with the Watauga River in its back yard. The house was built between 1775 and 1780. It is believed to be the oldest frame house in Tennessee and the first house to have glass windows.
Located in Historic Downtown Greeneville, the mansion was designed and constructed by two craftsmen from Ireland (1815-1821). The circular staircase, rising three full flights, is the "tour de force" of the builder's art. Built by William Dickson, Greeneville's first postmaster, for his only child, Catharine, this house served as headquarters for both Union and Confederate armies during the Civil War. Tours daily at 1 p.m. are limited to 12 people. Reservations required for groups over 12 people.
Stretching across the beautifully flowing, clear and cool water of the Doe River, Elizabethton's covered bridge is one of the town's premier and most photographed attractions. It is one of two bridges in Tennessee identified by a Tennessee historical marker and is included on the National Register of Historic Places.
Just about anywhere you wander in East Tennessee, you’ll find historical sites, scenic views, and of course, friendly people. But a new effort by “Discover Tennessee Trails and Byways” details more than a dozen newly named routes where you’re sure to hit the highlights of the state off the beaten path.
One such course, The Sunny Side Trail, begins in the Great Smoky Mountains and continues northeast through the Cherokee National Forest via Johnson City. From Gatlinburg to Newport, through Greeneville and on to Johnson City you’ll travel along picturesque Highway 321 where you’ll see not only the beauty of the rolling countryside with the mountains rising to the east, but you can visit some of the state’s most significant historic sites. You can stop in to visit the home and tailor shop of our 17th President, Andrew Johnson or see the birthplace of Davy Crockett, a frontiersman and statesman born near the rushing waters of the Nolichucky River where fishing and rafting are available. Continue on towards the quaint town of Jonesborough, Tennessee’s oldest town, and find antiquing and hear unforgettable tales at the International Storytelling Center.
Next on the trail is Johnson City where overnight accommodations, shopping and restaurants are plentiful. Activities for “just the adults” like a martini bar, upscale restaurants and night clubs can be found downtown. And fun outings suited for the entire family like Hands On! Regional Museum, and even a place to see pre-historic fossils at ETSU’s Gray Fossil Site.
The trail ends just a short drive from Johnson City in the mountains where you’ll reach the state’s northeast corner to see the rhododendron display at Roan Mountain State Park and explore the hiking, rafting and boating opportunities in the Cherokee National Forest.
Immerse yourself in the history of the nation. Tipton-Haynes Historic Site, at 2620 S. Roan St., 423 – 926-3631. The site served as the original home of Col. John Tipton, who served in the Revolutionary War. It is also the site of a historic battle of between the forces of John Sevier and Col. Tipton. Visitors can explore the restored clapboard house and other buildings including the original log cabin, smokehouse, loom house and still house. The adventurous visitor can tour the 30-foot long cave, where Daniel Boone allegedly camped. Then off to Rocky Mount Museum, at 200 Hyder Hill Road, Piney Flats, TN 423-538-7396. Step back in time and experience Tennessee’s first Territorial Capitol where living history is played out each day. In fact, farming, cooking and day-to-day activities continue just as they did in 1798. The tour begins in the Massengill Overmountain Museum, which provides artifacts from on-site digs. Costumed interpreters will give you an up close and personal look at colonial living.
Devoted to the region's historical ties to railroads, the museum's displays include historic prototype railroad memorabilia, toy trains and model railroading locomotives, rolling stock, and structures. Four large operating layouts in three different scales provide viewing enjoyment in the museum's 5,000 sq. ft. of exhibit space.
As you walk along Jonesborough's well-preserved Main Street, you easily drop back in time to the days of Daniel Boone, Andrew Jackson, David Crockett, John Sevier and the many other historic figures who lived in or around Jonesborough. Learn about the State of Franklin, the first attempt to establish statehood after the American Revolution; and the Emancipator, the first publication in the country solely supporting the abolition of slavery.
Take a day and enjoy the countryside as you ride The Quilt Trail – take a self-guided tour along the Quilt Trail featuring 81 different barn side quilts. Travel along the scenic countryside paths to explore the different farms and barns located on the trail, where traditional quilt patterns are reproduced on a historic barn. Most of the quilt patterns come from a quilt that was in the family, some more than 100 years old, which tell a story about that specific family, barn and farm. You can explore the produce stands, shops and galleries you’ll discover along the trail.
A short drive from Johnson City places you in the first permanent settlement outside the 13 colonies. Sycamore Shoals served as the muster point for the Overmountain Men on their way to the Battle of King’s Mountain. Visit the reconstruction of Fort Watauga, peruse the museum and enjoy a year-round interpretive program. An outdoor drama, "Liberty—The Saga of Sycamore Shoals," is offered in mid-July.