Out and About
Washington County has something for everyone all year long! The area is home to activities that span over every category; from hiking and camping to history and sporting events, Johnson City has it all. Washington County hosts travelers from all sides of the country who come to see all of the incredible features and events the area has to offer. The region, nestled in the Appalachian Mountains, provides the perfect environment for hiking, biking, kayaking, camping, and much more.
The great outdoors is not the only thing the region has to offer, however. The many festivals, unique eateries, cultural museums, and shopping establishments offer up activities everyone from every walk of life can enjoy. The Johnson City Chamber’s Convention and Visitor’s Bureau website is a great resource to find out more about the region’s events, attractions, and recreation. Visit www.visitjohnsoncitytn.com to find out more about what the region is all about.
Johnson City was originally founded as a railroad station in 1856 by Henry Johnson. The city originally called “Johnson Depot” was a major rail hub for the southeast and including three separate railroad lines that crossed in the downtown area. The railroad lines led Henry Johnson to create a depot that served both passenger and freight trains, a water tank, a post office, and boarding for travelers.
In 1869, the town of Johnson Depot was officially incorporated into the State of Tennessee and became formally known as Johnson City, Tennessee. From 1870 until 1890 the town grew swiftly, due in part to the increasing interest in railroads and mining until the nation-wide depression of 1893 caused a financial panic that halted the city’s continued growth. After the panic had subsided, the city became home to the Mountain Branch of the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, now known as U.S. Veterans Affairs Medical Center and National Cemetery. Construction on the VA Medical Center was completed in 1903 and what is now known as East Tennessee State University was established in 1911, ultimately leading the city to grow even more rapidly.
In the 1920’s Johnson City continued to grow and flourish throughout the decade. During prohibition, Johnson City became known for its ties to the bootlegging community. The city was said to have been a main distribution center for the famous Chicago mobster Al Capone, earning itself the nickname of “Little Chicago.” Later in the 20’s, Johnson City, along with the adjacent town of Bristol, also became noted as a source of old-time music. In 1928, Johnson City hosted the famous Columbia Records’ recording sessions that were known as the Johnson City Sessions. These sessions were hosted at the Brading-Marshall Lumber Company’s business office and gave locals the opportunity to audition for a chance at a recording contract with Columbia Records. All of the changes and success of the 1910s and 1920s led Johnson City to continue its growth until it became the 5th largest city in Tennessee by 1930.
The Washington County and Johnson City area offers a variety of activities for those who love the great outdoors! The region hosts some of the best parks and recreation areas for those who like to hike, camp, golf, or just spend time in local parks enjoying the scenic beauty.
The Tweetsie Trail is a hiking, biking, running, and walking trail located on the former East Tennessee & Western North Carolina railroad right-of-way. In the summer of 2014, section 1 of the Tweetsie Trail was completed, connecting the former railroad trails between Johnson City and Sycamore Shoals State Park in Elizabethton. Upon completion of phase two of the project, the 10-mile trail will be the longest rails-to-trails project in the entire state. The Tweetsie Trail is a fitting part of the Johnson City legacy, representing the city’s railroad heritage in a fun and exciting way.
Winged Deer Park
Winged Deer Park offers outdoor activities for just about everyone! The park is a 200-acre district park with numerous amenities for exploring. The park features soccer fields, sand volleyball courts, picnic and patio areas, paved fitness trails, a disc golf course, a playground, public boating access, and much more! Winged Deer park is the perfect place to spend the day if you’re looking for a little bit of everything.
Buffalo Mountain Park
Buffalo Mountain Park is a 725-acre natural resource area obtained in 1994 through a land swap with the U.S. Forest Service. The park is located on the north slope of Buffalo Mountain and consists of steep topography and densely forested land. The park functions as a nature preserve primarily for hiking, picnicking, and nature programs. The park offers 8.2 miles of moderate hiking trails.
Tannery Knob Mountain Bike Park
The first formal mountain bike park in the Tri-Cities should open in Fall 2017. The land was gifted to the City by a local construction company for the development of the trails, which will be designed similar to a ski slope, with bunny, intermediate, and black diamond trails.
“We are beginning to realize what wonderful opportunities for the outdoors we have here and we also realize tourism is big business,” Vice Mayor Jenny Brock said. “It’s very exciting because it fits hand and glove with our Tweetsie Trail, it’s in close proximity to that and not only for our citizens but it will bring a lot of activity to the area,” she said.
Founder’s Park / King Commons Park
Downtown Johnson City, has two parks for the community to utilize. Founder’s Park is a beautiful 5-acre green space. The park is often used for festivals, music events, or community gatherings during the spring and summer seasons. The park
is a man-made area featuring a river rock stream, local sculptures on display, and a public amphitheater. Founder’s Park also encompasses a covered farmer’s market seasonally, allowing the community to come together and exchange goods and food that were created or grown locally. The park is open for use by the public at all times unless it has been reserved for a special event or private affair. Nearby King Commons Park is currently under construction and will also provide a venue for walking and musical entertainment.
Willow Springs Dog Park
Inside Willow Springs Public Park is a special treat for our furry friends: a dog park just for them! The 1.6-acre dog park features a double-gated, keyless entry system to ensure pet and patron safety. The park is for members only and does require a membership, which can be obtained by mailing a simple application, your pet’s current vaccination records, and paying an annual fee. The park features a separate area for smaller dogs and puppies, beautiful trees, and greenery, and is completely fenced-in so that pets can run around without the restraint of a leash! The Willow Springs Dog Park is a great place to socialize your pets while relaxing on a sunny afternoon!
With so many parks and recreational areas, finding a space for individual or team activities is easy in Johnson City. From disc golf, tennis, basketball to rugby and lacrosse, Johnson City and Washington County have everything for those people looking to be outside and active.
Johnson City and Washington County are home to a variety of golf courses and country clubs. The city offers two public golf courses, Buffalo Valley Golf Course and Pine Oaks Golf Course, both of which are owned and operated by the city. Johnson City also features two of the most extraordinary private golf clubs, the Johnson City Country Club and the Blackthorn Club.
The Johnson City Country Club is known for it’s personalized service, friendly atmosphere, and its premiere golfing experience. The setting at the club is comfortable, casual, and inviting, making it an ideal location to enjoy a Saturday afternoon on the green. The course itself is beautifully landscaped, challenging, fun, and walker friendly. The Johnson City Country Club hosts some of East Tennessee’s premiere golf tournaments every year, including The Tillinghast Invitational.
The Blackthorn Club at the Ridges is a private residential club that features amenities such as golf, tennis, and exquisite dining. The club itself is nestled in the foothills of northeast Tennessee, making it a truly spectacular site to see. Designed by Arthur Hills, twice named Golf Digest’s “Architect of the Year,” the golf course at the Blackthorn Club is one of the region’s most beloved golf courses.
Boundless Playground at Rotary Park
The newly completed Boundless Playground at Rotary Park was designed to be accessible to children and adults of all physical abilities. The playground was built with wheelchair accessibility in mind and features artificial turf and other special features to make sure everyone can enjoy the playground in its entirety. The park has slides, swings, climbing equipment, and even a splash pad water area!
The Wetlands Waterpark
Located in Jonesborough, Tennessee, Wetlands Waterpark is a state operated park in the Washington County region. The park features attractions for all ages, including a lazy river, wading pool, water slides, sand volleyball court, covered dining area, and more! The park is the perfect place to come together with the entire family and enjoy a day in the sun. Wetlands is designed to encourage everyone to participate together in a safe and enjoyable aquatic experience.