Tips for families attending Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion

Bristol, TN/VA - Birthplace of country musicBristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion (BRRR) is a celebration of music, history, community, and plain ole good times. The annual 3-day festival takes place in Bristol, which is an unusual town, in that it straddles the state line of Tennessee and Virginia. At any time walking down State Street, you could have one foot in Tennessee and one in Virginia. Bristol also is unusual – notable is more like it – because it is the birthplace of country music. According to Johnny Cash, the single most important event in the history of country music occurred in Bristol. What he was referring to is the Bristol Sessions of 1927. That’s when record executive Ralph Peer gathered musicians and singers in Bristol to record some “hillbilly” music. Being a fan of such music – specifically Americana, roots rock, alt-country, and bluegrass – a visit to Bristol was somewhat of a pilgrimage for me.

My family and I attended BRRR each of the three days, taking in as many live acts as possible. This year, there were 20 stages and more than 120 artists scheduled. I was in heaven just being surrounded by all that music and talent and we succeeded at putting together our own diverse viewing schedule. We experienced traditional bluegrass by the likes of Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper; foot-stompin’ country by Lance Stinson; magical melodies by The Church Sisters; and, the main headliner, Steve Earle & The Dukes. In addition to the music, festival goers can shop until they drop at the traditional storefront businesses, vendor stalls, and artist booths.

I’ve attended a fair number of music festivals in my time and I can say with all honesty that Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion is one of the most organized and laid-back of the lot. My husband and I felt completely comfortable attending the festival with our two young children and they had a blast, too! Here is some additional information that we found useful and will help make your festival experience even more enjoyable:

Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion

Kickin’ back at the Country Mural stage

Kid-focused activities and events. Organizers want the festival to be fun for everyone in the family, including the tykes. There is face painting, inflatable slides and jump-houses, a youth music competition, and even a specially-designated “Children’s Day” (this year it took place on Saturday of the weekend festival).

BRRR mobile app. Available for iPhone and Android, it’s free to download and contains maps, artist line-ups, and other festival information like parking.

Shuttle. A complimentary shuttle runs continuously between festival grounds and area hotels. While parking (both free and paid) is plentiful, the shuttle is a safe (think: no designated driver needed) and convenient way to get to and from the festival. You can also check the app for specific shuttle information.

Booze. Speaking of designated driver… Shortly after arriving at the festival on Friday night, The Working Dad and I were intent on finding a beer vendor. We didn’t locate one and it took some time for us to realize that no one else was walking around the festival with a beer or cocktail in hand. Then it hit me: the festival technically occurs in two states at once (Tennessee and Virginia), each state having its own liquor laws, making sales and consumption a bit tricky. So, if you’d like to enjoy a sophisticated adult beverage, it must be done within a licensed establishment. Many of Bristol’s bars and restaurants set up tents and patios right outside their doors. We didn’t feel comfortable sitting in a beer tent with our two young kids, one of whom was in a stroller, so we limited our alcohol consumption to meal times. Not the end of the world.

Where to stay. There are a number of hotel chains operating around Bristol. We were lucky to be guests at the fairly new Hilton Garden Inn Bristol on the Virginia side. The hotel sits up on a hill so this flatlander definitely appreciated the views from up there. I especially loved the way the lobby is decorated: modern and classy with subtle touches of luxury. My family was quite comfortable at the Hilton Garden Inn. The kids loved the indoor pool and thought the complimentary jugs of ice water (infused with fresh basil and lemon slices) in the lobby was the coolest thing ever.

Hilton Garden Inn - Bristol, VA

Hilton Garden Inn Bristol

Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion was well worth the drive down to northeast Tennessee/southwest Virginia, and the town of Bristol far exceeded my expectations. The friendly folks, fantastic music, and scenic landscape are enough to make us want to go back. Watch this video to see just how much fun was had.

My family and I were guests of the Bristol CVB and its partners. I’d be saying the same about Bristol and the festival even if we traveled there on our own dime. All thoughts, photos, videos, and opinions are my own.

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15 Responses to Tips for families attending Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion

  1. Erin Marie October 8, 2015 at 3:35 pm #

    I would love to go to a festival with your daughter! (Okay, fine…with you too!) This looks like a great time!
    Erin Marie recently posted…One Night in NashvilleMy Profile

  2. Sarah Ricks October 10, 2015 at 6:49 am #

    What a good idea to take kids to a music festival of music the whole family can enjoy. Especially good idea before your kids develop musical tastes of their own that might diverge from yours. What a great way to have a family getaway!

  3. John October 10, 2015 at 7:02 am #

    Looks like a great festival – and the confusion of being in two states at once sounds really unique!
    John recently posted…Win a free trip for two with trivagoMy Profile

  4. Cheryl October 10, 2015 at 7:28 am #

    The Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion sounds like a great place to visit and enjoy some wonderful music (even with limited adult beverages!). I can see this area of Tennessee/Virginia having some great sounds because of the musical roots.
    Cheryl recently posted…Viking River Cruises Grand European Tour – Your Seat Awaits!My Profile

  5. Jessica October 10, 2015 at 7:31 am #

    Sounds fun! I’m not a big country music fan myself, but music festivals seem like a great way to spend time with the family! Glad you guys had a good time 🙂
    Jessica recently posted…Leavenworth Oktoberfest: Prost from Washington!My Profile

  6. Shobha October 12, 2015 at 4:01 am #

    I saw your cutie pie on instagram and just thought she was a hoot! The kid’s got sass and style – I love it!!
    Shobha recently posted…Family Friendly Activities at Rockefeller CenterMy Profile

  7. Danielle (Bubs on the Move) October 12, 2015 at 4:27 am #

    This looks like a fabulous way to spend 3 days. Having a kids day is a great idea too as my kids can get a little pesky if the think an event is only for us parents.
    Danielle (Bubs on the Move) recently posted…The best baby shower gifts for mums that love to travelMy Profile

  8. James Kelley October 12, 2015 at 9:03 am #

    Great tips.. looks like a fun event!
    James Kelley recently posted…Taking A Dip In The World’s Coolest Infinity PoolMy Profile

  9. katja - globetotting October 12, 2015 at 11:39 am #

    This looks great! What a fun festival with loads to see and do. Thanks for the recommendation!
    katja – globetotting recently posted…Best Travel High Chairs 2015My Profile

  10. Lisa Goodmurphy October 12, 2015 at 2:13 pm #

    Sounds like a great festival – love that they have planned activities for kids!
    Lisa Goodmurphy recently posted…A Disney on Broadway Tour with Walks of New YorkMy Profile

  11. Claudia October 13, 2015 at 11:17 am #

    Looks like great fun!
    Claudia recently posted…Autumn in Vancouver – A Day at Stanley ParkMy Profile

  12. Traveling Ted October 15, 2015 at 9:20 pm #

    Look at Bonjour Amigo tearing it up. Great tips for families and anyone. Disappointed to hear there is no convenient beer stop, but that is also good to know. Just need to plan ahead. Can’t wait to hear more about it.
    Traveling Ted recently posted…Stanley trailgating after outdoor adventureMy Profile

  13. Pola (Jetting Around) October 27, 2015 at 6:35 pm #

    You know I have a little thing for Tennessee as of late, and I was excited to follow your trip on social media. Moonshine, ahem… But this is about family travel, so let me just see that Bonjour Amigo dancing is badass! Can’t wait to hang out the my gal again. 🙂
    Pola (Jetting Around) recently posted…A relaxing week in southern France with Viking River CruisesMy Profile

  14. Samantha August 5, 2016 at 8:29 pm #

    There is a wonderful “Comfort station” nestled in the heart of the festival for parents and children. A shaded area with lots of comforts to care for your child’s needs. Changing station and cush chairs to feed your young too is all a part of the festival, for free!

    • Francesca August 5, 2016 at 9:04 pm #

      Very helpful information! Thanks so much, Samantha!

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