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The Ultimate Weekend in Johnson City: The Perfect 2-Day Itinerary (By Locals)

Are you spending a weekend in Johnson City and looking for a detailed itinerary of what you can do?

We have lived in Johnson City for many years and have created the perfect weekend itinerary for you to enjoy while visiting this up-and-coming city!

If you don’t already know, Johnson City is part of the Appalachian Highlands and is nestled between mountains, rivers, and lakes — making it a prime destination for outdoor activities!

king commons park in johnson city tn with sculptures
Downtown Johnson City

You’ll find plenty of outdoor activities on our itinerary; however, if you’re not into the outdoors, we’ll also include some fun indoor options!

Also, if you’re planning this weekend in Johnson City ahead of time, please take note of restaurant reservations in advance! (See below for details.)

While this 2-day itinerary is ideal for those spending the weekend in Johnson City (based on 2 nights, Friday-Sunday), feel free to customize as you would like based on your schedule!

Here are our top recommendations for a memorable weekend getaway in JC.

The Perfect 2-Day Johnson City Weekend Itinerary

Johnson city sign with blue sky background

Depending on when you arrive in Johnson City, we’ll plan this itinerary on having two full days.

However, if you’re not arriving in Johnson City until the evening, start your time with Step 3 (after checking into your hotel).

If you need accommodation recommendations, we highly suggest The Carnegie Hotel due to its prime location to downtown. Or, check out these VRBO options in Johnson City!

Day 1

1. Go hiking to see panoramic views of Johnson City

Female hiker standing at White Rock overlook in Buffalo Mountain Park in Johnson City TN
We made it to White Rock!

If you’re arriving in Johnson City early enough (before noon) then we suggest beginning your weekend outdoors by seeing Johnson City from above. (If arriving after noon, skip to Step 2).

There are lots of hiking trails near Johnson City, but Buffalo Mountain Park is the best nearest option, being only a short 10-minute drive from downtown Johnson City and offering over 700 acres of trails.

One of the best trails at Buffalo Mountain is the White Rock Loop, which provides beautiful panoramic views of Johnson City and the Appalachian Highlands below.

White Rock Loop is a 5-mile hike and takes approximately 3 hours round-trip. If you begin early enough, you’ll be finished by lunch.

Speaking of, one of our favorite spots in Johnson City to get lunch is at Cafe Lola (a Bistro, Wine, & Martini Bar). Or check out our other favorite restaurants in Johnson City here.

2. Enjoy an afternoon tea and pastry

woman pouring tea at a tea shop in johnson city tn
It’s tea time at The Philosopher’s House!

We’re sure that wherever you’re visiting from you have a few coffee shops in your town, but what about a tea house?

The Philosopher’s House is a fantastic place to try different styles of teas. After all, not all teas are alike. In fact, there are many different styles of teas and brewing options enjoyed throughout the world.

Don’t worry coffee connoisseurs, they offer coffee too!

Not only can you choose from many different types of tea, but you can also choose the brewing style you would like — such as Gong fu cha (traditional Chinese method) or Western Style (traditional teapot) for example.

Top-down view of table with teapot, tea cups, and plates of pastries and toast.

If you do enjoy a good cup of tea (like we do), then you’ll love this adorable tea house.

Not only do they have tea, but they also host different activities and events including reading groups, meditation classes, tea shops, tai-chi, yoga, and much more.

After tea time, head over to your hotel/accommodation and check-in.

3. Listen to live music at ‘Fridays After 5’ event in downtown

Fridays after 5 in king commons park in johnson city tn
Sitting on the lawn at King Commons Park for Fridays After 5

If you’re visiting Johnson City from May to July, you’ll be able to attend the fun & free concert series event in King Commons Park – Fridays After 5.

This event is hosted annually by Connect Downtown Johnson City in an effort to support local businesses and the growth and development of downtown Johnson City.

We suggest taking a blanket or a couple of lawn chairs and picking a spot on the lawn to enjoy the live music (beginning at 6:30 pm). Check Downtown Johnson City’s Facebook page for event updates.

If you’re hungry or thirsty, there are usually a couple of food trucks and beer vendors during this event.

*Bad Weather / Indoor Option — Go to Mulligan’s Irish Pub for drink and live music (live music times vary)

4. Go to dinner at a popular restaurant in Johnson City

mahi mahi tacos with a corn salad at the label restaurant in Johnson city
Mahi Mahi tacos with corn salad

Johnson City isn’t short of delicious restaurants, however, there are a few that make our list of the best that this city has to offer.

Many of these restaurants DO require reservations in advance. We highly recommend doing so!

Our first recommendation would be to eat at The Label, located right downtown. Their menu features eclectic food ranging from American cuisine to delicious sushi.

This is one of the most popular restaurants in Johnson City and books out over a week in advance (make a reservation now if you would like to eat here).

Another downtown Johnson City restaurant you shouldn’t look over is Timber!.

This restaurant offers unique dishes that you probably won’t find anywhere else. Plates are served in a ‘tapas style’ with small, medium, and large portions.

You’ll also need reservations for Timber!, however, they usually don’t book out as far in advance at The Label. Make your reservations for Timber! here.

5. Finish off the night at a speakeasy

Enjoying a holiday-themed cocktail at Windsor speakeasy

Who doesn’t love a secretive speakeasy?

We love going to the Windsor Speakeasy for an occasional creative craft cocktail.

As you’d expect from the Prohibition era, the exterior of the building isn’t anything that catches your eye.

However, once you walk inside and through the secret door, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time!

The cocktails at Windsor are delicious and the menu often changes depending on the season. Expect to pay $10-$15 per cocktail. It is first-come first-serve so if you find there is a wait, we think it’s worth it!

However, if you’d prefer not to wait or would like a different option, you can walk right down the street to Watauga Brewing Company to the 1st-floor brewery or try the rooftop bar!

Day 2

1. Start the day off with a delicious brunch

brunch with pancake, egg, and turkey sausage at First Watch Cafe in Johnson City TN
Blueberry Pancake and Turkey Sausage at First Watch Cafe

On any weekend getaway, we’re always the most excited about a good brunch restaurant.

Johnson City only has a handful of places that serve brunch, but that doesn’t mean they are any less tasty!

Many of the restaurants in Johnson City that serve brunch do not advertise so on their website and you probably won’t be able to find a menu.

Also, some of them ONLY serve brunch on Sunday.

Restaurants open for Brunch on Saturday:

  1. First Watch Cafe — 7:00am-2:30pm Everyday
  2. Juan Siao — 11:00am-3:00pm, Saturday & Sunday
  3. Cafe Lola — 10:00am-3:00pm, Saturday & Sunday

Restaurants open for Brunch on Sunday:

  1. Southern Craft — 11:00am-3:00pm Sunday
  2. The Label — 11:00am-2:00 pm Sunday

Our favorite brunch spot is First Watch, followed by Cafe Lola and The Label!

2. Bike the historic Tweetsie Trail

The Tweetsie Trail is popular among locals and visitors to Johnson City for many reasons, one of those being the proximity to downtown — just minutes away.

This former railroad trail spans 9.6 miles from Johnson City to Elizabethton with a flat grade making it perfect for running, walking, and biking.

Thanks to a grant received from the state, the Tweetsie Trail is being expanded and will soon run from Hampton all the way to Jonesborough!

If you don’t have your own bike or prefer not to bring it, do not fret.

You can easily rent a bike (including E-bikes!) from Local Motion Cyclery, just steps from the trailhead in Johnson City.

Bike rentals are available from 10:00am-4:00pm (advanced reservations are encouraged to ensure they have your size available).

man riding a bike on the tweetsie trail in johnson city and tri-cities
Biking the Tweetsie Trail on a sunny day

Once you’ve enjoyed the trail and returned your bike, walk a few steps over to the taproom, Cranky’s Pumps n Pints, to celebrate with a cold beverage.

* Bad Weather / Indoor Option — Play arcade games, bowling, virtual reality, and axe throwing at Tiebreakers.

3. Visit Jonesborough — Tennessee’s oldest town

Shops lining street in downtown historic Jonesborough Tennessee
Downtown Jonesborough

Established in 1779, Jonesborough is Tennessee’s oldest town and it’s right in Johnson City’s backyard, making for an ideal day trip!

In fact, it was established YEARS before Tennessee became America’s 16th state (1796).

Main Street has been well-preserved with its buildings that have been standing since the 18th century and is now on the National Register for Historic Places.

We suggest strolling along Main Street and entering many of the stores and shops that are open. You’ll find that many of the stores are antique shops!

You can visit the Chuckey Depot Museum, sample spirits at Tennessee Hills Distillery, or visit Brights Zoo — among many other things to do in Jonesborough!

If you’re hungry or looking for a snack, our go-to eateries on Main Street are:

  1. Corner Cup — Coffee shop with baked goods
  2. Boone Street Market — Local foods store selling products from farmers and food fenders within 100 miles
  3. Main Street Cafe — Cafe serving soups and sandwiches

4. Take a rest at Johnson City Brewing Company

Next, head to one of the best breweries in Johnson City!

Johnson City Brewing Company is the longest-running microbrewery in Johnson City (established in 2014) and has two locations — downtown and Boone’s Creek.

We suggest stopping at the Boone’s Creek location due to its proximity to Jonesborough (10 minutes).

The brewery is located in a green Victorian-style house with a great outdoor space that’s often used for live music and events.

One of our favorite aspects about JCBC is the creativity they have in making each batch of beer with new releases coming out weekly. No flavor is crazy enough for the brewers to try. We’ve even tried (& loved) a banana pepper beer!

You honestly can’t go wrong with any choice — they’re all good!

Next on the list for day two is dinner! Head to your hotel or accommodation and get freshened up if needed.

5. Eat dinner at the best restaurant in Johnson City — Juniper

Ahi Tuna Appetizer with garlic aioli
Ahi Tuna Appetizer

Juniper is hands-down the best restaurant in Johnson City (in our honest opinion). If you won’t take our word for it, it has a Google review of 4.8 stars.

Every time we enjoy a meal at Juniper we always leave happy and looking forward to our next visit.

However, you get what you pay for as they say, and this delicious meal can come with a big bill.

Expect to pay on average $40-$80 per person (depending on how much you’d like to splurge).

We don’t visit Juniper too often, so when we do, we often splurge by adding an appetizer, drinks, and dessert.

*Please note that reservations are required and must be made in advance!

Some menu suggestions that we LOVE include the Chicken Pot Pie Croquettes, North Carolina Trout, and the Spiced Duck Breast.

Note that menu items often change and these suggestions may not be available at the time of your visit.

That said, Juniper is great for special occasions but, again, it can be a bit pricey!

If you’re looking for a more casual place to eat, we always have a good time at Juan Siao (Asia and Latin fusion food).

A few other local favorites are:

  1. Project BBQ — Texas-style BBQ
  2. Voodoo Chicken — Nashville-style hot chicken
  3. The Kitchen — Family-style cuisine

6. Finish the night with a game of glow in the dark mini-golf

playing a game of mini golf at dusk at paradise acres in johnson city tn

Glow in the dark mini golf!? Yes, you heard that right.

Paradise Acres is the only place to go in Johnson City for a classic game of mini-golf—day AND night!

When it gets dark, the course lights up and your ball glows! Glow golf is open until 11 pm on Friday and Saturday.

The courses are well-maintained and each hole is different, keeping the game interesting. It’s our family’s go-to weekend activity from spring to fall.

Paradise Acres has other activities as well, including a drive-in theater, laser tag, a flower maze, and a pumpkin patch, to name a few.

*Bad Weather / Indoor Option — Go roller skating at Johnson City Family Skate Center.

Follow this weekend itinerary and you’ll leave Johnson City feeling like a true local!

And for even more activities and places to visit, check out our guide for the best things to do in Johnson City.

We hope you enjoy your weekend exploring our backyard! If you have any questions, let us know in the comments below.