GETTING THERE: Bristol's about 6 1/2 hours from Washington. From Interstate 66 west, hook up with I-81 south and take it all the way to Bristol on the Tennessee line.

STAYING: The Ramada Inn is just $39 (276-669-7171). For a more gracious experience, the Martha Washington Inn, 20 minutes away in Abingdon, Va., starts at $169 (276-628-3161,

EATING: Try a gravy-smothered country-style steak and pinto beans for dinner at Mother's Restaurant (1500 Euclid Ave.), on the Virginia side, for $4.75, including coleslaw, corn bread and a biscuit. For breakfast, head for Carol's Diner (2520 W. State St.).

WHAT TO DO: The Birthplace of Country Music Alliance is the best clearinghouse for Bristol's many country-roots happenings, from the Alliance's own museum to the weekly dances and concerts to the Tennessee Ernie Ford house (276-645-0035, In addition to the weekday musical offerings in Bristol, the Down Home in nearby Johnson City, Tenn., hosts bluegrass, country and other artists (423-929-9822, The Bristol Motor Speedway runs an ice skating rink through Jan. 4 (423-764-0297, www.bristolmotor

INFO: Bristol Chamber of Commerce, 423-989-4850,