It’s not often we get to stay at a brand-new hotel. It’s even more rare to be the very first people to stay in a hotel room. But that was our experience at The Sessions Hotel in Bristol, VA. The hotel had just opened a week or so before our visit, and a paper in our room asked for feedback since we were the first ones to occupy the room. Cool!
When we were making our plans to return home from Wisconsin, Bristol was in the right location for our last night’s stay. We had been to Bristol before, but had only stayed at the usual next-to-the-freeway chain hotels. When I searched on hotels, one of the search results was ‘The Sessions Hotel, A Tribute Portfolio Hotel’ by Marriott in downtown Bristol. The price was a little higher than the freeway-side options, and the location was shown as being right in the center of town. Whenever possible we like to be “in town” so we can walk to dinner and shops instead of searching for a place to park. So what the heck?
Bristol is a historic town situated on the VA/TN border. In fact the VA/TN state line runs right through the middle of State Street, the main street through town. Bristol’s primary claim to fame is as the Birthplace of Country Music, so named because of “The Sessions,” recording sessions that took place in Bristol in 1927. These recording sessions launched the widespread appeal of musicians who, up until that time, had been known only locally in the areas where they performed.
According to the Marriott website, the Tribute Portfolio is a collection of boutique hotels designed to reflect the character of the city in which they are located, operated independently but under the Marriott umbrella. Each hotel has its own theme, decor and vibe.
The hotel occupies three buildings that previously housed a mill and warehouse. The public spaces and rooms were all designed around the theme of The Sessions. Music-inspired artwork, furniture and accessories abounds in the public areas, and each room is uniquely decorated with the theme of a specific recording.
From the hotel website:
“Situated in the heart of the Birthplace Of Country Music, our boutique hotel is named after the 1927 Sessions made by Ralph Peer and a few others. Bristol’s energetic passion for country music is reflected throughout the hotel’s thoughtful décor with curated pieces and musical offerings. Experience a free-spirited environment in repurposed buildings where rustic meets contemporary. Rest comfortably in uniquely designed rooms and suites with exposed brick and modern furnishings. Indulge at Southern Craft restaurant, an upscale wood fired smokehouse, offering award winning barbecue, classic favorites and sides. Sip cocktails on the rooftop bar and lounge by the cozy fire pit overlooking the city of Bristol. Get pampered at the Vision Salon and Day spa with invigorating spa treatments and body rituals. Host a special event in our indoor or outdoor music venues with a music stage or attend one of the concerts at our Bristol, VA hotel.”
Our room was Room 224, which was a Junior Suite. The room was named after the tune “Tell Mother I Will Meet Her,” recorded by Ernest Stoneman. The room number plaque outside the room had a replica of the record label, and in the room was a framed copy of the lyrics. The “Do Not Disturb” sign was a wooden record with “Time For A Rest” imprinted on it.
We didn’t explore the hotel much since we were only there overnight, but we certainly enjoyed our room. We did not, for example, sample the rooftop bar, but we did have breakfast at the adjacent restaurant. A lot of the amenities were still being finalized, as there were still painters touching up some of the rooms and hallways during our stay. Our conversation with the manager indicated that there are plans for an outdoor music venue and other additions in the near future.
Overall the hotel was nicely done. The decor and furnishings are of high quality, and the bathroom is the kind that makes you want to call a bathroom remodeler as soon as you get home! The hotel is a couple of steps above the typical “chain” hotel, and just the kind of thing that Kathy & I look for when we’re looking to get away but don’t want to drive too far. Bristol isn’t exactly known as a foodie mecca, but we don’t consider ourselves foodies anyway. There are plenty of unique, interesting and local places to eat – just the kind of place we look for. Who could pass up a hotdog or two from a place called the Earnest Tube (as in the musician Ernest Tubbs) or a place called The Angry Italian? We did pass them up this time, but would definitely put them on the agenda for another visit!
Bristol and The Sessions Hotel is definitely on our short list of places to return to when we are looking for a few days away. We hope they can start the live music back up soon. It would be a great place to visit this fall when things cool down and the leaves heat up!